The downpour that Woods Baughman had to endure as the last CCI5*-L rider of the day at the 2022 MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill turned out to be a good thing. “It made the lateral work quite easy because he didn’t want to go straight,” said a soaked Baughman about his horse C’est la Vie 135, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding. “So whenever I put him a bit in the shoulder-in to the half pass, he was like, ‘Thank you.’ He just wanted to go sideways and get away from the rain.”
Day 1 of the Cecil County event, presented by Brown Advisory, saw Baughman in first with a score of 27.2. France’s Astier Nicolas and Babylon de Gamma, an 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding, finished in second with 29.1. Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, moved into third with 29.3. Tamie Smith and Danito, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding, initially had been in second. But after the ground jury reviewed one of their flying changes, the pair’s score was revised to 29.4. As a result, they fell into fourth place.
Twelve horses and riders contested Day 1. The remaining 12 pairs will ride tomorrow, Oct. 14, with cross-country running on Saturday and show-jumping on Sunday.
Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135
Baughman said he thought he’d luck out and miss the rain, but Mother Nature had other plans. “We started hacking over and I was like, ‘This is a bad joke.’ It just started getting heavier and heavier. So I got soaked completely, but it’s worth it.”
Discussing his ride, Baughman said they had one little bobble in the canter stretchy circle. He shared that C’est la Vie is always, “a bit on the muscle.” He continued, “For him to actually reach down and stretch and keep his balance is really hard. And with him going a little sideways in the rain, he just swapped out to the right a bit and stumbled and picked it up. But everything else was about as good as I could ask him to be.”
Baughman’s first five-star was at the 2022 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day. He and C’est la Vie finished, but had trouble on cross-county. They headed to Burghley Horse Trials in September where they didn’t finish. Since then, they’ve changed his bridle to a hackabit with a softer bit that keeps him from crossing his jaw. But the bit also has leverage. Woods shared that C’est la Vie “likes to flick his head up and then he runs into things because he can’t see them.”
Leading up to Maryland, he said he also has worked on letting C’est la Vie lope around cross-country but “then eight to 12 strides in front of the jump, I have a serious, ‘Hey son, we gotta sit down,’ and then I can soften in time [so] that he can just step over the jump on his own in a good way. So that way we kind of have a little bit more of a conversation instead of just, ‘I hope this works.’”
Babylon de Gamma and Cooley Quicksilver
Nicolas said that Babylon de Gamma’s best phases are cross country and show jumping. But he added that they have been working on connection and straightness in dressage. “I’m very happy with the improvement,” he said. “There’s a lot more to come.”
Halliday-Sharp said she was thrilled with Cooley Quicksilver’s dressage test. The pair were the first CCI5*-L riders in the arena. “He’s a a weird and wonderful horse. … He’s quite quirky and has taken a long time to get him sort of in this really professional space. He tried very, very hard for me.”
Laughing Halliday-Sharp explained that Cooley Quicksilver is very flexible, “so he’s kind of like riding a noodle. … He can turn himself inside out and scratch the top of his tail, both sides easily, which makes him great to ride and also challenging on the flat. You can imagine teaching the horse to go straight has been interesting when you’re riding five different moving parts at once.” But now she says he understands what he’s supposed to do in the dressage test. For today’s test, she said his changes were straighter and there was more relaxation. She added that there could be more collection and more lift in his way of going, but it’s a process.
Of Ian Stark’s cross-country course, Baughman said, “It looks really good for [C’est la Vie] because everything is pretty bold and … for the most part, you can make a pretty direct line out of it. And so I think if you’re brave enough to keep thumbing, you’ll be able to just step on up there.”
Astier said he likes how the course starts a bit more flat and galloping. The back end of the course is “quite meaty for this stage of the course … when we tackle the long hill at the back of the course,” he said. “And then have the water after that, which is a big drop, too, and quite a, quite a sizeable exit to the water.”
Babylon had caught a cold on the plane over at last year’s event and wasn’t his best. “He feels very good this year. So we’ll see if he’s very good at sprinting, but also at having stamina here. That’s what we are here to discover.
“But he’s a very generous jumper and let’s see if he doesn’t spend too much energy in the air and he travels till the end,” Astier added.
Halliday-Sharp says the cross-country course is the most terrain Cooley Quicksilver would have experienced, “which will be a challenge for him. But he’s also extremely fit. I think he’s fitter than we’ve ever had him, and I think this is the next progression for him,” she added.
Like Astier, Halliday-Sharp said the course is very challenging at the end. “So staying on the ball all the way to the end is going to be really important. Just keeping them with you.”
“I’m just gonna keep him with me and keep encouraging him along and look after him if I need to. But we’re gonna come out there and fight as hard as we can.”
Competition resumes tomorrow, October 14, at 2:00 p.m. EST with day two of dressage in the Main Arena at the Fair Hill Special Event Zone.
For full results, click here.
Thanks to ADM Animal Nutrition for our coverage of the 2022 Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more!