Raeford, N.C.—March 18—When Will Coleman first sat on Chin Tonic HS as a 3-year-old, he knew the horse oozed talent on the flat and over jumps, but his future as a top-level eventing horse wasn’t so certain.
“He was a pretty stunning horse,” he said. “You watched him trot up and you were just kind of drooling over him, even at that stage. I rode him in this very small indoor [in Europe], and you couldn’t believe that you were riding a 3-year-old horse. Just the presence and the way that he sort of just connected into the bridle was just a very incredible, athletic feeling but he was not really a galloping horse. He was more of dressage and show jumping breeding, so I think it’s taken him a little while to develop a step on cross-country.”
While Coleman still doesn’t think “Chin” is the most natural galloper across the country, the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Wildera), owned by Hyperion Stud LLC, has proved his prowess at the top levels of the sport in the past two years.
With Coleman’s eye on Chin’s first five-star at Land Rover Kentucky next month, he used Ian Stark’s CCI4*-S cross-country course at the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International as a prep run with his foot on the gas, and Chin answered.
After a record-setting 19.4 dressage score on Thursday and a clear show jumping round on Friday, Chin and Coleman zipped around Stark’s course to take the win. They were one of four starters to make the time of 6 minutes 33 seconds. Nineteen pairs started, and 17 completed. Ariel Grald withdrew Leamore Master Plan before cross-country, and Liz Halliday-Sharp withdrew Cooley Quicksilver.
New Zealand’s Hayley Frielick fell from Dunedin Black Watch at 13b a corner out of the water but walked off course. Lexi Scovil and Chico’s Man VDF Z were eliminated for refusals.
Coleman barely had a second to spare to maintain his lead as Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C were also quick, but .8 time penalties gave Coleman a tiny bit of breathing room and kept Halliday-Sharp in second. Local rider Will Faudree and Pfun moved from fifth to third with a double-clear.
“I still don’t think [Chin] is the most natural galloper on cross-country, but he has improved tremendously, and I do think he really enjoys it,” said Coleman. “I think his character, in that regard, is what makes it possible for him to be a successful upper-level event horse. I think Kentucky will be a big question for him, but I feel like he’s feeling more and more ready all the time.”
With this win, Coleman becomes the first three-time winner of the CCI4*-S division at Carolina. He won in 2021 on Off The Record, who he took a tumble from in show jumping yesterday, and with Dondante in 2022.
“I feel like a pretty lucky guy that I have had three horses to bring, and they have all performed really well and tried hard for me,” he said. “Mostly, I am just proud of the horses and our team, our program, my wife, staff, coaches, vets, farriers, owners especially. It takes a village, and I’m thankful to have a really nice group of people helping me.”
Coleman said the key to getting the time at Carolina, where sections of the courses wind through pines trees over moderately undulating terrain, is to be quick and efficient in the most open part of the course, which was at the start this year.
Stark had hoped to put the more challenging parts of the course at the end, which held true, as the final water jump field included the Yanmar Water at 18, a set of brushes at 19ab and two open rails and a skinny at 20abc, all in quick succession and surrounded by spectators.
“I thought Chin Tonic was great through [the first part of the course],” said Coleman. “He was very neat. I thought we were hyper-efficient. Really, all the way through the first water everything was going to plan. In the woods, I don’t know if maybe the ground was a little wet today and felt a little slippy, but I felt like he maybe lost a few seconds coming through the woods there. Coming out to the final water, I knew I was going to be pretty close so I kind of saw one from a ways out to that last water. It was kind of wheels up time for Chin and he answered the bell. He was a really good boy.
“I think he tried really hard, and I did press on him quite a bit there, but I think the stage he is at in his career he’s sort of ready to maybe have a little more pressure on,” he continued. “He answered the call really nicely for me. I’m very tickled for him and happy for his owner Vicky [Castegren] of Hyperion Stud. She’s had the horse with me since he was about 4 years old, so it’s been a long road to here, and we’re just happy and excited and now looking ahead.”
Halliday-Sharp is also looking towards with Kentucky with "Mickey," an 11-year-old U.S.-bred Swedish Warmblood (Mighty Magic x Qui Luma CBF), owned by Ocala Horse Properties and Debbie Palmer.
“He was fantastic. I’m totally thrilled with it," she said. "Some of the distances were a little challenging because they were quite short, and he’s a big, bold, big-striding horse, but he was with me the whole way. I had a few more controls than I expected, which was a good thing, but I probaby over-set him up at the odd place, which is probably why the .8 time faults, but that’s totally fine looking ahead to the future. He is just a world-class horse, and I had a really great round on him, and I feel like we’re a real partnership now.”
TerraNova Equestrian Center in Myakka City, Florida, held its first CCI4*-S competition in the fall of 2021 and is now gearing up for the location’s third-ever FEI event and inaugural spring event this weekend during The Event at TerraNova which takes place March 30-April 2.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
Many riders across all levels have found that working with young horses has provided them with the most valuable experiences in eventing. The opportunities for young event horses have never been more exciting. The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast and West Coast Championships continue to grow in profile as the culmination of a calendar of qualifying events is expanding to more areas of the country. More American riders and their young horses are aiming for the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion D’Angers, France, particularly thanks to programs like the Holekamp/Turner YEH Lion d’Angers Grant. That’s become one of the most attended sporting events in the entire country. It’s given young event horses from the United States a chance to represent the growth of the American eventing community’s dedication to properly developing talent in the sport.
Galway Downs International Horse Trials, held in picturesque Temecula, California, will host the West Coast’s top riders this weekend as they prepare for their spring three-days, along with horse trials divisions from Advanced through Beginner Novice. This year features record turnout, with 320 entries across all divisions.