March 6—Tallahassee, Fla.
In her first ever appearance at the Red Hills International Horse Trials, Liz Halliday-Sharp made quite the impression as she captured the CIC*** lead with Fernhill By Night (41.4) and slotted into third with HHS Cooley (43.4) after dressage.
“I was really pleased with both horses,” she said. “I think they tried really hard today. It was really, really cold when I did my test on ‘Blackie’ [Fernhill By Night] and he was feeling a little bit of that.”
Halliday-Sharp grew up eventing on the West Coast, but moved to England in 2000 for a working student position with William Fox-Pitt and decided to stay. She’s been based in West Sussex, England on her own since 2010 and decided to come to Ocala, Fla., this season to gear up for her first CCI**** at Rolex with both horses.
Blackie, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Radolin—Argentina XII, Argentinus) owned by Deborah Halliday, has a bit more experience at the three-star level than his stablemate. With Halliday-Sharp, he completed the Blair Castle CCI*** (Scotland) and represented the U.S. team at the Boekelo CCI*** (the Netherlands) team last fall.
HHS Cooley, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Clover Echo—Flown, Imperius) also owned by Deborah Halliday, is coming back from a freak injury to his hind pastern last May, but he’d come to the U.S. to contest the Galway Downs CCI*** (Calif.) in 2013 where he finished third.
Halliday-Sharp is coming off a one-two finish with both geldings in the advanced at Pine Top (Ga.) two weeks prior and is looking forward to taking on Hugh Lochore’s cross-country track.
“I like it,” she said. “I think the ground’s going to be really, really good. I know it was dreadful for those of us riding in the monsoon [on Thursday], but I think it helped the ground. It’s got a lot of terrain and hills, sort of through the woods and everything. It feels a lot like a French course to me, which is kind of cool.
“I think there’s some decent questions,” she continued. “I don’t think it’s overly huge, but there’s enough questions for the horses and I think the terrain makes some of them more challenging than they would have been. There’s plenty of places where we’ll have to be on the ball, but I’m looking forward to riding it.”
Lauren Kieffer slipped into second (42.7) with Czechmate, a 9-year-old Czech Warmblood (Atlas—Padjenn, Piguet) owned by Courtney and Kylie Ramsay.
“Czechy was really good,” said Kieffer of Ocala, Fla., and Middleburg, Va. “He’s a young horse and this is his first CIC***. He was a little rambunctious outside the ring, but he went in and was a really good workman. He’s very attractive and he’s a big mover, so I was really happy with him.”
Kieffer also topped the advanced dressage (29.8) with her four-star ride Veronica, owned by Team Rebecca LLC.
“She was very excited to be at the party!” she said with a laugh. “I was thrilled with her. She goes in the ring and knows her job so well now. There’s certainly still places we could have cleaned up, but she goes in and is really accurate, so I’m always happy with her.”
Can’t Be Stopped
Marilyn Little brought five horses to Red Hills across all divisions and she’s currently leading the CIC* with RF Overdressed (35.7) and holding the first and second spots in the CIC** with RF Scandalous (33.9) and RF Tabasco (41.3), respectively.
Little won the Galway Downs CCI* last year and the Pine Top CIC** two weeks ago with RF Scandalous, a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold—Richardia, Lario) that she found in Germany last summer.
“I’m crazy about her,” said Little, Ocala, Fla. “I know her much better and she’s great at the dressage, but she’s also a real thinker and a wonderful horse to go cross-country on. Her gallop is getting better and better and she has a really great big stride. She’s a fun horse for the future.”
RF Overdressed, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Countdown—Delia, Donaumonarch), also came from Germany, but just arrived in December. Little had a slight miscommunication on cross-country at the Pine Top CIC** with “Rio” and pulled up, so she dropped back down to the one-star level for Red Hills.
“It’s a young partnership and he’s a young horse, but a big talent and a great character and I’m really enjoying the road with him,” she said.
Little is also looking forward to cross-country, but admitted it was a serious track for the two-star horses.
“It looks lovely and I think the two-star is very challenging,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a hard course to make time on, but knowing that [RF Scandalous is] not that far away from moving up [to advanced], I think it’s a good test. I’ll motor right along with her, but we’ll see—it’s always hard to make the time here. When you do make the time or you’re going for it, the jumps tend to catch up with you because there’s a lot of course coming at the end of the course.”
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Cross-country gets underway tomorrow at 8 a.m. with prelim, followed by the CIC*, advanced, CIC*** at 12:30 p.m., and the CIC** at 1:52 p.m.