Leading Lady: Liz Halliday Claims 4 of Top 5 on First Day of SRF Carolina International CCI4*-S

Liz Halliday and Miks Master C. Photo by Sally Spickard.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this point that Liz Halliday means business when she calls herself a competitor. As the first to see this morning in the Yanmar America CCI4*-S at the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International with The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Moonshine (Cobra – Kilpatrick Duchess, by Kings Master), Liz quickly put to rest any “first horse-itis” and took an early lead with a score of 25.5 from the Ground Jury of Robert Stevenson (USA) and Peter Gray (CAN).

Liz Halliday and Miks Master C. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Well and swell as that was, Liz still had three more rides to show in the division, and at the end of the day finds herself in ownership of four out of the top five spots on the leaderboard, supplanting herself in the afternoon sessions with Ocala Horse Properties’ and Deborah Palmer’s Miks Master C (22.5). The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Moonshine (25.5) slotted into second after taking the early lead, and Cooley Quicksilver (Womanizer – Kylemore Crystal, by Greggan Diamond) moved into third place on a 27.1, and The Nutcracker Syndicate’s Cooley Nutcracker (Tolant R – Ballyshan Cleopatra, by Cobra) earned a 28.7 to take fifth overnight.

“I’m really really pleased with him,” Liz commented of Miks Master C. “I’m still sort of playing around with things, always trying to fine-tune things with him. He’s a very, very powerful horse and he offers a lot of power in the ring. Definitely there were a couple little mistakes, like the halt and the rein back weren’t our best — maybe just a few little bits of nerves for him. He’s still settling into the season, but I thought the good bits were very, very good. And those were some of the best changes he’s done in a test — he’s really starting to find his self carriage and his lift now without dragging me, which is great. So I was overall really, really proud of him.”

We asked Liz what she has been fine-tuning with “Mikki” as she aims for her highest goal of making the Olympic team this summer. “Sort of all winter, I’ve just tried to teach him to push from behind and really take the nose up and out a little bit more. So I’ve shortened up my reins a lot and just trying to say, ‘Come on, we’re gonna be up here now.’ And I think it’s taking him a little while — obviously it takes time to find the strength, but I think it’s definitely heading the right way. So we just keep working away, keep trying to get him stronger and better.”

Liz Halliday and Cooley Moonshine. Photo by Sally Spickard.

“I just adore him,” Liz continued about Cooley Moonshine (Cobra – Kilpatrick Duchess, by Kings Master), who is aiming at Tryon’s 4*-L this May. “I’ve had him [since he was a] five-year-old and we’ve been through a lot. He’s had a few little setbacks along the way, but if we can keep all the wheels on the cart, he’s a world class horse. And he was just such a pro today. As a younger horse, he used to really struggle with the walk, he’d get really edgy. And actually, that’s getting much better. He’s sort of settled in and he’s much more relaxed.”

“He’s very different horse from my others. He’s kind of his own character,” Liz described Cooley Quicksilver, who is also aiming at Tryon. “But again, he’s also quite professional. I can’t believe he’s 13 — I’ve had him from a baby as well. But I actually thought it was a good test. The center line at the beginning is always tricky with him. But the rest I thought he was very professional and he tried really hard. He’s become quite a consistent horse, which is pretty cool.”

Liz has found great success at this event in the past and always makes a point to mark it on her schedule en route to her spring three-days.

Liz Halliday and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Sally Spickard.

“I try and target Carolina for the horses going to the big stuff, because I think it kind of gets them comfortable with the serious four-star track,” Liz said of taking the Carolina route each year. “[Ian Stark] always builds a big solid track with big drops in the water, so that’s a really good experience for the horses aiming for Kentucky. So that’s kind of always my plan. And I just love this event, honestly, it’s just a great event. I’ve always enjoyed it.”

Liz trains regularly with show jumping Olympian Peter Wylde and often takes her horses to show jumping competitions to complement her eventing, and that practice should be put to good use around Marc Donovan’s show jumping track on Friday. The FEI competitors all jump on grass in the big Twin Rivers Derby Field, which is a unique element of this event as in recent history there aren’t many other events that offer this opportunity. Liz will have one rail in hand over herself and Cooley Quicksilver, but could turn the lead over to, well, herself, with more than one down with Miks Master C.

Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake. Photo by Sally Spickard.

The sole non-Halliday member of the top five today is Caroline Pamukcu, who slotted into fourth place on a score of 27.9 with Sherrie Martin and Mollie Hoff’s HSH Blake (Tolan R – Doughiska Lass, by Kannan), her partner for the Pan American Games last fall with whom she won individual gold and team silver. “Blake’s” score suffered slightly due to some anxious moments stemming from bug harassment during her test, which likely prevented her from taking a top three position.

“He got a big old fly on his neck, and I couldn’t get it off,” Caroline lamented. “I was so disappointed. You know, it’s just one of those things. I tried everything I could to knock it off his neck — but no excuse, I should figure out how to ride better!”

With Blake just being 9, Caroline has worked on helping him gain strength in his body over the winter.

“There’s always a lot of stuff we want to work on, but again, just the biggest thing is just strengthening him,” Caroline elaborated. “I’ve been working hard with my coach Anne Kursinski, and I actually had to change my program. This year, I started training with Sharon White, she’s been helping me with him. Both her and I are on the same page, just giving him time to mature. It’s gonna be a long year — it’s not like we’re not trying to peak now, you know, we’re trying to peak in the month coming up. So he’ll hopefully go to Kentucky four-short after this, and then Tryon for a Long. And then we’ll see how we do at those two shows and see what what the team has in mind for us for the summer season.”

“I really, really, really love her empathy towards horses,” Caroline said of working with Sharon, who herself is leading the 3*-S here at Carolina with the exciting young horse Jaguar Duende. “A lot of the stuff that I learned at the Pippa Funnell’s, a lot of it aligned with what I saw with Sharon, especially at the Pan Am’s. Just in general, I’ve known her for my whole life and always looked up to her. And I just always enjoyed that horsemanship and her positivity for the horses and for everything. So I’m really excited to be working with her and look forward to the future.”

Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent enjoyed a lovely test to sit in 6th on a 29.3. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Not quite six rails separate the entire field ahead of show jumping on Friday, so we should be in for some shake-ups as the final standings begin to take shape.

The jumping begins tomorrow with the 3*-S at 10:00 a.m. ET, while most of the National divisions also get underway with dressage. You can catch the show jumping live stream on Horse & Country here.

Carolina International CCI & H.T. (Raeford, NC) [Website] [Schedule] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Cross Country Maps] [Live Scores] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

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