May 11, 2023

Halliday-Sharp Has the Lead on Day 1 at Tryon International CCI4*-L

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Nutcracker. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

Mill Spring, N.C.—May 11—While Liz Halliday-Sharp has only had the ride on Cooley Nutcracker since last year, the pair have made big strides in getting to know each other.

A trip to the Tryon International for “Bali’s” first CCI4*-L last November ended in a bad luck fall at the end of the cross-country course, but the gelding’s come out much stronger and more educated this spring, according to Halliday-Sharp.

The pair led the dressage at the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event two weeks ago, and despite a frangible pin activation, finished an otherwise clear cross-country round and added nothing to their score in show jumping to finish ninth.

Now they’re in a similar position at the Tryon International Spring Three-Day in the CCI4*-L division, leading after Thursday's first day of dressage on a score of 27.4.

“I think he really turned the corner the week before Kentucky,” said Halliday-Sharp. “At Kentucky, he really started to trust me. He was very good today; I was very happy with him. He still runs out of steam a little bit in the ring because he pushes so much. He’s still a bit weak and green, and that’s where he nearly died on me before the second change, but he’s just grown up exponentially in the last month, which is very exciting because he’s still a young horse.”

Bali, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tolant R x Ballyshan Cleopatra) who’s owned by Halliday-Sharp, Deborah Halliday, and Ocala Horse Properties, was quite green at the three-star level when she took over the ride from France’s Astier Nicolas. Bali had been to the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding 7-Year-Old Championship at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France, but both Nicolas and Halliday-Sharp knew he needed more time to gain strength, especially on the flat.

“We didn’t hurry him up to Advanced last year, and we let him tell us when he was ready,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He still needs a little more time to be where he’s gonna be, but for where he’s at as a 9-year-old, I’m thrilled with him. It’s just been chipping away because he’s a very sensitive and sharp horse. He’s doesn’t look it in the ring, because we have quite a good partnership now, but he’s very sharp and sensitive, so it’s been about finding the right bit—a double bridle with a fat eggbutt as the bridoon and a nice baby Weymouth—and what works on him and what he’s comfortable in. He’s sensitive in the mouth as well. That’s turned a corner. Sometimes they do just figure it out and then take a breath. I think that’s what he’s done.”

Halliday-Sharp’s looking forward to Mark Phillips’ cross-country course on Saturday.

“[Bali] was here in the fall, and we had a freak thing right near the end of the track—he got a bit big for his boots and didn’t listen to me at the end, and we had a fall at the second to last when we were on time,” she explained. “He’s a much more educated horse now, and I think it will be a good course for him. I’m just going to try to think of the future and give him the best ride I can.”

Tamie Smith and Elliot V.

In a bit of Kentucky CCI4*-S déjà vu, Tamie Smith, who just won the CCI5*-L at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event on Mai Baum, is sitting right behind Halliday-Sharp on the Elliot V Partnership’s Elliot V, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Zavall VDL x Vera R).

“The heat definitely felt like it zapped him, and I felt like I had too much warm-up,” she said of her test, which scored a 32.8. “That was kind of a bummer because it felt like I was really on to something at Kentucky, and he just didn’t have quite the same pizazz that he normally has, but he was still very obedient. In six months when he keeps gaining the strength that he’s gaining, it’s going to be really great. I had to really work to keep him together, but he was super obedient, and that’s what I’m after. The tension has always a little bit taken over and helped him with the strength piece. Now I’m seeing him be less tense and seeing a little bit more of his weaknesses, but I’m still very pleased with him. I think the judging is quite hard, but they’re judging everybody equally, so I’m happy.”

Smith said that the Kentucky course suited Elliot V, who’s a big, rangy horse, and she's hoping he'll be up to the challenge of Tryon's.

“It starts out with big, galloping jumps in the open, and I like that,” she said. “The middle piece gets to be really twisty and turny, and then you kind of open back up into a big, galloping course again with some very technical skinnies towards the end, so that’ll be very interesting with the horses towards the end of the track for them to answer and not get weary and dull-minded to answer those technical skinny questions. It’s a really interesting course. I think [Phillips] did a lot of really interesting questions with the terrain. I’m hoping [Elliot V] goes and zips around like nothing.”

Kentucky CCI4*-S winners Karl Slezak and Hot Bobo (VDL Arkansas x Taneys Leader) are currently third on 33.0. Tomorrow’s dressage will feature the remaining 10 pairs in the CCI4*-L starting at 8:30 a.m. EST.

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