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Indoor Eventing Lights Up the Royal
Toronto, ON, Canada
by Amber Heintzberger
Photo: Anthony Trollope/RedBayStock.com

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Waylon Roberts and Slingshot
Indoor Eventing was introduced to North America at the Royal Horse Show on Monday evening, to the excitement of competitors and spectators alike. The horse show, held at the Ricoh Coliseum in downtown Toronto, is part of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The youngest competitor of the event, Waylon Roberts of Port Perry, Ontario celebrated his eighteenth birthday only two weeks ago, at the Fair Hill CCI***. Though seasoned eventer Penny Rowland held the lead after Monday night's first round, Roberts kept his cool and rode a conservative round that left the rails in the cups on 72.24 seconds and put him in first place on when the other riders went for broke but sent a few rails flying. The riders performed a first round on Monday night and then their scores - their time plus jump faults converted into four time faults per rail down - were added to their performances on Tuesday, giving a total score to determine the winner.

Six of Canada's top eventers, selected by Canada's high performance committee, competed in the exhibition style competition presented by Don J. Good's Good Crop Services. Riders competed over a course consisting of six show jumping obstacles and six portable cross-country fences arranged by course designer and 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist, David O'Connor of the United States, who also happens to be the current coach of the Canadian three-day event team.

The course was built by Jay Hambly, Mo von Roeder, Richard Taylor and David Evans, the latter two who will be building the course at the 2008 Olympic Games eventing competition to be held in Hong Kong. It was an impressive task, made even more impressive by the fact that they had only 15 minutes to set it up and then again to take down the course, given the tight schedule that included carriage driving and international show jumping following the class.

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Karl Slezak and Rather Well
David O'Connor commented that he hopes spectators can look forward to seeing Indoor Eventing back at the Royal next year. "This proves they can do it," he said, adding that the Washington International horse show has also expressed interest in adding indoor eventing to their list of classes.

Combined with his time of 81.82 seconds on Monday night, Roberts' total time of 154.06 seconds gave him the inaugural victory. Even more impressive was the fact that he had only been riding his mount, Slingshot, for a couple of months. He has been competing in hunters and equitation as well as eventing, which he said has helped with his riding in the ring.

"I didn't want to have a rail, so I set him up for the show jumps, but I knew he'd jump the cross-country jumps so I really went for them," he said.

Although 2006 marked the first time that Roberts was competing at the Royal, the Indoor Eventing was not his only competition. The versatile young rider also contested the Jump Canada Medal earlier in the day, placing sixth. He will also ride Chako 2 in Wednesday's CET Medal Final, coached by well-known hunter-jumper trainer, Mark Hayes. When it comes to eventing, Roberts' parents, Canadian Olympians Kelly Plitz and Ian Roberts, are also his coaches.

Penny Rowland, the winner on Monday night with a time of 81.01 seconds, was thrilled with the competition. The Orangeville resident was even faster on Tuesday, clocking in at 72.24 seconds, but it was not quite fast enough to catch Roberts.

On Monday she encouraged the crowd to clap along with the loud rock music that played during each ride, and on Tuesday she rode last, so she encouraged the other riders to do the same. The crowd caught their enthusiasm and brought the house down with their applause. "The atmosphere was infectious," said Rowland. "It was tremendous fun."

Jessica Phoenix, 23, took third place, riding a borrowed horse on Monday night since her own gelding was under the weather on Tuesday. Phoenix' husband, Joel, was also showing his dairy cattle at the Royal. "It brings the whole industry together," she said.

Jessica Ruppel, also 23, and her diminutive Appaloosa-cross gelding, Naughty By Nature, were fourth. Karl Slezak and the black stallion, Rather Well, placed fifth while BC's Rebecca Howard rounded out the field.

In addition to sponsorship from Good Crop Services, Roots Equestrian sponsored the riders' pinnies and gave them each a turtleneck shirt. They held an autograph session that attracted numerous fans of the new sport. "That was a lot of fun," said Phoenix. We had kids telling us that they want to event, or telling us that they're going to their first event. The thing I loved most about the whole event was the exposure to the crowds and the atmosphere."

$10,000 Indoor Eventing, Presented by Good Crop Services

Rider Hometown Horse Day 1 Day 2 Total
1. Waylon Roberts Port Perry, ON Slingshot 81.82 72.24 154.06
2. Penny Rowland Orangeville, ON Roundabout 81.01 69.08 157.09
3. Jessica Phoenix Uxbridge, ON My Romance 81.16 80.57 161.73
4. Jessica Ruppel Fergus, ON Naughty By Nature 82.63 71.25 165.88
5. Karl Slezak Tottenham, ON Rather Well 91.39 88.41 179.80
6. Rebecca Howard Salmon Arm, BC Walk on the Moon 108.85 77.94 186.79


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