Tamie Phillips entered the $20,000 Odlum Brown Grand Prix at Langley’s Thunderbird Show Park’s Western Family with confidence. After all, she was fresh off a victory in the previous week’s $20,000 Maui Jim Grand Prix with her longtime mount, Ecatino. But when she walked Joey Rycroft’s course, she knew she would be facing a stiffer test.
“I thought it was more of a proper grand prix, and there were some good tests out there,” Phillips said. “I was somewhat confident, but I really hadn’t jumped a bigger grand prix in two years. I was really thrilled [with the result].”
Phillips and Ecatino, her 12-year-old KWPN partner of more than four years, came away from the class with a second straight grand prix victory at tbird.
Crossing the timers of Rycroft’s shortened track more than three seconds ahead of their nearest rivals, the pair was simply uncatchable.
“[Ecatino] has been jumping well here and really likes that tbird grand prix field. He thinks it’s great!” Phillips exclaimed.
“[Ecatino] did such beautiful job and jumped so well in the first round,” she continued, “but he came back out and was a little bit tired in the second round. I have jumped some very fast jump-offs with him, but today, I just gave him a nice ride. True to form, he kept the poles up.”
A key to this combination’s success has been Phillips’ sensitivity toward her horse, who can be “an anxious kind of guy.” Extra carrots at the ingate, long trail rides at their Calgary-based farm and a focus on fitness keep Ecatino happy, relaxed and show ring-ready.
“Everything is very calm [with him],” Phillips said. “As long as I can do that and make sure he doesn’t get too worried, he goes out there and give his all.”
The Western Family marked tbird’s biggest event since October, with the ongoing global pandemic forcing the cancellation of the venue’s spring season—along with other equestrian events across the country. While some riders traveled outside of the country to compete, Phillips remained at her home base throughout the period of downtime.
“We go back to basics in our downtime. I do feel like it gives us an opportunity to have the horses really fit,” she said. “Because there were no competitions, we did a lot of strength work and fitness. I felt like [Ecatino] came off the ‘COVID break’ in great condition.”
With the show calendar beginning to return, Phillips hopes to continue her strong form at tbird in August, when the venue will host three weeks of competition. Then she’ll venture to her home venue at Spruce Meadows, located just 15 minutes from her farm.
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