Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photos ©ShannonBrinkmanPhotography.
Mill Spring, NC – September 1, 2016 – The highly anticipated first day of cross-country competition commenced at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), as riders at the 2016 Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Land Rover (AEC) took to the course designed by Captain Mark Phillips at the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training and Preliminary levels. Competition in the dressage arenas also heated up as the Merial Open Intermediate division, the largest division hosted at the venue this week, began with the first phase, while the Adequan® Advanced Gold Cup Finals division will kick off Friday morning.
Merial Open Intermediate
Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous (Carry Gold x Richardia) owned by Jacqueline Mars, Robin Parsky, Phoebe Manders and Michael Manders, returned to competition in fine form at TIEC taking a commanding lead in the competitive Merial Open Intermediate division on a score of 22.3. The pair, who won an individual and team gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015, found their stride in the dressage phase of competition, besting Clayton Fredericks, who holds third and second place aboard FEI Money Made (Conteur x Statbuch 1 Arcadia) and FE Bowman (Balloon x Con Corde) with a 27.0 and 28.2, respectively.
Little and Scandalous, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare, put together a fabulous test that was relaxed and smooth, earning them nearly a five point lead ahead of the competitive class, which featured 54 entries. The pair has quickly become one of the top combinations in the United States and their test proved that they’re back on their game after a few months away from competition.
“It’s a pleasure to ride Scandalous in any major dressage test. She’s a real dancer and she was beautifully focused and smooth today. This is only her second weekend back competing in eventing since early June. She had a bit of a break of Boekelo last year,” said Little. “She’s been back in work since March and we had the privilege of competing at the July jumper shows early this summer.”
TIEC is a familiar destination for Little, who is only one of two riders competing this week who have also contested FEI CSI show jumping competition at the venue. Little has competed in numerous “Saturday Night Lights” Grand Prix classes, earning top finishes in the show jumping discipline, with high hopes for a strong performance this week.
“When I look out into that ring, I see ‘Saturday Night Lights’. It’s very interesting to see the same venue through the eyes of two different disciplines. I’ll be back here for the 5* in October, but Mark [Bellissimo] was kind enough to take me on a tour this past summer, which really got me chomping at the bit for this week,” she explained. “There’s nobody like Mark to bring a dream to fruition and for an event in its first year, my goodness. I think there is a lot more to come here.
“There are only a few places in the world that could host an event like this. Hopefully in the future we will see something like this in Wellington where eventing will take more of a hold. It’s very exciting for horse sport in general. It’s not just about promoting one discipline. You really have to promote horses together. This is a place that does that and it’s an asset for our country and for the sport around the world.”
Looking forward to Friday’s competition, Little feels that RF Scandalous has the skill to contest the difficult track, but also feels that cross-country will change the standings around quite a bit.
“We’ve brought her back slowly with her return to competition, but that was only because of the time of the year. We worked on her show jumping and got her a bit more confirmed since she has only been in this sport for two years,” she commented. “I think the course suits her quite well. She’s very handy to ride, but she’s very smart and looks for the flags, which I think will be important, especially at the beginning of the course.”
The Preliminary Horse division saw a shakeup of the leaderboard as Boyd Martin and Barry, a 7-year-old gelding owned by Windurra USA, took over the lead after the second phase of competition, heading into show jumping Friday with a 26.0.
“It was an amazing cross-country course. The course really opened up to be galloping and open towards the end. The first part of the track tested accuracy and control and then the horse’s stamina,” commented Martin.
Martin and Barry added nothing to their dressage score of 26.0, which they earned Wednesday, while Martin also piloted Contessa into the top ten after a speedy trip around the course.
“I think that the cross-country will be a very influential phase here at the AECs, which is good. Here, at Tryon, they’ve built a pretty stiff cross-country course. It’s very interesting for the Intermediate and Advanced divisions because if you try to go slowly around the course you’ll get around, but you’ll pick up quite a bit of time penalties,” he explained. “You’ve got to be quick and take a chance out there to win.”
The division will head into show jumping Friday at 8:00 a.m., as Martin will look to keep a tight grasp on the lead ahead of Ryan Wood aboard Sarah Hughes’ Shannondale Percy, a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse by Shannondale Sarco, who currently are in second place with a 29.1 and Maya Black aboard her own 6-year-old Thoroughbred, Mowgli (Our New Recruit x Night Siren), who sit in third place on a 29.2 after cross-country.
Professional’s Choice Training Amateur
Anna Kristin Paysinger and her own 8-year-old Oldenburg mare, Luistana (Linton x Espersica), continued to hold their lead in the Professional’s Choice Training Amateur division after finishing a double clear trip around the cross-country track and will look to take top honors in the division after their completion of show jumping Friday. The duo will move forward to show jumping still secure on their dressage score of 25.0.
The pair has led both phases of the division to this point in the competition and Paysinger was proud of their confidence around the tough track. She noted, “I thought my mare was really brave throughout the course. I was fretting the most about jump six, but she jumped it fine and didn’t seem to notice all of the people at all and went right into the water after that.”
Encountering a hold on course, Paysinger discussed her mentality shift after she was cleared to continue around the track. The horse and rider combination who initiated the hold were able to walk off course on their own, but Paysinger was tasked with to refocusing Luistana to prepare for the remainder of their run.
“I think my mare thought that she was done and decided that she wanted to head back to the barn,” she explained. “Before we started back I asked if it was okay to trot around and canter a bit and they were nice enough to let me jump the novice jump to let me get back into rhythm. I thought we both handled the situation really well and I’m very proud of her.”
