Lexington, Va. —July 22
Boyd Martin came to Virginia Horse Trials International to get himself and his horses back into the swing of competing, and he picked up an international win along the way. Leading from start to finish, Martin and the 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding Luke 140, owned by the Luke 140 Syndicate, won the CCI3*-S on a final score of 35.5.
Starting off with a dressage score of 23.9, they show jumped double clear on Tuesday. They entered the cross-country test with plenty of breathing room, allowing for the addition of 11.6 time penalties.
“Luke was brilliant in all three phases. I wanted to set him up for an assault on the second half of the year,” Martin said. “It was fantastic doing all the dressage in the shade of the indoor arenas, and the new jumping ring was brilliant to ride on.”
With the majority of the spring season being canceled due to COVID-19, many competitors are just getting going with their competition season this summer. Martin commented that designer Andy Bowles’ cross-country course was appropriate for horses who haven’t been out in a while, but there were “a couple of combinations that really tested the horses, and it’s a true test of fitness with a big, long gallop up the hill in the middle of the course.”
Having finished his competition on Wednesday afternoon, Martin was already on his way home to prepare for another outing this weekend. “I love the idea of the midweek eventing, especially for the pro riders looking to get horses out,” Martin said. “I’m slowly getting better from surgery a couple months ago, and it was great just getting the horses out and seeing my eventing buddies I haven’t seen in months.”
Coming second in the CCI3*-S was Joe Meyer and his longtime partner Clip Clop. They added only 2.0 time penalties to their initial score, moving up from 11th after dressage. Benjamin Noonan and Keep Kitty rounded out the top three.
It was a good day at the office for Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp, who won the CCI2*-S and holds the top two placings after cros- country in the CCI2*-L.
A weather delay on Wednesday pushed the show jumping phase of the CCI2*-S to this morning, so competitors completed show jumping and cross-country back-to-back. Halliday-Sharp and Maryville Sir Henry were second after dressage on a 26.1. They lowered one rail in show jumping but moved into the lead. A fault-free cross country round secured their win.
“He was first to go in dressage and did a really smart test considering he is still quite green,” Halliday-Sharp said. “I heard them announce we were in the lead as we were going into the startbox. He was brilliant cross country. He’s come a long way.”
Maryville Sir Henry is a new partner for Halliday-Sharp, who has competed him now just three times.
“He’s a very nice horse, and he’s this incredible jumper and amazing athlete,” she said. “I’d like to do a long format on him this year. If he’s ready for intermediate at the end of the year, great, but he’s very careful, and we’re not in a hurry. He will tell us what he’s ready for. I think a lot of him, and he gave me a great feel on the cross-country.”
Katarina Midgley and Ditch finished second in the CCI2*-S, moving up from seventh after dressage thanks to two double-clear jumping phases. Candace Elizabeth Bell and Fernhill Philm Star placed third.
Halliday-Sharp’s success continued in the CCI2*-L division. After dressage and cross-country, she sits first and second with half-brothers Cooley Be Cool, owned by The Monster Partnership and Ocala Horse Properties, and Cooley Seeking Fortune, owned by Ocala Horse Properties. Neither horse added cross-country jumping or time penalties to their dressage scores of 24.7 and 28.6.
“Both of them did very good tests and put up scores that would have them up there [on the leaderboard] at any long format. They were super today and finished well,” Halliday-Sharp said. “They found the course good and made the time easy. I’m hoping they will both jump clear tomorrow. They are good jumpers and have a bit in hand which is a nice place to be in. They are both seven but started eventing last year. They needed a long format. I’m hoping to get some horses qualified for [the Eventing Championships for Young Horses at] Le Lion and this is part of the path to get there.”
It’s been a busy week for Halliday-Sharp, who recently moved to Kentucky to permanently base herself in the United States instead of splitting time in the United Kingdom. “My girls have been awesome. There are five horses here, it’s been busy enough. I have a good team,” she said.
VHT’s original date had been postponed due to COVID-19, and this week the event is strictly adhering to necessary protocols, including paperless entries, mandatory face coverings and social distancing. “Everyone is keen to get back to normal life, and everyone is understanding it’s a huge privilege to do this sport [right now],” said Martin. “We are grateful to the organizers who have had to jump through many hoops to get events going.”
For full results, click here.