UNIONVILLE, PA. - Good weather smiled on Unionville once again today as competitors in the CIC3* and CIC2* divisions enjoyed a day of show jumping. Sinead Halpin and Manoir De Carneville continued their domination of the division, jumping just one of 10 double clear rounds to hold their lead on a 37.8 heading into the cross country tomorrow.
Halpin and Manoir De Carneville have been honing their show jumping skills by working with Grand Prix show jumper Amanda Flint, who encouraged her to compete in the 1.20-meter jumpers at the Devon Horse Show for extra practice.
"I made a big deal of Devon and tried to treat it like it was that one round that was really important," Halpin said. "I worked on short, inside turns at Devon, and I had the same strategy today when I made the inside turn to the triple combination."
Halpin has a generous margin of nearly nine penalty points heading into Tremaine Cooper's CIC3* cross-country course, and she plans to use a little bit of that cushion on her trip tomorrow. While she wants to win, she's also waiting to see how much rain falls on Unionville overnight.
"The plan is to be competitive but responsible," Halpin said. "My goal is to try to take more inside tracks and inside lines and test the boundary a little of how sharp I'm willing to cut turns and angles on some jumps that invite decision making."
Local favorites Jennie Brannigan and Nina Gardner's Cambalda also jumped double clear in the show jumping to hold second place overnight on a score of 46.2. Brannigan said the horse jumps better when he's fresh, and the new CIC format of holding show jumping before cross country suited them today.
"I had a very definite plan going in, and I stuck to it," Brannigan said. "Marc is one of the best show jumping course designers in the country. His courses make you think and challenge horses and riders while still being fair. Every track I ride from him is top notch."
Boyd Martin and Trading Aces dropped one rail to move up to third place in the CIC3*, and Martin agreed that Donovan's technical, flowing tracks are ideal for shaking up the leader board. While Martin jumped double clear over Donovan's course at Richland, a tricky red plank fence caught him out today.
"I'm planning to go for it a little bit in the cross country, as I think the terrain here is a little more forgiving than Richland," Martin said. "I plan to protect my horse on the sharp turns and downhill stretches and open him up for the uphill gallops to work on his condition."
Martin also enjoys the lead in the CIC2* with Pancho Villa, who jumped double clear in the show jumping today to maintain his healthy margin of nearly eight penalty points over Kurt Martin and Anna Bella, who moved up to second today with a clear round.
"I think he's got serious quality in the dressage, which is one of the main factors behind why I selected him because that's been my weaker phase," Martin said. "I'm giving myself a two-year window to figure him out and see how far I can take him."
The national divisions concluded today, with Lauren Kieffer and Veronica jumping double clear in both show jumping and cross country to clinch the win. Allison Springer and Copycat Chloe took second place, while Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot finished in third place.
Katie Walker, landowner for the event along with her husband Cuyler, has been thrilled so far with the support the event continues to receive from riders and the local community alike. Now in its sixth year, the Plantation Field Horse Trials has solidified its place as a leading CIC event on the fall calendar.
"The event is really coming into its own," Walker said. "Our goal is to continue improving the quality of the event across the board, from the social events and parties to the facilities and grounds for competitors. To see the way the riders have come to support the event just leaves me speechless."
While the Unionville area has always been a horse community, Cuyler said it's been very encouraging to see how the local community has come to embrace eventing in recent years. If the number of spectators filling the grounds this weekend serves as any indicator, the popularity only continues to grow.
"The local interest in the sport has grown to the point where the horse trials are really a destination event for the community," Walker said. "The more the quality of the event has improved, the more the local community has come out to support us. The horse trials have really become a highlight of the fall in this area."
In addition to an exciting day of cross country tomorrow, the PRO Bareback Puissance is sure to delight spectators. Tik Maynard, William McCarthy, Priscilla Godsoe and Elizabeth Stewart will compete in the Puissance, which is presented by Sports Medicine Associates of Chester County, Kevin Keane DVM and Heather Finn DVM.
Full results, a schedule and ride times for the weekend are available at www.plantationfieldhorsetrials.com. Be sure to "like" Plantation Field on Facebook and follow the event on Twitter @PlantationField.