Two-time Canadian Olympian Jessica Phoenix of Cannington, ON, posted a top-three finish in the CCI3*-L division at the Ocala International Horse Trials held from April 14 to 17, 2022, at the Ocala Horse Park in Ocala, FL.
The CCI3*-L division attracted a total of 26 entries including 10 from Canada. Phoenix, who sitting in seventh position following dressage, added nothing to her score over the cross-country and show jumping phases to place third with 28.6 penalty points riding Tugce, her nine-year-old Brandenburg mare (Domherr x Chico’s Boy). The division was won by Alyssa Phillips of the United States who also finished on her dressage score of 23.00 riding Cornelius Bo while 2004 Olympic champion Leslie Law of Great Britain did the same, placing second with 26.7 penalty points aboard Shirsheen Ice.
“She feels really solid at the level,” said Phoenix of Tugce, a former hunter prospect that was sent to Phoenix to be sold before quickly finding a home with the five-time Pan American Games medalist. “I wanted to do another three-star long to confirm the fitness and let her enjoy herself. Dressage was fun to be able to go in and finesse her movements. Her gaits have improved, there is more suspension in her trot and canter, and it was a nice, clean test. Cross-country was the best she’s ever gone, and the show jumping felt effortless. I was so proud of her.”
The CCI3*-L cross-country track at the Ocala Horse Park was designed by Canada’s own Jay Hambly of Fergus, ON.
“He did a great job,” praised Phoenix. “When we first walked it, it was apparent that the questions were big questions; the ones that stand out are the two waters and the coffin. They were aggressive combinations at the level, and it was great to feel Tugce so confident on that cross-country course.”
With her second mount, FE Black Jack, Phoenix placed 16th with a score of 44.7 penalty points. It was the first time that Phoenix was riding the 14-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Blackstone x Severus) owned by Karl Niemuller in Federation International Equestrian (FEI) sanctioned competition.
After spending two months based in Ocala, FL, Phoenix is starting the journey back to her home base in Ontario. She’ll stop at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, to contest the CCI5*-L Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event from April 28 to May 1, 2022, with Bogue Sound and Wabbit.
“We’ve been based at Ronald Zabala’s incredible training facility; he has a beautiful gallop and the best rings you can find here in Ocala,” said Phoenix, 38, of her fellow international eventing rider who has represented Ecuador in Olympic, World Championships, and Pan American Games competition. “He’s been a good friend for a long time, and for him to open his doors to his incredible facility was pretty amazing. A huge thank you to Ronald, and I also really want to say thank to our entire team. Florida is an intense two months and it’s asking a lot of our grooms, family, owners, and clients. Thank you to all for their support and hard work.”
Kendal Lehari of Uxbridge, ON, also finished on her dressage score of 33.1 to place fifth overall. Riding Audacious, her nine-year-old grey Canadian Sport Horse gelding sired by Iron Man, Lehari moved up from 11th position following Friday’s opening dressage phase. Lehari has been the horse’s only rider since backing him as a three-year-old, and the strength of their long partnership was on full display at the Ocala Horse Park. Bred by Carolyn Baird, Audacious is one of approximately 20 horses in training at Lehari Eventing and the pair are currently members of the 2022 National Team Program Development Squad.
Melissa Boutin, 31, of Ascot Corner, QC, enjoyed a top 10 finish riding Obeah Dancer GS. The pair were in ninth position following Friday’s opening phase of dressage and, despite adding 4.4 time penalties on cross-country for exceeding the optimum time of eight minutes, maintained their ninth place position. Bred in Canada by Charlotte Schickedanz, Obeah Dancer GS is a 10-year-old Trakehner mare (Humble GS x Buddenbrock). Phoenix, who coaches Boutin, competes Obeah Dancer GS’s sire, Humble GS, at the four-star level for Schickedanz.
Dana Cooke, 34, originally from Merritt, BC, also competed at the Ocala International Horse Trials and finished 11th and 14th in the CCI3*-L division riding Quatro and Glamour respectively. With Quatro, a nine-year-old German-bred gelding (Quaterstern x Coriograf B), Cooke was in fourth place following dressage and cross-country but slipped to 11th with a final score of 38.6 after three rails fell in the final show jumping phase. Riding Glamour, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Karlstad), Cooke finished with 44.2 penalty points. Both horses are owned by Kingfisher Park in Mooresville, NC, where Cooke is based.
In the CCI2*-L, Selena O’Hanlon was the top Canadian, placing 3rd with M S Thunderbolt.
Full results from the Ocala International Horse Trials here.