Aiken, S.C.—March 1
When Fernhill By Night came out of the show jumping ring after delivering a clear round to maintain his lead in the $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing Invitational with Liz Halliday-Sharp, the 16-year-old gelding was feeling anything but 16.
The usually laid back “Blackie” was leaping around like a playful youngster while Halliday-Sharp was trying to give him pets and a handful of grass.
“This is as fresh as he gets,” Halliday-Sharp said with a laugh. “He’s an old man now, and he had very few runs last year, and it suits him. He’s fresh and happy to do it, and that is when he’s the winner, when he feels like this.”
Halliday-Sharp has been paired up with Blackie for seven years now. She knows how to keep the horse going his best, and less is more.
“He was amazing all last season because I think we only ran him every eight weeks, and then he comes to the party really excited and ready to fight for it,” Halliday-Sharp said. “Hopefully that will carry through to [cross-country] tomorrow.”
Blackie is laid back, but Halliday-Sharp assures he’s plenty opinionated when it comes to his management.
“He has a very strict schedule; he goes out first thing in the morning. My groom is like his person, and he tells her exactly what he wants and he wants to go out first in the morning,” Halliday-Sharp said with a laugh. “I try to ride him in the morning if I can because he’s so lazy in the heat, and we don’t lunge him anymore or anything like that.
“We swim him a lot in England instead of galloping him to keep him fit; I’ve galloped him a bit here but not much,” Halliday-Sharp continued. “But it’s just about trying to change it up. All my horses vary what they do; I don’t tend to do too much intensity of one thing, and he only jumps about once a week now.”
Halliday-Sharp and Blackie were one of 15 double clear rounds over the show jumping track. Thirty-two horse-and-rider combinations will move forward to cross-country.
“Richard Picken helped me in the warm-up, and its rare the horse ever has a rub in the warm-up, but he did rub one which I think actually helped him,” Halliday-Sharp said. “But he is a brilliant jumper; unless I ride like an idiot he jumps clear.”
Less than four points separate the top five riders going into Saturday afternoon’s Capt. Mark Phillips-designed cross-country course.
“I walked it just before [show jumping,] and I think it’s going to be frantic,” Halliday-Sharp said. “It’s a good track, a good course. He’s a big horse, and he’s not the worlds nippiest creature, I’m not going to lie, but he can gallop, and I think he’s up to it. When he’s feeling fresh like this that’s when he really wants it.”
The action is wrapping up at the $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing Invitational with cross-country Saturday afternoon.
You can watch the livestream, here.