With a star-studded field of competitors in the $37,000 FEI CSI3* Two-Phase Competition at the Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows on Thursday, the last thing anyone expected was to have the fastest riders tie for top honors. Going early in the class, five-time Olympian McLain Ward (USA) set a tough time to beat at 24.180 seconds, one that only Grace Debney (GBR) was able to match.
Sixty-five horse-and-rider combinations representing ten countries tackled the 15-effort, 1.45m course designed by Ireland’s Alan Wade, with 20 putting in double-clear rounds in the new Old Salem Farm International Arena. Ward went fifth in the order with Marilla Van Beuren’s 13-year-old Westphalian gelding Catoki, blazing to what seemed to be an unbeatable time of 24.180 seconds as the class went on.
“Catoki went great,” Ward said. “He’s kind of a speed specialist, but unfortunately, so is Grace’s mare. I thought we had a great round. Catoki did everything that I planned, so I was really thrilled with him and thought our time had a good chance to hold up. But when you go that early and there are 60 riders behind you, it becomes a very competitive division.”
Over 25 entries later, Debney took to the ring with Boheme De La Roque, an 11-year-old Selle Français mare owned by Temple Equestrian LLC. The pair matched Ward’s round nearly stride for stride, a strategy that paid off when they also stopped the clock at 24.180 seconds. Their blistering time held for the rest of the class.
“I watched McLain go and studied his round as sort of a guide to what I wanted to do,” Debney said. “We walked sort of the same track, so I wanted to do exactly what he did. That’s what happened, and it was nice to execute the plan exactly as he did.
“My mare is awesome,” she added. “She’s willing, and she’s always doing her job exactly how I want her to. Like McLain said, she’s definitely a bit of a speed specialist. She tries to win all the time.”
Mark Bluman (COL) rode Over the Top Stables LLC’s Noortje VD Windheuvel, a 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, to a third-place finish in 24.670 seconds.