Chin it to Win It: Will Coleman Bests Dressage Lead with Second Horse

Will Coleman’s exceptional up-and-comer Chin Tonic HS delivers his first 4* sub-20 to take a narrow lead. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dressage day at the 2023 Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International was a ping pong match with the indomitable forces of Liz Halliday-Sharp and Will Coleman volleying back and forth for control of the Yanmar America CCI4*-S. Ultimately, it was Will who came out ahead with the only sub-20 result of the class.

While his first ride, 2021 victor Off the Record, took the early lead, it was stablemate Chin Tonic HS who shut down the afternoon. The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ – Wildera, by Quinar Z) earned a four-star personal best of 19.4 for his efforts with several scores of nine scattering his test sheet.

“He’s like riding piece of cooked spaghetti,” Will said of “Chin” who was sourced by Vicky Castegren’s Hyperion Stud. “But he’s just so incredibly elastic and he has these amazing gaits — I think there’s still things to get better at, obviously, and I missed one change, but he seems to be maturing in a good way and we’re gonna keep working to try to get a little better.”

Despite the misstep in the second flying change, Will, who trains with Ian Woodhead on the flat, earned a 72.29% from Bobby Stevenson (USA) at C and 81.90% from Andrew Bennie (NZL) at B. For Will, there haven’t been any lightbulb moments to produce the horse on the flat, but rather a close attention to detail in his day-to-day training.

“[I’m] just trying to do everything a little bit better. I don’t think there’s been one thing that I’ve decided, ‘we need to do this.’ Dressage is all about developing your horse to their physical and mental peak, and you’re never really done. So I don’t think I’m doing anything different; I’ve got a good program with my wife and my staff and my coaches. We know we’re not good enough yet. I’m just trying to get a little bit better,” he said.

If you’ve ever wondered if some horses know how truly talented they are — wonder no more because “Chin” is keenly aware of his place in the spotlight. “He’s like Mariah Carey — a total diva,” laughed Will. “He’s just kind of one of those good looking guys that knows he’s a good looking guy.”

Recent Bruce’s Field victors Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C sit in a close second at the culmination of the first phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Riding for Debbie Palmer and Ocala Horse Properties, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C brought forward a score of 20.1 for second place. Partnered with the 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Mighty Magic – Qui Luma CBF, by Flyinge Quite Easy 958) for just over a year, Liz says she feels like the partnership is really starting to come together, though they certainly have already had a big start to the season with a win at the Grand-Prix Eventing Festival earlier this month.

“It’s still very much a work in progress, I’ll be honest. I was thrilled with the score and I really believe he’s capable of scores in the teens regularly. But he’s still not quite strong enough yet and he gets a little bit tired in the ring,” Liz said. “He’s just got so much power that he kind of bears down on me a little bit. Some of the marks aren’t perfect yet: the halts weren’t 100 percent. The reinback is getting better — it was something that he needed a lot of work on when I got him. That was actually quite a lot better today, so we’re heading the right way with that.”

For a powerful horse like “Mickey”, Liz says the challenge is not about producing excellent movement, but instead it’s about polishing and managing his natural ability. Part of it, too, has been about refining the tack choices she opts for.

“I’ve been riding him in the double just to try and teach him to carry himself and not just become a big freight train. It’s just all power and he doesn’t really know where to put it sometimes,” she explained. “He’s got a lot of power. Amazingly, he’s 70 percent blood. He’s by Mighty Magic, so he’s super blood, and he can gallop like no one’s business. I think we’ve spent the whole winter getting him really strong now because he was quite weak and wiggly when I got him last May, and now he just doesn’t really know where to put [that power]. Because it’s like, all there. And I’m like, ‘Come here, just come down a little, you don’t need to go that big with the legs.’ But it’s a work in progress. I think when we get it polished in another few months, he’ll be unbelievable.”

A run here at Carolina is a calculated plan on Liz’s part with even bigger goals toward a five-star debut later this spring. “He’s going to do his first five star at Kentucky, and I wanted him to get two four-star runs in before that. I actually really wanted him to do a course that’s ditchy with some really big drops in the water. That’s something he needs to practice regularly. So I just wanted to have all the boxes ticked before I went to Kentucky. I’m just tweaking a few things, but the only way I’ll really know what I have is if I really let him go on a proper course,” she said.

It’s a good day in the office for Will Coleman: though he sacrifices his morning lead with Off the Record, he remains third going into the jumping tomorrow. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Will’s World Championship silver medalist Off The Record, who led the morning session, ended the day in third on a first-phase result of 22.1.

“Off the Record, he wouldn’t be the best in cold weather — he’s such a stiff horse by nature. But I really thought he warmed up great and the test maybe was a bit safe, but it was really clean. He’s just becoming a consummate pro; I’m really, really proud of him,” he said. Still, he says, there were moments in the test where he felt he could have eked out a few more marks.

“I just think maybe I could’ve gone for a bit more expression at times. He just felt like he was maybe holding just a little bit, and I didn’t want to push him out of out of rhythm and make a mistake. So I rode just to try to execute a clean test, and oddly it makes a nicer picture, maybe, than it feels when you ride him like that — so maybe I should do that all the time!”

Doug Payne and Starr Witness sit fourth overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Today’s score of 24.6 wouldn’t be and all time best for Starr Witness, but Doug Payne was pleased as punch with the little wins he achieved with the 12-year-old KWPN mare (Chello III VDL – Carmen, by Veneur).

