Margie Engle and Eckham Van Het Steentje.
Lexington, KY – May 9, 2014 – It can take time for new partnerships to come together in the sport of show jumping, but today that happened for Olympian Margie Engle and her new mount Eckham Van Het Steentje. The pair captured their first victory together with a double clear effort in the 1.45 Open Jumpers at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show. Engle only began riding Eckham Van Het Steentje for owners Elm Rock LLC in December, but today they proved they have been developing a winning partnership.
“He’s starting to ride better and better all the time,” smiled Engle. “I am really happy with Eeckem. He really felt like he put everything together today. He’s really elastic; he’s got a lot of talent, and I am really excited about him.”
Six riders advanced to the short course by completing Richard Jeffery’s first round track without fault, but only three managed to go faultless a second time. Pablo Barrios and Antares were the pathfinders, setting the time to beat at 33.201 seconds, which would eventually earn second place. Blythe Marano came very close to his time on Askarielle P, breaking the beam in 33.209 seconds for third place. Engle was one of the last to compete, and a sharp rollback early in the course had her finishing in a time of 32.963 seconds to capture the victory.
“He turned so nicely,” smiled Engle. “Before, he was rooting around the turns, so it was hard for me to get to the distances I wanted out of the turns. Today he turned really nicely and kept going. It was the nicest he’s felt. I was getting bits and pieces of it. He’s always been careful and scopey, but he really put it together today.”
Elm Rock LLC purchased Eckham Van Het Steentje in England last November, where the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood was being ridden by David MacPherson. “David is such a good rider, but he rides in a different style,” explained Engle. “He keeps them more collected, and Eckham needed to learn when I soften a little to back up. I was really happy with how he rode today. He’s really learning to back himself up in the combinations. I jumped into the triple, and now I am able to soften; he backs himself off.”
Engle continued, “I’ve been bringing him along kind of slowly during WEF. We just started moving him up to the 1.45m, and I am hoping to show him a grand prix in the coming weeks. It’s just a matter of us working together as a team and building a rapport. It felt like it was really starting to come together toward the end of WEF. It was nice to have a month at home because I was able to work him continuously and play over little jumps and really start putting everything together and not just be at the show all the time.”
Engle plans to show at HITS Saugerties and Lake Placid this summer, and she will also be traveling to Europe to compete at Aachen and Hickstead, having been named to the short list for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. She will be showing in the main events with Elm Rock Partner’s Royce, and Eckham Van Het Steentje might also make the trip to compete in some of the secondary classes.
The next event in the Rolex Stadium today was the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers, where Harrison Shure took home the winning honors with No Fear. Only two riders were able to produce double clear efforts, but Shure was a second faster than Alexa Lowe-Wiseman and Ami Du Houssoit, who scored the second place award. Whitney Lyon had the fastest four-fault jump-off with Bugs Bunny V Overis Z to take home the third place honors.
“I’ve ridden [No Fear] for about a year now,” said Shure. “He’s a fairly spooky horse, but once you go in the ring he knows his job and goes around nicely. This is the first time we’ve jumped in Highs in a few months, so he’s stepped it up a little bit. I thought we were pretty neat after the in and out during the jump-off, so we made up some time there. I got a late start in Florida because of a wrist injury, but it’s nice to be back in the groove now.”
Shure will be staying for the full two weeks of the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows. He commented, “The horses are all really happy here. They love jumping on the footing, and it’s nice to be able to go out and ride in the field after showing.”
In the High Junior Jumpers, there were also only two clear rounds, but this time it was Chloe Reid with the fastest time, earning the winning honors aboard Victor E. Emanuel Andrade’s slower clear time with Tiny Tim was good enough for second, and Kelli Cruciotti’s quick four-fault effort aboard Chamonix H captured third place.
Tomorrow’s jumper action in the Rolex Stadium will kick off with the $20,000 Bluegrass Classic, beginning at 8 a.m. The weekend concludes with the $75,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix on Sunday at 4 p.m., but the riders will return to the Kentucky Horse Park for the Kentucky Spring Classic, scheduled for May 14-18, 2014.
To learn more about the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International