Both the six- and seven-year-old World Championships got well underway today at central France’s Le Lion d’Angers, and US representative Liz Halliday-Sharp, who splits her time between East Sussex in the UK and Ocala, left nothing to chance with her six-year-old entry Cooley Moonshine.
We always expected a nice test out of Billy, who Liz has been quietly confident about since she took on the Richard Sheane sourced youngster, but in the moment, he delivered a remarkable personal best. His international average is 27.7, but despite the inescapable atmosphere of Le Lion – or, perhaps, because of it – he dug extra deep and produced a 22.4, taking not only the lead in the CCIYH*, but also boasting the best score of the day across both classes.
“He was very professional in there today,” says Liz. “He had a little mistake coming out of the walk, but that’s just because he always wants to get on with the job, so he wanted to canter. But he’s a funny thing – he’s always so brave and keen, and I don’t think he even noticed the atmosphere.”
The 16.2hh son of Cobra began his eventing career last year, winning on his British Eventing debut in Firle’s BE100 (Training level) class. This year, he’s enjoyed an astonishing season: he won his first event of the year, obviously found he rather liked the fuss and extra polo mints, and went on to win his next four competitions, including his first one-star at Brightling Park. He broke his win streak – barely – by finished second in his next CIC1*, this time back at Firle, but he was back on form with a win at his third at last month’s South of England CIC1*. He was fifth in the British Young Horse Championships CIC1* at Osberton earlier this month, and his trip to Le Lion sees him tackle his very first CCI competition.
But for all his talent, he hasn’t necessarily been the easiest horse to figure out.
“I bought him originally as a sales horse, and when I got him home I thought, ‘this one’s special.’ But he was very strong and quite hard to manage cross country, and there was a stage where we thought, ‘oh god, are we going to be able to crack this?'”
With some ingenuity – and the addition of a hackabit to his jumping wardrobe – Liz and her team figured out how to work with Billy, and he came back out for his 2018 season stronger, more mature, and ready to chase the results. The dressage took, perhaps, slightly longer – he is, explains Liz, a naturally a bit tricky in his mouth, and historically struggled to accept the contact. A last-minute change of bit yesterday seems to have finally ticked that box and the horse, who is getting stronger and more mature in his body day by day, easily outpaced his competition in the ring today, making positive headway on his long-anticipated trip to France.
“Not every horse is a Le Lion horse – it’s a huge atmosphere in every phase, but I’ve thought since last year that it would be right for him. He’s so brave, and I never thought he’d care about it. It’s nice to have gotten that right. We’re so excited about him, and really proud of him,” says a delighted Liz, who makes a second trip down the centreline tomorrow in the seven-year-old class with Cooley Quicksilver.
Millie Dumas and Universal Cooley (VDL Arkansas x Dysart Lilly, by Maltstriker) posted a very competitive 23.3 to slip into second place at the halfway point of the six-year-olds’ dressage, while fellow Brit Piggy French took third overnight on 25.8 with Emerald Jonny (Waldo Van Dungen x Z Royalty Van De Heernis, by Rubels), owned by her partner Tom March. This means that the top three in the class overnight are Irish Sport Horses – a great start for the studbook, which won the breeding award here last year.
There was an unsurprising German invasion on the leaderboard in the form of fourth-placed Michael Jung, riding his own Wild Wave (Water Dance XX x Uquina), who scored a 26.0, closely followed by Vanessa Bölting and Ready To Go W (Rock Forever x Weingold GD, by Weinberg) on a 27.1 and Sandra Auffarth and Gentleman FRH (Grey Top x Franziska, by Fabriano), who posted a 27.6.
Canada’s Rebecca Howard started the day’s proceedings with Kelly McCarthy-Maine‘s Trebor (Mighty Magic x Trevilder, by Fleetwater Opposition), but despite a slightly unfavourable draw, they delivered a good score of 28.3 to sit in eighth place after the first day of dressage. Rebecca took the ride on the six-year-old this year, taking the reins from Dutch venter Andrew Heffernan, and though his scores have fluctuated, he’s proven to be very capable in this phase, dipping as low as 22.3 in a Novice (Preliminary) run at Aston-le-Walls in August.
In an enormous surprise to absolutely no one, Ingrid Klimke leads the seven-year-old class overnight on Asha P (Askari 173 x Hera, by Heraldik XX) after delivering a 25.3 with the Brandenburg mare. So far they’ve won three out of nine internationals together – a CIC1* at Kreuth, Jardy’s CCI1*, and Luhmühlen CIC2* earlier this summer. They were also second at Renswoude CIC2* and fourth at Strzegom CIC2*, and so it’s easy to see why Ingrid rates the well-travelled youngster – a full sister to 2012 vice Bundeschampionat DSP Araldik – as an exciting up-and-comer in her string.
Nicola Wilson and JL Dublin (Diarado x Zarinna, by Cantano) moved into second place on a score of 25.6, while Laura Collett‘s reserve British seven-year-old champion Calmaro sits comfortably in third on 26.1. New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell holds fourth place overnight on the talented Dutch gelding Gambesie (Zambesi x Verrona, by Harcos), who was formerly piloted by Jonty Evans.
We’ve got five more North American combinations on the main stage tomorrow – keep it locked onto EN for all your equine Toddlers & Tiaras news. Ciao for now!