The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian™ is a dream competition for many aspiring eventing athletes. The same is true for LRK3DE first-timer Sydney Solomon of Dayton, Md. After attending the event as a spectator 15 years ago, Solomon set her sights on Kentucky, and she has worked hard and endured challenges to get here. Solomon, 26, makes her debut with Early Review CBF, a 2009 Hanoverian mare bred and owned by Laurie Cameron, and hopes for a positive experience in their first LRK3DE.
The dream started back at the 2008 LRK3DE, when Solomon came to spectate at the event like so many equestrian sport fans.
“I came to watch Karen O’Connor on Teddy O’Connor, and Phillip Dutton won [with Connaught],” said Solomon. “That kind of put him on my radar, and I ended up going to work for him.”
Solomon still trains with Dutton, as well as with Lillian Heard Wood. Her partnership with Heard Wood began back in high school and has played a big role in her development over the years.
“She is just an inspiration, through and through,” Solomon said of Heard Wood. “I think she made the goal [of competing at the LRK3DE] more realistic, and then I just kept showing up.”
Solomon has a solid mount in Early Review CBF, also known as “Coco.” They have been competing together for almost eight years, and they have a strong partnership.
“We obviously know each other inside and out. We have been through every high and every low that you can imagine. That’s a really good feeling coming into this event,” said Solomon. “She can be tough, but I know she is a safe horse. At the end of the day, I don’t think I would want my first five-star to be on any other horse.”
Once Solomon and Coco began competing at the four-star level, the five-star level seemed within reach. However, there were some bumps along the way.
“We had done a few four longs and our first one was really good, and then COVID happened,” said Solomon. “I had an unlucky fall at the second one, and then we had some issues with her tying up.”
Solomon took 2021 to regroup and address Coco’s issues so that she was healthy and set up for success. They returned to competition slowly in 2022 and were looking better than ever.
“I came out last year in June; we did a Prelim and an Intermediate, and we said, ‘Let’s go for the four long at Morven in the fall, and if that goes well, the only thing left is a five-star,’” said Solomon.
Solomon has been cautiously optimistic on the road to the LRK3DE.
“We set our sights, and I have kind of been waiting for something to go wrong in the lead-up and—touch wood—everything has gone really smoothly,” said Solomon. “Throughout our history together, almost anything you could think of that could possibly go wrong has gone wrong, so I think maybe now we just deserve for something to go right. All and all, I couldn’t be more excited.”
In addition to working with her primary coaches in the lead-up to the event, Solomon has gotten input from her fellow competitors.
“It has been a team effort,” said Solomon. “I’m based at Phillip’s in Pennsylvania, so I ride with him and Lillian Heard Wood, as well. Jennie Brannigan [Saville] has been a huge help. I have taken a few flat lessons from Liz Halliday-Sharp. It’s a team effort. I take what I need from everyone, and it’s just helpful.”
Solomon had a final cross-country school with Dutton before heading to Kentucky to confirm that she and Coco were ready to go.
“He is a man of few words,” Solomon said of Dutton. “I know he would tell me if things were going wrong, and he didn’t say much, and that is usually a good sign.”
Solomon hopes to have an educational experience with Coco this week.
“I would like to have a respectable dressage test, but there is going to be huge atmosphere on Friday afternoon. Realistically, we are not here to win the dressage,” said Solomon. “I want to have a smooth cross-country round. I know it’s not always going to be pretty, but I want to make it as easy for her as possible. I want to come out of it with a sound, healthy horse.”
Solomon is here to enjoy the experience and demonstrate the progress that she and Coco have made throughout their partnership.
“I’m still awestruck,” said Solomon. “I can’t believe it is actually happening. It has been a goal for a long time. Sometimes you get close, and anything can go wrong to prevent you from actually getting here. I am just trying to soak it all in.”