Nov 15, 2023

Reliving Le Lion: Chris Talley Shares All

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Chris Talley and Gina. Libby Law Photography photos

After winning the Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast 5-year-old Championships in 2021 and being the highest-placed 5-year-old on both coasts that year, Corwin Sport Horses, LLC's Hanoverian mare Gina (Gentleman x Ballerina) was a shoe-in for this year's Holekamp/Turner Grant to represent the U.S. at the 2023 FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships in the 7-year-old championship. Talley and Gina earned their qualifications to compete at the prestigious event held in Le Lion d’Angers, France, early on, solidifying their spot as this year's grant recipients.

Despite an unfortunate cross-country flag ruling that prevented the duo from completing the event, Gina showed all of the talent and will to succeed over the two phases that could be expected from this future bright star of the sport. In addition, Talley also took his own Irish Sport Horse mare Loughtown Cici ZA (CC Captain Clover x Castlelawn Diamond Clover) to compete in this year's 7-year-old championships.

The USEA caught up with Talley to ask him a few questions about his preparation for and experience at Le Lion.

Talk about your preparation for Le Lion and how you worked to get both of your horses geared up for the environment there.

"Ever since bringing both Gina and Loughtown Cici ZA over, we had put our sights on competing at Le Lion. After moving up to Prelim last year as 6-year-olds, we had targeted the Rebecca Farm CCI2*-L [Kalispell, Montana] with the thought being that if anyone needed to run another two-star long, they could do so in the fall. However, we were very fortunate that all three of our 6-year-olds achieved their qualifying CCI2*-L results at Rebecca Farm.

This year we targeted some of the bigger CCI3*-S's to get the horses into bigger atmospheres. We also took 'Cici' to the Devon Arena Eventing [Devon, Pennsylvania] which has a very electric crowd and atmosphere. Gina went to Dressage at Devon [Devon, Pennsylvania] in her 5-year-old year with Hannah Heritage, which set her up incredibly well for that year's YEH Championships, so we took her back to Dressage at Devon this year where Hannah rode her again, and we also took Cici. The atmosphere at Devon is one that is hugely beneficial to the horses so we were confident with how they would handle the crowd and atmosphere at Le Lion."

The atmosphere at Le Lion is unlike any other, how did you find that it affected you and your horses?

"I felt quite prepared in the preparation with both horses going into Le Lion. I spent hours watching videos from previous years, studying the crowds and their placement on the course. Both of these mares are extremely brave and tend to focus more on what they are being asked, rather than the crowds around them."

Talk about your overall impression of the championships at Le Lion and how you feel it fit into Gina’s development.

"The venue at Le Lion is absolutely amazing. I feel as though being able to get Gina in front of these crowds at the early stage of her career is hugely beneficial in her development. The cross-country course was absolutely breathtaking. The course was not overly large, however, it was technical and quite a twisty course from what we are used to here in America. It really kept the horses thinking from start to finish; I feel as though it helped strengthen our partnership. I couldn’t be more grateful for Holekamp/Turner Grant, who allowed us this opportunity to compete at Le Lion, which is an incredible steppingstone towards her future."

What was your favorite phase from the weekend?

"My favorite phase was cross-country. Crossing the finish line at Le Lion has been a goal of mine for a number of years, and it was an incredible accomplishment to achieve on two very special horses."

What does it mean to you to have won the Holekamp/Turner Grant and the Dutta Corp. prize, and how did that support help your team?

"It was a very special honor to receive the Holekamp/Turner Grant and the Dutta Corp. prize. Many top horses compete at Le Lion before going on to have incredible careers, so to be able to have the support to help make this possible is something that I am extremely grateful for. The experience it gave me as a rider, along with these horses, is something I will use, not only in their development, but in the next generation as well."

What advice do you have for first timers at Le Lion in the future?

"My advice is to prepare yourself as best as you can and take the time to develop the partnership with your horse. My advice in general with horses and experience is there is more to be gained from the experience, than not trying at all."

Do you think the pathway from YEH to Le Lion is a good approach in developing young horses and will you continue to gear your horses down that path?

"I do think it is a very good path, and I will continue to use this pathway in the future, keeping in mind that every horse is unique in their individual abilities and some horses may take more time to develop to this level. It takes a special partner to be able to handle this trip and atmosphere at 7 years old. In addition, it would be lovely to see a pathway to be able to compete as 6-year-olds in the CCI2* championship at Le Lion, as I believe every possible opportunity for these horses and riders to gain experience competing overseas makes for a greater depth of horses and riders for future international competition."

About the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program

The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses aged four- and five-years-old, that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the four- and five-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.

The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, SmartPak, Standlee, Parker Equine Insurance, Capital Square, Kerrits, HorseWeek, and The Jockey Club for sponsoring the Young Event Horse Program. Additionally, the USEA would like to thank The Dutta Corp., Title Sponsor of the Young Event Horse Championships.

About The Holekamp/Turner Grant

Founded in 2015 by Timothy and Cheryl Holekamp of New Spring Farm and Christine and T.J. Turner of Indian Creek Farm, the Holekamp/Turner Grant provides a USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championship competitor with the opportunity to represent the United States at the FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships in the 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L Championship at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France. With the sole purpose of paving a clear pathway for U.S. team horses to progress in the sport of eventing, recipients who are North American-bred will be awarded the full cash grant of $17,500, while imported horses are awarded $8,000. Additionally, The Dutta Corp. offers a prize to the Holekamp/Turner Grant recipient, consisting of a round trip flight from the Eastern United States to Europe.

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