Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Horsemart meets Liz Halliday

29-year-old Californian Liz Halliday is a unique sportswoman. Now based in Surrey, England, Liz has dedicated her life to the pursuit of not one, but two international sporting careers. On the one hand she is an international motor racing driver who competes in Sportscar and GT endurance racing; whilst on the other, she is an international equestrian in Three-Day Eventing.

Liz has two mighty ambitions: to become the first female driver to win the famous Le Mans 24-hour race and to claim a place on the US Olympic equestrian team.

Liz secured qualifying for CCI**** level competition after recording her best performance of the year on board her horse Fox (Red Letter Day) at the Boekelo CCI*** very recently.

The West Sussex-based dual sportswoman finished 34th overall in her first CCI*** competition for three years, after strong performances in both the Cross Country and Show-jumping phases, moved the pair up over 50 places from their starting Dressage position.

HM – When did you move to the?
LH – I was 21 years old when I moved here. I took a year off form school to work for William Fox Pitt that one year became eight and a half! I just stayed and rode anything he would let me. I t was a fantastic way to learn.

HM – Are you a qualified instructor?
LH – Yes, I did all my BHS certifications during that time. After the first year I commuted between Pammy Huttons base and Williams and did my stage 1 through 4 in one year and preliminary teaching too – it was the busiest year of my life, it was insane!

HM – So, do you train with Pammy Hutton?
LH – Yes, I did. She is the base of all my dressage riding and I am very grateful to her. It’s too far now to travel, which is a shame, as she is amazing she put me on a lot of nice horses and that’s how I got my education from Elementary to Grand Prix.

HM – We are here at Joe Meyer’s yard where you are based, how did you meet?
LH – I actually met Joe when he gave my horse and a ride to a competition in Spain at the end of 2001. Then Pammy suggested to him that he take me on to ride some horses, etc. in 2002. And I have been based with him ever since! So I guess you could say that I met Joe a couple years before on the eventing circuit, but then Pammy helped to get me involved in working with Joe.

HM – How often do you get home?
LH – Not as much as I would like to. When I was racing in America I saw them (her family) a lot, but now its only Christmas time really. My Dad has not been that well lately so I am trying to get there at least three times per year.

HM – When did you start riding and why?
LH – I started at eight yrs old - no one in the family did it, it was just me. There was a stable not far from where I grew up, we just kept driving past and I insisted on a having a go. I started PC and that’s how the eventing started but it’s quite hard to event in California. When I went to University I met more people that were involved in the world games etc and they made me realise the UK is the place to be to event. I took a year off school to focus on my riding and that was it, I was hooked.

HM – Did you buy your horses in the UK?
LH – No, I brought a horse with me to England but he didn’t quite make it competing, he went back to California and I sold him.

I then bought a horse here that took me from Novice to 3star in just a few years – he was awesome! His name was Cheese! He was the best horse, not much ability but just tried so hard, what a heart! – In two years we got to advance, I was lucky to have a horse like that. I lost him in 2005 sadly. He really was my baby.

HM – So when did the racing start?
LH – My dad was a racing driver, historic cars mostly and an instructor. He is an amazing driver, he taught me to drive at 17 – I didn’t start with karting or anything I shared a race car with him that was the start of it! I loved it.

HM – Did you loose interest in the driving when the eventing started?
LH – No I did both but I took two years off racing when I came to UK as my Dad wouldn’t let me drive if he wasn’t there, didn’t trust anyone else!

HM – I know nothing about cars – tell me what type you use?
LH – I do sport car racing and endurance racing. I have done the Le Mans 24hour three times now. My favourite is the proper purpose-built sports cars that run at the front. I did some sprint racing but the endurance is what I love.

HM – Do you own the car?
LH – No I sold the old one – the sports cars are hugely expensive – you buy a seat in the team and hope the sponsors are there to help!

HM – What sort of speed do you get up to?
LH – 200 mph! Probably more. The car I have in the last two races would go over the 200 mph, its fast!

HM – Are you the only woman? How is that?
LH – For two years at Le Mans I am the only woman – and most times I am to be honest, there’s a there's a few but we are still a minority.
It’s not an issue, I know all the drivers. It’s in your own head really, you just have to do the job and if you’re quick, no one cares really. I don’t think about it. It’s only because of the media attention that makes me think about it. I just think of myself as a driver!

HM – How do you juggle all this?
LH – Depends on the season. 2006 was crazy non stop travelling. I was competing every weekend and I had a good seat in the American Le Mans, which I did. This year I have done more riding and focused on the horses and fitted in a bit of TV work too.

HM – Tell me about the horses?
LH – I have a couple of nice horses right now and a horse that is coming up so I have to make sure I am here to work them, and not throw away any opportunity. Oscar, who I bought from William, is very special. He does a fabulous dressage and is now jumping really well.

I was very lucky to get him and I think William is regretting it! He got a knock in the field last week and bruised himself. He’ll be rested for a couple of weeks before being put back to work. It’s disappointing that he had to miss Boekelo, but thankfully there’s no major damage, so he should be raring to go again next year.

It’s been a challenging season and I have put myself under a lot of pressure, but this result makes it all worthwhile. I’ve got to say a big thank you to my sponsors Nupafeed and Performance Drink whose products really brought out the best in my horse, and myself, throughout the competition. I’m thrilled for Fox. He’s definitely a four star horse now in my mind and I’m sure that, if we can work on the Dressage over the winter, then we’re going to be competitive next year, when we progress into that elite league.

Harry is for sale and is on the Horsemart website he is 14 years old, he is nice and would be great for a junior. He will get intermediate level no problem.

Donovan – ‘Intrepid’ I bought from Joe here and he was breed in NZ. He was very green but I think he is very special, he needs some more confidence but I really think he is going to be amazing.

HM – What makes you more scared eventing or driving?
LH – Eventing defiantly. I broke my collar bone, Fox stood on me, two surgeries later it makes you cautious!

HM – Tell me about your groom?
LH – My groom, Katie Good, is just fantastic! I would just freak out if she left me! She is the backbone of the operation.

Fiona Russell travels away with me too, she has also been amazing and I would like to thank her.

HM – What’s next for you?
LH – Portugal at the beginning of the year. Donovan will do his first one star and Oscar will do a three star.

Fiona will groom for me in Portugal, Joe drives the truck and I stay home and help with the riding of his, then I fly down there.

Joe and I help each other all the time. Joe has helped me so much with my jumping, I have really come on thanks to him!

HM – Who else trains you?
LH – Richard Barrett trains me for dressage, he is phenomenal trainer. We travel to him, he has done wonders for my team. I owe a lot to him and he works so hard.

I would now like to train more through the winter and help other people too! So feel free to contact me. 07720 346535

Thanks Liz you really are an amazing lady! Look forward to hearing your results!