Apr 27, 2023

McEwen Takes the Top Spot After Day 1 of Dressage at Land Rover Kentucky

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Tom McEwen and JL Dublin. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

Lexington, Ky.—April 27—While Tom McEwen has enjoyed soaking up the local Kentucky bourbon and racehorse culture this week, the British rider came to the U.S. for a much more important reason—taking a shot at the top spot at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. He’s started his weekend off right, taking the lead on the first day of dressage with Jo and James Lambert and Deidre Johnston’s JL Dublin on a score of 22.6 in his first trip to the Kentucky Horse Park.

Nicola Wilson campaigned “Dubs,” a 12-year-old Holsteiner (Diarado x Zarinna) at the upper levels, winning the FEI European Eventing Championships in 2021. When Wilson incurred a serious fall at Badminton, the gelding was sent to McEwen to campaign.

“It’s a very new partnership, and I’m fortunate to get the ride on him,” said McEwen. “He's a pleasure. He got to go to Boekelo [the Netherlands] at the end of last year to do a four-long in the Nations Cup there, and he was amazing; a few things to get to know about each other, some hidden secrets we didn't know about each other which popped up there. To come second at Boekelo on the same score as the winner was amazing with so much to improve. Over the winter we've built our partnership and getting to know each other, and it's really shown today. There's still a little more polishing of the diamond to be done between the both of us.”

Dubs is a horse who rises to the occasion, according to McEwen. “Dubs is the kindest person you could ever meet,” he said. “He's lovely; he's soft. If I could put him into personality-wise, what you see in the arena is what you get. He's lovely; he's soft, kind. He loves just being on stage competing in front of people.”

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum.

The crowd was thrilled to see Tamie Smith take the early lead on her longtime partner Mai Baum, scoring a 24.2. While McEwen eventually bumped the pair to second place, Smith said she was happy with her ride on the 17-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Loredano 2 x Ramira).

“I think it was one of his best tests to date,” she said. “We've been working on him getting stronger and being in more self-carriage and being in front of my leg, and he answered all the questions super. I really couldn't have asked him to be better. Maybe I had a couple little tiny mistakes, maybe two, three little, tiny mistakes, but I was very pleased.”

Smith and “Lexus,” who’s owned by Alex Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell, represented the U.S. at last year’s FEI World Eventing Championships (Italy) and completed Badminton.

“I think with any horse as time goes on you hope to develop a very good trusting partnership,” she said. “The quality has always been very much there, but his confidence and strength has grown. I feel like the best way to describe him is like a hand in a glove. We think for each other. I think something, he does it. I look somewhere, he goes. He's just so with me, if that makes sense. That's the end goal, and it's been like that for the last few years for sure.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z.

Liz Halliday-Sharp, who took the lead in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S earlier in the day, slotted into third with Ocala Horse Properties’ Deniro Z, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Zapatero x Zonne-Trend), with a score of 29.0.

“Niro” had a hard spook up the first centerline, and missed one of his flying changes, but Halliday-Sharp was happy about the improvements they’ve made over the winter working with Grand Prix dressage rider Shelly Francis.

“When he’s a bit wild it’s because he’s feeling good,” she said, referring to the gelding’s exciting trip down the jog lane yesterday and his first centerline today. “Obviously, it wasn't our very best test today. Deniro saw something terrifying. We got three out of the four [changes], so I guess we should be excited about that. Actually, at home, they've been the best they've ever been this year, and I would say I owe a lot to some training I've done with Shelly Francis lately. She really changed the way I teach the horses to do changes, and I think it's made a huge difference to him. He's starting to really understand at least what he's supposed to do with the changes. The right to left has always been harder for him. They're physically very hard for him. I'd say at home we very rarely miss the right to left this year now, which is great.”

Dressage will continue on Friday for the CCI5*-L starting at 1 p.m. EST.

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