Courage and cleverness, those were two of the adjectives used by Grand Prix rider Harold Chopping to describe Aiken-resident Paddy Ann Burns’ Zangersheide gelding Calando Z. The rider/horse combination had to play their speed card again on Sunday as they earned blue ribbon honors in the Aiken Spring Classic $25,000 Grand Prix at Highfields Event Center.
Chopping and Calando Z made their presence felt at the Aiken Spring Classic Friday night winning the Masters Week Welcome Stake, in a class where they had to go a bit faster in the jump-off course to defeat Gonzalo Garcia and Harley’s Heaven, while navigating around a course designed by Michel Vaillancourt. Friday’s class served as a harbinger of what was yet to come on Sunday as Chopping and Calando Z, would find themselves having to ride once again for speed, to defeat another professional, whose quick turn of foot on the short track is no secret, on yet another track designed by Aiken-resident and internationally renowned course designer Michel Vaillancourt.
A total of 14 rider/horse combinations composed the field for the $25,000 Aiken Spring Classic Grand Prix, and the first round course designed by Michel Vaillancourt, featured 12, 1.50 meter obstacles and 15 jumping efforts. Chopping, is a three-time Canadian Nations Cup team member, and the other horse he exhibited in the class, Kendra Bullington’s mare Patent Pending, won the Aiken Spring Classic Grand Prix in 2012. Chopping and Patent Pending would be the first of seven to qualify for the jump-off, turning in a fault free effort and stopping the timer in 73.707, well below the first time round allowed of 78 seconds.
They would be joined by Aiken-based DFG Stables’ Daniel Geitner and Jumbo Jet, Victoria Press and Cayenne 140, Victor Segovia and Romeo, Stephen Heinecke and Aaron 287, Chopping and Calando Z and Mario Garcia and Corona Du Domaine Z, would all go clear over a first round course that rode bigger than it looked, catching riders on both the first and latter halves of the course.
“There were two lines, from two to three, it rode a little shorter than it walked, and from the oxer up hill after the triple,” said Chopping, who celebrated his birthday Saturday. “It was a little tougher, and rode bigger than it looked when you walked the course. In the ring, you always have to be a little more aggressive than you think. You’re walking the track, and you think you’re going to be able to be smooth, and then when you’re doing it, there’s always a little more involved.”
The short course featured seven obstacles and eight jumping efforts, and provided a fair test for the remaning rider/horse combinations.
Chopping challenged Calando Z during the jump-off, and the chestnut gelding responded. The rider says Calando Z merits a great deal of respect because of his courage, his willingness to try anything, and his trust in the rider.
“In the jump-off, he left steps out, when I think it was kind of difficult to do, and when you’re riding, you’re asking them to do these things you know they can do. but physically they’re still putting a lot into it.”
And, although Patent Pending didn’t defend her title, Chopping was very pleased with the mare’s performance in the class. Patent Pending would be the first horse to go double clear, and her short course time of 39.120 would be good enough for third.
“She responded nicely and did exactly what we asked,” said Chopping. “I did what I wanted to do with her. Our plan was to not get carried away, overdo it with her, and overcook the whole thing.”
However, a rider/horse combination renowned for their speed around jump-off courses, shaved nearly a second off of Chopping and Patent Pending’s time as Daniel Geitner and Ann Ritter’s Jumbo Jet completed the course in 38.278.
“He was great,” said Geitner. “I went as fast as I thought I needed to. That’s the luck of the draw. Harold had already gone on one, and knew what he needed to do. He did eight down the last line and I did nine, so that may have been the difference, but we were pretty close. It was a great day, and good show jumping.”
Victor Segovia and Romeo placed fourth, and 14-year-old Victoria Press, riding Cayenne 140 in her first Grand Prix, would be the fifth and final double clear round of the class. Press and Mayfair won the USHJA International Hunter Derby on Saturday.
Chopping and the Danish Warmblood Caramo placed fifth in the International Hunter Derby. The gelding shows great promise but is new to the international hunter derbies, he said.
“He’s a good hunter, but these derbies, especially the ones at night, like the one last evening, got a little late for the second round,” said Chopping. “That’s the real test. You saw a few horses being a little fresher and noticing the crowd. I thought he held it together pretty well. I was very pleased.”
The rider/horse combination did their first international hunter derby this past winter in Ocala, Fla., placing fourth in a competitive class featuring 41 exhibitors. Saturday evening’s international hunter derby was only the second time Caramo went at that level. Chopping and Caramo will do next month’s international hunter derby in Atlanta.
Daniel Geitner and Zodoro had the second highest point total in Saturday’s USHJA International Hunter Derby handy round, placing fourth overall on the horse owned by Robin Hughes. Zodoro took a year’s respite from exhibiting, and Saturday evening was his first show back.
“He just went right in, and caught the big gallop at the first jump, and he was just on it,” said Geitner. “He knew. He remembered real quick about the handys. He was on, He jumped in turn, and I caught a nice, big gallop in jump at the hand gallop, at the end.”