Mar 16, 2024

Miks Master C Passes the Test at SRF Carolina International CCI4*-S

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Liz Halliday and Miks Master C. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

Raeford, N.C.—March 16—With Paris Olympic team selection this summer as a big goal, Liz Halliday headed out onto Ian Stark’s CCI4*-S cross-country course today at the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International hoping to make the time with Miks Master C and show off a smooth round.

After leading the Yanmar America CCI4*-S division from day 1’s dressage on a 22.5, Halliday was able to accomplish both things and win aboard Ocala Horse Properties’ and Deborah Palmer’s 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Mighty Magic x Qui Luma CBF).

“I was really happy with him,” she said. “He was very thoughtful and organized with all the questions and galloped well and came back to me. That was sort of the big question. Obviously, he’s always going to be a strong horse—we’re not going to take that out of him—but he did come back to me and was then very thoughtful and organized and very clever on his feet. Today was a big test. I think we’re heading the right way.”

It's been nearly two years since Halliday took over the ride on "Mikki" after he was produced to the four-star level by Maya Black. Halliday’s always produced her own horses, and he was the first Advanced horse she’d ever taken on.

In 2023, they were third at Land Rover Kentucky in Mikki’s five-star debut and represented the U.S. on teams at Aachen (Germany) and the Pan American Games (Chile). They also won the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final at the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (Lexington, Kentucky).

“He had such a big year. He did so many things,” she said. “To be third at Kentucky and fifth at Aachen was incredible. He’s an amazing horse. He’s such a kind horse; he’s a very nice person in the barn too. He wants to do everything right, it’s just about keeping the happiness in him because he is very sensitive while being very powerful, so it’s finding that fine balance to keep him happy in his space and be able to work together.”

They’ll head to the CCI4*-S at Defender Kentucky next in April.

Thirty-three pairs started over Stark’s cross-country track today, and 32 finished. Three pairs made the 6 minutes 28 seconds time—Halliday and Mikki, Doug Payne and Quantum Leap, who finished sixth, and Canada’s Waylon Roberts and OKE Ruby R, who finished ninth.

Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake.

Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tolan R x Doughiska Lass) owned by Deniz Pamukcu, Mollie Hoff, and Sherrie Martin, finished second with 2.8 time penalties on a score of 30.7.

“He's like a little unicorn,” said Caroline. “In warm up I wasn't nervous. I was just looking forward to riding him. In my head I was like, ‘Oh, this is just a schooling round.’ I don't think I've ever been in a position in my career on a horse that it feels like a schooling round at the four-star level. This is his third Advanced now, and it feels like he's been doing it for 200 years.

“My thought going out there was, jump around clear and have an educational round, not a risky round,” she added. “‘Blake’ was a bit fresh in the beginning, so I went a little bit steadier, and then I made up a little bit time, but I didn't take any big risks. And that made me really happy because I only had seven seconds over, and I took no risks.”

Both Caroline and Blake have benefitted from the U.S. Equestrian Federation and United States Eventing Association pipelines—Blake won the 2020 USEA Young Event Horse East Coast 5-year-old Championship, then went to the 2022 FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding 7-Year-Old Championship at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France.

Caroline has been on USEF Under-25 and developing rider teams and was a USEF Futures Team Challenge rider this weekend with her other CCI4*-S horse She’s The One.

“You know, it works, and you can do it together,” she said. “I think sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, you need to go buy a going horse.’ No, you can kind of grow up together in the programs.”

Meghan O'Donghue and Palm Crescent.

Meghan O’Donoghue and her own and Will Duhring’s 18-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding Palm Crescent (Quiet American x Edey’s Village) were in the hunt all weekend and finished in third on a score of 30.9.

O’Donoghue’s big goal for the spring is Badminton Horse Trials (England), and after today’s run, she’s feeling well-prepared.

“I was here last year, and he and I know each other quite well. I had a bit of a flukey thing into the last water last year, and he ended up stopping,” she said. “Honestly it was a little bit of a preparation error on my part. I tried cross-country schooling a little outside of my box with someone else, and it just didn’t suit him. It’s just how things go. You’ve got to stick with what you know and trust your program.”

She was happy with all three phases this year though. “Today I went out with the mindset that he’s aimed at a five-star, and I want him to feel good about himself, but I haven’t been put in this position to be this competitive too often in my career yet, so I felt like I had something to go out and prove—I actually like the pressure and thrive under the pressure! Without being too crazy, I tried to make good choices and be as competitive as it was safe enough to do today.”

O’Donoghue is based in Round Hill, Virginia, and “Palmer” is her only five-star horse. She keeps busy with a small group of clients and is hoping to get more people involved in the future for her next top horse.

Jan Byyny and Chase Shipka produced the gelding, and O’Donoghue took over the ride in 2015. Because he’s been her only upper-level horse, she said she’s looked after him extra carefully and doesn’t often run for time or over-train for show jumping and dressage. His happiness and his health and making sure he lasts has been top priority.

“He’s full of personality, and he’s the king of our stable because he is our only top horse. He genuinely appreciates it. I feel like this weekend is a relief because I feel like it’s a place he deserves,” she said through tears. “You sit back and think, ‘Man, I wish I had five more years.’ I’m just lucky to be here and have this event with him. Whatever happens is just icing on the cake. He doesn’t owe us anything. But it’s nice to put him on the podium.”

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