Day 4 – Sunday, 5/10
So, today was my last day at Old Salem. The days flew by and I had a lot of fun, but now my car is all packed up and I’m on the road tomorrow to the Kentucky Spring Classic. I’ll arrive in Lexington on Tuesday afternoon. Speaking of the drive, there are a lot of songs about New York that I was able to add to my get excited playlist for the drive up to OSF, but sadly there aren’t any “Welcome to Kentucky” songs that I’m aware of for when I cross state lines and proceed to freak out with excitement. I’m still searching for the perfect soundtrack for this drive – does anyone else do this? It’s kind of an important part of every road trip I take, and then months later those songs remind me of whatever was going on in my life at the time. Future me: “Oh yea, that’s when you were traveling to horse shows literally all over the place and no longer had any normal concept of what day of the week it was.” Anyway, I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to comparing these two stand-out spring shows and continuing to share my days on here. I also hope some of you are going to be in Kentucky with me!
But first, to wrap up my time at Old Salem – the final day of Week 1 provided crowds, bright sunshine and some serious jumper suspense in the Grand Prix field. While the grounds filled up for the $50,000 Grand Prix at 2pm, the morning had two very competitive Junior/Amateur Medium and High Classics. Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I am partial to watching Jr/AO classes and Equitation over Grand Prix events (although I do have a select few favorite GP riders), so the morning events were actually the best part of my day.
When I arrived, the Medium Classic was in full swing and I settled in at what would prove to be a perfect vantage point at the “happy hour” bar overlooking the Grand Prix field. The first round course for the Classic didn’t cause too many problems, as 15 entries went clear. The jump off was perfectly designed—with just seven jumps there was an obvious demand early on for tight turns in three key places. The course started with six strides from the wagon wheel oxer to the Kincade vertical, which would come down several times. From there, the most successful riders cut as close to jump 10 as possible as they came around the corner to the right and rode aggressively to jump 3, a sizeable oxer. Upon landing, they galloped on to another hairpin turn to the left around jump 15 to then slice a vertical before galloping around the turn to the right in the far end of the ring, and getting straight for the one-stride combination and down the line to the final oxer. I was also pretty thrilled because the entire course took place right in front of where I happened to be sitting. Sorry, VIP tent.
The two stand-outs in the Medium Classic jump-off were Callie Smith and Victoria Colvin. Callie Smith started her round with a noticeably fast canter into jump 1 that seemed to set the pace for her blistering 29.34 second run that moved her quite securely in to first place, a full 2 seconds faster than any other riders. She had an especially amazing angle on the second oxer after a tight turn that allowed her to take what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. Tori Colvin, who had the second vertical down with her first ride, had one more chance with Don Juan as the last rider to go, and she amazingly but unsurprisingly cut every turn perfectly to beat Callie’s time by .9 seconds and win the event with a 28.4 second run – almost 3 full seconds faster than her previous round. This jump-off course was by far one of those most exciting of the weekend because the differences in speed and turning ability between each ride were quickly apparent, and then I just held my breath as each rider popped down the last line and through the timers.
The drama didn’t stop there, as the team on the field raised the jumps for the next class and introduced the water and narrow Purina jumps to provide the High Junior/Amateur Classic with a challenging course. Due to the amateur and junior classes being grouped together, Lucy Deslauriers and her mom Lisa competed back-to-back—on Mother’s Day. I can imagine friends later: “Yeah, I just took my mom out for brunch, what did you do?” “…we competed in the High Jumper Classic against each other.” Even better, Lucy was one of the five riders out of the twenty-six entries that made it clear through the difficult course. Again with this class, there were two stand-out riders in the jump-off – Lucy and Tori. Back again, this time riding Better Times, Tori Colvin continued her torrid pace cutting turns hard and commanding a gasp-inducing flat out gallop to the final oxer to post a time of 32.629. Everyone that was sitting around me was visibly excited. A blue ribbon seemed likely with only two riders standing in the way of her second win of the day. With nothing to lose after Tori’s spectacular round, Lucy set her own blistering pace, even duplicating with style Tori’s mad dash to the last oxer for an even faster 31.873 time, which went untouched by the final rider. It was, to put it mildly, insanely awesome.
