It’s that time of year again. Eventers are making their early-season outings in preparation for the United States’ spring five-star—the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event.
One of the first lead up events of the season is the Carolina International, where Will Coleman (USA) holds first and third place with Chin Tonic and Off The Record, respectively, after CCI4*-S dressage. Liz Halliday-Sharp (USA) and Miks Master C sit in second place between Coleman’s two mounts.
“[Chin Tonic] is so incredibly elastic and he has these amazing gaits,” said Coleman. The duo earned a 19.4, which is the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding’s first time scoring sub-20 in a four-star dressage test.
Coleman plans for Chin Tonic to make his five-star debut at Kentucky in April. “He’s been really good. He’s done the work and I think he’s ready to go and give it a try.”
In preparation, Coleman chose to bring “Chin” to the Carolina International because he’s a fan of Ian Stark’s cross-country course design. “I think especially for those going to Kentucky or Badminton or [any] five-star, this course gives them a taste of what the five-star is going to feel like—the jumps into water, a proper coffin, some bigger questions.”
Coleman continued, “For me, [Carolina] is good way for me to gauge where my horses are at. It’s far enough away from Kentucky that you can still make an adjustment or do something else if you need.”
“My thought has always been to give the horses a good run before Kentucky,” shared Stark. “My aim is to make it educational, but make it a challenge, and have the riders riding their horses and the horses jumping big fences.”
A Progressing Partnership
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C, an 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding, sit in second with a score of 20.1. “I was thrilled with the score. I really believe he’s capable of scores in the teens regularly.”
Halliday-Sharp and “Mikki” are a relatively new partnership, and she’s working on improving his strength and stamina. “It’s still very much a work in progress, I’ll be honest,” she said. “He’s still not quite strong enough yet and he gets a little bit tired in the ring. He has so much power that he bares down on me a little bit.”
Halliday-Sharp shared that she’s been riding Mikki in a double bridle to try to teach him self-carriage. “He’s all power, and he doesn’t really know where to put it sometimes.”
“We’ve spent the whole winter getting him really strong now, because he was quite weak and wiggly when I got him last May,” she continued. “He now just doesn’t really know where to put it.”
Halliday-Sharp also plans to run Mikki in his first five-star at Kentucky and is using Carolina as prep. “I really wanted him to do a course that’s ditchy with some really big drops into water. It’s something he needs to practice regularly. I wanted to have all the boxes ticked before I went to Kentucky and inevitably get two of the same things.”
Halliday-Sharp thought Carolina would be the perfect test. “I always thought this would be the right run for him.”
Coleman and his 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships silver medal-winning partner, Off The Record, head into show jumping in the third place position with a score of 22.1. “Off The Record wouldn’t be the best in cold weather, because he’s such a stiff horse by nature,” said Coleman after being welcomed by high-20 degree weather in Raeford, North Carolina, this morning, “but I really thought he warmed up great.”
Coleman noted that he thought his test aboard the 14-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding was “a little bit safe,” and that he could have gone for “a little more expression.”
“He just felt like he was holding a little bit and I didn’t want to push him out of rhythm and make a mistake. I rode just to try to execute the test.” Coleman admitted, though, that riding “Timmy” like that sometimes makes a nicer picture than it feels. “Maybe I should do that all the time.”
CCI4*-S competition at the 2023 Carolina International resumes Friday, March 17, at 1:50 p.m. EST with show jumping.
For full results after dressage, click here.
Thanks to Cosequin for our coverage of the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more!