In its twentieth year of existence across two venues, the historic eventing competition known as The Fork kicked off at Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC) with dressage to launch three days of international and national eventing competition, with 225 entries presenting in the sandbox. Competition is open to the public and will continue through Sunday, April 10. Read below for updates and scores.
As eventers often say – cautiously or with relief – after the first phase, this weekend is not a dressage show. However, if it were, Liz Halliday-Sharp (USA) would be smashing it, and has set herself up with the lead in two divisions after her tours down centerline. In the CCI4*-S division, Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Moonshine, the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cobra x Kings Master) owned by The Monster Partnership, lead a field of 24 and hold a score of 26.0. Their nearest competitor at the moment is Will Coleman (USA) with Off the Record, who received a score of 27.2 with the 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse Gelding (VDL Arkansas x Ard Ohio) owned by Off The Record Syndicate. Also sub-28, Boyd Martin (USA) and Tsetserleg, the 15-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall *PG* x Buddenbrock) owned by Christine, Thomas IV and Tommie Turner, earned a score of 27.7 to sit in third heading into the show jumping phase.
Recovering from an injury, Halliday-Sharp reported that her tests were not at the level she knows they could be, but that it still felt good to be on top. “They’re both really, really lovely horses, and both somewhat inexperienced at this level, I suppose.” Cooley Moonshine did “a couple” four-stars last year, and it’s Shanroe Cooley’s debut at the CCI3*-S level.
“I suppose the best part was that I came out of both tests saying, ‘well, that wasn’t quite as good as it will be,’ knowing that they both need to get stronger,” Halliday-Sharp mused. “And there were a few bits that weren’t quite as polished as it could be. So, it’s always nice to get that sort of score knowing that it’s not the very best test they’ve ever done. I think the world of both of them, I think they have a huge future, and it was nice to come out and be able to be at the top.”
The CCI3*-S division may be a bit smaller than the CCI4*-S cohort, but Halliday-Sharp and the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Shanroe Cooley (Dallas VDL x Unknown) owned by Ocala Horse Properties nevertheless turned in a score of 26.4 to hold first position after day one. Lucienne Bellissimo (GBR) and Dyri, the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado x King Milford XX) owned by Horse Scout Eventing, are in pursuit with a score of 27.8, while third position currently belongs to Phillip Dutton (USA) and Cooley HHS Calmaria, the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Cyrano 145 x unknown) owned by Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp, after their 28.6 point performance.
Halliday-Sharp and "Dallas" are debuting at the CCI3*-S level this weekend, and assessed that the Cross-Country track set by Captain Mark Phillips (GBR) is “big, bold and forward, how Mark always designs it, which I think is good. I don’t think there are any overly technical questions,” she continued, “but the ones that are there need to be respected. And I know the time here is always quite difficult to get, so you’ve got to be really organized with your lines and be really prepared early on where you want to place the horses.”
Scoring the only sub-30 score of the CCI2*-S division, Doug Payne (USA) and Fenix Rouge Du Claux (Chef Rouge x Pixie Queen) currently lead on a score of 29.9 points. Lisa Borgia (USA) and Silmarillion, the 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Joey Franco x Little Missouri) owned by Lisa Borgia, scored 30.3 for reserve at the moment and Caitlin Romeo (USA) rode to a score of 31.8 for third with Fernhill B Good, the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ramiro B x Lord de Luxe) owned by Caitlin Romeo.
Payne and the 7-year-old Selle Francais gelding owned by Anna Antrobius have been working together as part of a tune-up for his young rider, Payne shared. “We’ve had him now just for a couple of months. But actually, after this competition, he’s going to go back to her, for her to campaign.
“He’s a lovely horse,” Payne reported. “He’s super consistent and steady, which is a really nice change. He’s not one that would get nervous, and he’s quite confident on the flat. Aside from one little miscommunication I thought he put in a very good test, really.”
On the whole, Payne noted, he’s riding horses at new levels where dressage is their weakest phase, and he’s excited to tackle show jumping and cross-country in the coming days. “We’re very, very lucky to have a great group of horses here. They’re all quite strong in jumping, you know, as a generalization, and conditions here are always very good. I’m absolutely looking forward to it.”
Marissa Griffin (USA) and Conguistador, the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Van Gough x Haarlem) owned by Marissa Griffin, danced to a score of 28.7 in the CCI 1*-S Division. Isabel Brunker (USA) scored 30.4 with her own 14-year-old Oldenburg mare (Riverman x Lycius), Allia, for reserve after Dressage, while third place belonged to Ashton Benfiel (USA) and Kingston Van Meerzicht, the 7-year-old KWPN gelding (Harley VDL x Indoctro) owned by Ashton Brooke Benefiel, after their 31.5 point performance.
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!