Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deborah Halliday’s Fernhill By Night, a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Radolin x Argentina XII, by Argentinus), cruised to the dressage lead in the Carolina International CCI4*-S prior to the lunch break on 27.9 and never relinquished it.
While rainy, chilly temperatures plagued the morning session of dressage today in Raeford, North Carolina, the conditions actually suited Fernhill By Night. Last year Liz elected to only target short format events with “Blackie,” and the strategy paid off with top-10 results in all of their CCI4*-S runs in 2018.
“We’re always trying to get him really sassy for a test because he’s a really sleepy person in the ring. … We’ve been teaching him a few piaffe steps and passage — anything to make it more fun for him. … He’s 16 now and he knows his job, and as long as we get him fresh and ready he delivers a good test. It’s fun to ride him because you know he’ll bring something good to the table,” Liz said.
“His niche is never running longer than 6 1/2 minutes — that suits him just fine. I think the horse really enjoys it now. He comes to the party knowing he’s not going to get exhausted. He knows he can do it. I think he’s built on that and become a better horse. It’s nice to have figured him out that way and accepted he’s not going to do Kentucky.”
Blackie finished second in the CCI4*-S here at Carolina last year, bested only by Doug Payne and Debi Crowley’s Vandiver, who sit second after dressage on 29.0. The stage is set for a Halliday-Sharp vs. Payne showdown.
“Quinn,” a 15-year-old Trakehner (Windfall II X Visions of Grandeur, by Mystic Replica xx), had a joint flush in his stifle last year after winning the CCI4*-S at Carolina and is fittingly returning to his first international competition this weekend to defend the title.
“It’s very rewarding because he’s the most genuine creature there is and wants to help you out,” Doug said. “It makes the job a whole lot of fun and fairly straightforward, especially with the jumping. On cross country he’s a seeing-eye dog.”
As for the dressage, Doug has worked with Grand Prix dressage rider Shawna Harding and U.S. Performance Director for Eventing Erik Duvander over the winter to finding better coping mechanisms for Quinn’s tension in the ring.
“He’s a horse that would get a little bit nervous,” Doug said. “We’ve tried to figure out a way to ride through the tension and take the energy and go somewhere with it rather than go hands-off and wait for something to happen.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp also holds third place with Deniro Z, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding (Zapatero VDL X Zonne- Trend, by French Buffet xx) owned by The Deniro Syndicate and Ocala Horse Properties, on 29.5.
“I think he’s getting better marks for the bits he does really well because he’s really pushing from behind now. He spent a bit of time with Robert Dover in Wellington, which was really amazing to have his insight — just teaching him to sit a little bit more because he’s naturally croup-high,” Liz said.
“He’s such a wonderful horse. He has such a great brain, and he loves his job and loves me — we have a great partnership. I think when all the pieces are aligned, he’s going to be unbeatable.”
Liz has been on a roll this winter — winning two Advanced divisions at Pine Top Advanced with Deniro Z and Cooley Quicksilver, who sits just outside the top 10 in his CCI4*-S debut, plus winning the $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing Invitational with Fernhill By Night.
“I’ve always been quite competitive, but I think there were a few pieces that needed to get better. A lot of it has been working with the right trainers. I tried to sit down and work out the bits that weren’t right. I think my cross country riding needed to improve. I think we’ve tried to get the horses a lot stronger. I think that’s made a big difference — working them for strength and getting them to use themselves better,” Liz said.
“Those overall building blocks of their strength and knowledge has made the horses go better, but it can always be better. At each event you learn a bit more, and having Erik’s guidance has been brilliant. My longterm dressage coach James Burtwell has also been there from the beginning with guiding me in producing these horses. I just want to be the best and I’m not, so I have to keep working hard.”
Kristen Bond and I’m Sew Ready Reunited
Today was a homecoming for Kristen Bond and John and Kristine Norton’s I’m Sew Ready, who were reunited for their first international competition since 2015 and lead the CCI3*-S on 25.6. Phillip Dutton campaigned the horse for the last three seasons, and now “Jackson,” a 15-year-old KWPN (Lupicor X Jarda, Elcaro) has returned to Kristen to be sold.
“We’re so happy to have him back. He’s the king. It’s pretty surreal,” Kristen said. “(The Nortons’) goal with him is to find his next home. He still has a lot to offer for sure. He’s a super horse. We want to find the right match for him.”
Kristen took Jackson to Gulfport in Mississippi to compete in jumper classes at the Gulf Coast Winter Classic in the lead-up to Carolina, and she said they plan to go back to jump again following this weekend as they look ahead to what’s next for the horse.
Holly Payne Caravella and CharmKing, an 8-year-old Holsteiner (Cassito X O-Heraldika, by Heraldik) owned by CharmKing LLC, scored 26.3 for second place in the CCI3*-S.
“He’s a funny horse. He can be really lazy but out of nowhere can do a buck or leap or something dramatic. He did do that in warm-up (today) when I thought he was quiet, but I found that if he gets it out of his system in warm-up then he’s usually a little bit better in the ring,” Holly said.
“Today was the first day I felt him go in and be a little bit nervous but still rideable. He listened to me the whole way even though I could tell the atmosphere was affecting him.”
Colleen Loach — who has a seriously nice group of young horses coming up the levels right now — sits third in the CCI3*-S on 27.0 with FE Golden Eye, a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Goldfever X Cascade, by Contendro I) she owns with Amanda Bernhard.
Andrew McConnon Bosses CCI2*-S
Andrew McConnon and his own Bossinova smoked the CCI2*-S on a 20.3, a personal best for the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Bonifatius x Dawina, by Der Lord).
“Overall he just feels stronger and more in front of my leg,” Andrew said. “He’s always good in the contact, but he’s taking me down the centerline and in the movements, which I think is where the extra marks came from. He can be economical at times. The atmosphere and a bit more going on definitely helps him.”
Hugh Wrigley and FE Santos, his own 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding, sit second in the CCI2*-S on 26.5. Waylon Roberts and Michelle Koppin’s Fortunate Rebel, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse, scored 27.4 to sit in third place.
Tomorrow will be yet another action-packed day at Carolina International. Advanced dressage starts at 8 a.m. EST, with CCI3*-S show jumping starting at 9:30 a.m. EST, followed by CCI4*-S show jumping at 12:30 p.m. EST. You can watch show jumping on EQSportsNet with fabulous commentary from Nicole Brown and friends. Click here for the full schedule.
Thank you to all the fabulous volunteers and everyone working hard behind the scenes to make Carolina International one of EN’s favorite events of the year. Go Eventing.