Fleeceworks Royal’s five-star debut with Tamie Smith has been a long road, filled with injuries and other delays. But after the pair took the lead after the first day of dressage in the CCI5*-L at the 2022 Kentucky Three-Day Event, the wait looks to have been worth it.
“She’s an awesome horse. A fighter like no other,” said Smith about the 13-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Judith McSwain. “I mean, the stuff she’s been through, the corneal transplant, just one thing after another, little stupid things happen with horses and things that vets have never heard of have all happened to her throughout her career. But she just keeps fighting and coming back stronger and better. She’s a feisty thing, but I love her.”
Smith was disappointed with her score of 32.9. “But, that’s the way it is. That’s our sport. I don’t think she had a bad test. I thought she had a beautiful test. To me, a 33 is a bad score, but what do I know? Hopefully it’s just the same for everybody and [the judges] aren’t just handing them out. I don’t know how you don’t give a 9 for those flying changes or that extended trot, but hopefully it’s like that for everyone. She had a super test, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. She was with me. She was right there.”
In addition to the transplant, Smith said that after they did “Rory’s” first Advanced course when she was 8 years old, the mare was sidelined with an injury. And Rory lost more competition time last year when Smith served as the alternate rider with Mai Baum at the Tokyo Olympics. “[Her five-star debut] probably would have been sooner, but last year I wasn’t even home because of Tokyo, so she kinda got put a little bit on the back burner. … I have people who help me with the young horses, but I feel like once they start going Prelim and above, I just have, especially [with] a mare, I have a really good partnership with them. The owners are super understanding. I know it’s disappointing sometimes because your horse isn’t always at the top of the totem pole, but it’s a journey and it’s a process. I always err on the side of caution, making sure that we’re really 110% ready going in and not leaving anything on the table. It just takes a while.”
Finishing in second place, despite a little challenge in the halt–rein-back section of the test, was Colleen Rutledge and her 16-year-old homebred Thoroughbred cross Covert Rights with a score of 33.8. “He actually relaxed almost a little bit too much when he went into the ring, which is always kind of a little surprising,” Rutledge said. “Some of the stuff that I had out in warm-up, had I been able to carry that over into the ring, he would have been phenomenal, but as it was, he was still really good.”
“CR” is laid back and chill back at the barn and “super smart, but he does overthink things a little bit,” Rutledge said, which caused the issue with the halt in the dressage test. “So rather than fight with him to try to get it, I let it slide. I obviously got dinged and got dinged hard for it, but it is what it is.”
Tokyo Olympians Doug Payne and Vandiver are in third place with a score of 34.9. “We’ve been working really hard to get him a little bit more supple, loose, relaxed, and this is by far the best he’s ever been,” Payne said about the 18-year-old Trakehner gelding after their ride. “I couldn’t be happier with him. He put in a huge effort.”
All three riders are looking forward to Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course on Saturday. “Derek is a genius,” Smith said. “The coffin [Fences 7ABC] looks difficult. The Head of the Lake [Fences 18 and 19 ABC] looks beefy as it always does, and it looks like an endurance test. I think the horses are going to feel what they’re doing by there, and they’re going to have to fight through there before they get their second wind.”
The cross-country course is going to be very interesting, agreed Rutledge. “Derek is a master at putting down a track that at first walk looks doable,” she added. “The second walk, you start to see some of the issues. … It’s very different from some of his other courses. It’s really neat to see him throw some other things around and hopefully it doesn’t catch me unaware.”
Payne said riders could have problems anywhere on the course. “What you’re going to see is that a lot of unpredictable things will happen. I think it’s going to be a super reactive, instinctual ride that’s going to really prevail. It should be exciting to watch.”
As far as what Payne will be thinking when he enters the start box on Saturday: “Don’t screw up, basically,” he said laughing. “You’re just looking for your put together plan. Hopefully, in walking the course you’ve figured out every sort of failure mode possible and you already have the decisions made what you’re going to do when X, Y, Z happens. I think if you’ve done that, there’s not a whole lot to honestly worry about. You’re nervous because you want to do well; it’s not like you’re terrified, like ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die at this thing.'”
For complete results, click here.
CCI5*-L competition at the 2022 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event will resume tomorrow, April 29, at 12:30 p.m. EST.
Thanks to Kent Nutrition Group, Mane ‘n Tail, and Cosequin® for our coverage of the 2022 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more.