Lynn Symansky and her four-star OTTB Donner clinched the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred High Point Award at Rolex last week after holding off stiff competition in a three-day event hampered by bad weather on cross-country.
After other horse/rider teams had succumbed to falls, slips, and at least one rode out a hard stumble, Symansky piloted Donner (JC: Smart Gorky) a little slower than is typical for the pair, leaving the start gate near the end of the day.
Sire: Gorky Park
Dam: Smart Jane
Foal date: April 18, 2003With rain pelting down, and sloppy footing to contend with, Donner cleared fences with catlike curls over the top, rather than “soaring three feet above” as is his usual, Symansky says.
“I didn’t push him as much as I would have on cross country, just because of the conditions,” she says. “I had a good feeling on how he would feel on the ride though, because we rode the WEG (World Equestrian Games) last year, and it was horrendous. That four-star was quite an effort—Rolex conditions actually felt decent compared to that!”
The pair was challenged, however, by the first water. “I lost my footing on into it, and he twisted,” she says. “I’m lucky I’m on something so catty and quick-footed, so we were able to recover.”
Donner’s good judgment came to bear on the Coffin, which caused a refusal for Lainey Ashker and Anthony Patch in an earlier run, when the 12-year-old Thoroughbred put in an extra step and hop to clear the tricky obstacle, she says.
Despite the challenges, Donner never failed to give it his best, she adds.
“He felt fantastic the whole time, and tried his heart out,” Symansky says. “Even when the distances were a little funny, he just kept looking for the flags and moving forward.”
Donner’s greatest challenges came from the big atmosphere, she says. On dressage day, he had to be ponied to the show ring, due to the overwhelming atmosphere.
“He gets a little lost and panicky taking the long hack to the main arena,” she says, noting that though he didn’t score very well in dressage, she was very happy with him.
“The trot work was the best he has ever given me in the ring, which for him is huge; he is not the best mover,” she says. “But, we lost points for the halt and rein-back because he looked straight into the crowd and was tight and affected by the atmosphere.”
On show jumping day, he was a bit tight and had a rail.
The pair finished 12th overall and is weighing options for future competitions, even possibly a run at the Burghley Horse Trials. “Two four-stars is a lot on a horse,” she says. “But, I have to say he looks great. This was his second Rolex, his fourth four star, and he’s just a great athlete.” ♦
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