Kalispell, Mont.—July 21—Just as the sweat of the day started beading up on foreheads, CCI4*-L competitors entered the dressage arena at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana, ready to bring on a heat of their own. In many ways, this initial phase makes a first and lasting impression—a score that will be relentlessly chased throughout the weekend as the jumping phases stack up on the westward horizon.
Liz Halliday-Sharp took the lead, securing a dressage score of 25.6 aboard the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Moonshine (Cobra x Kilpatrick Duchess), owned by the Monster Partnership (Ocala Horse Properties, Rene Lane, and Deborah Halliday). It was a show of effortless adjustability and precision.
“We’ve been together since he was a 5-year-old, and every year he gets a bit better. He is naturally quite an edgy horse. He doesn’t look it a lot of the time but that’s a bit his style,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He’s got a lot of emotions.”
But it’s obvious that Cooley Moonshine kept those emotions in check with only the slightest shift of nerves being felt in the saddle. “There’s always things that can be improved. That’s a difficult test for him because he doesn’t have the best walk in the world but he definitely gave me everything he had, and I was really thrilled with him.”
Halliday-Sharp is in Montana with Cooley Moonshine thanks in part to the United States Equestrian Team Foundation’s Jacqueline B. Mars National Competition and Training Grant, and it’s one of her favorite events. “The Broussards do such an amazing job, and they try and make it possible for everybody to be here, at all levels, and they turned it into a real destination,” she said.
She also said that the course and the ground is notably good at Rebecca Farm, which understandably has her looking forward to the cross-country on Saturday. “He’s a strong, clean ride but he’s a brave, careful horse so I’ll just be going out to do the best I can, and keep him as organized as possible, and just keep fighting.”
Securing the second place standing coming out of dressage with a score of 30.8 was Buck Davidson, piloting the 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Business Class (Harlequin Du Care x Moxella), owned by Katherine O’Brien and only competed by Davidson three times.
“He’s a beautiful horse. There’s going to be a really good test in there. He sort of gets a little bit behind you,” said Davidson of his ride and taking stock of the quick bond that he shares with Business Class. “He’s a leave-me-alone, don’t-mess-with-me type of horse, and I think he’s a bit of an internalizer. He appears to be very, very quiet but you can feel him worrying. He’s got all the ability in the world, it’s just, like I said, this is only my third ride on him so I’m just trying to build a partnership and trying to give him some confidence that he can actually do this.”
And with a challenging four-star cross-country course designed by Ian Stark lying in wait, Davidson is eager to answer some tough questions that will most certainly be asked of the pair. “It’s not overly big but the distances are quite short, and there’s sort of a lot to do early in the course.,” he said. “There’s a lot of action quick, some moments to breathe and really gallop, but the horse has got to not only come back but keep the power for the jumps. The whole weekend is kind of a process so today was just the start.”
Taking the third position on the leaderboard was James Alliston riding the 9-year-old Oldenburg mare Karma (Escudo II x Travita), owned by Alliston Equestrian. The pair put out a cohesive, well ridden test despite what Alliston refers to as an abundance of energy that Karma possesses.
“She’s a beautiful mover, obviously, but she has a lot of energy so sometimes she’s not quite as relaxed as she could be,” he said. And Karma is also a creature of habit, so to speak. She likes her routine, and she likes her specific travel buddies in their designated spots, all to say that a very specific horse requires careful handling when trying to keep the peace and provide a stable environment. Alliston had some recent help in getting Karma geared up for this event. “I was working with Leslie Law, the USEF Eventing Developing Rider Coach, so that was really helpful. He was coaching me up all week. It’s no coincidence that we did our best test.” But what will the cross-country offer to this pair? Alliston is already sizing up the tricky questions that he’ll soon face.
“The first water is a big bounce. I’ve done bounces into the water but not sort of at that size—I don’t think ever—so yeah, it’s a really, really substantial bounce,” he said. “And then you have this huge log on the hill with a massive drop, with water running down the log, so that’s a very impressive fence. I think the sunken road is, for me personally, going to be quite a difficult fence because she doesn’t always step down down-banks, she’ll just sort of pop off them, so it’s going to make the distance in the bottom a little tight for us I think.”
Cross-country starts at 10 a.m. MDT.
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As Tropical Storm Ophelia brought soaking rains to the region today, the Plantation Field International continued its four days of competition with CCI3*-S and CCI4*-S show jumping and cross-country for CCI1*-S, CCII2*-S, and CCI3*-S divisions.
The USEA Area IX Championships took place during two different horse trials this summer, with the Modified Championships as part of the The Event at Archer (Cheyenne, Wymoming) in August and the Preliminary, Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice Championships taking place during The Event at Skyline (Mount Pleasant, Utah) in September. In addition, Area IX offered additional championship tests at the Starter and Tadpole levels at Skyline.
The CCI4*-S division at the 2023 Plantation Field International Horse Trials kicked off today with 39 horses headed down centerline. Local rider Boyd Martin of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, topped the leaderboard riding Luke 140, owned by the Luke 140 Syndicate, and is also tied for third (28.8) with the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B. Martin is also placed 23rd with Contessa, owned by the Turner family.
The United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) is humbled to announce the return of long-time partner The Dutta Corporation as the “Title Sponsor of the 2023 USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championships,” which include the East Coast Championships at the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill in Elkton, Maryland, on Oct. 19-20 and the West Coast Championships at Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles, California, on Oct. 27-28.