Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda finished second in the CIC3* at the Fork. Credit Jenni Autry/Eventing Nation
Leading Pennsylvania eventers were out in full force at The Fork Horse Trials in Norwood, N.C., last month competing in the last major preparation event before the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. While no Pennsylvania riders took home a win in the CIC3*, CIC2* or Advanced divisions, local riders secured top-three finishes at each level.
The weekend started out truly miserable for spectators and competitors alike, as Thursday dressage saw 40-degree temperatures and a steady rain that made the day very long, cold and wet. Rain fell heavier in the afternoon during the start of the CIC3* dressage tests, leaving the arenas sloppy for the remainder of the day and Friday dressage.
Mercifully, temperatures warmed up by Friday afternoon, leading to a beautiful rest of the weekend with temperatures in the 70s and plenty of sunshine. Spectators enjoyed the new CIC format introduced this year by the FEI, which requires horses and riders to show jump on the second day and places the cross-country phase on the final day of competition.
Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda
Jennie Brannigan and Nina Gardner’s Cambalda were second in the CIC3*, which Lynn Symansky and Donner of Middleburg, Va., won. Brannigan, who serves as Phillip Dutton’s assistant trainer out of his True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pa., is preparing to compete in her first Rolex with Cambalda, or “Ping,” and was looking for a solid prep run at The Fork.
“I'm thinking I’m as confident as I could be or should be going into Rolex,” Brannigan said. “I ran him slow at the first two events of the year (Pine Top in February and Red Hills in March). He placed well and won the dressage at those two events. The jumping felt really good at The Fork, so I’m in the best situation I could be. I got to do a three-star in Europe (Boekelo) on this horse. I’m feeling ready for it. I’m still nervous, but I’m tentatively excited and confident.”
Brannigan likely would have won the CIC3* were it not for slight blips in dressage when the pair broke to the canter in the first medium trot and picked up an error early in the test, a mistake she attributed to how heavily she has been practicing the four-star dressage test in preparation for Kentucky.
“I had just gone through the test, but I just blew it in the first two movements,” Brannigan said. “I was really happy the rest of the test went well, but that error ended up being fairly costly to me. I was really disappointed in myself, but what matters is that he feels good and is ready for Kentucky.”
Buck Davidson’s Three Rides
Buck Davidson of Riegelsville, Pa., finished just behind Brannigan in the CIC3* with Carl Segal’s Ballynoe Castle RM, one of three horses he will be competing at Rolex. Davidson and Reggie, an Irish Sport Horse gelding, sat further down the leaderboard after dressage, tied for 14th place on a score of 49.6. A double-clear show jumping round on Saturday brought them up to tie for ninth, and a double-clear cross-country trip brought them all the way up to finish in third.
Davidson is one of two riders with three entries at Rolex — the other being British rider James Alliston, who now trains outside San Francisco, Calif. In addition to Reggie, Buck will be riding Carl Segal’s Park Trader and Leigh Mesher’s Mar De Amor, a Selle Francais gelding who which finished second in the Advanced division at The Fork, at Rolex.
Park Trader, an Irish Thoroughbred gelding, was entered in the CIC3* division, but Buck withdrew him after show jumping, during which the two pulled a rail. Buck and Park Trader had been sitting tied for 45th after dressage on a score of 60. As of press time, Buck is still planning to ride all three horses at Rolex.
Sally Cousins and Ideal Contini
Sally Cousins of West Grove, Pa., and her own Ideal Contini had a fantastic weekend at The Fork, finishing third in the CIC2* on their dressage score of 49.7. This Westphalian gelding is a horse Cousins purchased in the hopes of making the 2014 World Equestrian Games team in Normandy next year. She is currently putting together a syndicate for the horse, and shares are still available.
“We drove down to The Fork the morning of dressage, and I rode very late in the division,” Cousins said. “The conditions were just dreadful, but Taz was very good. I gave him a longer warm-up than usual, which worked very well. He was not bothered at all by the rain, and I am starting to get the quality of work in the ring that we can get at home.”
Cousins and Taz put in a brilliant double clear show jumping round on Saturday, which she said is the best show jumping round she’s ever had on this horse. She attributed that success in part to some equipment changes, like a new saddle and a stabilizing strap on the bit she uses for show jumping.
“He was still a little spooky, but we were able to make the inside turns and he was much more rideable than he has been in the past in show jumping,” Cousins said. “I also tried a different gag bit on cross country, which helped a lot with the rideability again. All the new things I tried at this event really worked out in my favor.”
While Taz is not heading to Rolex, he has a packed competition schedule for the rest of the year. If all goes according to plan, Cousins plans to run the horse at the Jersey Fresh CCI2* in May and the Bromont CIC3* in June. Cousins will be competing at Rolex with Tsunami III, her own Thoroughbred mare, who finished 16th in the CIC3* at The Fork; this horse also finished 14th with Cousins at last year’s Rolex.
“Her performances have been very good this year,” Cousins said. “We made some real progress in her dressage over the winter. She’s a very fast horse on cross country and was only eight seconds over the time at The Fork, and she really just cantered around. Everything is going very well for Rolex.”