November 2015 - Show Report: Woodside International Horse Trials
Written by CRM
Saturday, 31 October 2015 06:17
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Lauren Billys, Kelly Pugh & Ruth Bley win their divisions.

Lauren Billys held a 4.6-point lead before the final cross-country phase of the CIC3* at the Woodside International Horse Trials, and she used every bit of the lead she’d built on the first day to eke out a victory over James Alliston on Tivoli.

Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy added 4.4 time penalties, to win by just .2 penalties (57.5 to 57.7). Alliston also finished third on Parker (60.6).

Lauren Billys of Puerto Rico rode Castle Larchfiled Purdy to victory in the CIC3* at the Wodside International. Photo: Sherry Stewart

CWD, Devoucoux and Equine Insurance of California were the Presenting Sponsors of the Woodside International Horse Trials, held Oct. 2-4.

“I thought it was really a forward and galloping course that required you to be on a very forward but accurate step,” said Billys of Ian Stark’s first international course at Woodside. (The former British Olympian had designed the upper-level courses for the Woodside May and August events too, but they weren’t international competitions.)

“I thought it suited my horse really well—he loves to gallop, and he’s a big-strided horse,” she added.

Billys, of Carmel Valley, has only been riding Castle Larchfield Purdy for a little more than a year, but she’s made that year a productive one. At last year’s Woodside International the won the CIC2*, and this year, they led the CCI3* from start to finish.

Billys and the Irish Sporthorse gelding took the lead in dressage, scoring 53.1 penalties, ahead of Alliston on Tivoli (53.7) and Mary Burke on Prince William (55.7).

“Honestly, I’d been at a bit of a plateau with my dressage, and sometimes when you’re trying to make something better you have to break down the good things to make them great. I’ve been doing that every day, and I feel like it’s starting to come together with him. I was really pleased with today,” said Billys, 27.

The show jumping would shake up the standings—Burke dropped a rail and received 7 time penalties—allowing Alliston’s second horse, the veteran Parker, to slide in to third. Tivoli added 4 time penalties, but it didn’t affect his placing. Billys put in a picture-perfect, double-clear round to solidify her lead.

“I tried to be patient in my mind but forward in my riding—I tried to just see the jumps and not hesitate between fences. This has been the hardest phase for me. It’s our first double-clear at advanced, so I’m really happy,” said Billys.

Alliston was circumspect about his time penalties on Tivoli. “I thought they both jumped really well. The drawback to going first is you don’t know the speed, I went what I thought it should be, and it was a bit slow. I could have gone a bit more, but you just don’t know,” he said.

Organizer Robert Kellerhouse, CIC1* winner Ruth Bley, CIC3* second & third place winner James Alliston, CIC3* winner Lauren Billys, CIC2* winner Kelly Pugh, course designer Ian Stark celebrate at Woodside International Horse Trials.

Alliston and Billys are each based in the U.S., but represent foreign countries—Alliston is from Great Britain, and Billys represents Puerto Rico. Both are using this competition as preparation for a run at the Galway Downs CCI3* on Oct. 29-Nov. 1, but Billys has her eye on a longer game.

“I’m trying to get enough points to qualify [as an individual] for the Olympics in 2016. If you get enough point to finish in the top 25 percent of all riders from that region you have a chance to go,” she said.

Points from FEI competitions like Woodside are the only points that count toward Olympic qualification.

Of the 10 CIC3* horses that started cross-country, seven completed the course with no jumping penalties, but only three—Alliston with Tivoli and Parker, and Mary Burke with Prince William—finished without time penalties.

“I thought it was really good, very gallopy, which is nice, and a lot of left-hand corners, right-hand corners, skinnies—every question really,” said Alliston. “The last water complex was something different we haven’t seen at Woodside for a while, so something different for the horses.”

“It felt a lot like you were at the end of your reins, pushing on to the narrows. My horse answered all the questions and I’m proud of him,” said Billys. “I knew I had 10 seconds, and I wanted to be fast, but I always get time penalties--it’s something I’m working on. But, he was a good and came in just under, so I got lucky today. I lost this three-star two years ago by .4, so I was really happy that I made it this time.”

Said Alliston, “I thought the time was quite tight. [My first horse] Parker is really fast usually, and he wasn’t way inside the time like he can be, and since Tivoli isn’t as fast as Parker for sure I had to go really fast.”

