By Liz Halliday-Sharp
In April we all got to enjoy what so many athletes and spectators alike have been missing—The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event back with spectators! The event truly is one of the very best in the world, and while the challenge was still real in 2021, the event just wasn’t the same without the people who love and support the top event each year.
For me the event has become particularly special as we now make Lexington, Kentucky, our primary home, so it’s both weird and wonderful being able to sleep in my own bed while I’m competing in the iconic event. This year I ended up having three horses in the CCI4*S and I think it’s wonderful to have that class available now. What a great opportunity for both younger and more experienced horses to be able to compete in the Rolex Arena. I don’t think there are many places in the world with as much atmosphere and “wow factor,” and every time a horse competes in that space they come away bigger and stronger.
I had always planned to take Cooley Quicksilver to the Luhmuhlen 5* in Germany, so the 4*S was part of our original preparation plan and my other two rides were younger, less experienced horses that I knew would benefit immensely from the experience. In my opinion, the 4*S at Kentucky needs to be considered as a championship-type track for the level. Those that enter should be prepared for the toughest four-star track in the USA and should be bringing horses that they feel will perhaps be contesting the five-star in the next season.
This year Derek di Grazia did not disappoint in his course design and the track was as challenging as ever. If I’m being critical, though, I would say that the coffin question at fence six was perhaps a bit too strong for the level. While I fully respect Derek and his outstanding course design, I do think this fence would have ridden better with one extra stride on the C element, or if it had been placed later in the course so the horses could have settled into the track beforehand.
I was first out of the start box and had a good ride on Cooley Quicksilver through the combination, but I remember thinking, Wow, this is a serious five-star question. My second horse, Cooley Moonshine, unfortunately misread the C element after he jumped big over the ditch, and I tipped off the side as a result. I’ve had him from a 5-year-old and he has never had a cross-country fault in his life, so it was a real shame for such an honest, talented horse who always tries his best not to have a problem. But in these moments, we have to remember that even the best horses can make mistakes and I don’t for a moment hold this little blip against him. My last horse, Cooley Be Cool, is a 9-year-old who was the least experienced of the group and I chose to take the option at the coffin and to focus on a good, educational, clear round. He’s a super horse for the future and I hope to have both him and Cooley Moonshine ready for the five-star in Kentucky next year.
On the last day, I was thrilled to have both of my greys looking fresh and fabulous and they delivered outstanding clear rounds in the show jumping. In all three phases, it was wonderful to have cheering spectators again, and I think the horses enjoyed it, too!
Of course, it was fantastic to take the win with Cooley Quicksilver. The Monster, as he is known to his friends in the barn, has been this weird, goofy, wiggly horse that I’ve had in my program from a green 5-year-old and it’s awesome to have him win something big. I was also so excited for the members of The Monster Partnership who own him—Rob and Chris Desino of Ocala Horse Properties, who were there to watch, and his other two owners, Renee Lane and my mom, Deborah Halliday, who were able to watch and cheer loudly during the live stream. The partnership also owns Cooley Be Cool, who finished seventh, and Cooley Moonshine, so it was a very special weekend for them to have all of their horses competing in one place.
It’s always a pleasure to compete in the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, and to have it be our local event makes the feeling even better. I hope to be there with multiple horses in both classes next year.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver, after winning the CCI4*S at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, enjoy a moment with co-owners Rob and Chris Desino of Ocala Horse Properties. Cooley Quicksilver is also co-owned by Renee Lane and Deborah Halliday.
Photo by Shannon Brinkman