It was a tough weekend for eventing, but there were some bright spots as well. John takes a moment to reflect on both ends of the spectrum.
He’s back! Photo of Becky and Comet courtesy of Mark Lehner and HoofClix. For more great Pine Top photos be sure to check out HoofClix.com
There is no doubt that this past weekend will go down in EN lore as starting the 2012 eventing season amidst tragedy and hope. As we all know by now, we lost two great up and coming horses to two tragic disasters. Landmark’s Legendary Affaire passed away in the KESMARC hyperbaric oxygen chamber explosion that also killed one person and critically injured another. I have not heard an official update on Scorcha Moneley, the woman injured in the blast, but several of the news reports cite her speaking with the Sherrif’s office to help their investigation from the hospital. The second tragedy was of course the passing of Jack’s Irish Z, who broke his leg at the Ocala Horse Trials. The incident occurred on the landing side of the second to last fence and it appears that no one but ill fate is to blame. Losing a member of our community is hard–losing two in one weekend is sickening. The frustrating but true reality is that the best any of us can do but keep the horses and their families in our thoughts and prayers.
Let’s put the bad aside for a moment and consider the good news. And by good news I mean good news for anyone rooting for a good US performance at the Olympics later this year in London. 6 months ago I was about as optimistic about the US team’s chances in London as I am about Coren getting a date on a Friday night. Our top horses were old, and several of our top programs looked dangerously thin. But the top US owners went out and bought several terrific horses for their riders at the end of last year, we got one terrific horse healthy again, and our younger riders have continued to step up. Whether you like the US program buying our way back to 4* high performance relevance or not, what’s done is done and I’m liking our chances a lot better for London as a result. We are a long way from London, but after the Ocala and Aiken training sessions and a successful weekend of competition at Pine Top and the Ocala HT, US eventing high performance is looking a heck of a lot better than it did 6 months ago.
—Comet is back. Enough said. He won his intermediate division at Pine Top by 6.4 points. It remains to be seen how he will hold up in this year’s campaign, but you can say that for any horse. It’s so far so good and I couldn’t be happier for Becky, who, by the way, won another intermediate division on a horse that could turn out to be equally nice (or perhaps even better)–Can’t Fire Me. If not for all the sad news this weekend Becky and her two greys should have gotten all the attention. The horse that Comet beat was none other than Mystery Whisper, Phillip’s new horse from Australia who is owned by James and Arden Wildasin. 5.2 time penalties on the XC definitely catches my attention but if anyone can get that horse around clean and fast it is Phillip and trust me when I say we don’t have to worry about the horse’s dressage score–it is going to be very low by the end of the spring.
–Boyd Martin won the third intermediate division at Pine Top with Cold Harbour and although I don’t think that horse will be a factor for Olympic consideration, Michael Pollard had 4 horses in the top 7 of that division and Jan Byyny had Syd Kent and Why Not in the top 5.
–Phillip finished William Penn, Ben, and Mighty Nice in the top 4 of the third intermediate Pine Top division and Stewie is back in action with Holly Hudspeth with a 5th place in that division. Stephen Bradley and Leyland won an open prelim division.
–I’m stuck up north for a few more weeks working on some non-horsey projects, but if you braved the cold temperatures at Pine Top you were treated to a a great event putting on the best the Aiken crowd has to offer. The high performance season will take the next step with 80 horses entered in the next Pine Top advanced in two weeks.
–An 8 hour drive south featured the Florida eventers our at the Ocala Horse Trials. Caroline Martin won a few awards at the USEA convention and kept the momentum going by winning the Ocala intermediate rider division.
–Heather Morris and First Mark beat Karen and the impressive Mr. Medicott out of first place in the open intermediate A division by getting closer to the optimum on cross-country. Leslie Law and Irish Diamonds were third and Marilyn Little-Meredith was 6th with her late 2011 acquisition RF Demeter.
—Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen did what we would expect them to do and dominated the intermediate B division by 7 points. I wonder why they didn’t break 20–come on Clark, sheesh!
–Canada get’s a shout out in the same division for Selena and Colombo placing second and Pan Am champion Pavarotti finishing 13th with buckets of time penalties. Kadi Eykamp and Double Rivers Dillon won the intermediate C division with Canadians taking the 2nd through 4th spots, eh.
As is always the case in eventing, this weekend featured some incredible lows and highs. Here’s to a 2012 that features many many more highs than lows. Go eventing.