Kelly Pugh and Corazon jumped to victory in the CIC2* at the Woodside International. Photo: Sherry Stewart

Corazon Tops then CIC2*

Flawless rounds also kept the top spots in the CIC2*unchanged after the cross-country test. Kelly Pugh and Corazon jumped double-clear to maintain their lead (39.8) over Amber Levine on Carry On, who added just 0.8 time penalties (43.8). Levine also finished fourth with her second mount Guinness St. James (57.5), who also finished double-clear. Sara Selmer and TK Kreisler finished third (52.6).

“I’m still getting to know this horse,” said Pugh, of Gilroy. “He has a lot of gallop and is really confident out there, so galloping but then coming back are the kinds of things I was trying to do. There’s a lot of questions out there that helped back him, but he’s a pretty honest guy—you do your job and he does his.

“This was by far our best course,” she continued. “He’s easy to make time on, pretty quick across country, and I was able to take my time to set him up properly and get the striding I wanted. I felt like the questions didn’t let up the whole way round.”

Corazon, 8, won the dressage with a 39.8, and then jumped double-clear round to keep their lead.

“He was fantastic,” Pugh said after her show jumping round. “He knows his job‑‑I just have to stay out of his way. It’s definitely a different ride than I have in warm-up, and that’s a bit hard to get used to. The dressage is the same—the warm-up is a little mediocre but then he goes in and puts his game face on.”

This is only the pair’s fourth show together; David and Candace Garret bought Corazon in England for Pugh to ride. He had competed at the intermediate level in England, and he had done one preliminary, a CCI1* and an intermediate horse trial here in the states with Pugh. He’s won three of those four competitions, so Pugh is excited about his future.

“When I tried him, I just kind of knew we were a pair. It’s a great feeling,” Pugh said of her fast-formed partnership.

Pressing Pugh the whole weekend round was Levine, of Rohnert Park, on Carry On, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood.

Levine brought “Cory” to Woodside to help him learn to cope with the demands of international competition. “We came for the atmosphere—he’s still green on the flat, and we’ve trying to get it better, our goal for the weekend was to get in the 40s.

“He’s gotten loads better, and he’s matured a lot this summer,” Levine continued. “He loves the jumping and always thinks it’s fun and entertaining, but he doesn’t always take it real seriously. So, we’ve just been trying to get him to mature and take this whole process a little more seriously. He was super, by far the best dressage test and show jumping round he’s ever done.”

Of the 21 CIC2* starters on the cross-country course, 13 finished with no jumping penalties and four—Levine and Pugh plus Josh Barnacle on Celtic King and Kim Liddell on Eye of The Storm—finished double-clear.

Silver Sage and Ruth Bley scored in the CIC1* at the Woodside International. Photo: Sherry Stewart

Silver Sage Tops CIC1*

The jumping phases shook up the standings in the CIC1*, but Ruth Bley and her venerable Silver Sage scored the victory.

Bley took the lead in dressage, a new position for the gray Holsteiner. “My horse has been a long project and is finally figuring out dressage, and he was awesome,” said Bley, who led the way on with a score of 42.7. “He’s finally giving me the five minutes I’ve been asking for. He’s gotten stronger, and he lets me put my leg on him, whereas before used to bleed out the front, and he waits for me now, listens more.”

Bley added just 1 time penalty in show jumping to her dressage score, but she kept her lead. “I made some mistakes, and he saved me,” she admitted, adding a stride in a combination.

Cross-country moved the placings around again. Overnight second-placed Julie Flettner and Ping Pong came to grief at The Equine Insurance Splash; third-placed Megan Traynham on Lord Lombardi had a stop at the oxer at fence 9. When fourth-placed Whitney Tucker on Chavez Ravine withdrew before the start, it propelled fifth-placed Kelsey Holmes on Heart of Gold SE in to the second spot.

“I loved it; it was great,” said Bley of Stark’s cross-country course. “There were some tricky parts, especially the first water. I was surprised on my first horse [Rodrigue Du Granit] when he got a little sucked back, and I thought my second horse [Silver Sage] would be stronger, but he actually sucked back more.”
Of the 25 cross-country starters on the CIC1*, 18 completed without jumping penalties, and 10 went double-clear.

“I was close [to the time] with [Rodrigue Du Granit], the sports car,” said Bley. “And it felt like I was really going, so I really went on with {Silver Sage] and he was not so close so it worked out well.

“[The course was] such a change from last year--a world of difference between the one-star and the prelim. It’s nice for Sage to finally win one,” concluded Bley with a smile.

Report provided by press officers John Strassburger & Heather Bailey. For more information, visit:

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