Elkton, Md. – Competition officially kicked off on Thursday at the USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship and Maryland 5 Star CCI5*-L with the first half of the entries completing their dressage tests. Both events are taking place at the new facilities at Fair Hill International, a longtime home of world-class eventing.
USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship
Caroline Martin (Miami Beach, Fla.) and Sherrie Martin’s 2015 Zangersheide gelding HSH Vamonos took an early lead as the fourth combination to go on Thursday morning. The flashy gelding performed brilliantly through a foggy morning in Fair Hill’s new arena, and the pair scored a 25.5, a top score that would stand for most of the morning session.
Kate Brown (Aiken, S.C.) and her own Carnaby, a 2013 Oldenburg gelding, kicked off the final group of competitors for Thursday with a nearly flawless test, which put them at the top of the leaderboard with a 24.8. The festive environment at Fair Hill gave “Cabby” plenty to look at, but Brown enjoyed the experience.
“We don’t get to practice in a lot of atmosphere very much, so it’s a really big change and it looks awesome,” she said. “The venue, the stands, the footing, all the decorations. There’s just a lot there. It’s great.
“My horse is usually quite obedient, and he felt quite responsive in the warm-up ring,” Brown continued. “His eyes got a little big when I came up into the arena itself. He took a few peeks around throughout the test, but he kept responding to me and kept showing up and doing what I was asking, so I’m very pleased with him.”
Brown’s top score didn’t stand long, however, as Kurt Martin (Marshall, Va.) and D.A. Lifetime, a stunning gray 2012 Holsteiner mare owned by Debbie Adams, showed up just two rides later and wowed the judges with a flowing, athletic performance.
“‘Clarence’ was brilliant. I was really happy with her,” said Martin. “You’re never sure how the horses will act coming into this atmosphere, but honestly she was brilliant from the start when we got here…She’s a hot horse, she can often be a lot of horse, and today she was just right underneath me the whole test and I couldn’t be happier with her.”
Martin found Clarence on a horse-shopping trip to Germany a few years ago, and immediately knew she was something special.
“She was like riding a cloud,” he said. “I remember feeling I’d never ridden anything so light and nice. She was a very sensitive horse—she just needed to settle and have some time. They really just have to want to work with you and we’re at the place where we’re working together. At the beginning, she didn’t know me and I didn’t know her, and now we know each other and she responds very well. It took some time.”
The remaining 25 riders in the CCI3*-L will complete their dressage tests Friday morning beginning at 8:00 a.m. ET.
Maryland 5 Star CCI5*-L
Competitors in the CCI5*-L made eventing history today by opening the gates on the newest top-level event. With the first half of the field completing their dressage tests, it was Great Britain’s Oliver Townend, currently the FEI’s world No. 1 ranked eventing athlete, and Angela Hislop’s 2005 Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Master Class taking a decisive lead with a score of 21.1. Townend and “Coolio” have an excellent record from their American outings, having won the CCI5*-L at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2018 and 2019.
“We don’t really run him that often,” said Townend. “He’s an old pro and a big character. He’s a horse that we love to have at these big occasions. He seems to love the trip over to America. He seems to thrive in America…I know he’s older but he’s never felt as good. He’s never felt as happy. He’s a lazy horse by nature but he’s squealing and messing about and he’s been a pain in the backside all week. I said, ‘I don’t mind as long as when you go in the dressage you behave yourself,’ which he’s done better than ever before. We couldn’t be happier with him. He’s a very special horse to the whole team at home. We’ve got him as fit as we can as well as we can, and he seems on very, very good form.”
Two U.S. combinations are currently tied for second place. Lynn Symansky and RF Cool Play, a 13-year-old German Sport Horse gelding owned by the Donner Syndicate, made their five-star debut in a big way, posting a 28.0 in their dressage test.
“I thought he really rose to the occasion,” said Symansky. “He was quite hot the last two days and we did quite a bit of pre-riding this morning. For his first time at the level, I was quite happy with him.”
Hannah Sue Burnett and her longtime partner, Harbour Pilot, an 18-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Jacqueline Mars earned the other 28.0 in the CCI5*-L. The new competition arenas at Fair Hill provided a new experience for the seasoned pair.
“Just coming into the arena last night for arena familiarization, the stands are beautiful, the horses really can feel the atmosphere, but not in a really electric way. It’s really well done,” said Burnett. “My horse has been around for a long time, been a lot of places, and he was like, ‘Ah, you brought me somewhere worthy of me!’ He felt relaxed but also impressed and excited.”
The CCI3*-L and CCI5*-L will both be streamed live on USEF Network from October 13-17 and available on-demand to USEF members after the conclusion of the event on Sunday. Get a free fan membership by joining now and using the promo code maryland21.