FAIR HILL Md.--Selena O'Hanlon of Canada finished first in the dressage phase of the Dutta Fair Hill CCI3*, Oct. 12-15, dropped to second with 1.6 time faults cross country and rose back to the top with a clean show jumping round to win the International 3*, while Will Coleman of Gordonsville, Va., on Tight Lines, second in the International 3*, was the National 3* Eventing Champion.
But the most amazing accomplishment and perhaps the biggest victory was that of Dr. Kevin Keene of Cochranville, Pa., who at 63 has fought his way back from devastating injuries suffered two years ago to ride his Sportsfield Candy to finish eighth on his dressage score of 54.1 and to be the Leading Amateur Rider in the 2* division.
"Exactly two years and a month ago, I broke my pelvis in three places, broke my back and my hip and broke my scapula down the middle," said Dr. Keene, a top veterinarian who not only cares for many other eventing horses but for years has been the chief vet for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. "I couldn't walk for five months."
Dr. Keene was riding a horse that he had bought for resale for the first time, and he was in an indoor arena.
The Horse saw himself in a mirror and wheeled and galloped off at full speed, dropping Dr. Keene to land hard on his back.
Despite those horrific injuries, Dr. Keene hardly missed a day of veterinary work while fighting to regain his strength and fitness.
"I'm over 60, but I was determined not to let that be an impediment to my competing," said Dr. Keene, who took over Dr. Danny Marks veterinary practice over 30 years ago and inherited many of Marks' clients, including Sheppard.
"IT WAS A real honor to continue working for Jonathan after Danny," said Dr. Keene, who now works out of his veterinary facility, Sports Medicine Associates, located on Hood Rd. in Cochranville, next door to Phillip Dutton's training facility.
"He's a beautiful horse and a new partnership for me," said Dr. Keene of Sportsfield Candy. "I've had him one year. He's a very kind horse. It was nice to finish Fair Hill on our dressage score,"
"Phillip had him in training," said Dr. Keene. "Phillip is extremely successful at matching horse and rider, and he said I should try him. I liked him jumping right away, but he was a challenging ride in dressage. Phillip said that would come."
"When I had had him for 10 months, I went to Millbrook in the Advanced, and we were double clean cross country, so we decided to try the Advanced at Plantation Field," said Dr. Keene. "Michael Etherington-Smith's courses are very fair."
Advanced is the horse trials equivalent of a 3*, and Dr. Keene finished 30th of 47 competitors at Plantation Field.
"But when it came to Fair Hill, Philip said the 2* is really a 3* and the 3* is a 3 1/2*," said Dr. Keene. "Derek (Di Grazia, Fair Hill's course designer) sets very challenging courses, and he rewards forward riding. This horse has a big, open stride."
Dr. Keene took advantage of that and rode a double clear, no jumping and no time faults cross country.
"I'm determined to keep going for as long as I think I can do it well," said Dr. Keene. "When I don't think I can do it well, I'll step down a level."
Before his accident, Dr. Keene had finished the Rolex Kentucky 4* on Fernhill Flutter, a horse he called a "great educator" and that he has since sold.
Now that he has finished two advanced horse trials and placed eighth at Fair Hill, Dr. Keene is ready to go on at the 3* level next spring.
O'HANLON WON the 3* on Foxwood High, adding 1.6 time penalties cross country and three time penalties in stadium jumping to her dressage score of 39.4 to finish on 44.0
Will Coleman of Gordonsville, Va., on Tight Lines was second internationally and was the National 3* Champion, finishing on 46.3, and Boyd Martin of Cochranville, pa., on Tsetseleg was third, adding just 1.2 time penalties cross country to his dressage score of 46.1 to finish on 47.3.
O'Hanlon was second to last to go in stadium jumping, but she purposely went slowly to ensure going clean and added three time faults to her score, knowing that a few time faults wouldn't drop her below Coleman.
That strategy worked as Colleen Rutledge of Frederick, Md., riding Covert Rights, who was leading going into stadium jumping, had three fences down to drop to ninth.
"I'm super excited for this horse," said O'Hanlon. I"I took the time to get a clean ride, and it worked. When I first started eventing him I couldn’t fit the strides in without choking him so I left them out and jumped flat. Now I can fit them in, but I am still jumping the verticals flat.”
"He was magic yesterday on the cross-country," said Coleman of Tight Lines. "I was thrilled with how he ran. He made it feel like it was well within his capabilities, and today he just tried his heart out. I think the horse's biggest attribute is that he just gives 100 percent all of the time. He's not the simplest, but he really tries. As long as you can harness that the right way, you can do some good things. We'll just try to reproduce it now over and over again."
"He's not the easiest horse to show jump," said Coleman. "I've been regularly showing him at A jumper shows. Last year, he had four down in show jumping here, so going clean today is a sign of progress."
"This is a newer horse for me," said Martin of Tsetseleg.“He came to me 18 months and to be quite honest I didn’t think much of the horse. He just doesn’t wow you at home, but when you get to a competition he all the sudden grows to about 17.2 and he jumps as high as you want to jump and moves like Totilas. We saw that this weekend, and I think he is a real proper four-star horse. The biggest thing is he is such a trier, gutsy trier. I think this weekend he just impressed me in every single way, and I think I have got myself a new, exciting four-star horse of the future.”
"I went easy on him on cross country," said Martin of his time penalties cross country. "This place has a big course and a lot of hills, so unfortunately I was three seconds too slow, but I could have been 20 seconds faster."
TAMRA SMITH of Murrieta, Calif., won the 2* on the 9-year-old Sunsprite Syrius, leading all the way and finishing on her dressage score of 40.9 to win with two fences in hand over Coleman on Off The Record, who also finished on his dressage score of 49.8, and Matthew Flynn of Reddick, Fla., on Get Lucky was third, adding .4 time penalties cross country to his dressage score of 50.0 to finish on 50.4.
In a very unusual result, 25 riders of the 61 starters were double clear cross country.
Competitors at the press conference following the cross country seemed to think that the unusually high number of double clear rounds was due to the fact that most of the horses competing in the 2* were very accomplished 2* horses, many of which had finished advanced trials and so were ready for the jumps and terrain at Fair Hill.
"It's amazing," said Smith. "I'm thrilled with my horse. He was perfect in every phase. He's ready to move up to advanced. He's always been very competitive. I've been riding him since he was 5."
"Any time you finish on your dressage score, it's a big accomplishment," said Coleman. "He's done it twice this year. He'll probably move up to advanced next year."
"It's always good to be in the winner's circle," said Smith, who also finished fifth in the 2* on Glock Pullman, on her dressage score of 51.2. "Sunsprite Syrius' owners have a small breeding farm in southern California. It's been a long road to get here, so I'm thrilled for them."