Icabad Crane had a busy week. On Wednesday, he returned to trainer Phillip Dutton’s West Grove, Pa., base after spending the past three months at Dutton’s winter quarters in Aiken, S.C. But while the horse headed south at the beginning of the year as an eventing prospect, he returns as a winner.
Icabad Crane won his first competition at Aiken’s Full Gallop Farm Horse Trials March 30, taking the Beginner Novice C Division with a score of 32.10. The mark was good enough to tie Purple Mor and rider Caroline Day for first in the division, which included a dozen entries.
Dutton “couldn’t be happier” with the performance at the event and with the former stakes horse’s continued steady progress.
“Icabad is a natural,” said Waylon Roberts, Dutton’s assistant. And Roberts should know. The Canadian is the son of Olympic Three-Day Event riders Ian Roberts and Kelly Plitz, who own and operate Dreamcrest Farm in Port Perry, Ontario. Roberts’ first international competition came in 2002 at the FEI Children’s Jumper Championships in Brazil when he was just 14. Five years later he returned to Brazil as the youngest member of the Canadian Three-Day Eventing squad, bringing home a team silver medal from the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. Roberts rode for Canada five times at the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships, earning a team bronze medal at the games in 2006. He had known Dutton on the eventing circuit for years and jumped at the chance of a job a little more than three months ago.
“Icabad was great (at Full Gallop Farm),” he went on. “He looked the part in dressage and just skipped around everything else. He was like an old pro.”
He explained the level at which Icabad Crane competed, called Beginner Novice.
“It’s designed for young or inexperienced horses; it gets them used to the way the day works with eventing,” Roberts said. “They do a basic test that is sort of a series of 20-meter circles and walk/trot/canter, and then the show jumping is nine or 10 fences at about 2-foot, 9-inches high. And then cross country is another 15-16 jumping efforts. We had a bank, a ditch, a water crossing. It’s just to get them used to galloping out, and you’re running against the clock for an optimum time.”
Icabad Crane incurred no penalties or faults in either cross country or show jumping, finishing the competition on his dressage score. “And he had a very good dressage score,” Roberts emphasized.
By any standard – and at any level – eventing competitions are hectic and challenging.
“You’re on and off them three times, you’re busy changing tack and there’s a lot going on in the day to get them through an event,” said Roberts. “But Icabad was really well settled. Sometimes the Thoroughbreds off the track will get really excited with the loudspeakers and all the horses buzzing around, but none of that seems to bother him at all.”