Sporthorse Star: Deniro Z

Get to know Deniro Z—Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp's powerhouse eventing mount who she'll be representing the U.S. with in Tokyo.

Discipline: Eventing

Nickname: Niro or Z

Breed: KWPN

Breeding: Zapatero out of Zonne-trend

Age: 13

Sex: Gelding

Height: 16.2 hh

Owner: Ocala Horse Properties

Career highlights: First in the 2020 CCI4*-S at Great Meadow International, first in the 2020 CCI4*-S at Plantation Field International.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z at the 2021 Kentucky Three-Day Event. © Julia Murphy

How long have you had Deniro Z?

I’ve had him from the beginning of his career. As a 7-year-old, actually. He didn’t start eventing until he was 7 and he hadn’t actually done that much. He was a pretty green 7-year-old when I got him. We’ve kind of done it all together.

What are some of your most meaningful accomplishments with him?

Last year was a great year winning [Plantation Field International] and [Great Meadow International] and he had good run at [Tryon International]. Honestly, the cross-country round I had at [the 2021 Kentucky Three-Day Event] was the best I think I’ve ever had on him. He was really incredible. It was not how we wanted to finish up—I actually I ended up with a horse that was a little too fresh on show jumping day, which is a big reason why the rails came down. But, now we know. That’s a good problem to have, I guess, at a five-star—something too fresh. 

We just have a really good partnership. We’re very good friends and we just really know each other now and he fights for me like crazy. He’s a very genuine, very happy horse. He’s always happy to work, no matter what it is. He’s excited to see me every day, which is pretty cool. He’s got such a handsome face too. Like his expressions are so like, you can just tell how happy he is. He’s always flapping his lips and stuff. He’s always done that. Like, when he’s happy or excited, he always does that. He’s a really great [horse]. I love him. 

How did you come to ride him?

I actually found him—sourced him—as a horse to sell. He was meant to be a sale horse. Just like Cooley Moonshine was, just like most of the ones I’ve had, were bought as potential sale horses. Actually a couple of people tried him and couldn’t really ride him very well and I always got along with him great. We started to win quite a few things and that’s when Ocala Horse Properties came on board. Because, I was thinking, “Well, geez, I’d really like to keep this horse.” And they sort of said, “Oh, we’d love to buy you a nice horse.” I said, “Okay, well, I have a nice horse, you could just buy him.” And that was the start of our … he was the first horse they ever had for me. He’s like their baby now, you know, very proud of him. They were balling at Kentucky hysterically after cross-country. Like they really take it to heart. It’s so nice for them. 

What is he like to ride?

He’s a lovely horse to ride. He’s he’s really nice to ride on the flat. Obviously, flying changes are ahis hardest thing, but he’s gorgeous to ride and he tries very hard. He’s actually not the easiest ride in show jumping. I think a lot of people think he is, but he’s actually quite a tricky ride because he’s such a power jumper. A lot of my others are easier. I sort of feel like I have to really help put him in the right place and put his body in the right place. Cross-country, he’s awesome. He’s like a Ferrari. He’s my favorite one, definitely, of all my horses. 

What’s his personality like?

He’s a sweetie. He’s really lovely for all the girls to do. Definitely, when he’s excited at a show, he can be quite the handful. The best he’s ever been in the jog was at Kentucky. That was the first time he’s ever not been a cannon. Normally, he’s quite dangerous, like with his hind legs striking out. He can be quite cheeky like that. So, normally at the shows, I ride him everywhere. He doesn’t do a lot of hand walking or any of that. That’s just who he is. 

What about in the barn? Does he have any favorite snacks or nicknames?

He’s lovely. He’s a sweetie. He likes bananas. He likes most treats, but yeah, he really likes bananas. We call him Niro. Or, Z—sometimes we call him Z. 

What are some of his strengths?

I think he’s a fantastic cross country horse. He’s very, very good. And, he does a very good [dressage] test barring the flying changes. I mean, I think he was on his way to leading at Kentucky before the flying changes. But like, he’s not a freak of a horse like some of these horses out there, like Mai Baum or Scandalous. He’s a normal horse and he just tries really hard. And, he’s built with his bum up in the air, which is why it’s so hard for him to do the changes. It’s physically really hard, but he just tries so hard, and that’s why he goes so well on the flat, because he just gives me everything all the time. It’s a great feeling to go in the ring knowing that your horse is going to try his heart out there. It’s a wonderful feeling. 

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z at the 2021 Kentucky Three-Day Event. © Julia Murphy

Does he have any weaknesses that you spend extra time working on?

Not really, no. I suppose we always try and just get his shape really good before he goes to a show, like jumping-wise, trying to just get him really round in his body. Sometimes, I try and jump him through some shorter distances because he just struggles a little bit to compress himself. Again, it’s just the way he’s built. He’s more of a power jumper. At home, I just work on flying changes endlessly on the flat. That’s the main thing I work on because they are the hardest thing ever for him. It took him a long time to even do a late change when I got him. He couldn’t even do a change when I got him.

Do you follow any kind of healthcare routine with him?

We feed Platinum Performance supplements and he’s on Legends feed. We’ll give him four feeds a day—we try and spread them out a lot, because I think that’s better for the horses. That’s kind of how we always do things. Obviously, he gets your normal supplements, like some joint supplements and various things like that. But, mainly, I think it’s just good to make sure that the horses get out, they get to be horses, they go to the fields. You know, they have a routine. That’s important. 

Do you anticipate having to change his routine for the long trip to Tokyo? 

I mean, he’s traveled a lot. Don’t forget, he’s been back and forth from England like four times now. He’s been to Holland, he’s been to Germany, he’s been everywhere. I would say he’d be a slightly stressier traveler than like, the Cooley Quicksilver horse, who just loves to get on the plane because he’s weird. But it’s not like it’s [Deniro Z’s] first time. I think obviously there will be challenges, but Claire [Tisckos] has flown with the horses before. She knows them inside and out. 

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