Former Grand Prix show jumper Marilyn Little-Meredith, riding RF Rovino Rex, squeaked past Boyd Martin and Remington XXV to win the CCI*** at Plantation Field International Horse Trials by a mere one tenth of a point.
The fourth annual Plantation Field International Horse Trials came to an exciting finish Sunday, September 18, as record crowds enjoyed perfect weather, a day of top-notch competition and neck-and-neck competition in the CIC*** division.
The top two riders, Marilyn Little-Meredith, of Frederick, MD, in only her thirteenth eventing competition and first-ever three star, and Boyd Martin, of Cochranville, PA, entered the show-jumping phase separated by a mere one-tenth of a point, setting up a nail-biting finish. The dramatic ending came after the two riders had swapped the lead spot throughout the three days of competition.
On dressage day, Little-Meredith, aboard Raylyn Farm's RF Rovano Rex, took the early lead and held it easily until late in the afternoon, when Martin and Remington XXV, owned by Ron and Densey Juvonen, laid down a stunning test that put them in first place. On cross-country day, only two riders -- Australian Peter Atkins on his own HJ Hampton and Canadian Kendal Lehari on Gwen Lehari's Daily Edition -- finished Plantation Field's new three-star track under the time allowed, catapulting them from 17th and 23rd to third and fourth places, respectively. As for the leaders, Martin and Little-Meredith each jumped clean with a handful of time faults, but Little-Meredith came home just fast enough to give her the lead by a mere one-tenth of a point - a difference of less than half a second in their finishing times.
On Sunday afternoon, fans were on the edge of their seats as Martin, a hometown favorite, entered the ring. He rode a fault-free show jumping round, generating applause from the crowd and leaving Little-Meredith no room for error. Little-Meredith, a professional show jumper who began eventing less than a year ago, entered the ring last. Showing a little of her show-jumping pedigree, she took a sharp inside turn that helped her finish clean and well under time to win the CIC***, her first competition at that level.
After winning the two star with The Apprentice, Buck Davidson of Reiglesville, PA, on Park Trader finished out of the ribbons in the three star.
Little-Meredith, who trains with Karen and David O’Connor, didn’t make the time on her first horse, RF Easy Going, in show jumping. “Karen told me that Boyd had made the time just before I went in the ring. I was worried about being too slow so I took the inside turn to three. I hoped it would give me enough room with this horse I don’t know very well,” she said.
Coming out of the ring afterward, smiling and thrilled, Little-Meredith confessed she'd been more nervous for that all-important round than for many Grand Prix courses she's jumped in the past. Finishing third in the CIC*** were Atkins and HJ Hampton, in his first three star since WEG, who were also awarded Best Conditioned Horse award by Dr. and Mrs. Peter Blauner.
“This weekend showed that there’s a new chance for the Americans next year,” Martin said after the class.
Little-Meredith switched disciplines just a year ago and gave full credit to her parents, husband, show jumper Ben Meredith, and to Karen and David O'Connor for helping her make a successful transition to eventing. She qualified both her advanced horses for October’s Fair Hill.
In the CIC**, Buck Davidson and The Apprentice, a new addition to his string of horses owned by Sherrie and Randy led the division from start to finish. Will Coleman took second and third on Obos O'Reilly and Vancover, respectively. In the CIC*, William Coleman finished first with his and Nancy Doubleday's Ole Boy, followed by Lisa Marie Fergusson and Uni Spirit in second and Sinead Halpin and Classical King in third. Dr. and Mrs. Peter Blauner gave the Best Conditioned Horse award to Stephanie Cauffman and Diligence.
Boyd Martin on Remington XXV finished second in the three star by the tiniest of margins.
Last year’s Plantation Field three star winner Jennie Brannigan wowed the crowd in Sunday’s PRO Bareback Puissance by easily clearing a 6 foot 2 inch fence with Elizabeth Stewart's No Objection. Brannigan took home a $1,000 check presented by Kevin Keane's Sports Medicine Associates of Chester County. Sixteen-year-old Caroline Martin was also impressively brave with her own Nacho, jumping clear through 5 feet 3 inches – the winning height at previous Bareback Puissance events at Plantation Field. Ashley Leith forfeited a boot to stay in the competition after a knockdown at 4 feet 9 inches, and followed with a clear jump over the same height. Australian Ryan Wood had a knockdown followed by a refusal as the wall rose to 5 feet 9 inches. The exhibition, with color commentary from Boyd Martin, benefited Operation Homefront, which provides financial assistance to US military members and their families in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Also during Sunday’s lunch break, spectators were treated to a parade of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds, whose kennels neighbor the rolling hills of Plantation Field, and took part in a touching ceremony honoring Neville Bardos and the other horses that were injured and killed in a barn fire at True Prospect Farm earlier this year. Also honored during the lunch break were the many volunteers who make it possible to put on the four recognized and two unrecognized events Plantation Field hosts each year. Sinead Halpin, Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin, Colleen Rutledge, Michael Pollard and Will Coleman, all of whom were competing at Plantation Field, were also honored for competing at Burghley and Blenheim.
In just four years, Plantation Field International has turned into a destination event with huge local support, led by Katie and Cuyler Walker, Denis Glaccum, Evie and Phillip Dutton, Amy Ruth Borun and Colby Saddington.
After a knockdown at the 4'3" level, Ashley Leith had to forward a boot to stay in the Bareback Puissance competition.
An exhibition of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds preceded the Bareback Puissance exhibition.