EN’s Ultimate Guide to the 2024 Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International

Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Schedule

There’s a lot of activity on tap starting Wednesday, when most of the competitors will arrive to the Park. At 1 pm ET, Ariel Grald will lead a 4* course walk (meet at the start box if you plan to join this walk) to show you what Ian Stark has up his sleeve for Saturday. Then this evening beginning at 4:30, there will be a Southern Pines Welcome Party sponsored by Southern Pines Equine Associates, hosted at the CDP Stables Competitors Lounge next to the admin office.

Competition begins Thursday, with Ring 1 hosting the 4* pairs beginning at 9:20 a.m., and the remainder of the FEI divisions slotted into Rings 2 and 3. At 6 p.m. Thursday, there will be a USEA Grooms Group Education Night.

Friday, the National divisions will do their dressage while the FEI divisions head over to the Twin Gates Farm Derby Field for show jumping starting at 10:00 a.m. with the 3* division. The 4* division will jump beginning at 12 p.m.

Saturday brings the conclusion of National dressage as well as some National and all FEI cross country, which will kick off at 8 a.m. with the Open Intermediate division. The 4* will start cross country at 11:46 a.m.

Sunday is cross country day for Novice through Prelim, while the Intermediate and Advanced pairs will wrap up their weekend with show jumping.

You can view the full event schedule, which is subject to change, here.

Caroline Martin and HSH Blake. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

What It’s Like to Attend This Event

It’s hard not to feel like Carolina International marks a pivotal spot on the road to Kentucky or, this year, the Olympics. We’ve written more about the implications of this weekend further down in this article, but suffice it to say that it always feels like a charged atmosphere here at the Horse Park. Whether you’re a first-time competitor doing the Novice or a seasoned 5* rider heading to Kentucky, there is something up to snuff for you here. I always enjoy seeing the family-friendly activities that abound at this event — it’s not something you see everywhere, and I feel the team here has gone above and beyond to make this an event that really attracts the local community. If you haven’t had a chance to see this venue yet, never fear! I’ll be doing a venue walk with Ariel Grald later this week, so keep an eye out for that on the Carolina International social media platforms.

The Officials

The full list of officials and rider reps for this week can be found here.

For the Yanmar America CCI4*-S division, the Ground Jury will consist of Robert Stevenson (USA) as president and Peter Gray (CAN). Ian Stark has once more designed the cross country for the 4* and Advanced divisions, while Beth Perkins has designed the remainder of the cross country courses. Marc Donovan also returns to design show jumping across divisions.

Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Entries

There’s a stacked line-up in the feature CCI4*-S class, which features a number of highlights – you’ll be able to catch the entire US Pan Ams team in action, for example, with Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire, Liz Halliday and Miks Master C, Sharon White and Claus 63, and individual gold medallists Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake all coming forward to vie for the title here. Elsewhere in the 38-strong field, you’ll find Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestylee, winners of the Best First-Timer award at the 2023 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Will Faudree with the evergreen Pfun and the exciting Mama’s Magic Way, with whom he finished in the top twenty at Burghley last year – and the top ten here. Ariel Grald‘s Leamore Master Plan begins his 2024 season here too after sitting out much of last year, and no doubt he’ll once again use his Carolina pipe-opener as a stepping-stone to delivering yet another barnstorming clear around one of the world’s five-star courses — though which one will remain to be seen.

Fans of Liz Halliday will be kept nearly as busy as the ultra-competitive woman herself: she has four rides in this class, and beyond the aforementioned Miks Master C, she’ll also ride USEF CCI4*-L National Champion Cooley Nutcracker (top ten in his last six FEI runs), Cooley Moonshine (purveyor of a very smart 25.6 in the CCI4*-L at Rebecca last year), and Cooley Quicksilver (he’s back, baby – and needs little introduction after that Luhmühlen top-five finish in 2022!). Liz is proud to be supported by Ocala Horse Properties.

Doug Payne‘s making a pretty good effort at rivalling Liz’s busy schedule: he’s got three entered in the feature class in ten-year-old Camarillo, enormously experienced five-star machine Quantum Leap (that’s five CCI5* top tens under his belt, if you’re counting!) and the exciting nine-year-old Quiberon, who comes forward for just his third-ever four-star.

Some of the biggest fan-favorite horses and riders in the US have spent a significant amount of time globe-trotting, and so it’ll be a treat to watch them again on home soil. Those include Emily Hamel‘s seriously high-flying Corvett, who’s our EN top tip for a horse you want to catch over a fence for your Insta story (trust us!), Allie Knowles and her five-star ride Morswood, Meghan Donoghue and the much-loved ex-racehorse Palm Crescent, and young rider Cassie Sanger and her exceptionally cool Fernhill Zorro, who delivered a performance well beyond their years at last year’s Boekelo CCI4*-L.

