Halliday-Sharp enjoys winning start to US eventing season

• Blackie wins Ocala Combined Training Event after fifth at Wellington Eventing Showcase
• Cooley third after not competing for nine months
• Liz nets fourth at her first US national competition since 1999

Liz Halliday-Sharp made a fine return to competitive US eventing action this past month after relocating to her new base in Ocala, FL.

The temporary move from Chailey Stud in Britain to the warmer climes of Florida has not only helped her horses avoid the worst of the UK winter but also benefit from closer co-operation with USEF’s High Performance Training programme, of which Liz, Blackie (Fernhill by Night) and Cooley (HHS Cooley) are all members.

Those benefits were in evidence last Friday (February 6) when Blackie scored victory in Ocala’s Advanced-level Combined Training event. His incredible Dressage performance incurred a penalty mark of just 19.5, a score he’d finish on after a clear and confident Show Jumping round.

That result came hot on the heels of the invitation-only Wellington Eventing Showcase where Blackie was making his first competitive appearance since Boekelo’s CCIO3* competition in October.

Although a little disappointed with the score they received in the Dressage, a faultless Show Jumping round – described by Liz as one of his best ever – and clear Cross Country run inside the time elevated the pair from eighth to fifth overall at the finish.

Fellow USEF High Performance Training Listed mount Cooley was also back in action at the recent Ocala one day event after missing much of the 2014 season through a freak injury. Clearly the time off hadn’t affected his Dressage prowess, though, after he recorded the best score across all Intermediate sections. He then proved what a competitor he is by jumping clear in both the Show Jumping and Cross Country, and making it all feel very easy.

This being Cooley’s first run since May 2014 meant that Liz opted for a quiet approach, and the seven time penalties incurred as a result unsurprisingly dropped them to third place.

“It’s been great to have both Blackie and Cooley feeling fantastic at the start of the competition season out here, and I feel very lucky to have these talented horses in my barn,” explained Liz. “Blackie was super during the start of his season at Wellington but there were still a few Dressage points for us to look at. We went away and worked on them with help from both James Burtwell and David O’Connor, and I was thrilled to get a 19.5 just one week later! I think the horse has come out really strong this year, so we just need to keep things heading in the right direction and stay focused.

“It felt so great to have my superstar, Cooley, back in action at the Ocala event! I had always planned to give him an easy, quiet run, but he was really firing on all cylinders from the start! In fact, it was like he’d never been away from eventing at all. All three phases were impeccable and it was only my decision not to run too fast over the Cross Country that prevented us from winning the section. He felt super and I’m so excited to have him back for this season.

“The last month has been an opportunity to see where we are after moving to Florida at the end of last year, and we’re all really encouraged by the results.”

Swift (Cooley Elusive) was another of Chailey Stud’s Ocala-based horses to enjoy a promising start to the season after finishing fourth in the first US national event Halliday-Sharp had competed in for some 16 years. Just four Cross Country time faults ultimately proved the difference between a place on the podium and fourth following a double clear and strong Dressage test.

Despite Liz living at Horsepower Equestrian in Ocala until April, Chailey Stud continues to operate much as it did throughout the summer, with its five-star training facilities available to rent. For more information visit www.chailey-stud.co.uk.

Keep up with Liz in Ocala by following her on Twitter – @lizhalliday – or on either her personal or Horsepower Equestrian Facebook pages.