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Equestrian Events

2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event: Dressage Day Two

Horse Illustrated’s coverage of the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is brought to you by CareCredit.

Tom McEwen of Great Britain had a big day under beautiful skies at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., nailing the dressage test at the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin (GBR) score a 24.6 in their dressage test to take the lead. Photo by Mary Cage

McEwen rode a steady and accurate test aboard the 13-year-old German Warmblood gelding JL Dublin for a score of 24.6, bumping fellow countryman Yasmin Ingham (GBR) and Banzai Du Loir’s leading score of 26.1 from yesterday down to 2nd place going into Saturday’s cross-country phase.

McEwen’s story of a 2nd-place finish at this event last year was overshadowed, as Tamra Smith was busy becoming the first American to win since 2008. But McEwen rides for the most competitive nation in the world in eventing, yet was good enough to win team gold and individual silver at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (held in 2021).

“I’m just lucky to be back here,” said McEwen after his ride. “Dubs has been on amazing form, and today’s test really showed that. Yes, we were hoping to do a little bit better, but if you can perform on your not-so-great days, that’s pretty good.”

A cute moment as Tom McEwen and JL Dublin (GBR) exit the ring. Photo by Mary Cage

When asked why he makes the journey all the way across the Atlantic to compete in Kentucky when there is a 5* at Badminton in the UK right around the corner, he had nothing but praise for the locale.

“This is one of the best venues in the world,” he said. “We’d all like to be going to the Olympics [this summer], and this has got the terrain, the ground is amazing, and it’s designed beautifully. I came here to try for the British team—at every show they’re so strong. Everyone’s got different ideas [of how best to make the team], exposing [the horses] to something like that is perfect really.”

USA in Position

Tied for 3rd place after today’s ride is the co-highest-placed U.S. rider, Elisabeth Halliday. Riding the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Nutcracker, Halliday put in one of her usual dazzling rides for a score of 30.6.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Nutcracker score a 30.6. Photo by Mary Cage

She describes the horse as quite a powerhouse throughout the three phases of eventing.

“He’s very careful and powerful; he has a big engine, and he’s very brave.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp waves to the crowd as she exits the ring aboard Cooley Nutcracker. Photo by Mary Cage

Tied for 3rd with Halliday is Lauren Nicholson (USA), who rode long-time partner Vermiculus, a 17-year-old Anglo-Arabian gelding.

“He was extremely excited to be back at the party [after missing last year],” Nicholson said after her ride. “He was the wildest I’ve ever had him. It’s been a collaborative effort keeping him happy and taking him out all the time for grass. We do a lot of groundwork with him as it works his mind without drilling under saddle.”

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus score a 30.6. Photo by Mary Cage

Asked about her exuberant mount, she laughed.

“He’s an Arab cross. You’re never going to wear him out. He felt extremely fresh in the ring, and it’s a fine line between being impressive and [performing] airs above the ground. The whole test I was just trying to keep that balance, and I was relieved we did it without any exciting moments.”

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s exciting cross-country phase. This year’s designer is once again Derek di Grazia, who is known for tough but fair challenges that allow the horses an “out” if they get into any trouble. One of the last selection trials for the 2024 U.S. Olympic eventing team, riders are sure to give it their all over the 27 obstacles on this 4+ mile course over undulating bluegrass terrain.

Find all of our coverage, brought to you by CareCredit, on our 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event landing page. Catch the livestream here.

2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L Top 10 After Dressage

1. Tom McEwen (GBR) and JL Dublin, 24.6
2. Yasmin Ingham (GBR) and Banzai Du Louir, 26.0
=3. Elisabeth Halliday (USA) and Cooley Nutcracker, 30.6
=3. Lauren Nicholson (USA) and Vermiculus, 30.6
5. Sharon White (USA) and Claus 63, 30.7
6. Kirsty Chabert (GBR) and Classic VI, 31.0
7. Malin Hansen-Hotopp (GER) and Carlitos Quidditch K, 31.1
=8. Oliver Townend (GBR) and Cooley Rosalent, 31.4
=8. Calvin Böckmann (GER) and The Phantom of the Opera, 31.4
10. Monica Spencer (NZL) and Artist, 31.9

Visit for a complete list of scores.

This article about dressage at the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event is a web exclusive for Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Holly Caccamise

Holly Caccamise has been with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider magazines since 2007, and in 2019, she became Editor in Chief of both titles. Caccamise has a master's degree in Animal Science with a specialization in equine nutrition and exercise physiology. She has also worked as a racing magazine ad copywriter and top-level show groom.

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