Today in Tallahassee, Red Hills International revealed their newly designed cross-country courses for the CIC divisions. To feature these new courses, divisions took on show jumping first followed by a cross-country finale later in the afternoon. It proved to be a wonderful end to a beautiful day as the newly redesigned cross-country courses received rave reviews from competitors and spectators alike. Despite course designer Mike Etherington-Smith’s many curveballs, the top three riders in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series CIC3* division remained atop the leaderboard through it all.
After Hannah Burnett had an unfortunate rail in the show jumping, Phillip Dutton secured the top spot adding only .8 cross-country penalties to his dressage score. Dutton and Tom Tierney and Ann L. Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive had the quickest ride around the new track and have made a great claim to be considered for a spot on Team USA for the 2016 Olympic Games. Out of their 22 total CIC/CCI starts, the pair has finished in the top ten in 16 of those competitions or 73% of the time.
“He’s not brilliant in any phase but he is good in all the phases. That’s what you have to be to be an event horse” said Dutton. With today’s success he plans to give the Dutch Warmblood gelding the rest of month off and aim for The Fork as their next event.
Show jumping course designer William “Fuzzy” Mayo made sure Red Hills would not be a dressage competition, as there was a substantial leaderboard shake up following dressage. Among the many challenges faced by the horse and rider pairs was a triple combination which headed directly towards the barns. Yet the most complicated part was that the triple was within only a few feet away from a line of spectators. That proved enough to knock a few of the competitors out of the top of the leader board. Among those caught by the triple was the Hannah Sue Burnett riding Harbour Pilot “William” the 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Jacqueline B. Mars.
Burnett chalked the rail up to it being William’s first big event after a recent time off. “William is really excited to be here and he got a little flat. I tried to hold it together throughout the course and that last line got a bit strong” she said. Burnett later added “hopefully we’ll have him really tuned up for Kentucky” as she plans to aim William for Rolex after a run at The Fork in the Advanced division.
Jennifer Brannigan took second with the up-and-coming Catalina. This was the third run at this level for the Oldenburg mare, owned by Candace Kircher and Tim and Nina Gardner. “I have really, pretty much taken this horse and threw her in the deep end” laughed Brannigan. “I knew that there would be a point at which she would be competitive amongst this quality and caliber of horses but I didn’t necessarily think that was going to be this weekend. To be that high after the dressage, I was like oh my gosh wow! I have always known she is a really nice horse but you know you go ok we are green at thirteen and it is going to get there so I am just over the moon and elated.”
For 2016 the competition featured a redesigned cross-country course running in the opposite direction as in the previous year. The course design team consisted of Michael Etherington-Smith handling the CIC3* and Advanced divisions while USA Chef d’Equipe David O’Connor designed the CIC1* and CIC2*. Tyson Rementer and Levi Ryckewaert built the fabulous fences reaffirming the high caliber of this event.
“There are a few really key elements to designing any course regardless of the level, two of which are footing and flow, the ability to be able to get in to a good rhythm which gives confidence to both horse and rider. There are obviously several more factors which impact on any course, but no matter if the fences are fantastic and look great, if the footing and flow are not as good as they can be the end result is always disappointing and the pictures that we shall all see will not be as good as we would all like them to be.” Etherington-Smith said in a statement released by the competition. “So, this year, with the help and enthusiasm of many, the focus has been on finding some new lines and on continuing to develop the quality of the ground whilst ensuring that the course is as competitor, spectator and horse friendly as possible.”
David O’Connor echoed Etherington-Smith by stating that “the tracks in the woods have been straightened and widened as the horses always need a place to see their way forward” also saying that “this year marks the start of a multiyear program to bring the course up to its maximum potential for horses, riders and spectators alike. New features like the new water will draw spectator interest as well as a spectacular setting for a preeminent jump for the competitors.”
Red Hills International turned up the heat this year, but many competitors showed their strength at the start of the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series. Next on the calendar is the Carolina International March 23-26, 2016.
Unlike the CIC3* division the Advanced division is running over three days during Red Hills. Day two featured cross-country and a familiar pair on the top of the leaderboard. In 2015 Lauren Kieffer managed to pull off a double victory by winning the Advanced division with Team Rebecca’s Veronica and the CIC3* division aboard Court and Kylie Ramsay’s Czechmate. For 2016 Kieffer returned with a trailer load of contenders including Veronica and her Pan American Games partner Meadowbrook’s Scarlett fresh off of their victory at the $15,000 Ocala Horse Properties Eventing Prix.
While Kieffer’s rides in the CIC3* division might not have gone quite as planned with an involuntary dismount from her new ride D.A. Durras, her Advanced ride was a case of déjà vu from 2015. She returned to the top of the pack with Team Rebecca’s Veronica taking over the lead as Liz Haliday-Sharp with Fernhill By Night and Phillip Dutton amassed enough penalty points to allow Kieffer and Veronica to slip into the lead.
About the Adequan USEA Gold Cup
Qualifying for the 2016 Adequan USEA Gold Cup began last fall with the Richland Park Advanced & CIC3* (MI), Aspen Farms Advanced (WA), Plantation Field Advanced & CIC3* (PA) and the Woodside International Advanced & CIC3* (CA) and features 11 qualifying competitions throughout the United States at the Advanced Horse Trials and CIC3* levels. The final will take place at the Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships, September 1-4 in Tryon, North Carolina. Riders who complete a qualifier earn the chance to vie for $40,000 in prize money and thousands of dollars in prizes in the Adequan Advanced Division and the title of Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champion.