On the #RoadtoCarolina with 2023 4*-S Winner Will Coleman

SRF Carolina International Yanmar 4*-S Winner Will Coleman stands with Jon Richardson, Yanmar’s Director of Rural Lifestyle

Will Coleman’s year has gotten off to a rocking start with a 1-2 finish in the $100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase (Aiken, SC) earlier this month, and now his preparation continues in earnest with some major goals on the horizon. One pathway he’ll take en route to his larger goals this year will be the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International, which will take place in Raeford, NC March 14-17. This year, the 2023 winner of the CCI4*-S division has entered one of his rising stars: the Diabolo Group’s Diabolo (Diarado – Roulett M).

Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS at Carolina in 2023. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Carolina is a place Will has had much success in the past — in fact, he’s a three-time defending champion in the 4*-S division, long hailed as one of the best preparation events for a spring CCI5*, winning on each of his top three horses (Off the Record in 2021, Dondante in 2022, and Chin Tonic HS in 2023) in as many attempts.

“It’s probably the best spring course,” Will said of the Ian Stark-designed cross country that also features a healthy amount of terrain for additional fitness. This will be the final year of Ian Stark’s design at Carolina Horse Park as his retirement looms; the event will change hands to Derek di Grazia beginning in 2025.

Carolina’s cross country course is one we always look forward to as a proper 5* prep. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It’s one of the few spring tracks that kind of offers a five-star feel,” Will continued. “You have a really serious coffin and you have big, imposing waters. And for horses that are aiming for five-star, there’s actually not that many events now that have that kind of stuff — that still sort of old school type cross country jumps that you will see it five-star level. And that’s important, for the horses to see that sort of thing now and then.”

Diabolo is a newer addition to Will’s burgeoning string. While stablemates Chin Tonic HS and Off the Record will bypass the 5*s this spring as they eye a potential selection to the Olympic team, “Dab” is preparing for a debut at the 5* level. Originally campaigned in Australia by Gemma Tinney through the 4*-L level, Will was clued in to the 2012 Holsteiner gelding by his wife, Katie, who showed him a video. He credits Katie’s eye for horses with his subsequent interest in acquiring the horse, traveling down to Australia with his father for a whirlwind few days during which he tried Diabolo several times.

Will Coleman and Diabolo. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Upon arriving to the northern hemisphere, Will commented that the gelding encountered some health complications from the big move, which prevented him from stepping right out into competition. But more time never hurts, especially with a horse that’s already been going at a high level with another rider. Following a few “getting to know you” events together, Will secured a second place finish in the Intermediate Championships at AEC last summer and went on to two podium finishes at the 4* level (the 4*-S at Morven Park and the 4*-L at TerraNova, to be specific) to cap off the year.

It’s safe to say that Carolina International remains a large part of Will’s annual preparation schedule, and it’s not just the courses that keep him coming back year after year. “Well, the golf in the area certainly helps,” he smiled. “But really, it’s a great event overall. They look after everybody — owners, sponsors, horses. They’ve done a marvelous, marvelous job with the footing. We’re sad to see Ian [Stark] go, but you know, they’re putting it in the hands of Derek so we can feel really good about that. And I hope it stays as it’s been, because I think it’s been really important for producing horses for five-star. There’s actually not that many runs now that actually do that. Long live Carolina!”

Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And even if you aren’t a 4*-S competitor, there is literally something for everyone at Carolina, which has supported the newer 1* and Modified levels as well as added a Novice division for 2024. It’s a family-friendly event with plenty of shopping, food, and recreation available to keep even the non-horsey family members entertained. We look forward to seeing you in just a week’s time in beautiful North Carolina!

SRF Carolina International: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Volunteer] [Carolina Club] [Painted Ponies Auction] [Live Stream]

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