Raeford, N.C.—March 16— Will Coleman came to the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International with two totally opposite horses in Off The Record and Chin Tonic HS, but at the end of dressage day for the CCI4*-S, they both proved they have one thing in common—talent in the sand box.
Off The Record, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Arkansas x Drumagoland Bay) owned by the Off The Record Syndicate, was the first of the two to go this morning and scored a 22.1 from judges Robert Stevenson at C and Andrew Bennie at B.
“Off the Record wouldn’t be the best in cold weather,” said Coleman, Ocala, Florida. “He is such a stiff horse by nature, but I really thought he warmed up great. The test was maybe a bit safe, but it was really clean. He is just becoming a consummate pro—I am really proud of him. I think maybe I could have gone for a bit more expression at times, but he just felt like he was maybe holding just a little bit, and I didn’t want to push him out of rhythm and make a mistake. I rode just to try and execute a clean test. Oddly, it makes a nicer picture than it feels when you ride him like that so maybe I should do that all the time.”
After the lunch break, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C bested that score with a 20.1, but then Chin Tonic HS turned heads as he cantered down centerline, scoring a 19.4—a personal best four-star score—to take the lead out of 25 pairs to start.
“Chin Tonic is truly the polar opposite [of Off the Record],” he said. “He is like riding cooked spaghetti, but he is just so incredibly elastic with these amazing gaits. I think there are still things to get better at—obviously I missed one change—but he seems to be maturing in a good way, and we are just going to keep working and trying to get a little better.”
The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Wildera), owned by Hyperion Stud LLC, is prepping for his first five-star at Land Rover Kentucky in April after finishing second at the Tryon CCI4*-L (Mill Spring, North Carolina) last fall and spending some time in Europe over the summer.
Coleman credited work with dressage coach Ian Woodhead over the winter for the improvements in both horses.
“I don’t think there has been one thing that I’ve been like, ‘Oh we need to do this.’ Dressage is all about developing your horse to their physical and mental peak, and you’re never really done,” he said. “I don’t think I am doing anything different. I have got a good program with my wife [Katie Coleman] and my staff and my coaches. We know we’re not good enough yet and are just trying to get a little bit better.”
Will described “Chin” as a male version of Mariah Carey—a bit of a diva. “He has this very boyish quality about him,” he said. “He’s kind of one of those good-looking guys who knows he is good-looking. He is very sweet, and he is really amazing with my kids, but he has this colt-y side to him. He is flamboyant and needs a lot of attention. I don’t know Mariah Carey personally, but I can imagine a bit like that. He is a lovely horse, but he’s a big mush at times.”
Will is a two-time winner of the Carolina International CCI4*-S—with Off The Record in 2021 and Dondante in 2022—and he continues to come back as a prep run before the big spring three-days because he’s a fan of cross-country course designer Ian Stark’s big and bold but fair tracks.
“I think, especially for ones going to Kentucky or Badminton or any five-star, I think this course gives them a taste of what five-star is going to feel like with the jumps in the water, proper coffin, some bigger questions,” he said. “He’s added a little more technicality to it this year. I think it’s a great track, and it’s always a good test. For me, it’s just a good way for me to gauge where my horses are at. It is far enough away from Kentucky that you can still make an adjustment or do something else if you need afterward.”
Halliday-Sharp has only had the ride on Miks Master C, an 11-year-old U.S.-bred Swedish Warmblood (Mighty Magic x Qui Luma CBF) since last May, but they’ve become fast friends, winning two four-star shorts last year, representing the U.S. on the Nations Cup team at Boekelo (the Netherlands) and winning the $50,000 Grand-Prix Eventing class at Bruce’s Field (Aiken, South Carolina) two weeks ago.
She took over the ride on the gelding, who was bred by Laurie Cameron, after he’d competed to the CCI4*-L level with Maya Black. He's now owned by Ocala Horse Properties and Debbie Palmer.
“I thought it was a lot better test than the one he did at [Bruce’s Field], which is great to improve upon in two weeks,” she said. “It is still very much a work in progress, I’ll be honest. I was thrilled with the score, and I really believe he is capable of scores in the teens regularly, but he is still not quite strong enough yet, and he gets a little bit tired in the ring. He has so much power that he kind of bears down on me a little bit and then sometimes some of the marks aren’t perfect just yet.”
Halliday-Sharp’s been riding “Mickey” in a double bridle on the flat to help him learn to carry himself more.
“It is just all power, and he doesn’t know where to put it sometimes,” she said. “I thought he tried really hard. He is a really genuine, lovely horse, and he made a big effort today to do the best he could, I thought.”
Mickey is 70 percent blood and “can gallop like no one’s business,” according to Halliday-Sharp, and she’s spent the winter getting him stronger. He’ll do his first five-star at Kentucky.
“I actually really wanted him to do a course that is ditchy with some really big drops in the water; that’s something that he needs to practice regularly, so I wanted to have all of the boxes ticked before we went to Kentucky,” she said. “I always sort of thought this would be the right run for him."
Show jumping for the CCI4*-S starts on Friday at 1:50 p.m.
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