Lexington, Ky.—April 27—Liz Halliday-Sharp has barely had Cooley Nutcracker in her barn for a year, but she and the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tolant R x Ballyshan Cleopatra) have forged a formidable partnership.
Formerly campaigned by French rider Astier Nicolas to the CCI3*-L level, Halliday-Sharp and the gelding won the Rebecca Farm CCI3*-L (Kalispell, Montana) last year and the Bromont CCI3*-S (Quebec, Canada) before moving up the Advanced level.
Now he and Halliday-Sharp have taken the early lead in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S, scoring a 24.5.
“I'm just over the moon with him,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He's a young horse. I would say he's still quite green at the level. He's definitely a nervous horse, and he's very sharp, so it's taken a while to really get in with me. Today, he was the best he's ever been in the biggest atmosphere he's ever seen. So this, for me, is showing everyone what this horse is going to be, and that's so exciting. Now when we add strength to that—because he's still not even close to strong enough, I have to carry him a little bit—when we get the strength in there, I think he is world class.”
Cooley Nutcracker, who’s owned by Ocala Horse Properties, Renee Lane, Deborah Halliday and Halliday-Sharp, is a bit sharp, but very friendly to everyone in the barn.
“He's a very lovely kind horse,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He's very chatty; he's sort of that horse that you want in the barn that talks to you every morning when you walk in. But I'd say he is very, very sharp. I think people don't know that. He's sharp to people around him, he's sharp to horses. He's a tricky ride in the warm-up, very often in the show jumping because he's really nervous about people near the jumps. I have to ride him very tactically. He's definitely a professional's ride. I think a lot of it with him is the teamwork and him trusting me, and the more that goes along, the better he is. Today was proof of that because this would have been huge atmosphere for him, and not long ago, he would have been very spooky. So, he just really fought for me today. I'm totally thrilled.”
Tamie Smith slotted into second place on David and Julianne Guariglia’s Solaguayre California, a 12-year-old Silla Argentina mare (Casparo X Solaguayre Calandria). The pair scored a 27.6 from judges Robert Stevenson and Helen Brettel.
“That mare is quite green at the level, so that was one of her best tests,” said Smith. “She has another 6-12 months to be really strong and get lower, but she was really brilliant in her self-carriage and all of her movement.”
Smith, who’s based in southern California, typically comes east to test herself against other top riders, but she opted to stay home this year because it’s not an Olympic or World Championships year.
“The venues we have on the West Coast, although unique, are up to standard, and they definitely prepare the horses great,” she said. “We have quite a few really high atmosphere show jumping and dressage shows in our area, so I access those more because the eventing wouldn’t have quite as much atmosphere. It seems as though you have to go east to get the courses, it’s not necessarily that. It’s more that I have to prove that I’m worthy because how can they really compare who to take to a team competition unless you’re actually competing with and against your other teammates.”
“California” is aimed to the Luhmühlen CCI5*-L in Germany in June. Smith described the mare as sweet on the ground but fiery under saddle.
“She’s nothing like she is to ride,” she said. “Julianne’s daughter Caroline is 2, and she could lead her. She handles her, she brushes her, and she’s so demure and quiet and sweet, but once you get on her she’s like a fiery Latin lady.”
Dressage continues tomorrow for the CCI4*-S starting at 8 a.m. EST.
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