Court and Kylie Ramsay’s Czechmate capped his excellent weekend at Red Hills International Horse Trials today with a clear show jumping round in the CIC3* to clinch the win with Lauren Kieffer. The 9-year-old Czech Warmblood gelding rubbed just one rail around Fuzzy Mayo’s show jumping course to win on a score of 57.1.
Lauren has produced “Czechy” since the Novice level, and she said it’s awesome to have him win his first three-star having spent so many years getting the partnership to this point. And, while the horse was in the Pan Ams picture before, he’s certainly on the radar now, and Lauren said she hopes to continue showing good form as they aim for the three-star at Jersey Fresh.
“Our slowness in the past has just been because he’s a really big-striding horse, and I haven’t had the right bit to get him back quickly. He’s got such a big step. The time isn’t so much an issue; it was how long it took to shorten his stride for the combinations. The pelham worked great yesterday, so I think we’ve found the ticket,” Lauren said.
“He’s a class horse. It’s easy when your horses are really nice. If you do your job, he’s going to be in the money most of the time. He has so much presence on the flat, and he’s brave and genuine as can be on cross country — and the same in the show jumping.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deborah Halliday’s HHS Cooley also jumped a beautiful clear round to finish second on 57.8, just .7 penalties out of the lead, to also throw a hat in the ring for Pan Ams contention. Liz said she thought the course rode better than she anticipated with “Cooley,” who returned to competition at Pine Top Advanced last month after being out of the game for the second half of the 2014 season.
“The course worked for him because I could keep him moving along,” Liz said. “The ground was a lot better than I thought it would be; I really didn’t have any idea what it would jump like. I think my horse jumped one of the best rounds he’s ever jumped in his life, so I feel like I have my horse back now, which is really exciting.”
Liz has been working on her show jumping with Richard Picken, and, having not jumped Cooley much during the winter while he was still taking time off, she said it was nice to have him “jumping out of his skin again. I was really excited about that. He gave me a great feel and a great ride, and I really enjoyed it.”
Jennie Brannigan and Tim and Nina Gardner’s Cambalda, whose only show jumping rails in the last two years came at this event in 2014, put in a foot perfect round today, also delivering a clear round to finish third on a score of 58.4.
About 40 percent of the field jumped clear in Red Hills’ new show jumping arena, which features 3,000 tons of crushed granite footing. Compare that to a clear-round rate of 25 percent last year, when the show jumping was held on a hilly grass field. While the general consensus from the riders has been that the footing is a bit firm, they agreed across the board that’s an improvement.
“I personally like jumping on footing more than grass, and I know that was very hard to jump down in that bowl,” Jennie said. “It made show jumping even more influential.” Jennie and Liz both agreed the CIC3* course was tough, especially when you consider the horses twice had be pulled off their lines when they were perfectly positioned to a jump up ahead.
Marilyn Little and RF Quarterman. Photo by Jenni Autry.
The challenging course made for great viewing for the people of Tallahassee, who came out in droves to enjoy the final day of competition at Red Hills. While the spectators are usually accustomed to watching cross country on the final day, the format change this year meant they were all crowded around the show jumping ring today instead, providing a buzzing atmosphere for the horses and riders.
“I think the atmosphere here is incredible,” Liz said. “I think they do a wonderful job advertising and getting the public in. I know some people don’t like show jumping on the last day, but, from a public standpoint, I think that was really nice today.
“I got the impression that we had a lot of people that came for a great day out. I think we put on a good show, and I thought that side of it was great. It gave the horses a big international feel. We don’t want to be doing three-stars with just a few people standing around the arena.”
Jennie said she was happy Red Hills switched the format: “It’s tough because I know there are a lot of different opinions about that, and people feel very strongly. I had to withdraw a horse (from the CIC*) in the trot up, and other countries don’t do a horse inspection on the final day. But, for America, it does help make the events a lot more respected.”
Indeed, the CIC3* division put on a good show for the spectators, who gasped when rails fell and cheered loudly when horses and riders left all the poles in the cups. Eight of the 21 pairs jumped double clear in all, and time didn’t prove to be a factor as it has in years past. Rails fell throughout the course, with no one jump or combination playing the role of the bogey fence.
In addition to the top three, the following combinations jumped double clear: Marilyn Little and RF Quarterman, fourth place; Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect, fifth place; Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High, seventh place; Dana Widstrand and Relentless Pursuit, ninth place; and Jacob Fletcher and Atlantic Domino, 16th place.
Lauren Kieffer started her blue ribbon day with a win in the Advanced division with Veronica on 48.1 thanks to a double-clear round. “She doesn’t do anything wrong at this point,” Lauren said. “She’s so experienced. I feel like last year we were still getting the partnership together a little bit. It was really only our second year together. This year I feel like we’re right on it together.”
Buck Davidson and Petite Flower jumped clear to finish second on 43.8, and Leah Lang-Gluscic also jumped clear with her OTTB superstar A.P. Prime to finish third on 47.4, a great result as they look ahead to tackling their first CCI4* at Rolex Kentucky next month.
In one of those moments you just don’t see every day, two eagles flew over the show jumping arena during Lisa Barry and F.I.S. Prince Charming’s round and started fighting in mid-air over a large fish. The fish tumbled from the sky and fell to the arena floor — with the crowd gasping and pointing — and Lisa and “Peanut” still managed to pull off the only other clear round in the division.