Red Hills International Horse Trials is off to a good start with an exciting day of dressage. The first discipline of the three-day competition in Tallahassee, Florida, began at 8 a.m. Friday, March 12, with the CCI4-S level running Test B.
Leading the CCI4-S level is Red Hills veteran Marilyn Little on RF Scandalous (22.4), followed by Red Hills first-timer Tamra Smith on En Vogue (26.6) and former Red Hills winner Lauren Nicholson on Landmark’s Monte Carlo (30.0).
The top three dressage competitors sat down with Olympic individual gold medalist David O’Connor and shared their thoughts on today’s event and the rest of the weekend.
When asked about Scandalous, Little said: “I think at 16 it’s hard to believe that she could win every time we step into the ring, but she does. She’s a great competitor. We had a bit of disappointing finish to our season at the end of last year at Tryon, but it’s great to see her come back out so well. She’s had two preparatory events for this but this is our first FEI, so it’s our first big one, and she absolutely knows it. She’s been here a couple of times before. She’s a consummate professional and a real pleasure to work with and a wonderful partner to go down centerline with.”
O’Connor asked Little how Red Hills fits into the preparation for her season.
Little responded: “This is a great gauge because it is always the first FEI competition of my year, and it is a big one. The course is always hard, it’s imposing, it not only rides technical but looks big for the horses so you get a really gauge of where they are in their confidence and fitness. There’s a certain type of horse that usually wins here, usually excels in cross country, I won’t say that she is that horse but she has been lucky enough to find her way two times before.”
A first timer to Red Hills, Smith came to the east coast this past winter to provide her horses more exposure and get to new venues. Smith has multiple horses competing at Red Hills in CCI4-S, CCI3-S and CCI2-S levels.
Smith described En Vogue as “she is really good on the Dressage and awesome in the cross country, and I think her weak link is the show jumping.”
Smith also has a daughter riding at the CCI4-S level and when O’Connor asked her how that made her feel, she replied, “It’s nerve wracking.”
Her daughter, Kaylawna, had a baby 3 months ago and Red Hills is the first event she is competing in on the east coast.
Landmark’s Monte Carlo has been to Red Hills Horse Trials nine times and Nicholson summed up his efforts saying, “He is super accurate and tries really hard. He’s not the flashiest, but he always goes in and does a workman like test and somedays that’s all you need to be in the hunt.”
Unlike years past, Stadium Jumping will run on Saturday with Cross-Country is running Sunday. The second day will begin with Open Preliminary and Preliminary. CCI4-S level riders will start at 12:15 pm and judges will be Peter Gray and Jane Hamlin.
Red Hills is running six divisions: Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced in national competitions and CCI2-S, CCI3-S and CCI4-S in the international.
For more information, visit rhht.org.