There was a sense of déjà vu chatting with Liz Halliday-Sharp about the superstar young Irish Sport Horse Shanroe Cooley (Dallas x Shanroe Sapphire), owned by Ocala Horse Properties, LLC. The now 8-year-old gelding was the 2021 USEA 6-Year-Old Preliminary Horse of the Year and 2021 USEA Preliminary Horse of the Year and he followed up that impressive 2021 season with an even more exciting competition year in 2022 bringing home second in his first-ever CCI3*-S followed by two victories at the level. He had a top-five finish in his first CCI3*-L across the border at Bromont and then made his way overseas to place eighth in Halliday-Sharp’s goal event for the young horse: the highly competitive FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships for Young Horses at Le Mondial du Lion D’Angers. Add up all of those super results, and it's no surprise that Shanroe Cooley was awarded two USEA leaderboard titles for the second year in a row— 2022 Intermediate Horse of the Year and 2022 USEA 7-Year-Old Intermediate Horse of the Year.
When we last left off with Halliday-Sharp around in early 2022, her aim for “Dallas” was to build a competition year leading up to their debut together at Le Lion in the fall.
“Honestly, the season went pretty much to plan,” she reflected while hacking a horse out around her winter home base in Ocala, Florida. “He moved up to Intermediate and CCI3* as I hoped he would, gaining confidence throughout the year.”
Following his last outing in 2021 at the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event (Lexington, Kentucky) in October, Shanroe Cooley took some time off from horse trials until his kickoff event for the 2022 season in January at the Rocking Horse Winter I H.T. (Altoona, Florida). Following that Preliminary outing to get his gears going for the season, he made the move up to the Intermediate level at the Ocala Winter I Horse Trials (Ocala, Florida) in February where he placed fourth.
From there, Halliday-Sharp set her sights on the FEI levels, piloting the young horse to a second place finish in his first ever CCI3*-S at The Fork at TIEC (Mill Spring, North Carolina) in April. The next month, he would follow up that spectacular finish with a win in the CCI3*-S at the Tryon International Spring 3-Day Event (Mill Spring, North Carolina).
June would take him across the border to Canada to contest his first CCI3*-L at the Mars Bromont CCI where he would finish fifth, before returning home to the States to add another CCI3*-S win to his resume in August at the Mars Great Meadow International in The Plains, Virginia.
“Great Meadow was really the first time I put the pressure on him at all to sort of really make the time,” said Halliday-Sharp. “I knew the time would be difficult, and it was a huge class, and he led from start to finish. I was really proud of him there. I think that was sort of the first time he has ever felt under pressure on cross-country because he is such a huge galloping, big-strided horse who is so scopey, and he always seems to find it quite easy. There he finished, and he felt like, ‘Whew, I actually worked hard today!’ He doesn't normally feel that way, but I think it is good for their fitness to be in that place so I was thrilled with that.”
After Great Meadow, Dallas had another second place finish in Aiken, South Carolina, in the CCI3*-S at the Stable View Oktoberfest H.T. before packing up for his overseas adventure in France at Le Lion.
“He was very, very good at Le Lion and handled the atmosphere brilliantly like a true professional," said Halliday-Sharp. "He was outstanding in the cross-country and show jumping, and honestly he found that to be quite easy which is what I was hoping for. He went in and didn’t notice the crowds and was able to learn from that experience and gave me a wonderful feel cross-country. He was very brave and all of the things I would hope for and came away from it a better horse."
Seeing that goal for the talented young mount come to fruition was highly rewarding for his rider. “From early in his career, I always believed that he would be the type of horse to do well at Lion," she said. "He has always been a bit wiser than his years and has never really been phased by atmosphere anywhere. I felt that Lion would be a good progression for him, whereas some horses can get really fried there. You always want to bring the right horse there, one who is going to finish the weekend and be a better horse for it, not one who comes away a bit shell shocked.”
With their 2022 goal checked off their bucket list, Halliday-Sharp has her sights set on bigger and better things for the 2023 season with one condition: Dallas has to tell her that he is ready.
“For all my horses I have some ultimate goals for events, and my rule has always been that I let the horses tell me what they are ready for," she said. "I really stand by that, and it is something I tell the owners as well. I will tell them, ‘This is our goal, but the horse will tell us if they are ready.’ I think certainly with a horse like Dallas, while he is very brave, he is incredibly careful, and when he is new to a height or a level, he can go really high and kind of scare himself a bit. That is where I left it as we came into the 2022 season; I decided to move him up to 1.20m in the show jumping ring and then we would do his first Intermediate, and he would tell us if he was ready for his first CCI3*. And that is exactly how I am looking toward this season with him. I have a plan for him, and he will tell us if he is ready for that.”
What does that plan consist of exactly? “I would love for him to either go to the Pan American Games or go to Boekelo [the Netherlands]," said Halliday-Sharp. "He was such a good traveler to Lion, I would love that for him. He will aim for the selection trial in Ocala in the spring and will jump some bigger classes when he is ready with that in mind.”
For now, Dallas is coming back into work after a nice four-week vacation following his return home from France. He'll start competing in February.
While Halliday-Sharp takes her time getting her horses back into the show ring, even in the off-season she keeps them at peak fitness level by keeping the workload consistent.
“With all of my horses, when I work them, they work hard," she said. "That is what builds the muscles the right way is to work them properly; it doesn’t have to be for a really long time but it has to be a good session that builds the strength, especially early in the season."
One of the most special things about her partnership with Dallas is her relationship with his owners, “the boys” of Ocala Horse Properties, LLC, Rob and Chris Desino. Halliday-Sharp refers to them as some of her best friends and almost like brothers. At any event where Halliday-Sharp’s name is on the roster, you can’t miss the enthusiasm of the Ocala Horse Properties team as they cheer her on from the sidelines. And their support of her plans for Dallas and the other horses that they own is unwavering.
“They are very busy people, they work extremely hard, but they love coming down to the barn to see their horses,” Halliday-Sharp said. “All of the horses know them now as the guys who give them treats for no reason. They all go mad and start banging the doors when they see them. They love to come to the barn and watch their horses go, and then they want to see them all and will go out in the field to see them if they're out. They have always been really good about that; they enjoy the partnership with them too. It really is special.”
Dallas will begin his journey towards his 2023 goals with his first outing of the season in February at Ocala Winter I.
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