It was a strong start to the Aiken eventing season on Sunday as the Full Gallop Farm Horse Trials featured riders going beginner novice through intermediate. Aiken-based Gagne International Stables’ J.F. Gagne and GWF Sporthorses Sherry Hill can usually be found in the show jumping ring, but they were among the riders competing at Full Gallop, with Gagne going novice on Sherry Poplin’s mare PF Hala Dyanmo, and Hill having the catch ride on Donatella, the mare being owned by one of Gagne’s clients in Canada, with the rider/horse combination going beginner novice.

The two horseman had evented previously before transitioning to show jumping, and directed much of their energies on Saturday to dressage.

“We probably did like 20 horses, no stirrups, a lot of sitting trot, which we show jumpers aren’t used to,” said Hill.

The challenge of being strong in all three phases of eventing was one that the riders readily embraced.

“You have to have a horse that moves well enough for dressage, has enough blood for cross country, and then be rideable enough for stadium,” said Hill. “She’s dressage blood, but she’s very young and green. This is is her first show.”

Gagne and PF Hala Dyanmo, or Haley Dynamo, a six-year-old Arabian-Hanoverian cross, went novice on Sunday.

“This is a very willing and athletic horse,” said Gagne. “It’s great to have good owners and horses.”

The riders found themselves having to adjust to the size of the dressage ring.

“It’s pretty rare in show jumping that we find ourselves having to do flat work or jumping in such a small area, but it actually helped us in keeping everything structured, said Gagne.

However, the riders did find themselves making a number of adjustments as the day went on. Cross country provided the horsemen with a number of challenges.

“We needed a little bit more pace to find the jumps right out of stride, and to keep the horses forward and brave throughout the whole course, and not to take too much out of the horses in the first half of the course because there’s 17 jumping efforts,” said Gagne. “You have to be able to save your horse and keep them brave throughout the whole thing.”