EN Today: Sporting Days H.T. wrap-up

Over the weekend Esprit and I competed at Sporting Days H.T. in Aiken, SC. I wrote up a little somethin’-somethin’ about it for our sister site here.


Welcome to paradise, suckers! Snowbirds hoping to escape the winter chill found no relief at Sporting Days Horse Trials, held March 2-3 in Aiken. Random bursts of blustery rain on Saturday and freezing temps on Sunday left competitors shivering and their equine counterparts feeling extra-fresh.

Competitors warm up under ominous skies on Saturday.

Sarah Morton bundles up in a quarter sheet to watch a student’s dressage test on Sunday morning

Nonetheless, eventers turned out in droves for the popular event. With a laid-back atmosphere and friendly cross-country courses, Sporting Days is always much-appreciated by riders looking to give their horses a confidence-building first run of the season or positive move-up experience. Tadpole through IP horse trial divisions and combined tests at all levels provided options for green and experienced horses alike. This weekend’s event ran over two days but maintained a one-day format, with the upper levels running on Saturday and the lower levels on Sunday.

The Intermediate-Prelim division was won by Ian Roberts of Port Perry, Ontario, aboard his handsome Irish Sport Horse two-star mount Faolin. They added 4.8 time penalties x-c to an dressage score of 24.8 to best the division, which included second-place finisher Boyd Martin on Master Frisky, whom Boyd rode in the High Performance Training Sessions earlier in the week. Riders in the IP division found themselves in the unusual position of having to do stadium after cross-country due to scheduling, prompting riders to go conservatively around the course in an effort to preserve their horses’ legs.

There were lots of pleasing results in other divisions as well, with some impressive dressage scores and a generous percentage of clear cross-country rounds over Greg Schlappi’s inviting track. The stadium course, designed by Janine McClain, was open and galloping but caught out riders who let their horses get a bit strung out, with an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination and a snug two-stride just one fence from home.

Lynn Symansky of Middleburg, Va., took home more blue ribbons than anyone over the weekend, winning Open Prelim A on Zoe and Open Training A on Pogi, as well as the Prelim CT on Osborne 9. The lowest dressage score of the weekend belonged to Matt Flynn aboard White Knuckles, who added no jumping faults to a 20.9 to win Open Novice C. View the full results here.

Nicole Parkin and Ubiquitous splash through the water on their way to a double-clear cross-country round in the Novice Horse division.

Kevin Keane and the promising Fernhill Foster finished sixth on a 29.6 in the competitive Open Novice A division.

With 437 horses running across 35 divisions over the course of two days, Sporting Days H.T. is a scheduling nightmare–particularly because the entry list is thickly populated with professionals riding multiple horses. Boyd Martin, for instance, had nine horses running–every time I saw him, he was getting off one horse and being handed another.

I managed to briefly pull show secretary extraordinaire Mary Coldren aside to ask, “How do you do it?!?”

“Bourbon!” Mary responded–only half-jokingly, I think! In actuality, Mary is a professional chaos-manager. She’s the wizard behind the curtain of several events with 400-plus entries including Maryland, Fair Hill and Plantation Field.

Mary is based out of Pennsylvania, and she explained that being familiar with the riders is extremely helpful: “Honestly, I do this every weekend at home with Boyd and Ryan and those guys on seven or eight horses, so to me it’s not unusual.”

“The professionals come with so much help, I know that if they have 30 minutes between their dressage rides, I don’t even have to call them and ask, ‘Hey, will this work for you,'” she said. “But if I have someone else that I don’t know, who only has three horses and they have 30 minutes between rides, I’ll call them and make sure that’s OK, because they might be planning on coming alone.”

A big thanks to Mary, organizer Joannah Glass, and all of the officials and volunteers who made the March Sporting Days H.T. a great success. As for the weather, no thanks to you!


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