Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A New Addition and PRO DerbyCross by Ashley Leith

I woke up this morning before feeding time so that I could sit down and write about the Derby Cross experience on Saturday in Wellington. When I got into my office and looked out the window I saw one of our horses looking very agitated. Yesterday we moved the brood mares to one of our front fields so that we could keep a closer eye on them as they neared their due dates of the third week in March. As soon as I saw Darcy in the next field going up and down the fence line, I thought, "I bet we have a baby!" Sure enough, when I put my shoes on and went outside, my Hanoverian mare Glitzen had just given birth. Glitzen was still on the ground, and the new shiny wet colt was standing by her head. She was licking him dry. I called Brian out and gradually as the whole farm awoke, everyone got to admire the beauty of a new baby on the farm. He looks to be a bay, although his legs have white hairs on them. He also has a little white star, just like his mother. Even though this is my first venture into breeding, Glitzen is a seasoned broodmare and she obviously knows what she is doing. She is very proud of her little one and also very protective of him. After giving them some space while we did barn chores, we went out to make sure he had figured out how to suckle. We had a batch of thirteen adorable baby chicks here three weeks ago, the spring flowers are blooming, and now we have our first healthy foal on the ground. This is certainly a moment to stop and enjoy!

PRO Derby Cross on Saturday night was well done and entertaining. The arena at the Palm Beach Equestrian Center is much more enclosed than most arenas that we event riders are used to. It is surrounded on four sides by seating and VIP tents. This allows for a very spectator friendly program. Before the start of the competition, hosts Leslie Law and Boyd Martin blasted into the ring on two borrowed mounts in order to demonstrate some of the techniques of the sport of three day eventing. While course designer David O'Connor narrated, Leslie and Boyd showed how to jump a corner jump and how to jump a drop to a wedge jump.

The competition then got off to a quick start. One of the most memorable early rounds was Will Faudree. He was riding Errigal Lion and he rode at an amazing pace. His ambition in that arena reminded me of how he got thrust into the upper echelon of event riders to begin with. Almost a decade ago at his first CCI*** at Fair Hill with his parter Antigua, Will rocked it around the cross country course, finishing inside the time and ending the day near the top of the leader board. His drive once again stood him in good stead on Saturday night. With a clean round and a clean jump over the eventers joker fence, a five foot high orange Hermes vertical, Will was later awarded the Eventer MVP for the evening. After the ten second deduction for clearing the joker fence, his final time of 1:06 was the fastest.

The competition ran in a team format. There were five teams with five riders each. The teams all had three event riders, one show jumping rider, and one polo player. The event riders all jumped first over a course that combined cross country questions with show jumping obstacles. The two most influential fences were fence four, which was an angled hedge in-and-out, and fence eleven, which was a square oxer and the second to last jump. Trouble came at the angled hedges because they came up quickly and caused a type of optical illusion due to their positioning. Fence eleven was influential because after speeding over a number of cross country type jumps where the horses could really gallop, the square oxer on show jumping cups required them to really come back and bascule around the jump.

After the first round of fifteen event riders, team FarmVet/Cavalor with Will Faudree, Bruce Davidson, and Buck Davidson as captain, was sitting in the lead. Team Canada, with Rebecca Howard, Jessica Phoenix, and Kyle Carter as captain, was placed second. A quick break was taken to reset some of the jumps. Then the team sents in their polo player and show jumper riders together. They each jumped designated courses one at a time and then jumped their designated joker jumps. The polo players, who jumped between 3' and 3'6" were a mixed bag over their triple bar oxer joker jump. Interestingly, though, not one of them cleared the final jump on their course, a 3'6" open bar vertical. That proved to be a real bogie! The jumper riders had higher show jumps and many of the same cross country type obstacles that the event riders had, including a drop bank to a skinny. I thought their horses, who don't often jump drops, handled that combination amazingly well. Their joker jump was a preliminary level corner. Every show jump rider jumped it clean. I have to say I thought it may have been too easy a joker jump for them!

At the end of the day, the scoreboard changed a little bit. Team FarmVet/Cavalor went last, in reverse order of standing, but they had an ace in their pocket with Aaron Vale. Aaron really delivered under pressure. He did have a rail down, but he jumped the joker clean to finish on a time of 1:11, which was the second fastest of the jumper riders. Team Canada did not fare so well, however. They fell from second place to last place due to a refusal by their polo player's horse at the up bank. With double joker points, Team Triple Crown with Marcia Kulak, Will Coleman, and Allison Springer as captain slid into second.

The evening finished off with a puissance class. The winning height of 7'3" at the puissance wall really dwarfed the cross country jumps still placed around the ring. The point of having Derby Cross in Wellington was to try to introduce eventing to a new audience. Apparently we have already been invited back, which is wonderful. What I took away from the evening, though, after watching event riders, jumper riders, polo players, and then puissance riders, was how diverse our sports are yet how each sport contains something to admire. Horses really are a versatile and wonderful creature!

Photo of Jonathon Millar Courtesy of Molly Sorge - Chronicle of the Horse

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