Parker, CO - It was a horse lovers' paradise at The Colorado Horse Park (CHP) this weekend, with riders competing in three different shows in three different disciplines. The spotlight was on the international riders in the CHP CCI Three-Day Event and Horse Trials, which brought riders from 15 states, including Minnesota, Louisiana, Idaho and Texas. Adding to the excitement was the presence of cross-country course designer, Olympic gold medalist David O' Connor.
Heather Dubois, Black Forest, CO, led the victory gallop in the two-star division on Every Wish. "He's the love of my life," she said of her 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding.
The pair started off with a successful trip up centerline. "I was really happy with his dressage test," she commented about her 62.50. Heather considered the cross-country course to be "substantial", but the questions were easily answered by this pair who were clean jumping and added only 8.4 time penalties, putting them into second place. "He was just solid," she explained of her horse's cross-country round. "He recovered well and was still rideable and forward," she said. A clean show jumping round put in them the winning slot.
"It was a fantastic experience," she said. Dubois was not only thrilled with her horse, but also praised the O'Connor course, which was built by FEI course builder James Atkinson. Dubois has made many trips to CHP and felt that, "They have improved the course and footing-it was brilliant."
Like many riders, Dubois considered her success the result of efforts not only of a talented horse, but a team of supportive people. "[Lynn Klisavage] is a very dear friend and she's helped me a lot with this wonderful horse." Dubois and Every Wish have had other successes this spring with good finishes in the Weatherford and Greenwood Farm CCI**, and the Galway Downs and Las Cruces Horse Trials. They are now aiming for The Event at Rebecca Farm. Sydney Conley Eliott placed second.
In a competitive CCI* division, Tiffany Lunney finished on her dressage score with her 11-year-old Thoroughbred Patent Pending, a horse she's only had since last August. Lunney purchased "Miles" after her younger sister Brittany Lunney rode him as a sales prospect. The pair quickly developed a connection and advanced up the levels at lightning speed. Last fall they competed at Training level, completed their first Preliminary at Galway Downs earlier this year, and now are a winning combination at the CCI One-Star level.
While her horse is obviously talented, Lunney's strategy has been simple. She explained, "The goal with a green horse was to keep everything positive. To have a win was beyond my expectations."
She considers dressage Miles' most challenging phase, but was really pleased with his level head at CHP. "He let me ride him," she said with enthusiasm. "We had a breakthrough moment in dressage."
Like many other riders, Tiffany was impressed by the level of the cross-country tests when she did her course walk. "I thought it was very challenging," she recalled. Her plan was to allow her horse time to focus on each complex. It worked. "We motored around the course...and went slow at each complex," she said. "He came in quick," and they finished under the optimum time. "He was spectacular. When you have a green horse, you never know what to expect. I have to ride every single jump with him."
The duo finished with a clean showjumping round, something that is becoming habit. She continued, "We haven't had a showjumping penalty." Lunney, originally from Littleton, CO, now resides in Texas where she attends law school at Southern Methodist University (SMU). She rides with Mike Huber and counts on him and his team to help her when she disappears into finals at law school. "You have to decide if you want to eat or shower or sleep. You can't do all of them," she joked of that really busy time. "Everyone has their stress release and [eventing] is mine."
Finishing in second place in the one-star division was the veteran Vicki Koss riding Isabeau. Koss, who has competed at the four-star level in such world-class events as Badminton, has made the 15-hour drive from Hailey, ID to CHP since the inception of the park's eventing program and still considers it well worth the effort. "It's done nothing but improve," she said of the Colorado Horse Park. "The footing is 100% better than it used to be."
For Koss, her Idaho location always requires a long drive in order to compete and therefore she considers her decisions wisely. She explains, "You pick and choose where to go to and choose the best facility available." Course designers and officials are also a consideration when deciding her competition schedule, and Koss felt that the cast and crew behind the CHP event was top notch. "They had a super ground jury and great officials. Aren't we lucky to have David O' Connor as a course designer?" she asked.
Koss' mount Isabeau is an Oldenburg mare that she has been bringing along since she was a youngster. While Koss believed that training a warmblood might be different than working with Thoroughbreds, Isabeau has had ideas of her own. "She's a great horse," Koss said with a laugh. "She's been the hottest, most difficult horse I've ever had." However any challenges are well worth the effort as the pair were tied for second place after dressage, and were clean on cross-country, before they claimed their red ribbon after stadium.
The Colorado Horse Park was busy over the weekend, with a regional dressage competition and a Colorado Hunter/Jumper Association show sharing the space with the event. Koss said, "To me, it made it! It was busy and fun. Everyone was very supportive of each other and it improved the atmosphere." With more than 13 show rings, 300 permanent stalls and 700 additional tented stalls, the facility is made to handle multiple events and disciplines.
Learn more at www.coloradohorsepark.com and like the park on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Watch five USEA videos covering the CHP CCI Three-Day Event and Horse Trials at
The Colorado Horse Park would like to recognize their generous sponsors: Parker Adventist Hospital, Parker Hospital Foundation, Littleton Equine Medical Center, Platinum Performance, Griffis Residential, Guaranty Bank, Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Suzy Sweitzer, Gesco Nursery, Bessemer Trust, Holiday Inn, Super 8, Hampton Inn, Norstar Industries, Nutrena, Pfizer, Grand Meadows, A Bit of Tack, Horse Connection, Equine Comfort Products, Days Inn, Sidelines, Comfort Suites, Chronicle of the Horse, Jump 4 Joy and Wild Ranch.
Photos: Heather Dubois; Tiffany Lunney; Vicki Koss. All photo credits: Cristy Cumberworth