The 11-year-old KWPN mare Starr Witness knows she’s the star at Doug Payne’s barn, and she enhanced that reputation by taking the lead on the second day of CCI4*-S dressage at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-day Event. Payne and the mare finished their test with a score of 23.2 to bump down the first day’s leader Liz Halliday-Sharp.
Of Starr Witness, Payne said, “She knows she’s the prettiest in the barn, and she flaunts herself around like it. But she’s a super hard worker. The more that you can engage her mind the better. It ends up being a lot of fun because you can throw a lot at her and she just gets better at it. A lot of the other horses, you put a little bit more pressure and they’ll get fragile about it. She actually eats it up.”
Payne was pleased with the dressage test in the Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. When asked how it felt, he quipped, “Pretty damn good,” but added, “Of course, you can always look back and see spots that potentially you’d give up a point or two.”
Payne, who was on the U.S. Olympic eventing team in Tokyo last summer, said the mare has competed in three- and four-star long competitions so instead of competing in one last fall, he focused on flatwork and some jumping with her. “I think that’s paying off now. She’s getting stronger and more confident, just better and better,” he said.
The mare has also been getting better about dealing with noises, Payne said. “She’s the most aware, like creepily aware, horse of her surroundings that I’ve ever had,” he said. “There could be a noise across a field and she’ll instantly react to it. So, sometimes that’s hard. But she’s become so much better and more reliable not to overreact to it.”
On hand to help with the dressage warm-up was Payne’s mother, FEI 5* eventing judge Marilyn Payne, who was a member of the ground jury at the 2008 Hong Kong Olympics and was president of the ground jury at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I thought it was phenomenal,” she said about Starr Witness’ test. “I score all the tests as they go mentally, no matter who it is. I’m like, ‘Wow, that trot had to be an 8,’ and ‘Wow, that had to be a 7.5,’ so I was not surprised at all at the score. That’s the best and most consistent I’ve ever seen her go, and she can get better, which is really exciting.”
Canada’s Colleen Loach knew that 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding Vermont could do well, so she put a bit of pressure on herself, and it paid off with a score of 24.5 and a second-place finish. “He was a little bit on the muscle, a little up today with the atmosphere, and he stayed with me in the ring and really listened, so I was very proud of him,” she said.
Though Vermont is 18.2 hands, Loach says he’s very adjustable on cross-country so she’s looking forward to Derek di Grazia’s course on Saturday. “It’s challenging enough, but kind to the horses, and I can’t wait to get out there,” she said. “Vermont’s an incredible cross-country horse. He almost looks for the flags. He’s got a great big stride, but he’s really adjustable and rideable, not strong at all.”
Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver, who had been in first place after yesterday’s dressage phase, moved down to third. She and Cooley Moonshine, who had been in second yesterday, head into tomorrow’s cross-country in fifth place. Halliday-Sharp also sits in sixth place with Cooley Be Cool, whom she rode today. Australia’s Clayton Fredericks and FE Coldplay are in fourth place. For complete results of today’s class, click here.
The 48 horses who competed in the CCI4*-S dressage phase are scheduled to ride in tomorrow’s cross-country course, which begins at 9 a.m. EST.
Thanks to Kent Nutrition Group, Mane ‘n Tail, and Cosequin® for our coverage of the 2022 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more.