The duo will conclude their week of competition after show jumping Friday while Patricia Hildalgo and her own Sapphire Storm (Orchard Park x Sailor’s Gold) are currently placed within striking distance on a 26.4, while Natascha Erschen and her own Emerald Lion, a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse by Keltic Lion, secured third place with a double clear effort and a score of 26.8.
Ruth Bley and her own Rodrigue Du Granit maintained their lead in the Preliminary Amateur division, mastering the track and only adding .4 time faults to their dressage score of 27.2 to hold top honors heading into show jumping Friday with a 27.6. Nita Sanfilippo piloted her own Alarmabull to second in the standings, collecting an additional 1.6 time penalties for a 30.1. Randa Sorzano and Pleasant Rendezvous secured third, after crossing through the finish with a double clear trip to sit on a 30.5.
The Preliminary Amateur division will conclude Friday, as horse and rider combinations complete the final phase of competition at 10:55 a.m. in the George H. Morris Arena.
Heading out on the course with an inexperienced young horse, Lucia Strini didn’t know what to expect from Plain Dealing Farm’s Cooley Daydream (by Chacoa) in the Novice Horse division. This competition is only the fifth event for the 5-year-old Irish Sport Horse, and the atmosphere here is unlike anything they’ve seen before. The mare rose to the challenge and the pair remain on their dressage score of 24.3 after a double clear finish.
“Whenever she saw the jumps she settled a bit,” Strini explained. “She was really bold and brave. By the time we came into the derby field she was super full of herself. She finished more confident than she started, which is always good.”
Looking toward Friday’s show jumping, Strini feels prepared and believes her experiences Thursday have set them on the path to another clear round. She doesn’t have a rail in hand as the second and third placed pairs are only one point behind. Ashley Phillips and Bayni Slade (Doneraile Court x Klagenfurt) and Dominic Shramm and Cooley Renaissance Man (Eurocommerce Washington x Storm) were tied on a 25.3, but Phillips finished closer to the optimum time, which gave her second place.
Professional’s Choice Master Training Amateur
Sandra Holden and her own Cano Cristales (Conteur x Haupstupbuch Konny) kept a strong hold on their lead in the Professional’s Choice Master Training Amateur division after the cross-country phase, finishing on a score of 21.6. The 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding laid down a confident round with Holden piloting from the irons and the pair head into show jumping Friday with a 1.8 point lead ahead of Ruth Bley and Spartacus D’L’Herbage, a 10-year-old Selle Francais, who are sitting in second on a 23.4. Nanette Schumaker and La Cosa Nostra (by Kevekka), a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, rounded out the top three, adding nothing to their dressage score of 24.6 around cross-country.
The division will conclude Friday in the George H. Morris Arena as competitors will begin their show jumping portion of competition at 3:20 p.m.
Broadstone Master Beginner Novice Amateur
Letha Calvin and her own Look Cody Look rose to the top of the class in the Broadstone Master Beginner Novice Amateur division with a score of 27.5. The division, which featured 40 entries, will head out on the galloping track Friday, and Calvin, looking forward to contesting the course
“I rode two horses today and I felt that I lost both of their right shoulders at the beginning of the year, but in the last month I found them again,” she smiled. “It felt pretty good to have two solid tests today. I’m super proud of both of them.”
Piloting her second mount Quigley O’Higgins to a tenth place finish in the dressage phase, Calvin was thrilled to be back atop the leaderboard, as she won the division in 2010 and returned to AEC this year to prove to herself that she could repeat her past victory.
“I wanted to convince myself that I wasn’t a one-time-wonder. I wanted to prove to myself that I knew how to ride and that I could come back and do well again. The person that I most like to compete with is myself,” she explained. “I want everyone to do well, but I always think about what I can do better than the last time I was in the ring.”
Calvin and Look Cody Look will leave the start Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. and will look to maintain their lead heading into the final phase of show jumping on Saturday. Tracey Tapman and her own Just Dew It earned a 27.8 to finish just behind Calvin, while William Barclay and his own Stormn Hudson KD received a 28.3 for third.
Broadstone Beginner Novice Horse
In the very first division to head out on the cross-country course, Lauren Chumley and Nikolas (Novalis T x Capina Mia) held onto their lead of the Broadstone Beginner Novice Horse division. Melissa Dowling’s eager Westphalian-bred 5-year-old jumped bold and clear without even a second thought. They remain on their dressage score of 27.3.
“He ate up the cross-country. He’s about the bravest thing on the planet,” Chumley said, and added that he’s maybe even too bold throwing in a few bucks in the warm-up. “He’s figured the whole eventing thing out now. He’s a little bit cocky.”
Despite the stellar run Thursday, Chumley is a realist and has no hesitation in sharing their shared weakness: show jumping, and she’s not excluding extreme measures to keep her lead. “I saw Doug Payne on cross-country. He’s in second behind me. I tried to pay him off but it didn’t work,” she joked. “I thought about pushing him off his bike, but Andrea Davidson, my trainer, told me that was probably also a bad, so I didn’t do that. Unfortunately, now, I’m going to have to actually jump the jumps,” she laughed.
Doug Payne and Stephen Blauner’s Mr. Mitchell, a 4-year-old Irish Sport Horse, follow Chumley on a 28.3, so she must jump clear to Friday to finish as the winner of this division. Payne also lacks any cushion in his score as Susan Thomas and Leslie Allen’s Tango are right behind them with 30 penalty points for third place.
To learn more about Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), please visit www.tryon.com.
About the AEC
The Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Land Rover is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, this event draws together the best competitors from across the country vying for national titles from the Beginner Novice through the Advanced level. This year’s AEC is being held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, NC from Wednesday, August 31 through Sunday, September 4.
Leslie Mintz & Shelby Allen for USEA/Carly Weilminster for TIEC