Mar 21, 2022

Gearing Up for Le Lion with the 2021 USEA 6-Year-Old Horse Preliminary Horse of the Year Shanroe Cooley

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

From his first outing at the Novice level in 2020 to his last outing of the 2021 season at the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event at the CCI2*-L level, Ocala Horse Properties’ 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse Gelding Shanroe Cooley (Dallas x Shanroe Sapphire) amassed 15 wins, never placed out of the top three, and continues to boast a spotless cross-country jumping record. With Liz Halliday-Sharp in the tack, the young gelding’s consistency was rewarded by being named the 2021 USEA Preliminary Horse of the Year and the USEA 6-Year-Old Preliminary Horse of the Year. Looking forward, Halliday-Sharp hopes to campaign the young Irish gelding towards competing in the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships for Young Horses at the Le Mondial du Lion D’Angers in France, but looking back it seems like fate had a hand in placing Shanroe Cooley in her barn.

“I got him as a 4-year-old and it was kind of a funny thing, he actually wound up being a trade for another horse that I had as a sales horse that didn’t turn out to be quite what I hoped it was. So we traded out for Shanroe Cooley, which is crazy to me now with how great he is,” shared Halliday-Sharp. “I remember when I went and tried him and Richard Sheane said to me, ‘You’re not going to want to sell this one.’ Once I got him home and started working with him I realized that he was right and that he was an amazing horse. He then went on to win almost everything his 5-year-old year.”

But it wasn’t just Halliday-Sharp that “Dallas” was destined to be partnered with. When it was decided to sell the horse that brothers Chris and Rob Desino of Ocala Horse Properties owned for Halliday-Sharp, it was suggested that Shanroe Cooley take his place.

USEA/ Meagan DeLisle photo.

“Ultimately it was really wonderful to have Ocala Horse Properties decide to be involved with him so that we can produce him to be the superstar that I think he is. I wanted them to have a lot of fun with an up-and-coming horse and he was winning almost everything, so it all worked out to be perfect. We are trying to have horses for many championship years ahead and I believe that he is definitely a special one for the future.”

Ironically enough, when on a trip to Ireland Chris Desino spotted Shanroe Cooley and pointed him out many years prior to the start of their partnership with him, perhaps serving as a hint for what was to come in the future. “Chris saw him in a field and said, ‘wow, that is a beautiful horse!’ And I said, ‘well actually that is my horse so good choice!’ So he loves to say he spotted him in that field in Ireland as a 4-year-old,” joked Halliday-Sharp. “They knew the horse for quite a while so they knew he really was the real deal. We have such a good relationship, they are such good friends as well as supporters. It is really nice to have a horse like him that they can get behind and they know has so much potential .”

While Dallas lacks nothing in the talent department, he did have to overcome some initial greenness issues relating to his careful nature. Halliday-Sharp noted that they created a very structured training regime for the young horse in his early years to help him settle in and trust in his own competitive abilities.

“He is a really tall horse, he is almost 18 hands, but he is really light on his feet and athletic despite his height. He is incredibly professional in atmosphere, and he is very much a top competitor like that, he just gets it. He is actually quite a sensitive horse and is a bit of an internal worrier so I try to train him with that in mind. He does always try very, very hard all of the time so it's about giving him confidence in his work”

Developing that bond and partnership has paid off. Dallas steps into big environments such as the USEA American Eventing Championships with ease, which is why Halliday-Sharp is excited to gear him towards the ultimate test of atmosphere: Le Lion D’Angers.

USEA/ Meagan DeLisle photo.

“I love Le Lion and I think it is an event that you have to take the right horse to. Had I been in England still I would have taken Dallas as a 6-year-old, but I didn’t want to fly him over for that. I think as a 7-year-old, it will be perfect for him. He is exactly the type of horse I would take to Lion,” she shared. “What Lion really has is huge atmosphere and a lot of spectators and he is just the type of horse that isn’t really phased by that. I try to take a horse to Lion that the event will benefit their career and future and I think that Dallas is definitely one of those that will grow up from the trip and be a better horse from it.”

With that goal in mind, the plan is to compete Dallas at the three-star level for the majority of the 2022 season, with the potential of contesting a CCI3*-L early in the summer if the horse feels ready for it. He had his first outing at Intermediate at Ocala Winter I in early February finishing in fourth with just some time on cross-country added to his dressage score. Since then, Halliday-Sharp has been taking him around some of the 1.20m show jumping classes at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida to help him build his confidence around his innate carefulness.

“He is a wonderful horse all around, but he is an unbelievable cross-country horse,” commented Halliday-Sharp. “He gallops for fun. He has such a giant stride. You sort of think you are in fifth gear and then you realize you were just in third when you go to open him up. He has so much power and so much scope, it is a lot of fun to think about what is possible for the future with him.”

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