Clark Montgomery and Universe at Badminton - photo courtesy E-Venting

Clark Montgomery and Universe at Badminton – photo courtesy E-Venting

I caught up with American eventer Clark Montgomery on Friday evening, the night before his dressage debut at Badminton. Talk about southern hospitality! Clark is such a gentleman and had some great insight into the course and the event.

He finished today on 54.3 penalty points after his dressage test. Universe (Buzz) put in a good test, receiving many 7s and 8s but the halts did not score favourably with the judges and may have been attributed to the wind and general atmosphere in the grandstand.

We’ll catch up with Clark again tomorrow after his cross country, so stay tuned!

Celeste Wilkins (CW): In terms of atmosphere, what is this comparable to?

Clark Montgomery (C): I guess it would have to be Kentucky, that would be the only thing that is anywhere near what Badminton would hold. Over here I’ve done Blenheim, but that’s nothing like this and this horse didn’t do Blenheim. He went to Boekelo, that had quite a bit of spectators and atmosphere. They do a neat job with their corporate sponsors and everyone has tents around the main ring. He actually held his stuff together quite well there, so hopefully that won’t be an issue for him here.

CW: So, it’s just mainly the dressage that you’re worried about, with the atmosphere?

C: Yeah, just him getting nervous and tight. He can be a good mover but if he’s nervous and tight, well, he looks nervous and tight and that can get us a mark or two lower for each movement.

CW: And you’ve walked the course already, how many times have you walked it?

C: Just twice.

CW: And you’ll walk it another how many times?

C: Oh, I don’t know, I’m already starting to get sore… I’ll walk it again another two times.

CW: Any pertinent questions you see on the course?

C: Each question individually doesn’t seem too crazy, but all together they seem difficult. I think it’s more if you make a mistake or don’t ride correctly to the questions, then you may have a problem. If you ride really well I think the horses the horses will read everything positively and jump it. The [Horsequest] Quarry (Fence 3, 4 and 5) shouldn’t be a problem it’s early and straightforward right in front of you.

Fence 3 - courtesy E-Venting

Fence 3 – courtesy E-Venting

Fence 3 other side - courtesy E-Venting

Fence 3 other side – courtesy E-Venting

The [Irish Sporthorse Stud Book] Huntsman Close (6 and 7) is difficult, again if you jump in okay, then the C part is really the difficult part. You can’t see it – it is there. It will be a problem if you hit the bounce wrong. The Lake (Fence 9), looks okay, if your horse doesn’t jump into water or is nervous or spooky or if you have a bad jump into the water it may be hard to get to those narrows.

Fence 6 ,a large oxer in to Huntsmans close - photo courtesy E-Venting

Fence 6 ,a large oxer in to Huntsmans close – photo courtesy E-Venting

Direct route Fence 7 - photo courtesy E-Venting

Direct route Fence 7 – photo courtesy E-Venting

Fence 7A B - This shows how the brushes are angled, photo courtesy E-Venting

This shows how the brushes are angled at 7A-B, photo courtesy E-Venting

CW: Does your horse like water?

 C: He actually jumps into water pretty good. So hopefully he’ll be good there. So then you get down to the Vicarage V thing (The World Horse Welfare Footbridge at fence 15) and then the Mirage Pond, I think that’s difficult. I walked it today with David O’Connor and he said ignore the water part. Act like the water isn’t there and try to ride to those angled brushes like it doesn’t exist. That’s one question that if the water wasn’t there it would be straightforward, easy. That little pond though, if they react funny in that pond an throw your distances way off then the brushes, they’re big. If you hit the first one wrong you could be in trouble for the second one. The staircase- I think the staircase is hard if you’re on a tired horse. It’s way the heck up there. If he’s still on his legs okay and you hit the bank on a proper stride he’ll be okay, but if you’re on a tired one and you miss a little bit, I think you’re in trouble.

The Lake - photo courtesy E-Venting

The Lake – photo courtesy E-Venting

Footbridge at 15 with the massive ditch behind - photo courtesy E-Venting

Footbridge at 15 with the massive ditch behind – photo courtesy E-Venting

 CW: Obviously it takes a lot of consideration to get the fitness up to four star standard, can you tell us a little bit about your preparations leading up to this event?

 C: You have your whole fitness plan kind of planned out throughout the whole year and you try to have as little issues along the way, so you don’t have to deviate much from that. We’ve prepped with a couple events, we started out with a little OI (open intermediate), and then he’s done an advanced and a CIC*** at Belton where he ran really well. He’s got great gallops over here to get fit on. He should be fit enough to be comfortable at the end of the course.

 CW: It’s his first CCI****, are you nervous at all?


Don’t miss our Live Chat tomorrow!

 C: No, not really. Maybe it’s just because I’m concentrating on the dressage right now. I think all the jumps look doable, and he’s a fit little horse, anything could happen on the day but I think he’ll be okay!

Good luck tomorrow Clark! We’ll be rooting for you and Buzz!

Full dressage results here

*** BTW – We will be holding a Live Chat tomorrow on HJU starting at 5:55AM Eastern as we watch the Badminton cross-country action on FEI TV. To watch the live stream, you have to subscribe to FEI TV. It will not be available in the UK.

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