After the first day of competition, Canadian Olympian Colleen Loach (Dunham, QC, CAN) and her horse FE Golden Eye lead an international field in the CCI4* division of the MARS Bromont CCI.
Throughout the rainy and quite cool day, officials were monitoring the air quality index to ensure all horses and riders were not at risk due to smoke from wildfires in the province. Dr. Yves Rossier DVM, Veterinary Delegate, Bromont CCI provided the following statement:
“Regarding the air quality here at the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Park, we are very lucky — our air quality index is below 10 [as of 9am EST]. The air currents are all blowing the smoke past us to the southern areas. The rain we had in the last 24 hours and are continuing to have, has greatly settled the dust, contributing to very good air quality.”
Loach, who has ridden ‘Goldie’ since he was imported from Germany in 2017 by Australian team rider Clayton Fredericks and purchased for her as a four-year-old by Amanda Bernhard and Loach’s mom, made a few small adjustments to her warm-up plan Thursday afternoon to try and bring the best out of Goldie.
“I’ve been working on getting [FE Golden Eye] more ahead of my leg,” described Loach of a rather relaxed Golden Eye. “He’s very obedient but you can get into the ring and he can be a bit lazy — the atmosphere doesn’t really affect him too much.”
The judging panel obviously liked what they saw, placing them in the lead on a score of 27.6 penalty points.
Just behind Loach sits Lillian Heard Wood (USA) with Chilly (29.0) followed by Sweden’s Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis in third with Flower Girl (31.0).
Earlier in the day, the CCI3*-L (including the MARS Bromont Rising and U25 competitors), CCI2*-L and separate CCIU252*-L divisions also had their turns in the dressage arena.
It’s USA all the way in the CCI3*-L, with Olympians Lauren Nicholson and Boyd Martin in first and second with Larcot Z and Chiraz respectively. Tied for third are Michelle Koppin with Calcourt Valley and Lea Adams-Blackmore (who is participating in the MARS Bromont Rising program this weekend) with Frostbite. Barely one penalty point separates the leaders, Nicholson on a score of 28.4 and Martin on 29.6.
Nicholson gives all the credit to riders Will Coleman and Reagan Lafleur who developed Larcot Z and brought him up through the ranks — Nicholson has only had the ride on the horse for “two or three weeks” having had her eye on him for many years.
“Will Coleman rang me first when they decided to sell Larcot, knowing I’ve always loved this horse. He’s such an athlete and they’ve done such a beautiful job producing him. Right now I’m just trying to not take anything away from how well he’s been trained. It’s few horses that I would feel going to a 3*-L on such a short history but I really feel at home on him,” expressed Nicholson.
The Americans are also making the most of things in both sections of the 2* division. Multiple Olympic veteran Phillip Dutton leads the CCI2*-L with Fernhill Shutterfly on a score of 24.5, followed closely by Caitlin Silliman on Keepsake (25.5) and Benita Strini and FE Chiara Mia (26.7).
Dutton is excited about the future with Irish-bred Fernhill Shutterfly, competing in his first 2*-L after doing “a little bit of everything” in Ireland (including Pony Club and showjumping) before being imported to North America.
Tweaks were also made in their warm-up today, trying to help horse focus on his rider and build a bit more confidence in the experience in an environment with more atmosphere than most other shows.
“He’s very gifted on the flat, he’s got a nice presence and movement and balance,” said Dutton about his mount. “He’s a bit on the green side and did his last prelim at the end of last year, so he hasn’t been at the level for long. This is a great event — a proper test for good horses with a strong cross-country course.”
MARS Bromont Rising participant Sara Schulman posted the low score of the day (22.0) with her horse Cooley Chromatic in the CCIU252*-L. Schulman applied to be part of the grant program administered by the USEA Foundation specifically so they could come compete at Bromont with such an international flair and feel.
The pair also encountered the worst of the much-welcomed rain while in the ring, adding an extra level to the challenges of the day.
“Everything was a little slippery out there, I lost my stirrups a few times and my reins a few times and just had to work through that.
“This is the biggest atmosphere I’ve ridden my horse in, I knew that Bromont with the terrain and the courses would be a good test to continue our progress. Everyone has said Bromont is a beautiful venue and the coaching [as part of the MARS Bromont Rising program] with Bettina Hoy and Cara Whitham has been incredibly helpful.”
Dressage continues Friday with the second half of the 4*, 3* and 2* divisions.
For the MARS Bromont CCI 2023, the exciting and spectator-friendly cross-country will take place Saturday and the event will conclude Sunday with the show jumping phase, to determine the overall winners. Daily general admission is free with parking $15/car. Real-time live scoring is available here.