Fairburn, Ga., Sept. 9
After an elegant dressage test to top the open intermediate division of the Nutrena/U.S. Eventing Association American Eventing Championships yesterday, Kadi Eykamp and Double Rivers Really Cool cruised around the Ritch Temple-designed cross-country course, cementing a nearly 9-point lead.
“Cross-country is just his thing,” said Eykamp of her 6-year-old Canadian Thoroughbred gelding. “I had to slow him down a little so that we didn’t go too fast, but it’s just such a lovely galloping course that making time is something you can do.”
Blue skies and ideal footing undoubtedly played a part in competitors’ expeditious galloping around advanced, intermediate and training cross-country courses at beautiful Chattahoochee Hills. Novice and beginner novice divisions got underway today in four dressage rings.
Eykamp kicked things off Thursday scoring a 23.6 in dressage, an 8-point lead over second-placed Katlyn McMorris and Clifton Peekachu.
“[Double Rivers Really Cool] can be really spooky,” Eykamp said. “Before we went into the arena yesterday he saw some flags, ran completely sideways and lost it. I know he’s going to do that, though, so I just let him do it, and then off we go.”
The pair placed third in the preliminary horse division of last year’s AECs and are coming off a win in the Richland Park CIC** (Mich.) two weeks ago. Though they made easy work of cross-country and carry a two-rail margin into show jumping tomorrow, Eykamp said that the final phase has often been their weakest.
“I got a clear round out of him at Richland, so I’m not going to change anything from that, and we’ll see what we get tomorrow.
“He’s just a baby and really green still at the two-star level, but he’s doing well,” she continued. “He’s going to the Fair Hill [Md.] two-star, and then I’ve got to work on his dressage and make sure he’s experienced in the show jumping. But he’ll be an advanced horse within the next 12 months. He’s one of the nicest horses I’ve ever had.”
Of the advanced horses, Allison Springer’s Arthur maintained his lead with a clear cross-country round, besting second-placed Emily Beshear’s Here’s To You and third-placed Barbara Crabo’s Eveready II.
In the preliminary horse division, Julie Norman and Consensus also maintained their lead, but can’t afford a rail in show jumping tomorrow.
“The scores are so tight! Even time penalties will make me lose my place,” said Norman, Shreveport, La., who’s worked hard to develop a partnership with her 11-year-old Hannoverian-Thoroughbred gelding.
“He was mostly a dressage horse when I bought him, but he was just bucking everyone off,” she said. “I got a good deal on him, but since then we’ve had so many events that have just made me want to give up. But recently we’ve turned around, and for cross-country today, he was just on. He saw the flags, and he went. He took care of me.”
Norman is just 0.9 points ahead of Heather Morris and Master P, but she’s trying not to feel the pressure tonight.
“I’m hoping my nerves won’t get to me too much, because I’ve never been in this position before,” she said. “But I’m excited, and as long as I stay out of the way and show him the jumps, he’ll take care of it.”
In the preliminary junior/young rider division, Collin Reynolds and Midas IV moved up from third after dressage when second-placed Victoria New retired on course and first-placed Marisa Hughes took a tumble in the water. New and Hughes both walked back to the barns uninjured.
“The water was a big question for us,” said Reynolds, 18. “We’ve had some problems with water in the past, and as I was going into the start box, the riders before me were having issues there. I was like, ‘Oh, great!’ But he was perfect. He was really bold, and I was really happy with him.”
Reynolds recently began her freshman year at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, so she hasn’t had much time in the saddle to prepare.
“My schedule has been kind of crazy, because I’ve been at school since August, so I actually haven’t ridden him much,” said Reynolds, whose trainer, Virginia-based Tiffany Catledge, has been keeping the gelding in work. “I hopped on a plane to Virginia, drove down to Georgia, got on, and he’s been great!” Reynolds said.
Looking toward show jumping tomorrow, Reynolds is doing her best to keep her head in the game.
“I want to get a lot of sleep, but of course that never happens! I don’t have room for a rail, so it’s a lot on my shoulders, but I’ll be alright. I’ll just go into it positively and try not to think about the pressure,” she said.
Advanced, intermediate and training divisions conclude with show jumping tomorrow, while novice and beginner novice divisions will continue with cross-country.
For full results, click here.