Clark Montgomery and his horse Cape Town haven't always been perfect partners, but they showed off their new partnership on their way to winning the Radnor Hunt International Three-day event in Malvern, Penn. on Oct. 11-14.Clark Montgomery and his horse Cape Town haven't always been perfect partners, but they showed off their new partnership on their way to winning the Radnor Hunt International Three-day event in Malvern, Penn. on Oct. 11-14.
Clark Montgomery and his horse Cape Town haven’t always been perfect partners, but they showed off their new partnership on their way to winning the Radnor Hunt International Three-day event in Malvern, Penn. on Oct. 11-14.
Though he and the big black gelding with the white stripe looked in sync through out the weekend, Montgomery said it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
"When I went to try the horse I didn’t ride him very well, but Karen O’Connor said to me, ‘This horse could be your Custom Made’(David O’Connor’s Olympic gold medallist) so I decided to buy him anyway," he said.
Then, their move to Intermediate this year was rocky, with the horse hanging legs and falling at a few horse trials, and slipping off a corner at the North American Young Riders Championships. The solution to the problem was found in coach David O’Connor’s use of Pat Parelli’s natural horsemanship techniques.
"We taught him to jump on the rope, and thus not to rely on me to help him every time. It improved him dramatically.
"I had started to lose a bit of confidence," he admitted. "But you could feel that he wasn’t trying to be bad, he just didn’t know."
Montgomery, 21, started the weekend in third place, after scoring a 46.8 in dressage. Not a surprise, considering Cape Town, his Dutch Warmblood/Thoroughbred gelding by Michelangelo had been doing straight dressage prior to Montgomery’s purchasing him last year. They bought him nearly two years ago from former eventer turned dressage rider Jules Nyssen who had been competing the horse at third level. When the owners needed to sell none of the dressage people were interested in him because he was 7/8 Thoroughbred.
Irish newcomer Niall Griffin and his youngster Lorgaine took first in dressage, with a fluid and steady test. Second place went to Susan Beebee and Up For Gold.
Griffin is a former rider for Mark Todd, who came to this country in June after the foot and mouth disease outbreak in Great Britain shut down much of the activity there. He is currently working with Karen and David O’Connor.
"I came off the plane with two saddles and the horse," said Griffin, 24. "[The O’Connor’s] have given me everything else."
"He’s never done anything like that in his life," said a sore Griffin. "But I thought it might have put the law of averages in my favor-I figured if I’d fallen off once, I probably wouldn’t again. It also made me mad-put the fire in me."
Griffin remounted and blazed around to a double clear to retain his lead. Beebee and Up For Gold came to grief at number 5, a turning question of Log Cabins, and at fifteen the Trakhener, they eventually finished 33rd.
Montgomery blazed around to double clear on the fabulous jumping Cape Town to move into second, while Buck Davidson on McKloud and David O’Connor on Persistent Rain went double clear to tie each other for third. Both horses are new mounts for Davidson and O’Connor, and they both quipped that maybe it worked out better for them to let someone else do the training (Persistent Rain was ridden by Ralph Hill until a week before Radnor when O’Connor student Lourdes Peralta purchased him, and McKloud is the normal mount of Jane Sleeper whom Davidson had competed once).
"I’m also all for somebody doing the roads and tracks for me," joked Davidson, who rode three horses around the track. "Whew, does that get boring."
O’Connor was thrilled with his new mount’s performance, but didn’t feel like he could take all the credit for his eventual red ribbon. "I was riding someone else’s work out there, and Ralph’s work was evident. I was just a pilot today," he said.
"I didn’t have a bad fence out there, he’s straight, brave and honest, and impressed me with his gallop and jump," finished O’Connor.<
"I didn’t have a bad fence out there, he’s straight, brave and honest, and impressed me with his gallop and jump," finished O’Connor.
Show jumping was shaping up to be an exciting conclusion to the weekend, with less than one rail separating the top six places. It soon became clear that the bogey fence of the course was number six, an American flag narrow fence placed on an uphill approach following a big oxer. However, number 4 an in and out with a liverpool oxer for the A element, and number 3 a big Swedish oxer off a turn caused their share of problems.
Amateur rider Corrine Ashton and her Dobbin came into show jumping in sixth place, but moved up to third with a double-clear round. Ashton found her Dobbin as an unbroken three-year old in her local want ads. The chestnut Thoroughbred gelding (Lyphius-Deal Debbie Deal) impressed her with his placid and calm temperament, but she never dreamed he would take her as far as he has. Ashton, a full time mom of two young daughters from Boxboro, Mass., has evented her whole life, but had never competed at the upper levels. Now she is making plans to go advanced in the spring.
"I bought him as a resale project," said Ashton with a smile. "But he’s not for sale any more."
Davidson and McKloud lost their third place when they took 5 rails down (they eventually dropped to 23rd), and Griffin dropped out of the top ten when Lorgaine showed some of his greenness by dropping the bogey fence six, and the Agway Vertical at number 8. But Montgomery and Cape Town jumped in fabulous style to go double clear. O’Connor put in a clean round to move into second.
Though Montgomery was thrilled to win, it was clearly hard to win at Griffin’s expense. "When I went into the ring, I just did what I had to do to jump clean, and then it was all on Niall. But you’re torn between wanting to win, and wanting Niall, who is one of my best friends, to do well."
Montgomery is originally from Bryan, Texas, but has been working with the O’Connors in The Plains, Virginia for two years. He hopes to move up to advanced in the spring, and go to the Foxhall CCI*** in Georgia.