Day two of The Fork at TIEC featured cross-country and show jumping competition hosted at Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC) as part of the three-day eventing competition. Upper levels contested show jumping in Tryon Stadium in the afternoon over the Dean Rheinheimer (USA) course, while levels Beginner Novice through Preliminary challenged the cross-country track set by Captain Mark Phillips (GBR).
Liz Halliday-Sharp (USA) and Cooley Moonshine (Cobra x Kings Master) were cool under pressure under the lights in Tryon Stadium, putting in a double-clear round to maintain their lead in the CCI4*-S division, bringing forward a score of 26.0 to Sunday’s Cross-Country test. The rest of the leaderboard also remains unchanged: Will Coleman (USA) and Off the Record, the 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse Gelding (VDL Arkansas x Ard Ohio) owned by Off The Record Syndicate, kept their score of 27.2, while Boyd Martin (USA) and Tsetserleg, the 15-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall *PG* x Buddenbrock) owned by Christine, Thomas IV and Tommie Turner, also produced a double-clear stadium round to hold third place and 27.7 points.
Halliday-Sharp and the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by The Monster Partnership had a “wonderful” round to keep their lead, though Halliday-Sharp admitted that it was a bit brutal to ride such a brilliant jumper while still injured:
“The show jumping phase was quite good on all the horses. Cooley Moonshine’s just incredible. He’s a really amazing horse, so I had a lot of fun riding him. He’s pretty hard on my body because he’s such an extravagant jumper, so I was a little bit beaten up at the end of that one! He was just wonderful,” she continued, “and it’s always a pleasure to have him in the ring, because he always fights for it.”
In the CCI3*-S Marc Grandia (USA) and Campari FFF produced a double-clear show jumping round in Tryon Stadium to rise to the top position after two phases on a score of 29.3. Liz Halliday-Sharp dropped a rail and added 0.4 for time to carry forward a score of 30.8, holding onto reserve with Shanroe Cooley, the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Dallas VDL x Unknown) owned by Ocala Horse Properties. Heidi Hewlett Crowell (USA) rode Tinraher Diamond, Craig McCallum’s 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Jack of Diamonds x Prospect Pride), to a double-clear round to keep their score of 31.0 and improve to third place at the moment.
Grandia and the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Camros x Ariadus) owned by Team Rebecca, LLC managed a clear round despite wind gusts that caused some trouble for the ring crew during the afternoon, he recapped. “It’s a big arena [Tryon Stadium] and sort of a spooky environment. The wind was blowing and fences were even falling over at one point because the wind was so hard. He just went in there and did his job!”
Using his time at TIEC to prepare for Kentucky, Grandia is still debating his Cross-Country strategy for Sunday, he admitted. “We’re here [at TIEC] for one final round of fitness and schooling before Kentucky in just a few weeks. The footing looks like it’s going to be just about perfect. I’m here for the fitness, and there’s a nice big hill at the end. I think I’d like to go around quickly with him, but I’ll decide in the morning.
“It’s a lovely venue. You feel very spoiled to get to come here,” he concluded. “I’ve been in the area for a few weeks. I got to go to Carolina, now I get to be here, and then I get to go to Kentucky. I feel very spoiled right now as an event rider! I want to thank the organizing committee and everyone who makes this possible, and to Team Rebecca, of course. They’ve given me an opportunity to ride a wonderful horse.”
Doug Payne (USA) kept his lead in the CCI2*-S Division aboard Fenix Rouge Du Claux, the 7-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Chef Rouge x Fleuron de Dun) owned by Anna Antrobius, adding nothing to their Dressage score of 29.9. Caitlin Romeo (USA) and her own Fernhill B Good, the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ramiro B x Lord de Luxe), improved from third to the reserve slot after posting a double-clear stadium round, carrying forward a score of 31.8. Kathleen Bertuna (USA) and Excel Star Harry, her own 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Luidam x Coolcorron Cool Diamond), currently hold the third place position on a score of 36.4.
Marissa Griffin (USA) and Conquistador, her own 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Van Gough x Haarlem), went double clear to protect their lead on a score of 28.7 in the CCI1*-S Division. A double-clear stadium round promoted Sandra Holden (USA) and Evil Munchkin, her own 19-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clearway x Caretino), to second place on a two-round total of 32.8. Ashton Benefiel (USA) and Kingston Van Meerzicht, the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Harley VDL x Indoctro) owned by Ashton Brooke Benefiel, hold their podium placing on a score of 35.5.
Griffin, who is contesting her first event at the FEI level, described the intimidating experience of being first in her order of go and warming up alongside other international competitors.
“I’ve had a great experience so far. This is my first FEI, and it was a bit nerve-wracking as the first rider in the one-star, so I had a warm up with all the people in the four-star and three-star. But dressage went really amazing, and my horse was perfect. Same thing with show jumping; I was the first FEI rider, so it was a little bit nerve-wracking also, but as always, he was perfect and amazing.”
By the time she arrived in Tryon Stadium for her show jumping round, Griffin admitted that her strategy was “to ride… to remember how to ride!” But the nerves and big atmosphere of the ring only gave her a boost, she reflected. “It’s obviously a very big atmosphere, so you come into it a little different, and it always seems to ride better for me that way. You come out happier because you just accomplished this big arena.”
Heading into cross-country on Sunday, Griffin is all excitement for her favorite phase of competition. Having previously competed at The Fork and also at the Tryon Fall Horse Trials, Griffin is pleased with her introduction to the FEI levels as part of her path up the levels.
“I recently moved up to Modified, and I want to move up to Prelim, so I thought I would try a few one-stars to start. They’re very friendly and a very nice introduction to FEI levels before I move up to Prelim, and then hopefully to two-star. I’ve been working a lot in dressage. We’ve had a wonderful experience so far.”
Amanda Walker wasn’t sure what she’d gotten herself into when she went to try Runaway Romeo as a potential sales project in 2018. The gelding was a bit bigger than Walker was looking for and was quite pushy coming out of the stall. When she got on, it didn’t get much better.
For seasoned and novice riders alike, it is always good to revisit the basics. Serving as the foundation for any eventer, the positions used on the cross-country course differ from those in the dressage or show jumping ring. The USEA tuned into five-time Olympian, three-time World Equestrian Games rider, two Pan-American Games rider, and USEA ECP certified coach Karen O'Connor as she walked coaches and students at the USEA ECP Symposium through the basic positions for effective cross-country riding.
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With the recent wrap-up of the 2023 Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) Symposium in Ocala, Florida, USEA Podcast Host Nicole Brown chats with ECP Faculty Members Jennifer Howlett Rousseau and Robin Walker about all things related to the ECP. From the USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels to the benefits of pursuing certification, selecting the best coach for you, recapping this year's Symposium, and more - this week's USEA podcast is the perfect educational tool for coaches and riders alike!