By Leslie Potter/US Equestrian Communications Department
Lexington, Ky. – Friday night brought a familiar scene to the Rolex Stadium as Boyd Martin (Unionville, Pa.) took a victory lap with On Cue, the 2006 Selle Francais mare he co-owns with Christine, Thomas, and Tommie Turner. The pair turned in a double clear jumping round to finish at the top of the podium in the USEF Advanced Horse Trials National Championship, held at the American Eventing Championships.
“I was thrilled with On Cue,” said Martin. “She’s just everything you dream of in a horse. She’s a mover, she’s a galloper, she’s sensitive, she’s careful, she’s brave, and I’m just blessed to have her.”
Earlier this year, the pair were crowned champions in the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian at the same venue in On Cue’s debut at the CCI5*-L level. Martin has had the ride on On Cue since 2017, and together they’ve hit their stride in 2021.
“When I got her, she hadn’t done anything in two years, and initially Christine sent her to me just to get sold,” said Martin. “She wasn’t strong. She had lost a lot of fitness, so our first couple of years we did pretty good but it was a bit hit or miss. Something just clicked at the beginning of this year. I don’t know if she was stronger of if we really jelled as a partnership, but she’s been on fire this year…She’s feeling young and enthusiastic and she’s training well.”
On Cue is one of two horses Martin rode in the Advanced division at this year’s AECs, and after dressage, he was in the lead on his other mount, Long Island T, a 2006 Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding owned by the Long Island T Syndicate. But a rider fall on the cross-country course took Long Island T out of the running.
“It seems to be my habit. I fall off the first horse, limp to the barn, then hop on On Cue and go around like a rocket,” said Martin. “[Long Island T] honestly gave me the round of my life, and at the third to last jump, I got him to a horrible distance, and I just popped off him. That was a bit of a rough one, but On Cue is such a special cross-country horse that it didn’t faze me. I was really confident that she’d jump around well. She’s all class and I’m very grateful that Christine Tuner has placed her with me. She’s everything I could look for in a horse.”
Martin credits Peter Wylde, jumping coach for the U.S. Eventing Team, with helping improve On Cue’s performance in the final phase.
“On Cue was a reserve horse for the Olympics, so she flew to Germany and trained there with the team,” said Martin. “[Wylde] has been a magnificent addition, especially with Cue. She has been a little bit of a struggle in the show jumping, and to have that sort of intense jumping training leading up to Tokyo—and he’s been kind enough to train us leading up to this event—I think it really makes a difference.”
Doug Payne (Rougemont, N.C.) finished in the reserve champion spot with Quantum Leap, the 2011 RPSI gelding he co-owns with his wife, Jessica. The pair had a double clear jumping round after a clean cross-country outing in which they added only 5.6 time penalties to their score. The two solid jumping phases moved them up from 14th after dressage for their second place finish overall.
“It’s pretty special. I bought him as a weanling and he’s ten this year,” said Payne. “I think he’s an incredible athlete and I’m beyond excited for the future.”
This year’s AECs were a family affair for Payne. His sister, Holly Payne Caravella, also completed the Advanced division and his mother, Marilyn Payne, finished fifth in the Training Horse Championship.
“I think this venue is the best in the country and top in the world, really,” Payne said. “I absolutely love it and the cross country is amazing. My mom said it was always a dream of hers to ride through the head of the lake and the hollow and she got to do that here.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp (Ocala, Fla.), who is based locally in Lexington, Ky., for part of the year, also had a double clear jumping round on Friday night with Cooley Quicksilver, the Monster Partnership’s 2011 Irish Sport Horse gelding.
“I was absolutely thrilled with him,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He’s a horse I’ve had since the beginning of his career. He’s 10 this year, and he just keeps getting better. He galloped well yesterday and jumped really well today.”
After the cancellation of the 2020 AECs and the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event being run without spectators due to COVID-19, Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver both appreciated the crowd in the Rolex stadium.
“He loves big atmosphere,” said Halliday-Sharp. “It was so great to have a crowd again. I think I got a little excited when I finished; I said, ‘Wow, there’s people here!’ This is my first AECs ever since I was in England for so many years, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
See full results from the 2021 USEF Advanced Horse Trials National Championship here.