Marc Donovan delivered a devious show jumping track for the Yanmar America CCI4*-S riders at the 2023 Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International, presented by Lumbee River Membership Corporation. While the earlier two- and three-star divisions saw relatively little change following their show jumping performance, the four-star class had a very different fate. Will Coleman still heads up the leaderboard, though, after a dramatic afternoon that saw only six of the 25 starters finishing with a clear round.
Third-placed Off The Record surprisingly saw his jockey on the ground after a communication breakdown before the third fence that Will describes as very out of character for his 2021 Carolina International winner “Timmy.” “Really I was so shocked. I had no idea what happened. I can’t explain it. I just got a sore ass to prove it,” Will said.
After he dusted himself off and prepared to enter the arena a second time with overnight leader Chin Tonic HS, a farrier emergency further derailed his plans.
“It didn’t feel like he was jumping as well as he can,” Will said of Hyperion Stud’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ – Wildera, by Quinar Z). “It was sort of an odd course I thought. A little counterintuitive in a lot of places, which can be good, you know, just to kind of keep us on our toes. But it definitely felt maybe not as smooth as some rounds. But you know, he tried hard. We had sort of just sort of a messed up day, he pulled the shoe right before I was about to go and then you know, he’s a very hot blooded horse so kind of the start-stop thing with him would be kind of not the ideal scenario for us to jump well. Maybe that contributed to just not maybe feeling as good as normal. But you know, he’s a quality horse and he tried hard. So he left them up. I think I’ll touch that last one pretty good, but got a bit lucky. And, you know, now we’ll go on to tomorrow.”
Will, like many professionals, has put in the hours for the mental fortitude that can make or break competitors in eventing, and he tapped into those reserves before his ride with “Chin” today. “You just got to forget about it I guess, you know? My bum hurts a little bit but other than that, I tried to just put it out of my mind. Stuff happens. You gotta be a goldfish, like Ted Lasso [says],” Will said.
They carry a score of 19.4 to the final phase where Will says he plans to be as competitive as possible as he narrows in on a potential third win at Carolina, having earned the title in the previous two editions with Off The Record (2021) and Dondante (2022).
Liz Halliday-Sharp is keeping the heat on Coleman with her superstar Miks Master C. Debbie Palmer and Ocala Horse Properties’ 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Mighty Magic – Qui Luma CBF, by Flyinge Quite Easy 958) is normally quite a big-striding horse, but even he upped the ante for the Kentucky-based rider.
“They’re all a bit feral today. Like all my my three Star horses were wild as well, but he was really good. He’s gotten a lot better. I definitely have my hands more full than I usually do with him now. I feel like we’re pretty gelled now in the jumping, and today, he was sort of extra horse,” she said.
Liz has had the ride on Mickey for less than a year, so she says she’s just now putting the pieces together with the new ride “With Mickey it’s always tricky because you have to, like Peter Wylde says, ‘Make the time without telling him you are.’ Because if I get him wound up, he’s got such a gigantic stride. I mean, all the distances are short for him. And so I have to be careful, I don’t just let him loose, especially when he’s feeling a bit wild anyway. I knew the time was tight enough, so I had to make sure I made the time but was organized at the same time,” she said, crediting her show jumping coach Peter Wylde for the pair’s improvements.
“It keeps me chill in my head,” she said of Peter’s coaching which in the past has helped her achieve clear rounds at venues such as Boekelo. “It keeps me in a good place that way. I think for us at this level, we don’t need someone bugging us all the time about everything. We just need to fine tune details and figure out ways to help the horses be their best selves. And that’s what he’s really good at. I mean, the course walking with him is invaluable.”
Doug Payne was the very first rider to show that a penalty-free performance was possible with Starr Witness, who now sits in third.
With the 12-year-old KWPN mare (Chello III VDL – Carmen, by Veneur), who is owned by Laurie McRee, Catherine Winter and the rider, Doug focused on riding his turns well to produce a good round. As the age-old saying goes: “Good turns make good fences.”
“Everything is built to spec and quite square and the difficult thing about that field is the undulation, so a bunch of the oxers were kind of off a little bit of a rollback, a little bit of a hill. So if the horses got back in the turn or not connected they could end up weak, sort of climbing up to it,” he said. “It’s deceptive. If you really had them up to your hand mid-turn I think it came smoothly, but if that fell a part then all the sudden it got a lot more difficult pretty quick.”
In addition, Doug has been focusing a lot of his energy on creating a good shape from “Ginja” over fences this winter. “She’s quite careful. Sometimes in the past she’d be ultra careful. She’d go sky-high in front and not quite as good behind, but she’s really finishing behind. I’m trying to do my best to keep her engaged and coming forward,” he said.
You won’t see Doug necessarily chasing the clock tomorrow, despite his current placing, as he aims for big things to come later this year. “I’ll go sort of efficiently fast,” he said. “It’s not make or break for her — that ultimate goal is the three-star long at Tryon to finish the qualifications for the [Pan American Games].”
Despite it being their first four-star together, Boyd Martin piloted Commando 3 to a double clear result today to move into fourth place.
DSN Equestrian Ventures purchased the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Connor 48 – R-Adelgunde, by Amigo xx) for him only months ago, and Boyd was smitten at first sight. “As soon as they pulled it out of the stall that just had this championship look. It just oozed with class,” he said.
A new ride can always have its challenges, especially when facing such a testing show jumping course, but “Connor” rose to the challenge for the American stalwart.
“I just sort of went in there not knowing what to expect. This is by far the biggest, trickiest, spookiest course me and Connor have ever looked at so I didn’t quite know how we’d handle it. By the time he jumped fence one I thought to myself we’re in business. He was fantastic around the track,” Boyd said.
Two of our top four riders also joined the 25% clear rate: Boyd with Miss Lulu Herself (8th) and Doug with Quantum Leap (12th). We also owe an honorable mention to Canada’s Lindsay Traisnel who was just two seconds away from a double clear after leaving all the poles in place. She’s seventh with Bacyrouge on a score of 32.2.
Twenty-one pairs will go up against Ian Stark’s four-star course tomorrow beginning at 11:48 a.m. You can follow along live with the action on Horse & Country’s live stream. You’ll need an H&C+ subscription (you can save 15% off an annual subscription here using code EVENTINGNATION15 – the code is case-sensitive – this weekend only!), or you can also purchase a one-time viewing pass for this event for $19.99. Click here to access the live stream.