May 2020 - Thieriot Stutes and Billys Top Twin Rivers’ Winter Horse Trials
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 28 April 2020 23:58
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Hill, McEvoy and Burnell win Preliminary divisions in Central California.

It was almost 20 years ago that the Baxter family purchased 500 acres in the sleepy Central California Coast town of Paso Robles. Where others saw fallow farmland, they saw the potential for international equestrian competition. And it was international competitors, Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Tamra Smith, who led the Advanced division at the Feb. 28-March 1 Winter Horse Trials, staged by the Baxters and their Twin Rivers Ranch team.

 


The team has grown and the venue has transformed in those nearly 20 years, but the mission remains the same: providing a West Coast stage for the pursuit of equestrian dreams at all levels -- and doing so with a distinctly California accent of warm, welcome-to-the-family hospitality. When they’re not out doing the myriad tasks that make Twin Rivers a favorite West Coast eventing destination, owners Connie and Jeff Baxter can often be found behind the central gathering spot’s outdoor bar, serving friends new and old with a smile. Their daughter Andrea Baxter contributes in many ways while pursuing her 5* eventing career. At the Winter Horse Trials, she finished fourth on her feisty Thoroughbred mare, Indy 500, in the Advanced division.

 

Lauren Billys & Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo: Sherry Stewart

Frankie Thieriot Stutes & Chatwin. Photo: Sherry Stewart

Three hundred-plus pairs, from throughout the region, filled five dressage courts on Friday. Over the weekend, they tackled Hugh Lochore and Marc Grandia’s upper and lower level cross-country courses and the challenging Jose Nava-designed show jumping routes. With show secretary Christina Gray of Gray Area Events at the logistical helm, the schedule ran smoothly and all horses and riders made it back to their barns or beds safely every day.

The overall outcome would have boded well for the Twin Rivers Spring International, which was set for April 10-12 and would have included an inaugural CCI4*-Long division. Unfortunately, that was one of many events to be affected by the coronavirus. At presstime, it was hoped the competition could be held in June.

Lauren Burnell & Freedom Hill. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Bruce Hill & Bossinova. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Tamra Smith and Ruth Bley’s En Vogue had two rails to maintain their second-place standing in the Advanced Division. Downing one rail and staying in their overnight position were Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. The original field of 13 was led by Smith and Mai Baum, whose 18.4 dressage test would have been tough to surmount. However, they’d withdrawn after dressage by prior plan in preparing for the Land Rover Kentucky, which was later cancelled.

US Equestrian Eventing Performance Director Erik Duvander now spends a quarter of his time on the West Coast, coaching and monitoring team riders and those who may be contenders for it in the future. “It’s good to see how well they came out of last year and they are both stronger,” he said of Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin and Smith and Mai Baum.

Tamie Smith & En Vogue. Photo: Sherry Stewart

India McEvoy & Redbull. Photo: Kim F. Miller

It was an especially encouraging outing for Chatwin. After finishing an impressive fourth at the Luhmühlen 5* in Germany last June, Chatwin was sidelined most of the rest of 2019 with severe health issues stemming from a case of enteritis. For a long stretch, his survival was all the rider and the Chatwin Group cared about. “Just being here is spectacular,” said Thieriot-Stutes and winning is icing on the cake. The pair is on the US Developing Rider Training List.
Duvander also worked with West Coast members of US Equestrian’s Eventing 25 list, for their coach Leslie Law. These include Madison Temkin, Megan Sykes and Kaylawna Smith-Cook, all of whom held their own at Advanced: it was the first completion at the level for Sykes and Smith-Cook.

“It’s not just coaching,” Duvander said of his USET role when discussing the caliber of competition in the West. “Every time I come to Twin Rivers, I’m noticing the amount of work. They are constantly upping the game here.” The USET’s commitment to riders in the West coincides and to some extent has helped prompt coordinated efforts among riders, owners and organizers to raise the bar in all facets of competition. “In the past it was often said that you need to go East to make it, but it’s really important that riders be able to make it out here. Then, they can go back East and win. That should be the mindset.”
Intermediate

Megan Sykes & Classic’s Mojah. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Lauren Billys and her Rio Olympics partner Castle Larchfield Purdy planned to stay in the West in their prep for the 2020 Olympics, which now appear to be postponed until 2021. Phase one of Billys’ plan went perfectly with a wire-to-wire win at Intermediate. Nava’s roll-back and turning show jumping course enabled Billys to stay on plan with prioritizing efficient turns and accurate tracks to stay within the time. On Saturday’s cross-country, by new Twin Rivers upper level designer, Hugh Lochore, the pair picked up only .4 time penalty. They sealed the victory with double clear show jumping to finish on a 28.2.

Derek di Grazia and Ringwood Justice were also double clear with elegantly executed angles throughout the track. They moved up from fourth to second for a 33.5 finish. Eneya Jenkins and Lawtown Boy had two rails, to finish third with a 36.4.

Super hosts, Twin Rivers owners Connie and Jeff Baxter. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Preliminary

Fifteen-year-old Bruce Hill wasn’t pleased with himself, but had nothing but praise for his partner, Bossinova, in maintaining the lead in the Preliminary Jr/YR division with a clean show jumping effort: “He saved my butt!” There was no room for rails or time faults, and the Trinity Eventing student acknowledged he was a little nervous in the warm-up. “But my horse is awesome!” The pair assumed the lead after cross-country and finished on their dressage score of 28.5.
Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector were second on a 29.9 and Kathryn Canario and Kiltubrid Rhapsody finished on their dressage score, 30.9, to maintain third place.

In the Preliminary Rider division, Alliston Eventing student India McEvoy held the one and two spots with E’Zara and Redbull, respectively. The small animal veterinarian was thrilled with both horses’ performance. The 7 -year-old Red Bull had held the lead thanks to his lovely dressage test and 22 score, but show jumping is still a nerve-wracking venue for the Redwine youngster. Two rails Sunday forced him to hand the top spot to his more seasoned stablemate. E’Zara had a tougher time with dressage but was error free jumping, in and out of the ring, to take the win.

Madeleine Moore and Rogadina moved up steadily to finish third on a 41.6.

In the Open Preliminary, Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill were unbeatable from their Friday 24.1 dressage score on through the weekend. Double-clear showjumping was easy, breezy, beautiful to the point that even their coach, Bec Braitling, couldn’t catch them. Braitling and Sunsprite Warmbloods’ Kirschblute 3, had a tiny time penalty, .4, in show jumping, dropping them to third, while James Alliston and Calaro went clean to finish second on a 26.7.

Volunteer Leslie van der Wal with the sponsor-donated prize pack. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Next Up

Riders weren’t the weekend’s only winners. Among the many volunteers needed to make the competition successful, Leslie van der Wal drew the winning raffle ticket for a generous prize pack donated by Twin Rivers sponsors. The Twin Rivers Ranch season is presented by Professional’s Choice and Auburn Labs. The Riding Warehouse and Best Western PLUS Black Oak are supporting sponsors. The volunteer grand prizes included a bottle of Auburn Labs’ APF, a Professional’s Choice tote bag, and a $50 Riding Warehouse certificate. The prize pack raffle represents phase-one of an incentive program to reward this important role in the sport.
    
For complete results, the latest schedule and other information visit www.twinrivershorsepark.com.