Lisa Chan and Fernhill Picture This, CCI1*-L winner. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Nearly 500 horses competed at VHT International May 26-29, 2022 at the sprawling Virginia Horse Center in Lexington.

Only five CCI2*-L horse-and-rider combinations show jumped double-clear Sunday afternoon, and two of those rounds were produced by Lucia Strini (USA). With both of her mounts finishing on their dressage scores, Strini took home first and third place in a class of 28 starters.

Strini and Kevin G, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood owned by Plain Dealing Farm, led from start to finish, ending on a 29.5.

“He’s only just moved up to Prelim this spring. We weren’t aiming at a three-day but he’s taken to it so quickly. He’s been perfect,” Strini said of the striking grey gelding. “Cross-country was really hilly so he had to work pretty hard, but he’s really honest and he’s a great show jumper. So I was hoping he’d keep them up today and he did! He’s my sister’s horse and it’s been fun to ride him this spring.”

Kevin G’s stablemate Keynote Dassett, also owned by Plain Dealing Farm, finished on 33.9, moving up from eighth after dressage with fault-free cross-country and jumping tests.

Lucia Strini and Kevin G, CCI2*-L winner. Photo by Brant Gamma Photography.

“We’ve just been getting to know each other,” said Strini, who imported the 7-year-old Warmblood from Dassett Eventing in England last October. “He’s pretty quirky but he’s an amazing athlete and found it all really easy this weekend. He’s just a joy.”

Strini and her family hail from nearby Charlottesville, Virginia. VHT is their “hometown event” and they’ve been competing here since they were children riding in Pony Club rallies.

“This is such a great facility. The courses and rings are getting better and better,” she said. “It’s such a big atmosphere and a great start for the young ones especially.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp took home several top finishes at VHT. She piloted the Calmaria Partnership’s 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Cooley HHS Calmaria to first place in the CCI3*-S, finishing on a 37.4. She also followed closely on a 37.5 with second place Cooley Nutcracker, an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Halliday-Sharp, Deborah Halliday, Renee Lane, and Ocala Horse Properties. Halliday-Sharp also topped the Advanced/Intermediate on a 34.2 with her longtime partner Deniro Z, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Ocala Horse Properties, and won the Modified on 22.7 with Deborah Palmer’s 6-year-old German Sport Horse gelding, Maybach. Halliday-Sharp topped off the event Sunday finishing second in the CCI2*-L with her own 7-year-old Westphalian mare Alina SD

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley HHS Calmaria, CCI3*-S winner. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

“We always come here because it has good terrain and they work hard on the ground. I’ve enjoyed coming here for the last couple of years,” Halliday-Sharp said. “It was a busy weekend. I think the courses were challenging enough and had enough to do. All the rain we had presented trickier conditions on cross-country which meant we had to work a little harder.”

With a full barn at home in Kentucky, Halliday-Sharp is busy traveling to competitions with different horses each week. She was at Chattahoochee Hills in Georgia last weekend. From Virginia she heads to Bromont in Canada and then it’s on to Germany for the Luhmühlen CCI5*-L. VHT’s undulating terrain served as a good fitness run.

“We have a lot of horses in the barn, so we try to place everyone in the right event,” she said. “This weekend I had one prepping for Bromont, and another in their first run at the level. I wanted them to run quick enough and get a good puff in. That’s why I like coming here; the horses come away having had to work a little bit.”

Lisa Chan and her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse Fernhill Picture This were sitting in sixth place prior to the start of the final phase. They lowered one rail to add 4.0 penalties to their score, but with several rails and technical errors occurring in the division, they climbed the leaderboard to ultimately win their first international event on a 39.9.

Chan purchased Fernhill Picture This from her trainer Daryl Kinney one-and-a-half years ago. She describes him as goofy and food motivated, but “he’s a solid citizen when it comes to work.” The pair were seventh after dressage on a 35.9, and posted a double-clear cross-country round in their first trip around a CCI1*-L. “He acted like he’d been doing it his whole life,” Chan said.

“He’s my tangerine dream,” Chan said of the chestnut gelding, gesturing to her stock tie adorned with images of the orange fruit. “We’re both very green and this is our first FEI. We were just looking to have a solid experience. He was a star and super ridable and lovely. We had a blast.”

Jillian Dean and her 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse Kingcarra Cooley Diamond finished second in the CCI2*-L with a 40.6. Holly Shade and her 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse/Oldenburg mare Hang On Caitlyn moved up to third with a final score of 43.2.

Nicholas Beshear and Rio de Janeiro, CCI2*-S winner. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Nineteen-year-old Nicholas Beshear picked up his first international victory with a win in the CCI2*-S riding Rio de Janeiro. In only their second event together, Beshear and the 13-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding owned by Nicholas’s father Jeff Beshear, moved up from seventh after dressage to finish on a 34.4, having added 1.6 time penalties to their initial score.

Chris Talley and his 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Loughtown Cici ZA finished on their dressage score of 35.9 to move up from 11th to finish second in the CCI2*-S.

Ariel Grald earned third place in both the CCI3*-S with Annie Eldridge’s 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Belline Cavalry Man and the CCI2*-S with Eldridge’s 8-year-old Holsteiner mare Isla de Coco. Additionally, Grald finished second in the Advanced/Intermediate with Eldridge’s 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Forrest Gump 124.

VHT is pleased to host competitors representing many nations, from Barbados to Canada to the Netherlands, from Starter level up to Advanced/Intermediate. “We are always grateful for the competitors who choose to come to VHT. We hope that they have come to know they will enjoy comfortable facilities and great sport when they come here,” VHT organizer Andy Bowles said.

“This weekend presented some challenges for us with the schedule changes due to weather as well as missing some key members of the team due to matters beyond our control. I want to thank the competitors for their flexibility and understanding with the schedule changes. I also want to thank my team for working together, picking up the slack, and making sure the show ran smoothly. Angela and I can’t run this event without a great team in place and I think ours is one of the very best.”

VHT International & H.T. (Lexington, Va.): [Website] [Scoring]