Mill Spring, NC - Marilyn Little (USA) held onto her lead in the FEI CIC 3* at The Fork at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) presented by Lucky Clays Farm aboard RF Scandalous, adding nothing to their dressage score of 41.70. The pair will head into cross-country tomorrow only two points ahead of Kim Severson (USA) and Cooley Cross Border, who currently sit in second on a 43.70. Sara Kozumplik Murphy (USA) and Ruben D'Ysieux moved up two positions, finishing in third after show jumping with a score of 50.60.
Little and RF Scandalous, a 2005 Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold x Lario) owned by Jacqueline Mars, Robin Parsky, and Phoebe & Michael Manders, performed a stellar stadium round, which was smooth and accurate, exemplifying the mare's scope and carefulness. The pair stayed well away from all of the rails, and will head into cross-country as the last pair on course, with the CIC 3* and Advanced divisions running in reverse order of go.
"I was really pleased with her. As I've said, we've been working a lot on the show jumping throughout the winter. It was great to see her come in relaxed to the warm-up area and in the ring," commented Little.
As a seasoned grand prix show jumper, Little has a breadth of experience jumping in large atmospheres and feels that her knowledge as helped the mare gain confidence in the stadium phase.
"She knows exactly what to expect now. That was one of the problems when we first started working with her. She's such a careful horse that she didn't really know what to expect next," she explained. "She does better when she knows what's coming so that she can be relaxed in her program. That's when you get the best out of her. She feels very confident."
Heading into tomorrow's final phase of cross-country, Little will look to pilot RF Scandalous to a strong and confident round ahead of their summer plans for the season.
"I've walked the course twice now and it's just gorgeous. I think it's going to be difficult to make the time," she noted. "I think one of things that I've been trying to pay attention to is not just where the jumps are, but what is the best route through the terrain."
While this is the duo's first FEI run of the season together, Little commented that while she will look to give RF Scandalous a solid run, she will also focus her ride on perfecting the more difficult questions asked on course.
"This is her first run so I won't start off too quickly. We'll see how she's handling it and where her adrenaline is," said Little. "I think once I get across the bridge, I may start to pick it up a bit more and see where I can make it up. I want to take care of her out there and have a nice confident round. This event will determine where our season goes from here."
Kylie Lyman (USA) and Lup the Loop rode to victory in the FEI CIC 2* after finishing on a 58.70 after the completion of all three phases. Will Zuschlag (USA) and RF Southern Command rode to second place with a 61.80, while Erika Nesler (USA) and Right Above It collected third place with a score of 62.70.
Lyman and Lup the Loop are coming off of an extensive European tour in 2016, which helped the pair gain valuable international experience, which they have been able to translate into their season so far in 2017.
"I was originally entered in the CIC 3* and we had a little blip at Carolina last week when my stirrup broke," explained Lyman. "Today was really difficult even though it was a CIC 2*. I think he came away from this having learned something. We both had to work for it. Even though he has a lot of 3* mileage at this point, it was not easy, so I was happy with the result."
The pair performed a lovely, even dressage test and then finished their weekend efforts today with an efficient and clean cross-country run. Lyman was quick to comment that she felt the weekend not only served as a solid building point for the pair, but continued to emphasize that the pair was able to work in a different environment, which was beneficial to both herself and Lup the Loop.
"I'm really happy with him. For me and my style of cross-country riding, it wasn't the most natural because I like to kick on and go. The terrain made that a bit more difficult and it was a great experience for both of us, learning how to be patient and working with the terrain a bit more than we have before," she commented. "Things came up quickly and he was adjustable and rideable, which is something that we've been working on."
After their win this weekend, Lyman will give Loopy a break before working backwards from a schedule created to aim the pair towards the FEI CCI 3* at Fair Hill in October. "He's done a lot last season and this spring so I think he's earned a little bit of quiet time to do our homework. It seems like a long way away, but it will be here quickly," she concluded.
