Allison Springer and her own Arthur were the first on course during the CIC3* cross-country competition at the Red Hills Horse Trials in Tallahassee, Florida, but their comparatively quick round moved them up from third to first by the end of the day.
“You always wonder how things are going to go,” Allison said. “It’s nice to be able ask other competitors.” Her plan was to “just go out there and do it,” and Arthur’s scope and big stride made easy work of the course. Springer and Arthur will have no rails in hand heading into show jumping.
Boyd Martin and his WEG mount, Neville Bardos, were sixth after dressage, but the pair moved up to second after cross-country with just 7.6 time penalties. “It was a tough, testing course,” Martin admitted. “Luckily the horse I was riding has been around a bit now, and he’s quite experienced so I felt like I had a pretty cruising round.”
Martin has been conservative with Neville’s speed since WEG, but allowed the Thoroughbred gelding to gallop on at his own pace today. Martin recognizes the challenges of designing a good course on the undulating Red Hills terrain. While course design requires finding a middle ground between challenging and safe, “you want to be competitive, but not at all costs.”
Michael Pollard has two horses in the top ten in the CIC3* after cross-country. Icarus, owned by Michael's wife Nathalie, made a great leap from thirteenth to third with a clean round and some time penalties, and Wonderful Will, owned by Sher Schwartz, is in tenth place. Because Pollard is familiar with this particular cross-country course, he had a plan: “The terrain makes it difficult to get a rhythm. In the past, I’ve tried to go too quickly too start, so I started slow and built on it.“
Course designer Hugh Lochore had many years of experience as a course builder at Red Hills before his promotion to designer. He and his team worked hard to improve the course and “open it up” for the competitors to have more space to gallop compared to years past.
“None of the three-star competitors got inside the time," explained Hugh. "But you wouldn’t expect anyone on this terrain to do so.” Several riders expressed the improvements in rideability of the course this year, but Hugh has a long-term plan, part of which includes reversing the course: “This is year two, and I’ve got a three-year strategy. This year we have a huge amount of speed at the end of the course and I’d like to put that at the beginning of the course.”
Besides the eventing competition, Red Hills is a participating event in the USEA Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research Study. “We had two studies going on this weekend,” said Dr. Catherine Kohn, DVM, a leading veterinarian involved in the study. “In one we were testing the heart rate monitor. We are trying to report the cardiograms continuously while horses compete. The second is to look at the blood levels of a compound called cardiac troponin.” Cardiac troponin is naturally occurring in the muscle cells of the heart, but researchers hypothesize that some horse may liberate more troponin than others, suggesting potential stress or damage to the heart muscle.
“Our overall goal is to learn why we have some horses getting seriously injured during competition,” Dr. Kohn said. “To do that we have to ask for the cooperation of our friends who are the riders and horses because there is no way to simulate an event in the laboratory.”
Doug Payne graciously allowed his horses, particularly Running Order, who's in fifth after cross-country in the CIC3*, to participate in the study this weekend. “I see it as something that is only going to benefit us in the long run,” Doug said. “The more information they have, the better.”
Show jumping begins after jog-ups Sunday morning. Riders have been consistently reminded throughout the weekend to set their clocks forward an hour for the Spring time change and will certainly make sure to get plenty of sleep for the accurate jumping test.
Red Hills CIC3* is part of the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series, a prestigious series now in its eighth year. It includes seven events from across the country, giving top horse and rider combinations the chance to win prizes and cash throughout the season, as well as picking up leaderboard points. The top pair at the end of the Series takes home a check for $20,000. Learn more about the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series.
If Allison and Arthur can hang onto their lead tomorrow, they'll win a Gold Cup trophy, $500 in prize money, 7-dose box of Adequan, a three-month supply of SUCCEED, and a pair of Nunn Finer American Style open front boots. The second placed finisher will receive: a 7-dose box of Adequan and a pair of Nunn Finer American Style open front boots. Top finishers in this division also earn valuable points towards the year-end purse.