A rider from Europe and ‘a giant goof’ of a horse hold podium places at Maryland 5 Star

  • French rider Astier Nicolas has taken second place after the first day of Maryland 5 Star dressage today (13 October).

    Astier and the 11-year-old grey Babylon De Gamma – who belongs to his rider, Etienne Grivot, Marielle Grivot Bize and Benedicte Nicolas de Monval – scored 29.1 to sit 1.9 penalties behind overnight leader Woods Baughman.

    “We’re getting there – it’s not up to top standard yet, but things are improving,” said Astier. “It was a more established test than last year and there’s a lot more to come. He can do the movements, but we’ve been working on straightness, connection, the way of going.”

    The pair finished 10th here in 2021, but Astier said today that the horse had caught a cold on the plane over to the US last year, so was not on top form.

    “He feels very good this year, so there’s no excuse,” he said, talking about testing whether the horse has stamina over Ian Stark’s cross-country track.

    Astier also spoke about coming to Maryland again rather than his home five-star at Pau Horse Trials.

    “This horse is very sensitive to the ground and it’s more consistent ground here,” he said. “That’s the reason why I came and also it’s a great show.”

    US rider Liz Halliday-Sharp sits just 0.2 of a penalty behind Astier with another 11-year-old grey, The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Quicksilver.

    “He’s just a giant goof,” said Liz. “He’s made of rubber – he can turn himself inside out and scratch the top of his tail both sides easily – which makes him great to ride and also challenging on the flat. You can imagine teaching the horse to go straight has been interesting when you’re riding five different moving parts at once. But it makes him a really great athlete and he loves his job.

    “He’s extremely arrogant and he thinks he’s wonderful and you have to let feel that way. You can’t try and squash that, so it’s a give and take relationship. I’ve had him from a real baby, a very green five-year-old, so we know each other well now.”

    US world team silver medallist Tamie Smith is 0.1 of a penalty behind Liz in fourth at the halfway point of the Maryland 5 Star dressage, riding five-star first-timer Danito.

    “It’s quite electric in there and he got a little away from me towards the end and became strong, but he’s such a good boy so I’m very pleased,” she said.

    Owner Ruth Bley sent the now 13-year-old to Tamie three and a half years ago to sell.

    Tamie said: “I just loved him – he was kind of this spicy little thing, a little nappy and kind of a little troubling – but I just called her and said, ‘Are you sure you really want to sell him? I think he’s a great horse. And if he’s not then at least we can produce him through some decent levels and you could get some decent money for him’.”

    Tamie added that she felt Danito hasn’t had the coverage he’s deserved because he has been overshadowed by her eventing World Championship ride, Mai Baum.

    “But he has beaten him a couple of times on the flat,” she said – quite an accolade as Mai Baum is renowned as one of the best eventing dressage horses in the world.

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