Bruce (Buck) Davidson Jr. said after the stadium jumping phase on Saturday at the Plantation Field International Horse Trial that he was determined to try to win the 3* division, and he went out on Sunday and produced an incredible cross country ride to be one of only five to make the optimum time, in fact beating the time by 12 seconds, to ensure his win.
"I'm going to set out thinking I'm going to go for it," said Davidson before the cross country. "I'd like to go out and be competitive."
A gorgeous summery day and the top notch competition drew a huge crowd to watch the 45 competitors attack the cross country course designed by Michael Etherington-Smith.
Time is always a factor on cross country, but at Plantation the time produced a real a nail-biter, with only 5.3 penalty points separating the top 10 riders.
The riders went in reverse order of standing on the the final day of the event, which ran Sept. 14-17 in Unionville, Pa., with the top three, Selena O'Hanlon of Canada on Foxwood High, followed by Jennie Brannigan of Coatesville, Pa., on Cambalda and Davidson of Unionville, Pa., on Copper Beech all going double clear, no jumping and no time faults, to remain third, second and first respectively.
Davidson finished on 43.3, with Brannigan scoring 45.6 and O'Hanlon finishing on 45.8.
Davidson said that he'd seen Brannigan on course while he was starting out, and that she looked as though she was going very fast and would make the time, so Davidson really put the pedal to the metal and smoked around the course.
Davidson was right about Brannigan looking as though she was going fast, because she was, turning in the fastest time of 21 seconds under the time.
"I've lost to Jennie so many times," said Davidson of his determination to beat her this time. "Sean (Copper Beech's barn name) was great. He's matured, but he's still young, he's 11. I could really trust him today."
"HE'S JUST an out and out trier, he's the most competitive horse I've ever had," said Davidson. "He tries his heart out. He may knock down all the jumps in the warm-up, but he goes in and just tries his heart out."
"It's a great feeling to win because Buck has worked so hard with him," said Carl Segal of Unionville, co-owner of Copper Beech with Sherrie Martin. "They both have similar personalities, they both try so hard."
"I've been very fortunate to have an owner that lets me do what we need to do and take our time," said Davidson."We didn't go fast at all at a horse trial until he was 10. I think sometimes the most important thing is to keep them sound long enough so that they can be trained, and Carl and his other owner have allowed me to do that."
"The course asked every question," said Davidson. "It was a nice start, then it got intense, then there was a nice galloping section, and then it got intense again, but you really had to go if you wanted to make the time."
Davidson said that if you looked at the results from European events, the competitors there are separated mostly by time faults.
He said that in this country he felt we had been going in the wrong direction for a while, with too many tricky, basically unfair, distances that left horses and riders losing confidence, but that things were beginning to turn around now.
"This was a confidence building course," said Davidson. "It's not an easy course, but it gives you confidence. Fence five is a great designed fence, it gives you lots of options."
"This whole event is run by horse people for horse people," said Davidson.
DAVIDSON was third on Sean after dressage, behind Boyd Martin on Long Island T and O'Hanlon.
Martin was also leading in two sections of the 2*, but he had a fall in the two* on cross country on Saturday and had to withdraw all his horses from further competition.
He went to hospital after the fall but was home that evening, and it was posted on his facebook page that "he did take a good knock on his right leg and head, but he's going to be fine - nothing broken."
In stadium jumping on Saturday, Davidson went first on Jak My Style and had three fences down.
He obviously felt something had to change, so "I changed my jacket, my gloves and my hat," he said. "Good for my sponsor for giving me enough supplies."
It worked - his next ride was on Sean, who was clean with one time fault, and then Carlevo was also clean but with four time faults to finish seventh overall after a clean cross country round with 5.2 time faults.
Phillip Dutton on his Olympic bronze medal ride, Mighty Nice, was fifth after dressage and moved up to second after a clean jumping round Saturday, but he didn't push for time on the cross country in Mighty Nice's first competition back since the Games, saying he needed more time to get fit, so had eight time penalties to finish ninth.
Dutton on Z finished fourth, finishing on 50.6.
BRANNIGAN was riding with a broken hand and had had surgery on it earlier in the week, but that didn't stop her from having the fastest time cross country on Nina Gardner's Cambalda.
"It's exciting to have a horse like Cambalda now," said Brannigan. "I don't think he wants to play at the 4* level, but he's a wonderful 3*. To win at a hometown event is special."
O'Hanlon pointed out that it was a rail down in stadium jumping that cost her the win, but, of the three, she is the only one going on to compete in the 3* at Fair Hill.
"I'm going to go home and work on my show jumping and give it another try," said O'Hanlon. "I'm never happy with third. I always hope it's a more difficult cross country course so I can move up the leader board."
"My owners are elated," said O'Hanlon of Foxwood High's owners, John and Judy Rumble. "They're over the moon. I couldn't ask for nicer owners."
Five of the competitors were competing at the 3* level for the first time, and Erika Nesler of Cochranville, Pa., riding Doug and Cindy Howe's Right Above It, was the best of them, having the fastest time of those who missed the optimum time to add just 1.2 time penalties cross country to her four faults in jumping and dressage score of 55.1 to finish 13th on 60.3.
Will Faudree rode Quintessential to win the 1*A on 45.1 over Pedro Gutierrez on Unanyme du Loir, 47.5, and Ryan Wood on Get Ready Get Set, 47.6, and Cornelia Dorr rode Sir Patico MH to win the 1*B, finishing on 41.6 over Amanda Beale Clement on Aspire R, 48.6, and Alice Roosevelt on Fernhill Zoro, 50.6.
Alexander O'Neal on RF Eloquence won the 2*A, finishing on 38.10 over Jenny Caras on Fernhill Full Throttle, 39.10, and Erin Sylvester on Paddy the Caddy, 42.7, and Lynn Symansky rode RF Cool Play to win the 2*B with a score of 39.7, with Jessica Phoenix on Bentley's Best second on 45.00 and Brannigan on Twilightslastgleam third on 45.8.