‘They’re athletes, too’: Lexington equestrian withdraws from Olympics after horse suffers injury

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:12 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Liz Halliday-Sharp and her horse, Deniro Z, were set to compete on the U.S. Eventing Olympic Team. A recent injury forced them to withdraw, but they’re planning on making a full recovery.

WKYT’s Shelby Lofton first caught up with them a few weeks ago, while the pair was busy training for Tokyo.

For the past year, Halliday-Sharp has been settling into her life in Lexington. The California native left the states for England several years ago, but decided to make Kentucky her forever home.

“I said to my husband, ‘Let’s just see Lexington, let’s see what we think,’ and we found this wonderful farm,” Halliday-Sharp said.

The calling to compete for her country brought her back, because it’s been a lifelong dream.

“I remember at a very young age thinking, ‘this has got to be something big.’ I’m not just here to do this for fun,” Halliday-Sharp said.

It’s not just a one-woman show. Her partner, Deniro Z, a 13-year-old KPWN gelding owned by Ocala Horse Properties, wanted in on the attention.

“He’s got a strong personality...he’s a real competitor. He’s always been a tryer. No matter how excited he is at a show, he goes to work when he’s in the ring. He always is a professional,” she said.

Their strength is in their subtlety of how they move together.

“It’s really the only sport where you have another athlete with a brain that you’re working with that isn’t human,” Halliday-Sharp said.

The pair would be on their way to Tokyo right now, but things didn’t go as planned. Instead, they’re back home.

“We went to our mandatory outing at Great Meadows, he was really good,” Halliday-Sharp said. “After that, we were checking him over and there was just a few concerns that maybe he wasn’t 100% perfect.”

After a lot of discussion with their team and the veterinarian, they sent Deniro Z in for an MRI.

“He unfortunately had some bone bruising. We all decided it was not right for him to keep being under that amount of training in that run up to Tokyo,” Halliday-Sharp said.

She said, had the team continued to push him for the Olympics, his injury could’ve been catastrophic.

“I suppose I had a good feeling that things weren’t going to go right,” Halliday-Sharp said. “I just had a gut feeling, but to really have it told, ‘you know you’re not going,’ it’s a hard thing to swallow.”

Days away from the games, a long trip overseas was cut short. Like many other athletes, Deniro Z has found himself on the bench.

“They’re athletes, too and we can’t keep pushing them. Above all else, Deniro’s my friend and my partner,” Halliday-Sharp said.

It’s the side of the sport not always seen.

“It’s horrible when you’re in that place and you think, this horse is maybe not going to go,” Halliday-Sharp said.

She’s focusing on what she can control: the reins in her hands.

“What this whole thing is going to do is remind me that I can fight my way through it,” Halliday-Sharp said. “I think it’s going to make me stronger. I’ve always considered myself pretty tough, but this has really tested me.”

But, everybody loves a good comeback story.

“Now my focus is on the World Equestrian Games and I’m putting all my heart and soul toward that,” Halliday Sharp said.

Halliday-Sharp said she expects Deniro Z to make a full recovery soon. She said she has high hopes for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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