A busy month at home and abroad will see Liz Halliday-Sharp conclude her 2014 eventing season in typically frenetic fashion.
In October alone the British-based Californian and her Chailey Stud Equestrian Centre team have chalked up outings at Military Boekelo (Netherlands) and Osberton, with trips to Mondial du Lion (France) and Aldon set to bring the curtain down on this year’s calendar.
Liz began the month with the British Eventing Young Horse Championship at Osberton in Nottinghamshire where Flynn (Cooley Cruise Control) and Chaco (Cooley Ground Control) both delivered pleasing performances.
Contesting the 5-Year-Old category, Flynn did a classy job in a difficult Dressage test, but was perhaps feeling the effects of a long and tiring season with an uncharacteristic three rails down in the Show Jumping. He was nevertheless able to demonstrate his growing maturity and followed this up with a superb Cross Country round, strengthening Liz’s belief that he is a top young horse for the future. He will now enjoy a well-deserved holiday before travelling to the USA with Liz later in the year.
Meanwhile Chaco was tackling the 6-Year-Old category, though his performance was undoubtedly hampered by the event organisers’ decision to hold the 5-Year-Old prize-giving ceremony directly beside the 6-Year-Old Dressage and at the very same time.
With significant cheering and loud music being played it was natural that Chaco’s test would suffer in an event that requires calm and focus from both horse and rider. Indeed, he was sufficiently affected that he ended the Dressage 15 marks shy of his usual score and not within his usual top-five placing.
However he bounced back the following day with an excellent Show Jumping performance, going double clear despite the challenge of heavy rain, and an equally impressive Cross Country that saw him go clear and inside the time.
After only a brief pause, Liz travelled to the Military Boekelo CCIO3* in the Netherlands with Blackie (Fernhill by Night). Taking place on October 9-12, the competition represented her second year as part of the USA Nations Cup Team.
Following a rain-hit trot up, Blackie went well in the test and placed a satisfying 20th out of an impressive field of 90 after the Dressage. The Cross Country was a challenging course made more difficult by the drying and holding ground, but Blackie made light work of the Dutch track and delivered an impressive clear round.
As Blackie was yet to have a clear in the longer CCI3* format, Liz and the team coach made the decision to do some options so as to build the horse’s confidence and education. This meant they came home with a few time faults, but the horse galloped and jumped very well and finished fresh and happy, meaning the ultimate goal was achieved.
Blackie then saved his best for the final day, producing an excellent clear round in the challenging Show Jumping that helped them to finish in the money, leaving Liz thoroughly pleased with his performance.
“It’s been a busy end to the season and it’s by no means over yet!” reflected Liz ahead of her next competitive outing in France this week. “Osberton went well, albeit in challenging conditions. Flynn was a little tired, but that’s to be expected of a green five-year-old. I know he can jump; in fact, I really believe that he’s a horse for the future with a lot of talent and heart.
“I can’t deny that I was disappointed with the event organisers’ decision to stage the 5-Year-old prize-giving at the same time as the 6-Year-Old Dressage and I made this clear to them afterwards! Chaco did a nice job given the circumstances, but it’s frustrating to know that he could have been better still as he’s historically very strong in the Dressage. Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of this next year as it’s not fair on any of the young horses. Nevertheless, he redeemed himself by jumping two super clear rounds afterwards, and I am excited to see what he can do this week at the Young Horse World Championships.
“I’m always very proud to represent my nation, so it was great to be called up by them for a second year running at Boekelo,” Liz explained. “Blackie was on great form, not least with his awesome jumping performances! The Dressage test wasn’t our best – it was a lesser score then we have had at this level for some time – but I know that we are typically strong in that phase. The real goal was to prove that he could jump double clear in a CCI3* and we achieved that.
“It has taken a while to get Blackie confident at this level and I feel that all the training and competitions we have done this year have finally paid off. I have always believed in him and knew that it would take time to get to where we are now. I really feel we have a great partnership and that I have a world-class horse in my stable!
“It was also great to have three of our new sponsors’ logos on the truck ahead of Osberton. A big thank you to Botanica, Jen X, and Professional’s Choice for their continued support.”
After making a brief return to Chailey Stud, Liz and the team are already back on the road at the Mondial du Lion in France for the Young Horse World Championship (October 16-19) where Chaco will contest the 6-Year-Old category. Liz will then return to the UK and complete the season at Aldon International Horse Trials (October 26-29).