Liz Halliday had a week of highs and lows as the California-born, British-based dual sportswoman competed in the biggest equestrian event of her 2011 season so far, the Saumur International Horse Trials on 19-22 May.
Held in the stunning Loire Valley region of France, the event marked a return to CCI*** competition for Fox (Red Letter Day II) for the first time since 2008 and also saw Bud (Newmarket Malt) continuing his progression at CIC** level.
However, while Halliday was encouraged with certain aspects of both horses’ performances, she was also left frustrated as external factors prevented stronger overall results.
Fox began his CCI*** comeback with a solid Dressage test, and then climbed the 56-horse field significantly after a superb clear Cross Country round with only a handful of time faults, moving him into 23rd place. Unfortunately, prior to the last day of competition, Fox was denied the chance to take part in the Show Jumping test when he failed the final veterinary inspection.
“Fox is a shorter-striding horse and doesn’t really have extravagant paces,” explained Liz. “Before the final inspection he was a little bit stiff from the Cross Country round the previous day, but he was definitely sound. He moves very short in front anyway when he trots up, which makes things difficult compared to the other horses, and mixed with a slight bit of stiffness he would not have looked as free as some of the bigger moving horses in the class. The panel therefore decided to fail him, but the decision was a little harsh in my opinion. My own vet has since checked him over and says that he is ok.
“I was really disappointed that we didn’t get to complete the event, particularly as we were set for a strong result inside the top 20. However, the positive from the weekend was the way he handled a very difficult Cross Country course. It was one of the best rides I’ve ever had on him and he was absolutely top class.”
Meanwhile, Bud performed well in the Dressage test to sit just outside the top 20 in the 73-strong field, but a wrong choice of bit led to issues in the Cross Country test.
“Bud is very keen and strong physically this year and I have been trying to find the right bit for him lately,” said Halliday. “I made the decision to try a new one for this event and it turned out to be a mistake! I basically had not much steering or control for the first half of the course, which isn’t great around a technical track like Saumur.
“He went pretty well considering, but I had trouble at a difficult banked corner at fence 10 – I couldn’t quite get my steering and get him put together in time and he just ran straight past it. The rest of the course improved after that though, and I am confident that we will get it all put together next time.”
Bud completed the event with one rail down in final Show Jumping test, but was ranked well down the order due to his earlier run out in the Cross Country. Nevertheless Halliday could again see the positives amidst her disappointment.
“Apart from that one mistake on cross country, he jumped really well and also produced a very good Dressage test,” she said. “His show jumping is also vastly improving and he jumped well and tried hard on the final day. It’s disappointing that the Cross Country round cost him a good finish, but there’s plenty of encouraging signs from him for the future of his international career.”
Those signs were on show during the Open Intermediate section at the Aston-le-Walls Horse Trials, held in Northamptonshire, UK, which Halliday attended as a warm-up event before heading to Saumur. The competition saw Bud back up a solid Dressage test with clear rounds in both the Cross Country and Show Jumping tests, taking them to a strong finish in sixth place in a field of almost 50 horses.
Halliday will now spend the next couple weeks busy with a variety of TV and media commitments before returning to eventing competition next month at the Longleat Horse Trials in Wiltshire, UK, on 17-19 June.