Home side rider Woods Baughman grabbed the lead as the final rider on the first day of the Mars Maryland 5 Star dressage today (13 October).
The 26-year-old scored 27.2 with his own and his parents Kim and James’ 14-year-old C’est La Vie 135, despite performing in torrential rain.
“We started hacking over and I was like, ‘This is a bad joke’,” said Woods after his test. “It just started getting heavier and heavier, so I got soaked completely but it’s worth it.
“It made the lateral work quite easy because he didn’t want to go straight. Whenever I put him into the shoulder-in to half pass, he was like, ‘Thank you’ and just wanted to go sideways and get away from the rein.”
Woods’ consistently high marks, with plenty of eights, were only interrupted by two fours and a five for the canter stretch circle.
The rider said: “He finds it so hard because he’s always a bit on the muscle so for him to reach down and stretch and keep his balance is really hard. With him going a little sideways in the rain, he just stepped out to the right a bit and stumbled, but everything else was about as good as I could hope for him to be.”
Woods and C’est La Vie 135 have won and been placed at four-star level, but things haven’t been smooth since they stepped up to five-star.
The rider admitted tonight he had been nervous for the first time ever at Kentucky Three-Day Event in the spring “and the result showed that”, with the pair finishing 28th with 40 jumping penalties across country.
They flew over to Britain to contest Burghley Horse Trials in early September, but were eliminated after three stops across country. Woods said he has been changing his tactics and bridle for cross-country since getting the horse home from there. C’est La Vie 135 was previously in a mullen mouth Pelham with a long shank.
Woods explained: “I’ve put him a softer mouthpiece, but with a combination noseband so he can’t cross his jaw any more. It still has the leverage, because he does like to flick his head up and then he runs into things because he can’t see them.
“So this bridle kind of has everything, but at the same time, it’s a softer bit in his mouth so he isn’t offended by it, so there is less headshaking. I think the other bit was too thick for him – he’s got a pretty small mouth – and if you took too much of a pull, he gave a violent headshake.
“We’ve been practising all summer making him just loop round his cross-country courses slow and easy, but then we thought, we never really had the discussion about when I say whoa, he’s got to whoa, because we were already going slow.
“Leading up to Plantation [in mid-September, where they finished second in the CCI4*-S], I’ve let him run run as hard as he wants on a loose rein, then eight to 12 strides in front of the jump, I have a serious, ‘Hey son, we’ve got to sit down’ and then I can soften in time that he can just step over the jump on his own in a good way. So that way we have a little bit more conversation instead of just hoping it works.”
Woods sits almost two penalties ahead of the rest of the field, with another 12 starters to come in the Maryland 5 Star dressage tomorrow.
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Credit: Pippa Roome
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