There’s two exciting entries up to bat for Phillip DuttonQuasi Cool, who has seven top-ten FEI finishes with Phillip under his belt, but who had much of 2023 off games, is back in action and ready to deliver a comeback king performance, while the up-and-coming talent Possante will make his hotly-anticipated stateside four-star debut, having finished fifth in his sole previous run at the level in the prestigious eight-and-nine-year-old class at Blenheim with Emily King aboard.

Will Coleman and Diabolo. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

We’ll also see last year’s champion Will Coleman, though not on his 2023 winner Chin Tonic, but rather, his exciting Aussie import Diabolo, who comes to Carolina for his first FEI run of the year, off the back of two consecutive top-three finishes at the level at the end of last season.

The CCI4*-S might be Carolina’s crown jewel, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere in the divisions, too: there’s 36 classy combinations battling out in the CCI3*-S, 28 in the CCI2*-S, and 19 contesting the CCI1*, arguably the division all of us at Team EN are keenest to sneak a catch-ride in, especially after catching up with some of its competitors last year. Plus, with national classes from Novice through Advanced, you’ll never run out of combinations to cheer on. Check out the entries in full here.

Sarah Kuhn and Mr. Cash Van De Start. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Implications

The Paris Olympics may still be a few months away, and there’s a lot of crucial events on the calendar between now and then, but Carolina’s CCI4*-S represents the first significant step towards booking a flight to France. The U.S. selectors will no doubt be watching these early-season performances closely, and a great run here will set horses and riders alike up for their spring long-format bids – whether that’s en route to the short list or, perhaps, a fight for the title at Kentucky.

Stories to Follow

OTTB lovers will have plenty of reasons to make their voices of support heard from the sidelines — and one pair they’ll be keen to keep close tabs on in the CCI4*-S is Rachel Lawson and High Tide. Rachel plays a key role in helping OTTBs find their person, and their career, after the track as a busy sourcer and producer, and High Tide is the horse that started that love affair for her. Find out more about their journey so far, and Rachel’s work with Thoroughbreds, in this profile.

Do pint-sized powerhouses make your heart sing? Then you’ll love watching Briggs Surratt and the teeny-weeny (but don’t tell her that!) Corture, who tops out at just 14.2hh but has yet to find a fence she thinks is too big for her. She was bred by fellow CCI4*-S competitor Elisa Wallace, who’ll be riding her 2022 USEF CCI3*-L National Champion, Renkum Corsair.

Speaking of breeding top sport horses, one rider who knows a thing or two about that is Alexa Thompson. She’s got two homebreds lined up to compete in the CCI3*-S – Parlez Clear and Clear Candidate — and while her CCI4*-S entry isn’t a homebred, there’s plenty of reason to lend her and Just To Be Clear your support. This’ll be Lexington-based Alexa’s first four-star in the US after making her debut at the level in Europe last year while based with France’s Maxime Livio. Her debut at Strzegom in October saw her finish seventh in a hot field, beating some guy called…hang on, let us check our notes…Michael Jung? IDK, maybe you’ve heard of him.

We’ve also gotten confirmation that none other than Ian Stark himself will be riding this weekend, taking part in the Lumbee River EMC Festival Pro-Am Challenge, which pairs up professional and amateur riders for some friendly competition throughout the event. Ian’s been lent a horse by Caroline Pamukcu, a 5-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding who’s a new addition to the program and ready to tackle the Open Training level with Ian riding. Don’t worry, we’ll be doing plenty of documenting for this! Ian loves to get a leg up every now and then, and this isn’t the first time he’s teamed up with Caroline for a catch-ride; he competed at the USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships at the Maryland 5 Star in 2022 with HSH Best Kept Secret.

Have a story tip from Carolina? We’d love to hear about it! Tip us by emailing [email protected].

Boyd Martin and Miss Lulu Herself. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

How to Watch and Follow Along

Horse & Country has the live feed for this weekend, bringing back 5* rider Holly Hudspeth and a roster of guest stars on commentary for all three phases of 4* competition (and cross country action across divisions, too!). You will need an H&C+ membership (You can save 15% on an annual membership using code EVENTINGNATION15) or a one-time event pass to gain access to this event. Click here to log in and watch or see your subscription options by clicking here.

You can see what other events are live streaming around the world by accessing our 4* and 5* Where to Watch Guide here.

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