Mill Spring, NC – Nov. 15, 2020 – The MARS Tryon International Three-Day Event concluded at Tryon International Equestrian Center and Resort (TIEC) after four days of international and national Eventing competition and showcasing the largest competition hosted on the East Coast in 2020. An incredibly close Show Jumping phase was undecided until the very end, resulting in a win for Boyd Martin (USA) and Tsetserleg in the BUCKEYE™ Nutrition USEF Eventing CCI 4*-L National Championship, laying down a clear round to hold the top spot and ending on a score of 28.10. In reserve, Phillip Dutton (USA) piloted Z, the 2008 Zangersheide gelding (Asca x Babouche VH Gehucht Z), to a clear round and a final score of 28.80 for T. Tierney, S. Roosevelt, S. Lacy, A. Jones, and C. Moran. Rounding out the podium and finishing on their Dressage score of 29.10, Woods Baughman (USA) and C’est La Vie 135, the 2008 Hanoverian gelding (Contendro I x Aarking XX) owned by Woods, Kim, and and James Baughman, Jr., produced a clear round in Tryon Stadium to achieve the podium.
Just 0.10 points behind Baughman, Doug Payne (USA) earned fourth place with Vandiver, the 2004 Trakehner gelding (Windfall 2 x Mystic Replica XX) owned by Debi Crowley in partnership with Doug and Jessica Payne, while Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp (USA), the leader after Cross-Country, had a heartbreaking rail at the last fence aboard Deniro Z, the 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Zapatero x French Buffet XX) owned by Ocala Horse Properties and the Deniro Syndicate, to drop to fifth place and a final score of 30.10.
Martin piloted three mounts through the course set by Chris Barnard (Millbrook, NY), and each went better than the next, he recalled. “I had a little bit of a rough start today. It got better and better. Luckily, I had three horses in it: Blackfoot Mystery was a little bit tired and had big gaps. For On Cue, I had two poles knocked over, and she’s usually jumping clear. Finally, the old campaigner ‘Thomas’ went into the jumps like a champion, so I’m thrilled because show jumping is the weak phase of his, and we’ve worked pretty hard at it. It was just very satisfying to get a good round out of him under pressure.”
Despite the top seven competitors after Cross-Country scoring within striking distance, with fewer than four points separating them, Martin noted that both he and “Thomas,” the 2007 Trakehner gelding (Windfall *PG* x Buddenbrock) owned by Christine, Thomas and Tommie Turner, seem to do well under pressure. “You know, after doing this for years, you start getting a little bit more numb to the pressure. I’m always nervous on the first horse, and by the second and third you start getting into a rhythm, so it’s definitely an advantage of bringing multiple horses. I truly think Thomas performs better when he has a bit of pressure. I’m not sure if he knows which events are important,” Matin admitted, “but he seems to do really, really well in Dressage, Cross-Country and Show Jumping when we need him. He’s had a pretty light year; I’ve only ridden him a couple times at the shows and he’s a little bit undone, but he came out and was just where he needed to be. He’s just fun to ride.”
Martin concluded that his championship title was made possible due to the herculean effort of the organizing team to make the competition happen, despite heavy rainfall and damage to the Cross-Country course late in the week, and emphasized that Tryon Resort is the “ultimate destination” for world-class riders:
“I think Tryon is one of the best venues in the world. It would be an absolute crime if they didn’t have a permanent CCI long format event here. Even when conditions were atrocious, they’ve got the facility, the willpower, and the passion to put on a really, really good show. Obviously, it’s a real honor and privilege riding here, and like I said yesterday, I can’t tell you how much we appreciate all the guys out there making that Cross-Country course as horse-friendly as possible,” Martin elaborated. “I’ve been lucky enough to compete all over the world, and I’ve never seen so many people pull together to make the conditions fair for the horses, so I truly hope Tryon gets this as a permanent date, or this event in the spring or something, because it’s an unbelievable facility in all three phases. It’s the ultimate destination.”
Dutton detailed that Z tends to get excited in the stadium, and that he’s been working on the Show Jumping phase intensely, to positive results today. “Show Jumping was really, really good; he tends to get a little more wound up and a little bit antsy in the ring, but I always found the lines. We spent a lot of time doing some jumper shows to figure out ways to count and set everything between the rounds and in between the jumps, and I thought he was spectacular.”
Though the results hung in the balance until the last rider stopped the timers, Dutton noted that the fierce competition speaks to the quality of the horse-and-rider pairs who challenged the championship, and of the US Eventing program as a whole:
“With a big field like this, any little error and you’ve moved down five or six places. I was really impressed with the whole competition, right from the get-go, from the standard of the Dressage and the Cross-Country’s difficult conditions, and a lot of people who had a real crack at it. The Show Jumping was certainly up to standard today. I think it was a great thing for the sport this weekend in this country.”
Dutton concluded, “This event was so great for the sport, the riders, and the horses, for Tryon to be able to step up and do this. Arguably, there really isn’t anywhere else in the country or the world that could have pulled off what [TIEC] did on Cross-Country day with the flooding and bringing in all the machines in and everything else to make it a proper competition. This is a very unique venue and we’re blessed to have it and the people who run it.”
One of the few pairs in the top ten to remain on their Dressage score all weekend, Woods Baughman and C’est la Vie 135 “came out swinging,” he recapped. “The horse is amazing. He just comes out in all three phases and I can really test him to a point and he never lets down. Start to finish, he just came out swinging and I’m happy with it. I was definitely pretty nervous this morning,” Baughman admitted. “I skipped breakfast, but yeah, if I just let him do his thing and stay out of his way and keep my position, he’ll blow it out.”
On Cross-Country, Baughman reported that he chose to let his mount take the lead for the first half of the run, a strategy that worked out well for him. “The first half of the course, I just tried to stay out of his way and let him tear it up, and then in the back half when he started to relax a little bit I could be a little bit more accurate, and take a little control back to help him out.”
Though Baughman’s scores held steady all weekend, he acknowledged that his faith in the Cross-Country course varied throughout the week before competition day arrived: “I just think [TIEC] did an amazing job. I showed up here on Tuesday and it was just a downpour and flooding, then on Wednesday morning I was like ‘they are going to cancel Cross-Country.’ And then, when they held the course walk on Thursday, I was like ‘yeah, this is game over,’ and sure enough, by the time we actually ran the footing was great,” he concluded.