Piggy Marches to the Lead in the MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill

Great Britain's Piggy March tops the leaderboard in CCI5* competition ahead of day two of dressage at the 2023 Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill.

Piggy March said that when riding Brookfield Cavalier Cruise in the dressage phase, she needs to remember to ride every stride. Otherwise the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse could get long and behind her leg. And his greenness might come out, causing him to look at things around the arena.

“I have to stay very brave myself … [saying] I’m just training another test in another arena,” March said. “Don’t sit there and freeze and present it. I have to be like, ‘Ride it, make it happen, make it happen, make it happen,’ till it’s finished. And I can go, ‘God, that’s over.’”

The strategy paid off for March (GBR) on the first day of dressage at the MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory. She and the 17.2-hand stallion finished in first with a score of 24.2 percent. Monica Spencer (NZL) and Artist placed second with 28.4. Hannah Sue Hollberg Capitol H I M finished third with 32.4.

Piggy March (GBR) and Brookfield Cavalier Cruise top the CCI5* leaderboard after day one of dressage at the 2023 MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. © Amy K. Dragoo

Piggy March and Brookfield Cavalier Cruise

This is Brookfield Cavalier Cruise’s first five-star. The pair placed second in the Bramham CCI4*-L in June and have competed in two CCI4*-S courses since then.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” March said of Fletch’s dressage test. “He’s got a great big frame, empty frame still. He will over the next two years … still keep filling and developing and find his core strength in his carriage and cadence easier. He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s got the most unbelievable brain. And he loves his job. He has natural presence in his facial expression. And he’s just charming to work with, so he’s like ‘All right mom I’ll try.”

March won the Badminton Horse Trials in 2019 and the Burghley Horse Trials in 2022 riding Vanir Kamira. She said tht while she’s competitive naturally and plans to “give it a go” in terms of doing well in Maryland this week, her main goal is to give Fletch a good experience so he returns home from the week happy.

Of her decision to bring Fletch to Maryland, March said it was a natural progression because Bramham’s cross-country track is big and tough. But she felt that running him at this fall’s Burghley Horse Trials this would have been too difficult because of the terrain. Of Maryland, she thought, “It’s not a big field and hopefully they won’t go mad. And then I get here and the further I get round, ‘I’m like, Oh God, I should have gone to Burghley and just gone a bit slower. I’ve paid all this money and come all this way to be just absolutely terrified and think, ‘What am I doing?’” Laughing, she added that she thought Ian Stark’s cross-country course is “very inviting.”

Monica Spencer and Artist

Spencer said there were highs and lows in her dressage test with a few blips. She thought she and the 12-year-old gelding are capable of getting a slightly better score but said she couldn’t complain with a score of 28.4.

Artist is a Thoroughbred who was being prepared to race but didn’t because he was too slow, Spencer said. She bought him when he was 4 years old after he had been rehomed from a rescue. “What drew him to me in the beginning, is he’s always had, lovely movement.”

Monica Spencer (NZL) and Artist hold the second place spot going into day two of CCI5* dressage. © Amy K. Dragoo

In terms of what they’ve had to work on to improve their dressage, Spencer said, “He’s a Thoroughbred, and I do think they take a little bit longer to strengthen up because they’re not bred or built for the job we ask them to do. You know, they’re built and bred to run that way and we want them to sit and push, so just strength over the years.”

Artist has found his job easy over the years, making him “a pleasure” to bring through the levels, Spencer said. Additionally, she said he’s a “very genuine horse and he always tries his hardest. … He’s very willing and likes to please.”

Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol H I M

Hollberg said Capitol H I M is a bit horse-shy. So when she was riding up the path from the schooling area to the dressage arena, she was trying to avoid previous Buck Davidson and Sorocaima coming out. “When I saw Buck’s horse coming out, I was like, ‘Oh no.’ And I tried to like get in there really fast. And then [Capitol H I M] kind of got a glimpse of the big screen, which for some reason really spooked him.”

Fortunately, he settled and had an even better test than normal. She said that she “messed up” the last change because she was getting excited about having such a good test.

Hannah Sue Hollberg (USA) and Capitol H I M round out the top three ahead of day two of CCI5* dressage. © Amy K. Dragoo

Overall, though she was pleased. “I rode to my plan, and I rode more aggressively in the trot work, which I’ve been trying to do. It’s easy to just kind of be frozen up there.”

Over time, Hollberg says Capitol H I M has matured. “I feel like he’s like actually a completely different horse in a lot of ways,” she said. “He jumps a lot better. He moves better. He’s more kind of with me in general. And he looks to me instead of kind of getting nervous and getting hot. When he gets nervous, he’s like, ‘What do we do now?’ Which is such a nice thing to have.”

More Photos from Dressage Day 1

Check out the photos below of the remaining 10 riders who competed on Day 1 at the MARS Maryland 5 Star CCI5*.

Cornelia Fletcher (USA) and Daytona Beach 8 are in 13th place. © Amy K. Dragoo

To read about the MARS Maryland 5 Star CCI5* course and see photos of all the jumps and the course map, click here.

Check out photos from Wednesday’s First Horse Inspection and take the poll of the best dressed here.

Thanks to ADM Animal Nutrition for our coverage of the 2023 Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more!⁣

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