“I think she was she was very, very good. It was freezing this morning, so I think she still was a fraction on edge, but I couldn’t be happier with her overall progress and the trend she’s setting this year. That’s really exciting,” he said.

The pair lost a couple of marks when the mare fizzed out of the corner, but nonetheless, that moment was one of Doug’s proudest: “I tell you what, in the canter medium, she went to start in the corner and she almost went to do a little spook sort of thing, and historically, that would have been a much bigger deal. So I think, although it’s probably the worst score in the test, I was actually most proud of her there because she put it right back together unbelievably quick, and then we were able to ride the rest of the movement. I think it’s a sort of indication of where she’s at in her progression, and she’s just trending better and better.”

Boyd Martin’s new ride, the exciting Commando 3, delivers in their first international together to take fifth provisionally. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Commando 3 landed in Boyd Martin’s barn just a few months ago, but the new relationship is blossoming for the veteran rider. The 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Connor 48 – R-Adelgunde, by Amigo xx)owned by DSN Equestrian Ventures was produced and ridden through the four-star level previously by Swedish Olympian Louise Romeike before finding his way stateside.

“I tried him in the middle of last year, and then again, I snuck up there when we were in Europe training for the WEG,” Boyd said. “Luckily for me, it was at the same time Louise fell pregnant, so it was sort of perfect timing on both ends that she was in a position where she’d sell him, and I was very, very grateful that I could ride the horse.”

In this, their first International outing, they produced a score of 25.8 for fifth place, and the rest of the weekend will be a learning opportunity. “We’re still very green. We’re still trying to get to know each other, and this is a huge challenge. We’ve done one Prelim and an Intermediate, out at Thomson, Georgia, so this is a big step,” he said.

Despite the unusual preparation, Boyd thinks the world of his new ride. “I absolutely love him; I feel like he’s world class in all departments. He jumps the moon, he gallops like the wind, and he moves like Totilas. Give me six to 12 months and I think the sky’s the limit. I’m very grateful to the people behind DSN Equestrian Ventures for giving me the opportunity to partner with him,” he said.

Sixth place is shared between Liz on her second ride Cooley Quicksilver and Will Faudree with PFun, both on 26.1.

Sydney Elliott took eighth aboard Carol Stephens’ QC Diamantaire. The 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Diarado – Lantana, by Sandro Hit) nailed a 26.2 — beating their previous personal best at the level of 26.4.

Kentucky-based Allie Knowles and Katherine O’Brien’s Morswood are ninth on a score of 28.3. Boyd Martin’s trailblazer Contessa rounds out the top ten on a 30.2.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Liz Halliday-Sharp went one-two in the The Cordelia Family Foundation CCI3*-S.

Cooley Be Cool, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Heritage Fortunus x HHS Carlota) owned by The Monster Partnership and Ocala Horse Properties, edged just ahead on a 23.1. Liz has opted to start his season at the three-star level due to an injury that sidelined “Dave” for most of 2022.

“I’m over the moon with him. He had a weird injury in the stall actually at Bromont last year, which is why he had the second half of last year off. I don’t know what he did — rolled and whacked himself in the stall. It was minor, but it was enough to keep him out for the rest of the year, which was pretty tedious. But in a way, I really think it’s done him the world of good. He’s come out this year and he’s a completely different professional horse. He’s always been a bit cheeky and a bit of a goof, and he still has that in him. But he now goes in the ring, and he just performs. So I’m completely thrilled with him. I’m really excited for what he can do this year,” she said.

Waiting in the wings is Cooley Nutcracker, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Tolant R x Ballyshan Cleopatra, by Cobra), who is in the reserve position on a score of 26.7.

Dom Schramm and Quadrocana. Photo by Brandt Gamma Photography.

Dom Schramm produced the very best dressage score of the day to lead the CCI2*-S with Quadrocana. The German-bred mare has some recognizable heritage as she’s by Rocana II, a full sister to Michael Jung’s fisherRocana.

“She’s the first foal of any of the three full sisters — the Rocana sisters. I’ve had her since she was a four year old and she’s just such a lovely horse. She’s dead easy to ride, dead easy to train, and she does all the work for me. She just makes me look good,” he said.

“She’s been no slouch on the flat pretty much her whole career. But this year, in particular, I said to my coach, Nicholas Fyffe, that I really wanted to start to train her more like a Prix St. Georges horse. So rather than just kind of doing what is going to be in the Advanced Test or the four star tests, I wanted to take the approach, ‘What would we do if we were producing her to go and do a Prix St. George at the end of this year?'” he said.

“I really need to take that approach, not just for her, but also for me to kind of get the nuances because that’s the standard now. When you go to Europe, these guys, they’re specialists in all three phases — and that’s the standard we have to ride at. So now I go into the dressage test now much more thinking about not just one or two steps along, but even beyond what she’ll ever have to do in eventing.”

Caroline Martin and Cascadella 8. Photo by Brandt Gamma Photography.

Caroline Martin leads the 13-deep CCI* class with Cascadella 8. The German mare (Cascadello I x Chaluna, by Ciacomo) carries a 24.7 to the upcoming show jumping phase.

That’s all from the first day of competition here at Carolina International — be sure to join us tomorrow for a show jumping showdown!

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.

Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Ride Times] [Order of Go] [Live Scoring] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Form Guide] [Volunteer]

The top ten after dressage in the CCI4*-S at Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International, presented by Yanmar America.

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