Woodstock, England – Several top international combinations competed at the Ssangyong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, September 13-17, but it was U.S. eventer Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border who finished the competition atop the CCI3* leaderboard. The talented duo led a strong U.S. contingent in the CCI3* with four U.S. combinations finishing in the top 25 out of 84 starters.
Severson (Charlottesville, Va.) and The Cross Syndicate’s 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding spent the summer competing and training in Ireland since the Tattersalls International Horse Trials at the end of May. Their season culminated at Blenheim, proving that their hard work had paid off. They performed their signature lovely dressage test on Thursday to earn a score of 37.8 and put them in third place after the first phase.
Severson and Cooley Cross Border maintained their position on the leaderboard by having a double-clear cross-country round on Saturday. They closed out the competition by delivering another double-clear round in Sunday’s show jumping phase to finish on their dressage score of 37.8. When the two combinations ahead of Severson and Cooley Cross Border had eight-fault rounds, the American pair was declared the winner of one of the most challenging CCI3* competitions in the world.
“I feel a lot younger than I did when I got here thinking that I won it 16 years ago,” Severson said with a smile, referring to her 2001 win with the legendary Winsome Adante. “This win made the whole summer worthwhile and all the traveling back and forth worth it. Huge thanks to my sponsors, owners, Dr. Brady, my groom, and the Cooley team who got him fit all summer. I’m so thrilled!”
Three fellow U.S. combinations had strong performances amongst a field of serious competitors. Hannah Sue Burnett (The Plains, Va.) and RF Demeter, Jacqueline Mars’s 15-year-old Oldenburg mare, scored an impressive 39.7 on their dressage test prior to collecting 2.8 time faults in the cross-country phase and 16 jumping faults in the show jumping phase to finish in 12th place on a score of 58.5.
Doug Payne (Aiken, S.C.) and Vandiver, the 13-year-old Trakehner gelding he owns with Debi Crowley and Jessica Payne, received a score of 46.6 on their dressage test, tallied 5.2 time faults on cross-country, and had 12 jumping faults in show jumping to finish in 14th place on a score of 63.8. Payne and Vandiver attended Blenheim thanks to a Jacqueline B. Mars Developing Rider Grant, kindly given through the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.
Andrea Baxter (Paso Robles, Calif.) and Indy 500, her 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare, scored 63.1 on their dressage test, added 8.0 time faults on cross-country, and had a four-fault round in show jumping to finish in 25th place on a score of 75.1.
Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp (Ocala, Fla.) had notable performances in the two CIC3* divisions at Blenheim. In the Event Rider Masters CIC3* division, she and Fernhill By Night, Deborah Halliday’s 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, earned a dressage score of 40.3, had a double-clear show jumping round, and collected 7.2 time penalties on cross-country to finish in sixth place with a score of 47.5. In the CIC3* division for eight- and nine-year-old horses, Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z, The Deniro Sydnicate’s nine-year-old KWPN gelding, scored 44.4 on their dressage test, had a double-clear show jumping round, and tallied 8.8 time penalties on cross-country to finish in fifth place on a score of 53.2.