The last rider in the jump-off round pulling away for the win proved to be an on and off occurrence all day. In the five-rider Grand Prix jump off, Georgina Bloomberg had a spectacular run with a time of 34.365 to take the lead, only to have McLain Ward snatch away the victory in the final run of the day by a mere .271 seconds. McLain is incredible, but I had been pulling hard for Georgina, and so was the adorable crowd of little girls in breeches and bows standing nearby. #GirlPower.
Other than the thrilling jumper classes, the rest of the classes occurring today seemed relatively quiet – unless the pony hunters got super cutthroat and I didn’t hear about it.
By early afternoon, it seemed like many riders had already left for the day after finishing their classes. After taking one last walk around the show grounds, I said my goodbyes to OSF and headed out. In my car, I paused at my favorite spot on top of the hill from the driveway out of the farm and took it all in one more time. Then I realized there were a ton of cars waiting behind me and kept driving. Now, on to the next one.
- The grounds are simply beautiful, and the grass Grand Prix field is something you really have to experience in person to appreciate. Whether you are standing up near the barn and vendors and looking down at all of the rings, or you are standing by the Sand Ring and looking up at the gorgeous barn itself – the entire property is something to behold, and the attention to detail in its design and maintenance is meticulous. The 2015 NARG rating guide gives high marks to Old Salem’s facilities, and while I wasn’t keeping a horse there, what I saw impressed me. I am jealous of all of Frank Madden’s riders that get to train there.
- Not exactly a major factor, but as a spectator this show was a little more friendly to the outfit I was wearing. At WEF I felt like I needed to wear paddock boots all the time because I was constantly trudging through the footing. At Old Salem, my Katharine Page sandals were more than perfect. Wearing a dress might get a little iffy if you are having to sit on one of the hills to watch the rings, but otherwise you can dress up or down for this show and still be able to head straight out to dinner afterward.
- The weather was great—a little chilly on Saturday, but the rain that many had talked about plaguing past shows was nowhere to be seen for week one. I thought the crowds were a little sparse until Sunday’s Grand Prix, but this might pick up a bit more with the added influx of pre-Devon/post-prom riders during Week 2.
- Parking was very easy and relatively close by. I arrived early on Sunday before many people came in for the Grand Prix, but they used the parking lot at the school across the street and seemed to accommodate everyone.
- On the show entries site, there was an interesting breakdown of the entries by state for the week—75% are from NY, NJ and CT, with another 10% from Florida. This contributed to the show’s intimate feel, which is unique and definitely a draw for many—most of the riders have a home nearby and you are being invited onto the farm’s private grounds instead of a sprawling show ground.
- Sometimes the schedule had periods where there was not a lot of action going on in any of the four rings—something that is understandable for a smaller show. It gave me time to go check out the great selection of exhibitors/aka do some shopping.
- I think you would be hard pressed to find many riders who enjoyed the grind of Equitation Marathon Saturday complete with the non-points based Challenge, which went past 7pm. When riders dream of competing on Saturday nights, I think they are usually thinking about a Grand Prix.
- Even though probably few riders used it, I thought the “study area” in the indoor facility sponsored by Palm Beach Academy was a very nice touch. It was extremely comfy in there and if I was a rider I may have thought about using it before one of my friends distracted me.
- Old Salem’s accommodations options are somewhat limited because of its location. I got the feeling most people either stayed at a nearby family residence or in Danbury, CT. I didn’t see any official lodging partners or suggestions on their website. It’s probably not much of an issue because most people are based locally or in the city, but providing this information might encourage more out-of-towners to come.
- Overall I was impressed by Old Salem’s attention to detail and competition level. Its location alone makes it a unique stop for any A-Circuit rider. It’s a great show for running into familiar faces and friends because the show grounds are smaller and easy to navigate, but you still get the “big show” excitement of a large Grand Prix in a beautiful setting.