USA On the Board at Le Lion: Caroline Martin Leads the 6-Year-Olds, Liz Halliday-Sharp Top 5 in 7-Year-Olds

Caroline Martin and HSH Connor. Photo by Charles Cunningham/Irish Eventing Times.

Competition is underway at the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships, and after roughly half of both the 6-year-old and 7-year-old Championships the American contingent has already made their stamp.

In the 6-year-old Championship, set at 2*-L technicality, Caroline Martin and HSH Connor (Connor 48 – Galwaybay Merstona, by Mermus R) lead the way narrowly on a score of 25.2 ahead of second-placed Meabh Bolger (IRE) with MBF Back to Black (25.3).

“[Mondial du Lion] is such an eye opener, it really is a championship course,” Caroline told the USEA earlier this week. She’s been based in the UK thanks to the support of the 2022 Wilton Fair Grant, and this weekend marks her penultimate competition before returning home. She’ll run Islandwood Captain Jack at Pau next week as her final competition. “There’s so many spectators, which is a big reason I came over here this summer to prepare for this. Everything we’ve done this summer has been in preparation for this, and while I had four horses qualified for this, I had to bring the ones that were in top form and health. I want to give 110 percent at this event.”

HSH Blake, owned by Caroline and her mother Sherrie as well as Molly Hoff and Luann McElduff, is one of a handful of horses Caroline brought with her to the UK, where she has been based with Pippa Funnell. Caroline calls the time she’s spent overseas invaluable and Pippa’s shrewd eye instrumental in helping her re-confirm the foundational skills that she and her horses need to progress in the sport. That continuing education has paid off well, as Caroline has racked up competitive results in the UK and now stands poised to make a good run of it this weekend.

“I’ve had him since he was a four-year-old, and he came up through the [USEA Young Event Horse] program, and I just have such high hopes for this horse,” Caroline explained. She had originally been a bit down to have drawn quite an early slot, but the judges nonetheless rewarded the quality they saw.

Caroline Martin and HSH Connor. Photo by Charles Cunningham/Irish Eventing Times.

“He’s a phenomenal jumper, he’s great on the flat, and he’s just a pleasure to ride,” Caroline continued. “He’s just one of those you love to ride.” Being in the United Kingdom has afforded Caroline the opportunity ride in more atmosphere than at many events, especially at the 2* level and below, in the States. Events like Gatcombe and Cornbury, she says, have given both her and her horses beneficial mileage in front of people. And at an event like Le Lion, where the local crowds come out in 5*-worthy throngs, that experience is helpful. Add in a dash of expertise from newly-acquired mentor Pippa Funnell?

“I have to pinch myself,” Caroline laughed. She’d called me after dinner with her team, which includes a slew of owners she’s connected with as she’s built her business up as well as Pippa herself. “It almost doesn’t feel real. Here is Pippa, who I’ve seen on TV growing up and played as her on video games, and now I’m at dinner with her and these incredible owners. I feel like such a fan girl, but this is my team. And I have the Wilton Fair Grant to thank for all of this, setting me up to build this for the future.”

Caroline is also competing in the 7-year-old division with HSH Blake (Tolan R – Doughiska Lass), who was named this week as the subbed-in recipient of the Holekamp/Turner Le Lion d’Angers Grant. HSH Blake will do his dressage test on Friday.

Kelly McCarthy Maine and Cooley Cardento. Photo by Charles Cunningham/Irish Eventing Times.

Just outside of the top 10 on day one in the 6-year-old Championship is Canadian rider Kelly McCarthy Maine with Cooley Cardento (Cardento – Viranda, by Furore), who earned an FEI personal best with a 31.2 in his 2*-L debut. Kelly has been based in the UK for nearly two decades, having first moved in 2005 to pursue her Masters degree while also working as a journalist. She’s since moved on to her own yard, with a stint working for Lucinda Fredericks in the middle, campaigning a string of talented rising stars.

You can view the replay of the 6-year-old tests from Thursday below:

[Click here to view full day one scores from the 6-year-old 2*-L]

Looking to the start of the 7-year-old 3*-L competition, Germany’s Antonia Baumgart leads the way with Ris de Talm (Adagio de Talma – Raisa, by BB Carvallo) on a score of 22.5. This is also an FEI personal best for the Holsteiner gelding, who makes his 3*-L debut here at Le Lion.

Fifth after day one representing the U.S. are Liz Halliday Sharp with Ocala Horse PropertiesShanroe Cooley (the “introverted Labrador” as #supergroom Gemma Jelinska dubs him), who overcame one mistake in the medium canter to score a 27.3. This would be a horse who’s well capable of scoring in the low-20s, so the ever-competitive Liz will likely be kicking herself to not have gone a touch lower, but there’s much to do yet including the incredibly decorated cross country course yet to come Saturday.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Shanroe Cooley. Photo by Charles Cunningham/Irish Eventing Times.

“I’d always planned on Lion for him, ever since he was a young horse, because he’s just that type,” Liz explained to EN earlier this week. “I really believe you only take the right type to Lion, and I believe he’s the type that will excel from it. I think when you’ve had them from a young horse and they’ve done the two-stars that he did last year, I always sort of believed he was ready. Had I been in England still, I would have taken him as a six-year-old. And then this year, I basically said to his owners, he’ll tell us when he’s ready for three-star. And he was ready quite early.”

“Dallas” was fifth in his first 3*-L at Bromont in very tough, muddy conditions in June, which Liz says set him up well to end his season in France. “He did Bromont, which was a really tough event for him because the ground was horrendous, and he learned a lot from that. It was great for him to jump on the last day when his muscles were tired, but really I’ve always believed he would be ready and I think it’ll help him become a better horse for the future.”

It’s Liz’s hope that Shanroe Cooley would be in contention to perhaps travel to Chile for the Pan American Games next year — “I’m trying to have as many horses qualified as I can [for future Championships]!” she said — but first things first: show the world what she’s got in this über-talented 7-year-old.

[Click here to view the full 7-year-old scores]

The remainder of the American riders will do their dressage tests tomorrow at the following times:

10:41 a.m. local / 4:41 a.m. EST / 1:41 a.m. PST: Cornelia Dorr and DHI Qyaracolle Z (2*)
1:28 p.m. local / 7:28 a.m. EST / 4:28 a.m. PST: Lucia Strini and Keynote Dassett (3*)
1:35 p.m. local / 7:35 a.m. EST / 4:35 a.m. PST: Caroline Martin and HSH Blake (3*)
3:19 p.m. local / 9:35 a.m. EST / 6:35 a.m. PST: Phillip Dutton and Denim (3*)

I’ll link to the FEI TV live streams, which will begin at 3 a.m. EST tomorrow (October 21) for the 6-year-olds and 7 a.m. EST for the 7-year-olds, below.

6-year-old Friday stream:

7-year-old Friday stream:

Cross country will also be live streamed on FEI TV at the below link.

6-year-old Saturday stream:

7-year-old Saturday stream:

Stay tuned for much more coming your way all weekend from France!

FEI WBFSH Eventing World Championships at Mondial du Lion (Le Lion D’Angers, France): [Website] [Entries/Times/Scoring] [Schedule] [Live Stream]

Enjoy a few more social snippets from Le Lion: