Cross-country proved ever-influential and lead to a shake-up of the top finishers of the CIC3* at the North Carolina International Horse Trials over the weekend.
The event was the second leg of the 2016 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series, of which the finale will be held at this year’s Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships.
In his first year designing at the Carolina Horse Park, Ian Stark laid out a challenging and thoughtful track for the riders, many of whom are used this event as preparation for the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* next month. Combinations were plentiful, beautifully built and set on forward strides, forcing riders and horses alike to think quickly on their feet.
Allison Springer and 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Arthur were definitely a crowd favourite to win, coming off of a year-long hiatus after falling last year in the galloping lanes. The top ten pairs ran in reverse order of merit, leaving Springer and Arthur to be the last ones out of the start box. Springer and the Arthur Syndicate gelding kept their cool zipping around the many challenging complexes and coming home with only 3.20 time penalties to secure their win.
“I’m thrilled with him. I certainly had to work for it, but I always do with him,” Springer said afterwards. “Having more horses to ride gives you such experience. More experience for me as a rider is what I need to make him a winning horse because he’s fully capable of winning,” she said.
“You want plan A to work, but the best riders in the world recover and get it done, and I perhaps haven’t been great at that in the past.”
Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair came out with their game face on after two rails down in the show jumping and were one of only three pairs to finish within the time. Dawn and Jonathan Dofelmier’s 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding seemed very keen, and didn’t back off in the slightest to many eye-opening questions. “There’s not a lot to lose when you have two rails,” Black laughed about going for the time. “I don’t have a lot of upper level horses, so I needed to practice galloping and jumping out of speed. It was interesting coming back to an Ian Stark course, because when I was brining Cody along he designed at Galway where we did our first one and two-star. I’ve brought Cody along with this kind of course in mind, so he does well with it.”
Lynn Symansky and Donner continued their steady ascend up the leader board adding only 4.80 time and no jump penalties to their dressage score to round out the top three. The Donner Syndicate owned gelding is well known as a cross-country machine and today was no exception as the pair jumped from sixth to third. “In the beginning he was a little bit sticky and surprised,” Symansky said. “I haven’t done that much with him this year. I did Wellington and an Intermediate at Rocking horse, so this was his first real proper run. He needed it, I needed it too.”
The pair is kicking off their FEI spring season as preparation for either another drive to Rolex Kentucky or a flight to the Badminton Horse Trials. “I have two great four-stars to choose from, so if I get a grant that would be awesome, and if not then I’d be happy to go back to Kentucky,” Symansky elaborated. “It’s a lot easier for the Donner Sydicate to go to Kentucky and cheer him on and there’s something to be said for that as well. It’s kind of a win-win on wherever we end up going this spring.”