Valerie Vizcarrondo (USA) and Favian, a 2008 Oldenburg gelding (French Kiss x Relevant) owned by Valerie Vizcarrondo, rode to victory in a competitive FEI CIC 1* division, finishing their weekend with a final score of 45.90. Rachel Wilks (USA) and Great Expectations claimed second place, finishing just behind Vizcarrondo on a 46.00, while Boyd Martin (USA) and On Cue took third with a 48.00.
Vizcarrondo and Favian began their competition with a strong dressage score of 41.90 to sit in second place before the stadium phase. Vizcarrondo worked hard in the off season on their flat and show jumping, which paid off in a big way during the competition.
"He's a relatively new horse for me and he's very cool. It took me a bit to get him figured out and start to feel like he's really mine," she said. "He has a huge stride and he's still not very strong so it turned out to be a bit tricky. We put him into dressage and show jumping boot camp this winter and to feel like you're transitioning that to competition was a question mark for us, but he handled it amazingly."
As the pair is still forging a relationship, Vizcarrondo was pleased with their overall performance and noted that their win solidified the potential of the budding partnership.
"He handled the atmosphere great this week. He was happy to scorch around the cross-country today. It felt really good," she said. "He set right out with his big ears and they were pricked forward out of the box right away. It was great to see."
Liz Halliday-Sharp (USA) and Fernhill By Night, a 2003 Irish Sport Horse gelding (Radolin x Argentinus) owned by Deborah Halliday, continue to lead the Advanced-A division, as they look towards cross-country on a score of 25.90. The duo left all of the rails in the cups during their show jumping round today to stay on their spectacular dressage score. Jessica Phoenix (CAN) and Pavarotti sit in second place with a 29.20, while Allison Springer (USA) and Arthur round out the top three on a 30.80.
"He tried really hard today. He wasn't quite awake in the warm-up, but he tried really hard in the ring. He's a great jumper, as long as I don't make any mistakes, he's pretty cool," she said. "He's a sensitive flower so you have to look after him a little bit. I would be someone who is prone to time faults with him because I do look after him a bit too much, so I was pleased with our round."
The pair, who continually excel on the flat and in the show jumping phases, will look to tackle a difficult Advanced track set on the White Oak complex, which will be used for the first time.
"Definitely the main plan is to get a clear round. It's no secret that Blackie can be a bit difficult on cross-country and despite his record, I think this may be the best he's ever been going," she commented. "We gave him a good school before coming here. We were at Will Faudree's place, which was fantastic and he's been running up the hills. He's feeling fantastic so I want to give him a confident and positive round."
Jessica Phoenix (CAN) and Bentley's Best, a 2007 Trakehner gelding (Hirtentanz x Eichendorff) owned by Don Good, currently sit atop the scoreboard in the Advanced-B division on a 35.60. The duo incurred a single time fault during their stadium round, which was added to their dressage score of 34.60. Emily Beshear (USA) and Silver Night Lady are in second with a 40.80, while Jordan Linstedt (USA) and Revitavet Capato hold third with a 42.50.
"I'm really thankful that I entered this event. I think that getting them into this atmosphere and this venue, having to walk through into that big ring, is really good for the horses," said Phoenix. "Being able to do dressage and show jumping in this venue is a great setup for Rolex."
Phoenix will be looking for a solid effort from Bentley's Best tomorrow during their cross-country phase. The pair is heading to the Rolex Three Day Event CCI 4* in Lexington, KY, after this event, and Phoenix feels that the course tomorrow will help them in their final preparations.
"The course looks amazing. I think they've done an incredible job. It looks perfect. I'm really looking forward to getting out there tomorrow," she commented. "It's an interesting course with the roping and the terrain. It really feels like a major games event. The terrain and technical questions will be a good test and good prep before Rolex."
Competition continues tomorrow with cross-country, including the highlight FEI CIC 3* and Advanced divisions at the White Oak property on Sandy Plains Rd., and show jumping in George H. Morris Arena. For more information on Tryon International Equestrian Center, please visit www.tryon.com.