Figuring out the right formula for success with a horse is an ever evolving process of trial and error.
Sometimes that process, as Colleen Loach can attest, errs on the side of error.
The Canadian Olympian is competing at MARS Bromont CCI4*-L in Quebec with veteran partner FE Golden Eye (aka Goldie) this week and used the opportunity to tweak their program.
“We tried to do a little bit of a different warmup strategy with Goldie, working him a bit harder on the pre-ride,” she explained.
It was a strategy discussed with Rebecca Howard, Canadian eventing chef d’equipe, as part of Loach’s ongoing efforts to get the 11-year-old Hannoverian gelding more in front of the leg and more flowing in his test. He’s seemingly immune to atmosphere, she said, and tends toward lazy in the 20×60.
“We were wondering if that would maybe get a better test out of him—thinking about getting a little bit more thoroughness the morning of to maybe have him a little bit more on the aids for the test.”
It didn’t have the desired effect.
“I think he just gets a bit cranky with me rather than getting a little bit more through,” deduced Loach.
“I’m not sure I would do it again. He was a little bit fussy [in the contact], not quite as flowing and smooth in the contact as usual. So it’s good to know that what we were doing before worked better.
“That’s the trick, right? Finding the happy medium for all these horses to go and perform at their best.”
Finessed contact aside, the pair put in the best test on the day, earning a score of 27.6 from the judges.
“Overall [we] had a pretty nice test,” continued Loach. “I’m just being quite picky because I know he has a lot of good things in there.”
Loach would know. The two-time Pan American Games team bronze medalist has ridden Goldie since he was imported from Germany as a four-year-old by Australia’s Clayton Fredericks and has developed the gelding up the international ranks since 2018.
The pair were part of the bronze medal winning Canadian team at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, and has logged several of their greatest successes at Bromont. They captured their biggest win to date there with the CCI3*-S in 2020 and finished second in same division in 2021. Last year, they helped the Canadian team to a bronze medal in the Nations Cup CCIO4* at the Quebec venue.
Ten more combinations will complete the dressage phase of the CCI4*-L division Friday, followed by Derek di Grazia’s cross country on Saturday.
“I think it’s a tough course,” said Loach. “There’s a lot to do and it’s long, so it’ll be certainly Goldie’s biggest test yet. So I’m very interested to see how he handles it. I think he’s ready. I think I’ve got him pretty fit, so I’m hoping he’s going to keep going all the way around.”
USA’s Lillian Heard Wood and Chilly sit in second overnight on a score of 29.0, followed by Sweden’s Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis in third with Flower Girl on 31.0.