Colleen Loach of Dunham, QC, led the Canadian charge at the Morven Park International Horse Trials held October 6 to 10, 2021, in Leesburg, VA.
Loach finished in fifth place in the CCI4*-L division riding FE Golden Eye. From a starting field of 24 entries, only 13 horse-rider combinations successfully completed all three phases of competition. Americans dominated the leaderboard with Phillip Dutton claiming victory riding Quasi Cool; Bruce Davidson Jr. taking second and third positions with Cooley Candyman and Sorocaima, respectively; and Caitlin Silliman placing fourth riding Ally KGO.
Loach got off to a strong start, tying for second place with a score of 29.8 in the opening phase of dressage. During Saturday’s cross-country phase, Loach and FE Golden Eye jumped clear over the track conceived by Tokyo Olympic course designer Derek Di Grazia, picking up 12.8 time penalties to move into fifth place. A clear show jumping performance on Sunday gave them a final score of 42.6 and fifth place overall in their final competition of the 2021 season.
“In dressage, he was really good for where he’s at in his training at this level,” said Loach, 38, of FE Golden Eye, a nine-year-old bay Hanoverian gelding (Goldfever 3 x Contendro I) that she owns in partnership with her mother, Maureen Lemay, as well as Peter Barry and Amanda Bernhard. “I couldn’t have asked for better; he was rideable in the ring and really tried hard.
“The cross-country was the biggest, hardest, and longest that he’s done,” she continued. “Derek built the course to the level. My horse can be a bit spooky and not the bravest, but he seems to know his job better the past two shows. I don’t think he had a bad jump on course; he was spot on. Then it was easy getting him through the jog. He’s such a good show jumper and was really rideable and jumped super well.”
Loach, who has represented Canada in multiple major games including the recent Tokyo Olympics, and FE Golden Eye are currently members of the Eventing National Team Program Development Squad. Loach and FE Golden Eye have been partnered together for the past five years.
“I got him as a four-year-old,” said Loach. “I was working for Clayton Fredericks at the time, and he came in from Germany. I felt a connection with him right away and wouldn’t let anyone else sit on him. Amanda Bernhard and my parents helped me to purchase him.
“He’s a barn favourite,” continued Loach, who runs her training business, Colleen Loach Equestrian, out of Peter and Susan Barry’s Maple Hill Farm in Dunham, QC. “He’s the sweetest. He’s cuddly, intelligent, and a pleasure to be around and to ride every day.”
Fellow Canadian Jessica Phoenix of Cannington, ON, placed sixth and eighth riding Watson GS and Wabbit, respectively. Both of her horses are also members of the Eventing National Team Program Development Squad.
With Watson GS, Phoenix was sitting tied for 12th following dressage with a score of 34.3 penalty points. Clear jumping with only time penalties incurred during the cross-country and show jumping phases elevated Phoenix and the 10-year-old bay Canadian-bred Trakehner gelding (Humble GS x Voltaire) that she owns with breeder Charlotte Schickedanz of Galten Farms into sixth place with a final score of 48.7.
“When we walked the cross-country course, it was apparent that it would not be a dressage show!” said Phoenix, 37, who is a veteran of Olympic, World Championship, and Pan American Games competition. “It was a tough course with tough terrain, and the questions kept coming until the very end. Both my horses are great cross-country horses. I was proud of their dressage performances, then both jumped exceptionally well on cross-country and followed that up with great show jumping rounds. I couldn’t be happier.
“We got Watson from Galten Farms when he was turning four,” said Phoenix. “He had just been backed when I got him. It’s special when you’ve had a horse from the time that he was a baby to bringing him to the highest levels. He’s so affectionate and such a competitive horse, rising to the occasion in each phase. It’s a pleasure to ride a horse that you know so well.”
Riding Wabbit, Phoenix made the biggest move up the leaderboard in the CCI4*-L division. Sitting in 23rd position after dressage, the pair finished in eighth place at the end of the weekend with a score of 54.6 penalties. Wabbit is an 11-year-old grey Canadian thoroughbred gelding (Line of Departure x Great Gladiator) owned by Phoenix and Jim Phillips.
“Jim Phillips has owned Wabbit since he was coming off the track and I got him as an eight-year-old,” said Phoenix of her partnership with the former racehorse. “Momo Laframboise took him up to preliminary and did a fantastic job producing him to that level. Then he did some show jumping with Cathy Inch before coming to me as an eight-year-old. He’s been a rewarding horse to bring up to this level. He’s such a character and always happy. I’ve never seen a horse happier than Wabbit; every morning is like Christmas morning. He’s just a unique animal and very special; he always knows where I am on the farm. He’s become such an exceptional horse in all three phases and he’s a joy to ride cross-country. He’s up for anything, anytime!”
Morven Park marked the final competition of the year for both Watson GS and Wabbit. Phoenix will aim Wabbit towards the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event next April while Watson GS will either join his stablemate in Kentucky or do another four-star long event in the spring. Meanwhile, Phoenix will compete with Bogue Sound in the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, scheduled for October 14 to 17 in Elkton, MD.
“I want to say a huge thank you to our owners and our entire team at home – the vets, farriers, grooms, and coaches – and a huge thank you to my family for holding down the fort and taking care of my children,” added Phoenix, a mother of two. “Without them, I would not be able to do this.”
In the CCI3*-S division, 23-year-old Shelby Brost of Vernon, BC, finished ninth overall with a score of 42.1 riding RHF Peterzano, a nine-year-old chestnut Hanoverian gelding (Perigueux x Now or Never) that she owns with Wayne Brost. The 31-horse starting field was topped by Katie Lichten of the United States with a final score of 28.6 riding Yarrow.
For more information on the Morven Park International Horse Trials, including full results, visit www.morvenpark.org/.