Tuesday, June 10, 2008

News And Notes From the Summer Issue

Dutton Wins Rolex

Phillip Dutton, born in Australia but now a U.S citizen and Aiken property owner, finally took home the watch at the Rolex Kentucky Four Star Three Day Event. Rolex, held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington (April 23-26) is the only four star event in America, and was a selection trial for the U.S. Olympic Eventing Team. It might seem odd to use the word “finally” in connection with winning such a prestigious and difficult competition, but when one is talking about Phillip, it does make some sense. An Olympic gold medalist (riding for Australia), Phillip has been the United States Eventing Association rider of the year for nine out of the last 10 years and has finished second at Rolex a total of five times. It seemed to many observers that he was due.

Phillip took two horses to Rolex: Woodburn, owned by Acorn Hill Farm, and Connaught, owned by Aiken resident Bruce Duchossois. Connaught, a 17-year-old Irish Thoroughbred cross gelding, is no stranger to the Rolex course. He and Phillip were second there last year, and came in fourth in 2006.

Phillip and Connaught started off the competition in good style, placing third in dressage, behind Becky Holder on Courageous Comet and Heidi White (another Aiken resident) on Northern Spy. On the second day, they jumped clean around the cross-country course, accruing just .4 time penalties to put them in second place. (Heidi White and Northern Spy unfortunately hit a fence. Heidi came off, breaking a bone in her wrist and racking up 65 jumping penalties. She remounted and finished the course, but ended up withdrawing from the competition.) Going into the stadium round, Phillip and Connaught were just 2.4 points behind Becky Holder and Courageous Comet, who had no cross-country penalties.

Phillip jumped clean. This was not much of a surprise, since Connaught hates to hit a fence. Becky Holder, jumping last with the pressure on high, knocked two rails, giving her eight faults and second place. Phillip also came in ninth with Woodburn.

With such a performance, it was no surprise that Phillip was named to the short list for the 2008 Olympic team that will compete in Hong Kong this August. Phillip is on the list with three horses (Connaught, The Foreman and Woodburn) and seems likely to make the final cut. Heidi White and Northern Spy (“Farley” to his friends) are also short-listed. Heidi’s wrist is healing nicely and Farley is ready for more competition.

Horse Show in the Woods

The 93rd annual Aiken Horse Show in the Woods was another big success this year. Not only were there more competitors than in the past, attendance was also up and included horses and riders from outside the local area, such as Nelson Gunnell, who lives in Virginia. The popular silent auction in the Hitchcock tent drew a lot of attention from people who came to bid on items that included an African safari, donated by International Ventures, limited edition, signed Freudy prints, Herm├Ęs scarves, custom artwork and handmade jewelry.

The Aiken Horse Show attracts many competitors who don’t usually find themselves at horse shows, since it is an old-fashioned hunter show. The majority of the horses competing are field hunters rather than show horses. There is even a division for qualified field hunters, which are horse-and-rider combinations that have been out on the hunt field at least six times during the previous season. The Fox Hunter division is the most hotly contested of the show. Last year’s champion, Melisssa Campbell on Nandina, did not participate, while the winner the two previous years, David and Lynn Smith’s Deville, had a new rider.

There were many new contenders for the Fox Hunter championship. In the end, the tri-color went to Dennis the Menace, ridden by his owner, Suzan McHugh. Paddy Anne Burns was reserve champion, riding Breakfast in Bed. Although competition for adults was as fierce as ever, much of the character of the show comes from its emphasis on children’s classes. The kids compete at many different levels, from leadline and walk-trot through Junior Fox Hunter. The class that draws the most attention is often the costume class. As ever, kids and their parents went all out – there were costumes with tropical motifs, ponies dressed up to look like fairies, painted horses, cowboys and Indians and clowns.

The Aiken Horse Show is the primary fundraiser for the Hitchcock Woods Foundation, which manages and cares for the Hitchcock Woods. Members of Aiken’s equestrian community can become a Friend of the Woods for a small donation. For more information, go to www.HithcockWoods.org, or call 803.642.0528.

Jumpers Jumping

One horse that really jumped up a notch this spring was Acorino, a 7-year-old Holsteiner stallion owned by Lieutenant Colonel Frederick (Rick) Schofield, who is based in Fort Bragg, N.C. and recently became an Aiken property owner. Acorino, showing under Aiken’s Daniel Geitner, was the Young Jumper Champion at the Aiken Spring Classic in May as well as the champion of his division. Daniel has been showing Acorino since last year, and the two have been moving steadily up the jumper ranks.

