McEwen Leads After First Day of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN™
Halliday-Sharp Sets Tone for Cosequin® Lexington CCI4*-S
Great Britain’s Tom McEwen hasn’t been riding JL Dublin for very long, but their partnership looked solid as the pair danced to the lead of the CCI5*-L at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian™. McEwen and JL Dublin strutted their stuff in front of a crowd of 7,158, the largest Thursday crowd since 2017.
The 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, owned by Mr. and Mrs. J. Lambert and Mrs. D. Johnston, was trained and competed by McEwen’s fellow countryman Nicola Wilson until last year, when Wilson suffered a serious accident that led to her retirement from high-level competition. She passed the reins to McEwen, who formed a fast partnership with “Dubs.”
“He was amazing, and it’s all thanks to Nicola I get to enjoy him,” McEwen said after his ride which scored 22.6 penalty points. “He’s the most amazing horse and I’m unbelievably lucky to get to take the reins. I’m very excited. And it wouldn’t have come together this quickly without everything she’s done, so this is all thanks to her.”
McEwen’s 22.6 puts him just ahead of Americans Tamie Smith aboard Mai Baum (24.2) and Liz Halliday-Sharp aboard Deniro Z (29.0). McEwen finished second on “Dubs” at the Boekelo CCI4*-L in October 2022; this is their first time at this level together.
“He was amazing at Boekelo, but we had a few things to get to know about each other,” he said. “Over the winter, we built our partnership and spent time getting to know each other and it’s showing today, but there’s certainly some more polishing of the diamond to be done for both of us.”
McEwen’s admiration for his equine partner is clear in the way he speaks about him. “Dubs is the kindest horse you could ever meet — lovely, soft,” he said. “What you see in the arena is what you get: lovely, soft, and kind and also the personality of a showman. He loves being on stage and in front of people. He’s just a lovely, lovely horse.”
In contrast, Smith has a long-term relationship with her 17-year-old partner Mai Baum, owned by Alexandra and Ellen Ahearn and Eric Markell. But she feels like even now, things get better every time she competes with him.
“I just feel him getting stronger and being more in self-carriage and in front of my leg,” she said. “He answered all the questions super, and I couldn’t have asked him to be better. We maybe had a few tiny mistakes but overall, I’m very pleased.
“With any horse, as time goes on, you hope to develop a good, trusting partnership, and the quality has always been there, but his confidence and strength for both of us has grown,” she concluded.
As the highest-placed American, Smith currently leads the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian.
Holding down third place is Halliday-Sharp and her veteran partner Deniro Z. The 15-year-old Dutch-bred gelding owned by Ocala Horse Properties has an impressive résumé, but his flying changes in the dressage test have been a challenge. Halliday-Sharp was especially pleased with his performance today.
“He got three out of the four so I guess we should be excited,” she said with a laugh. “At home, his changes are the best they’ve ever been.”
She credits the improvement to her recent work with U.S. dressage rider Shelly Francis. “She’s changed the way I teach horses to do changes,” she said. “He’s starting to understand what he can do. The changes are physically very hard for him … and at 15, he’s still getting better.”
Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event | April 27-30, 2023 (kentuckythreedayevent.com)