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Hawley Bennett Makes Olympic Bid at Galway
Temecula, CA, USA
by Amber Heintzberger
Hawley Bennett and Livingstone
Hawley Bennett is aiming for her second chance to compete in the Olympics this summer and she and Livingstone are off to a good today. Scoring a 55.2 with her Athens partner, known as "Hank" around the barn, she is also placed 8th on Splendorofthesun (60.4), co-owned with Pam and John Hudson, and 12th on Gin N' Juice (64.3), co-owned by Linda Paine. Bennett's mother Gerry is her partner in owning "Hank".

Though the British Columbia native represents Canada in competition, she bases her riding and training business across the street from the Southern California Equestrian Center where Galway Downs is run. Historically the venue is a good one for her, though she said that there isn't really a "home advantage" since her horses have to be stabled at the event and they get anxious to go home and see their buddies.

Bennett's plan for the spring is to head to the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, then stay on the East Coast at her coach, Buck Davidson's barn in New Jersey until the CCI*** at Jersey Fresh. She'll also get a chance to attend a training session with Canada's technical advisor, David O'Connor. "I haven't done any yet since they're all on the East Coast," she said. "That makes it tough."

Instead Davidson flies out once a month and Bennett has been working on her dressage with Nicky Zamora (nee Hall) and Kathleen Raine. "Nicky is fantastic - she's been a big help, especially with Gin N' Juice, who's difficult sometimes," she said.

Young Rider Claire Roper of Vancouver is 16th after dressage riding Royal Holly. Gina Miles and her veteran campaigner McKinlaigh are leading the CIC*** on a score of 47.8, two points ahead of Nick Cwick on Asterix.

The CIC*** and CIC** divisions are part of the U.S. Eventing Association's year-long Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series in which horse-and-rider pairs earn points, prize money and prizes at each of the 13 designated events in the three leagues across the country. Galway Downs is the first of the four Pacific League events this year.
Gina Miles and McKinlaigh
One of Miles' students, Max McManamy, 16, of Templeton, CA is leading the CIC** riding her own Beacon Hill. It is the pair's first two-star competition but McManamy though Beacon Hill, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, formerly competed up to the intermediate with Young Rider Kate Luce (McManamy had to wait until her 16th birthday in January to ride at that level). She and Beacon Hill have completed three intermediate events this season, winning their first one at Galway in February.

McManamy was pleased with her dressage today; contemplating tomorrow she said, "Cross-country looks challenging but I think it'll ride well. He's a cross-country machine. I don't think I'll take any options - he's a solid cross-country horse so Gina said to go for it."

Scotland's Ian Stark designed the cross-country courses at Galway and he and Michael Tucker led a course walk around the three-star course this evening.

"Ian's built a substantial three-star course and a solid track with a lot to do," said Miles. "It's absolutely fair - there are plenty of options."

Nestled in a valley surrounded by large rocky hills, the cross-country course has good footing and consists of inviting big, wide fences interspersed with technical combinations including a sunken road and two water complexes.  In light of the recent focus on safety in the sport, both men emphasized the need for rider responsibility and for communication between riders and officials.

Hawley Bennett said, "I think it's a challenging course but fair. To be able to walk the course with Ian and Mike Tucker is very lucky - my ears were always open. There are 26 new jumps here this year and it's definitely not the same as last year. Ian said the second water is a four-star question if you go directly. It's not a walk in the park."

The competition continues on Saturday with the cross-country phase.

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