Rick Scofield owns Sentinel Sport Horses, which he started in Rhode Island, but now bases in Aiken. He imported Acorino from Germany three years ago, and has two other Holsteiners showing, one in Aiken and one in Colorado. In addition to showing, Acorino is also standing at stud. Although Rick had hoped to be able to see his horses compete in the show ring, he was deployed to Kuwait last year and will be stationed overseas for 15 months. When he returns in the fall, with luck, he will be able to watch his stallion soar to ever greater heights.

Dressage Mania

Judging from the number of dressage activities going on this year, the sport really seems to be picking up in the area. Not only does Aiken have four recognized shows this year, there are also numerous schooling shows, ideal for greener horses and riders and anyone who wants to get comfortable riding in the arena in front of a judge. In addition to the shows, there are quite a number of clinics. Granted, most of these clinics are in North Carolina, but they aren’t far away. Study with Jessica Ransenhousen, Paul Belasik, Bo Jenna, Cathy Morelli . . . the list goes on.

There are also some new types of dressage in the area. The Aiken Horse introduced its readers to dressage for gaited horses last year. Now, meet dressage for sidesaddle riders. That’s right. At the behest of Aiken’s sidesaddle club, Aiken Ladies Aside, the Beat The Heat dressage show at Buckleigh Farms held a sidesaddle class. The winner was event rider Ann Lawhorn, riding Wally, an Appaloosa lent to her by Betty Alexander, Aiken’s sidesaddle guru.

Spring Polo Season

There was an interesting trend in polo during Aiken’s spring season. The spring is usually quieter than the fall around these parts, but that wasn’t really the case this year. It’s true that we didn’t have the marquee events (there was no Gold Cup, no Silver Cup, no Triple Crown of Polo) but as far as low goal polo is concerned – polo played for the enjoyment of the sport more than for the sponsors and spectators– the spring was really hopping.

There were low goal tournaments pretty much everywhere. Aiken Polo Club had a 6 goal and two 8 goals. New Bridge, a newcomer to low goal polo, had a competitive 8 goal spring league in May with eight teams entered. Farther out in the county, Edisto Polo had several 4-6 goal leagues that attracted a good contingent of competitive teams. Omar Cepeda, who has a nice field in Blackville, also played host to a number of 4-6 goal tournaments. Both the league games at Edisto and those at Omar’s were just four chukkers and had modest entry fees, making them ideal for players on a budget. (Yes, there are a lot of them! All polo players aren’t rich and famous.)

Of course, there was also higher goal polo – a 12 goal at New Bridge and a 14 goal and two 16 goals at 302 Polo. The other big polo attraction was the Spring Select Sale, a polo pony auction held at New Bridge Polo and Country Club. Organizer Charlie Herrick, who also puts on the popular fall sale, wanted this sale to be smaller and more exclusive. He limited the number of horses entered and required them all to be prequalified. The sale was held under the lights in front of the New Bridge Clubhouse. Charlie and his auctioneers sold 17 horses at an average of $18,107. The sales topper was Lunatico, a 12-year-old Argentine gelding consigned by Matias Magrini who brought $38,000.

The fall polo pony sale will also be at New Bridge this year. After the usual few days of horse trials and practice chukkers, the sale will be held over two days. Day one, October 3, will be green horses and unproven horses. Day two, October 4, will be horses that have been approved by the sales committee. Charlie says that he is planning to give the fall sale a bit more of a carnival atmosphere. In addition to having a cocktail party and holding the annual Polo Training Foundation benefit dinner, he is thinking of offering camel rides and country fair events.

“I want to get more people involved and make it fun,” he says. “I’d like to get a chuckle out of people, make them laugh, not just sell them a horse.”

Watch Out For This Weed

Have you been seeing a lot of dandelions your pasture and in your yard? Have you noticed that these dandelions are huge and they have many flowers for each plant instead of just one? That’s because these thing aren’t really dandelions. They’re hairy cats ear (or common cats ear or false dandelion: Hypochaeris radicata) and they are an invasive species that was accidentally imported from Australia. They have become quite widespread in North and South Carolina, and this year, there seems to be a bumper crop.

Although hairy cats ear is not highly dangerous, Dr. Lisa Handy of Carolina Equine says that you should try to get rid of it if you have horses. Horses that eat large quantities of the weed have been known to exhibit symptoms of nerve damage. These symptoms include Australian stringhalt, a condition in which the horse lifts his hindlegs very high in a jerky motion.

“The best thing to do it to spot treat the weeds,” says Dr. Handy. “Round-up works well.”

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