Stuart Black Dominates Pine Top Winter Horse Trials
Thomson, GA, USA
Riding Fleeceworks Starlight, Black won the Open Intermediate Division 1 after finishing on his dressage score of 29.7 penalty points. After a fault-free show jumping round on Saturday afternoon, Black incurred no penalty points on Sunday over the cross-country course designed by John Williams, stopping the clock one second under the optimum time.
"It was her first run of the year and considering that it was the beginning of the season, she was very rideable and mature," said Black of the 10-year-old black Holsteiner/Thoroughbred-cross mare he owns in partnership with Mr. Elkins Wetherill. "Our show jumping was brilliant, she was phenomenal and enthusiastic as usual. On the cross-country, I was able to gallop and jump everything in stride, then turn very quickly. She was very relaxed throughout the event and the jumping was very easy for her. All of our hard work over the winter really paid off."
Black has spent the past five months at his base in Bluemont, Virginia, fine-tuning his training with Fleeceworks Starlight as well as his other young horses. Having worked with several highly respected horsemen, Black took exercises shared by these trainers and carefully applied them to his own program.
"Last fall, I decided to end my season early and begin training in preparation for the spring in order to be super competitive," explained Black. "I wanted to take the knowledge that I have learned over the past couple of years from people like Mark Phillips, Phillip Dutton and Robert Dover, and really take time to explore it on my own. As a result, I have changed quite a bit in my training, both on the flat and in jumping especially. For example, working on the half-halts with all of my horses and those of my students has become key to control and softness in dressage. Also, I have worked on jumping with a more fixed hand for more control and power, both on take-off and landing, and that has helped the young horses in terms of their strength and also for smoothness and speed across country."
The hard work paid off with three victories on one weekend. In addition to claiming the Open Intermediate Division 1 with Fleeceworks Starlight, Black won the Open Preliminary Division 2 with Fleeceworks Mystere du Val and the Open Preliminary Division 3 with Leader des Bieffes. Both horses were leading after dressage and added no further penalty points to their scores of 32.1 and 27.1 respectfully.
Fleeceworks Mystere du Val is a seven-year-old chestnut selle francais gelding that was purchased last year in France from 2002 World Champion, Jean Teulere.
"He was a star from start to finish," said Black of the horse owned by Beatrice and Gui Rey-Herme of R. H. Equine. "He was very brave and confident on cross-country, especially through the two water complexes. We were able to turn quickly and gallop away from the fences, and since I was concentrating on the jumps and not my watch, it was a quite a surprise to realize that we had finished 35 seconds under the optimum time. He is a very special horse and even though our business is to import and sell horses, this one is not for sale! We picked him with the 2010 World Equestrian Games in mind, and he is showing us why."
While Black has had the opportunity to get to know Fleeceworks Mystere du Val over the past year, his other Preliminary winner, Leader des Bieffes, had only arrived from France a few weeks prior to the Pine Top Winter Horse Trials. However, the eight-year-old black selle francais gelding, also owned by Beatrice and Gui Rey-Herme, already had an impressive performance record having competed in the two-star division of Lion d'Angers, France, last year.
"This was our first event together, so I just tried to give him a nice, quiet ride," said Black. "He had a fabulous dressage test, was clear in show jumping, and was fast and rideable on cross-country. He was a little spooky at home so I wasn't sure what he would be like on cross-country, but he just galloped around like it was another day at the office."
In addition to his own results, Black's wife, Momi, also had a good weekend placing eighth in the Open Intermediate Division 3 with Fleeceworks Mullingar. His two working students, Skyeler Icke and Kate Samuels, also enjoyed impressive finishes riding selle francais horses imported by Black and R.H. Equine. Icke finished on her dressage score to place third in the Open Preliminary Division 3 riding Tika, the mare she won the CCI* Morven Park Three Day Event with last year. Meanwhile, Samuels was the runner-up in the Preliminary Young Horse Division riding the six-year-old Nyls Du Terroir.
"It was a great weekend," said Black. "It was especially nice to come out at the beginning of the year and do well for my new sponsor, Heritage Gloves, as well as Fleeceworks and Prestige who have been supporting me for several years."
With Fleeceworks Starlight, Black is now focusing on his preparations for the CCI**** Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event in April and will compete in the World Cup Qualifying divisions of the Red Hills Horse Trials in Florida and The Fork in North Carolina. In addition, they will contest the dressage and show jumping phases at two other horse trials.
Since 2003, Black and Fleeceworks Starlight have been on a winning streak at the international level. They won the CCI* Young Horse division of the 2003 Virginia International Three Day Event; the CCI** Colorado Horse Park Three Day Event in 2004; the CCI** Radnor Hunt Three Day Event in 2004; and the CIC*** The Fork in North Carolina in 2006. In addition, the pair represented the United States at the CCI**** Luhmühlen Three Day Event in Germany in 2005 where they enjoyed a clear cross-country performance.
A two-time Canadian Olympian, Black became an American citizen in the fall of 2004 and was immediately selected by the United States Equestrian Federation's High Performance Committee to participate in its training program. He is based in Bluemont, VA, where he operates a training and sales business with his wife, Momi, who is also an international eventing competitor.
Fleeceworks, designers and manufacturers of high quality sheepskin products for equestrian use, sponsor several of Black's horses including Fleeceworks Starlight. For more information, please visit www.fleeceworks.com.
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