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Tryon and Leyland Top CCI*** at Jersey Fresh
Allentown, NJ, USA
by Amber Heintzberger
Amy Tryon (USA) and Leyland
It was a good weekend for Washington riders in New Jersey: Amy Tryon of Duvall, WA won the CCI*** riding Leyland and Maya Black of Whidbey Island, WA won the CCI** riding Kejsarinna.

Tryon said that Leyland is still on the green side, and she had no expectations coming to this event. She said that she hoped Leyland would finish the weekend a better and more educated horse than she started with, and felt that she accomplished that goal. Tryon had a rail in hand, but jumped clear and in the time to finish just ahead of Buck Davidson Ballynoecastle RM and Canadian Jessica Phoenix on Exploring.

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Leslie Law took the dressage lead on Mystere du Val, but had a stop on cross-country. Karen O'Connor was second on Allstar and third on Mandiba after dressage, but she parted company from Allstar and had time faults on Mandiba. Time was a major factor on cross-country, with Tryon and Leyland posting the fastest round of the day to take the lead.

In the final phase second-placed Sara Dierks had two down with Somerset II and third-placed Mike Winter also took a rail with Wonderful Will over Sally Ike's technical and forward-riding track. Both jumping phases were influential: from the dressage phase, Tryon moved up from ninth place to win, while Davidson came from 12th and Phoenix from 23rd. Of 29 rides only seven went double clear in the final phase.

The stadium course didn't really suit Leyland, but Tryon said she was pleased with how he performed. "He's a very compact horse with a short neck and a short back and tends not to cover the ground as much," she said. "I was going to do a five on one line and then saw a four, which surprised me."

Leyland is even greener than he might otherwise be since he broke a coffin bone last year when he kicked the indoor arena wall while playing on the longe line. Tryon said the break was on the margin of the bone and she gave him a lot of time off to make sure he was sound to compete again. He spent three months of his recuperation at Pegasus Rehabilitation swimming and doing other therapies, so he lost training but not fitness.

Tryon spent part of the winter in Ocala training with the O'Connors and moved back to The Plains, Va., with them for the spring season. She plans to head to England in June to continue training and competing before the mandatory outing at Barbury Castle.

Davidson was also pleased with his handsome young Irish partner, owned by Cassandra Segall. "Cross-country was probably the best ride of my life," he said. "I started off quietly yesterday and just built. He ran up the last hill and he finished just as fresh as can be. He only did two events this spring to get ready for this."

Phoenix, 24, is gearing "Digby" up for her first Olympic bid - this was only his second event since the Pan-Am Games in Brazil last summer. "He's incredible," she said of her the ex-racehorse that she has trained up the levels herself. "He's one of the cheekiest horses you'll ever meet!"

Canadian Mike Winter rode three horses in the three-star. Wonderful Will, who recently won the three-star at Red Hills (FL) had an unlucky rail at the first element of the triple but continues to look like a world-class horse.

Winter has been training hard and has seven horses currently competing at the upper levels. "I think the practice and attention to detail riding with David, and all the practice of riding these different horses is really paying off," he said. Winter's main contenders for the Olympic Games are Wonderful Will and Kingpin.

Technical advisor for the Canadian team, David O'Connor said, "I'm excited about the Canadian eventers. I think they're on a stairway up and Hong Kong will still be a step up, but they're going there to compete, no question. The goal is to be well-placed, though I'm not sure if they're ready to medal yet - hopefully at the WEG in Kentucky or the Olympics in 2010."

Following four horse deaths at US events this spring and the untimely demise of Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby, tragedy struck yet again on cross-country day at Jersey Fresh when David O'Connor's veteran gelding Tigger Too,17,  ridden by Lauren Kieffer, suffered a rupture of his aorta in two places at fence 28, the Lighthouse. Tigger's fall and death at this fence were found to be the direct result of this rupture. Kieffer was uninjured.
Jessica Phoenix (CAN) and Exploring
"He passed me 100 yards away from where it happened, and there wasn't one 1/1,000th of an idea in my mind that there was something wrong with him," said O'Connor. "He was always a very careful horse and a good jumper and a fantastic cross-country horse. He had a wonderful relationship with Lauren." Jersey Fresh was intended to be Tigger Too's final event before retirement as O'Connor's riding horse.

"He was very fit, and obviously he had a lot of experience," continued O'Connor. "He was an ex-racehorse. He wasn't tired at all. I don't know how that happens. I don't understand. These aren't exhausted horses. Any ones that I've seen were really not even what I would call tired. I've ridden tired horses before. I don't understand why this would happen with a fit, not tired horse. I'm not really quite sure if we'll ever know."

O'Connor noted that medical and veterinary issues are one of four major topics that will be discussed at the upcoming USEF/U.S. Eventing Association Safety Summit, June 7-8 in Lexington, Kentucky. Other topics include course design, rider responsibility and education of riders and officials.

In the three-star, 24 of 35 starters finished with no jumping penalties, and only five horses did not complete.

It was interesting to note that a nine riders, a considerable number, retired from the competition on the cross-country phase, presumably because of a recent emphasis on safety and rider responsibility. Only one rider was eliminated in this division. Several riders fell from their horses but none was seriously injured.

Maya Black, 20 won her very first CCI** over Carol Kozlowski on Take Time and Phillip Dutton on Risk Taker, who each had one rail down.

An "A" Pony Clubber, Black moved east in January and currently works with Jan Byyny in Purcellville, Va., but took lessons with Ruth Moore in Washington. Moore was also Tryon's instructor. Over the weekend Black also got some coaching from Kozlowski and a few other professionals, since Byyny was teaching a clinic in Colorado.

After cross-country, Black said, "It's my first two-star, and I just wanted to let her pick her pace around it and not push her and let her gallop. Obviously she was very fit," said Black. "She was very efficient with her galloping. Everything rode like I had walked it. All the fences rode great. A few times she popped in a stride here and there, which was a good choice on her part. I like to see that she can think for herself."

For her part, Kozlowski, 49, was happy for the up-and-comer to get all the pressure of having the lead going into the final phase. "I was so happy she was the last one in the ring!" said Kozlowski of Black. "I don't come to these competitions to be competitive, I come to ride well and to test the training I've put into my horses. If the dice roll in my favor, that's fabulous."

Kozlowski said that Take Time, a 15-year-old Connemara-Thoroughbred cross owned by Lynn Blades, just keeps getting better and better. "My only regret is that he's not younger," she said. Jersey Fresh was Take Time's third two-star - he won at Bromont last year.

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