A few years ago, Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp decided that Fernhill By Night would no longer compete at CCI-L events – instead focusing on CCI-S events. Since then Deborah Halliday’s 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Radolin x Argentina XII) has gone from strength-to-strength with seven top-10 CCI4*-S finishes in the last two years and nearly always leading after dressage. So it was no surprise today to see Halliday-Sharp and “Blackie” on top of the Cloud 11~Gavilan North LLC Carolina International CCI4*-S leaderboard earning a 27.9 from judges Sue Baxter and Mark Weissbecker.
Halliday-Sharp was probably the only person enjoying the cold wet morning as she said, “With Blackie we are always just trying to get him sassy because he is a sleepy person in the ring. I think the temperature definitely helped him that it was freezing and windy and all of that. I did very, very little like always do.”
“We have been sort of teaching him to do some piaffe-y steps and then a big passage-y trot so that he gets open and things that make him find it more fun because he knows these tests after so many years,” continued Halliday-Sharp. “I did a [Prix St. Georges] with him in Wellington this winter which was really fun and helped him come on a bit. I think the judging has been tough today, but I think in most arenas he would have scored better – there wasn’t much he did wrong. He is 16 now, he knows his job. As long as we get him fresh and ready he delivers a good test. It is always fun to ride him because you know he is going to bring something good to the table.”
Watch Blackie's test:
Halliday-Sharp has really figured out the secret to success for Blackie and has the freedom to set his schedule to match it. “I try to take him to the fun, big events and it is great for me as well to have another horse that is competitive. It keeps me pressing on at that level – keeps your edge in a little. His niche is never running longer than 6 and ½ minutes. I think the horse really enjoys it now. He comes to the party knowing that he isn’t going to get exhausted. He knows he can do it and he has become a better horse for it.”
In addition to Blackie, Halliday-Sharp has two other rides in the CCI4*-S – the Monster Partnership’s 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Cooley Quicksilver (Womanizer x Kylemore Crystal) who is making his debut at the level and scored a 34.1 for 12th place – and Deniro Z who sits in third on a 29.5. Owned by the Deniro Z Syndicate and Ocala Horse Properties, the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Zapatero VDL x Zonne-Trend), Deniro Z is coming off a win at the Advanced at Pine Top H.T. last month.
“Deniro has really come on in his strengths, but there were a few mistakes in the test which I think were expensive,” said Halliday-Sharp. “I think without them he could have beaten Blackie. He hasn’t done a test since Pine Top, so I think it will be good for him to do another test at The Fork and get those little kinks ironed. I think overall his work has improved this year. He spent some time with Robert Dover this winter which was really amazing to have his insight. He is such a wonderful horse, he has such a great brain, he loves his job, and he loves me – we just have a great partnership. I think when all the pieces are aligned I think he is going to be unbeatable.”
Halliday-Sharp has five other horses competing at Carolina this weekend in addition to her three CCI4*-S horses. “I feel really lucky – virtually every horse in the barn I have produced from a 4- or 5-year-old which is great. It is kind of fun to see them all reaching maturity and see them all stepping up and being as cool of horses as we thought they were.”
Last year’s Carolina International CIC3* winners, Doug Payne and Vandiver, were the final pair of the day to enter the dressage ring and the pressure was on to deliver a test which would put them in striking distance of defending their title. Scoring a 29.0, the 15-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II x Visions of Grandeur), owned by Debi Crowley is making his return to the FEI level after nearly a year off.
“He has had a stifle thing since he was a 5-year-old and there was never anything super traumatic, but it got to the point where there was nothing besides going in with a scope. They were able to clean up some old damage that has been there forever – it wasn’t like there was an acute injury. He probably feels the best he ever has since I have been riding him,” explained Payne.
There isn’t even a rail separating the top-six in the division so anything can happen tomorrow. “You want to win every event you go to. The pressure is always can you repeat it? He was the best he has ever been today. I have to thank Shawna Harding and of course Erik [Duvander] for all of their help. It is very rewarding because he is the most genuine creature there is and wants to help you out and it makes the job a whole lot of fun. He is a horse that would get a little bit nervous and Shawna and Erik and really helped me find a way you can ride through the tension and take the energy and go somewhere with it rather than go hands off and wait for it to explode,” concluded Payne.
The final pair of the day in the CCI3*-S, Kristen Bond and I’m Sew Ready, also made a statement as they went into the lead with a 25.6. This is Bond’s and Kristine and John Norton’s 15-year-old KWPN gelding (Lupicor x Jarda) first event back together since 2016. Eight pairs are still left to do dressage in the CCI3*-S to round out the division.
The lowest score of the day went to Andrew McConnon and his own 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Bossinova (Bonifatius x Dawina), who took a commanding lead of the CCI2*-S with a 20.5.
Competition gets back underway tomorrow the CCI3*-S finishing dressage at 8:00 a.m. Show jumping then begins at 9:30 a.m. for the CCI3*-S with the CCI4*-S starting at 12:30 p.m. The CCI2*-S runs cross-country beginning at 1:30 p.m.
You can follow all the action on the live scores here or by watching the live stream on EQSportsNet and thanks to a recently announced partnership with the USEA, registered viewers will be able to watch live and on-demand coverage at a discounted rate. Sign up for your EQSportsNet subscription at www.eqsports.net and enter the code EQUSEA2019 during registration.
Results from day one of the USEF/USET Foundation North American Futures Team Challenge are:
1st Place - Team Leslie Law - 92.2
Chris Talley with Sandro's Star - 29.5
Elinor O’Neal with Zick Zack - 30.0
Alexandra Baugh with Mr. Candyman - 32.7
(Cosby Green with Highly Suspicious - Friday dressage)
2nd Place - Team Erik Duvander - 95.8
Sydney Conley Elliot with QC Diamantaire - 29.0
Hallie Coon with Celien - 32.3
Caroline Martin with Danger Mouse - 34.5
(Ariel Grald with Leamore Master Plan -37.2)
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
While Great Britain has a strong lead in the team competition at Tokyo 2020 after the second session of dressage, the USA has climbed up two places to ninth courtesy of Phillip Dutton’s score of 30.5 on Z.
The world number one Oliver Townend has put Great Britain in gold medal position after the first of three sessions of dressage at the Tokyo Olympics.
Second into the arena, Townend delivered an extremely accurate performance and did not waste a mark on the flea-bitten grey 14-year-old Ballaghmor Class to score 23.6 - the fifth-best mark by a British rider at an Olympics, according to EquiRatings.
It’s the turn of the world’s best eventing athletes to stand under the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games spotlight over the next few days as all but one of the horses presented at this morning’s horse inspection at Baji Koen Equestrian Park were confirmed for action by the Ground Jury.