Oct. 21—Elkton, Md.
Few riders ever win two two-stars in a single year. To do it at 19 years old with only one upper-level horse is nothing short of a miracle. Connor Husain came to the Dansko Fair Hill International looking for experience and a solid end to his season. The 19-year-old finished better than he ever dared dream, winning the two-star by adding no jumping penalties throughout the weekend with Piece Of Hope.
Husain headed into show jumping in second place just .8 points behind Jennie Brannigan and Indie. When he turned in a double-clear round, all he could do was sit back and watch. Indie took a good hard look at the line down the rail by the VIP tent, a rainbow oxer at fence 5 and then six short strides to a vertical-oxer double at 6. Brannigan drove him forward to 5, but she had a hard time getting him back for the double, and he took the rail at 6a. That dropped her to third behind Husain and Clayton Fredericks on Pigrela des Cabanes.
“He sees the jumps and backs off. I have to say, ‘Hey, go over them buddy.’ It’s a lot of atmosphere. He’s very spooky, and he’s always been,” said Brannigan. “But in the end he’s only 7. If you would have told me he would be third out of this big of a field, I’m happy with the result nonetheless.”
Husain, who won the individual gold medal at the Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Riders Championships this summer with “Bruno,” was overcome with emotion after his victory.
“It’s so surreal. I’ve been working toward this for a long time. It’s amazing to have everything come together for one weekend,” he said.
Husain, the Plains, Va., said he knew his horse was jumping well, which gave him confidence. “I’ve messed up enough times in the past that I’ve just learned to breathe and relax. I still get nervous, but I know my plan,” he said. “Jimmy Wofford was telling me today, ‘Have a videotape of your round in your head and make sure they’re the exact same.’ That’s what I was working toward.”
Watch Husain's winning round.
Finishing second in the two-star was a warm welcome to the United States for Australia’s Clayton Fredericks. He’s moving to Ocala, Fla., and just arrived in the States a week ago.
Pigrela des Cabanes belongs to Fredericks’ client, Hayley Parker, and he is just giving the horse a bit of experience before she takes the ride back. "We were really here just to get a qualification and have a top 10 performances. To be in second place is really good. I was very pleased," he said.
“I’ve ridden this horse a few times, and I always have one rail down,” said Fredericks. “Hayley sent me a text this morning. She wrote, ‘It sounds silly, but if you whisper in his ear, “It’s important; you’ve got to jump clear today,” he’ll do it.’ He knocked a few in the practice ring, so I whispered in his ear and said, ‘It’s important today, mate!’ He jumped a lovely round, so I was really pleased.”
Fifty-one horses finished the two-star of the 63 entries. Twenty-five pairs jumped fault-free rounds.