80% dreams realised at Bolesworth
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In the windy wrath of Storm Hector, history was made on day two at the Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show. Yesterday’s Grand Prix competitors made their choice and opted for the Grand Prix Special or Freestyle and first on was the Theraplate GP Special. It was to be the test debut for yesterday’s winners, Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St John Freestyle, owned by Mount St John Stud.
The windy conditions proved tricky for many riders with a number of horses unnerved by the gusts. Sonnar Murray Brown and his own Erlentanz, in their maiden season of international Grand Prix, got the class off to a classy start with 69.55% in their first ever Grand Prix Special which eventually left them finish fifth.
Gareth Hughes was outstanding today with Julia Hornig, his own and wife Rebecca’s 12 year old Classic Briolinca and they look to be back on track after a few years of soundness issues. The duo haven’t ridden a GP Special together for a few years but it didn’t show as it was a consistent performance to score a new international PB of 75.38%.
Charlotte was next with her young star and the crowd was full of expectation to see what the mare could produce. It was the first time Charlotte has ridden the trst since Rio. A late change in the two-time flying changes was really the only blip with some greenness in the technically tricky test in the windiest of conditions – Charlotte said afterwards; “I felt like I was about to be blown off! It really affected my balance!” But to those watching, it just looked like poetry in motion. The scores were trending above 80% so her aim of breaking the magic barrier was looking like being realised. 80.36% was the confirmed debut score.
“Finally! I’m really pleased; there’s still blips and I think I slightly overrode the passage and should have ridden some transitions differently but she’s so reliable. She never worries and I knew she’d cope; it’s so nearly there. I know I can be braver in the extended trot so there’s more to come. She’s so incredibly strong, balanced and confident
“Carl said to just go in and ride a clear round and I was like ‘hell no!’ – I always like to be competitive!” she said with a wry smile. Many comparisons have been made between Valegro and the mare and the nation’s favourite scored 74.66% in his first Special, she went six percent better… “She’s just a freak,” Carl said of the Fidertanz sired mare. “She takes whatever you throw at her. I went all goosebumpy during the test and it’s exciting when you think it’s just the start of things.”
Emile Faurie followed on Hof Kasselmann’s Dono Dimaggio. There was a moment when the wind nearly took off his hat and he had to make a quick grab to keep it in place. It was their third Special together and although not a personal best, it was clear that the combination are really beginning to gel and blossom and 73.02% was the score which put them third.
Ulrik Molgaard ended a good show for him and Claus Munkedal’s Michigan with 70.7% which left them in fourth spot.
The Jones Homes Invitational PSG class got the second day of dressage underway and it was Jess Roisin Dunn from the neighbouring county of Lancashire who took the honours riding LG Alicante Valley owned by Jennifer Whittaker with 71.09%. Francesca Bradley and Baldovino were second with Sarah Higgins completing the podium with Davidoff.
2017 Team NAF Pony bronze medallist Megan Barratt took the PRB Horseboxes Pony Invitational with a great performance worthy of 70.94% with mum Sue’s Valido’s Starlight. The 16 year old from Oxon is balancing competing with her GCSEs and after the prizegiving hot footed it home ahead of her final exam tomorrow before returning to Bolesworth for Saturday’s British Dressage supported Invitational Freestyle.
Megan, trained by Paula Cooke, was pleased; “He was really good in there, we’ve never been in an arena that big before and he coped well with the atmosphere.” When asked if the wind affected their performance, she replied; “He’s well acclimatised as my trainer’s arena is outdoor and very windy!”
The CDI dressage at Bolesworth came to a close with the Equitop Myoplast Grand Prix Freestyle and it was a popular win for Carl Hester with his own, Lady Anne Evans and Ann Cory’s Hawtins Delicato. The Diamond Hit ten year old was a bit more on his toes today but it wasn’t down to the wind as it had calmed down. A mistake in his two-time flying changes and moments of disagreement into piaffe on both reins which Carl called ‘naughty’ just pegged the mark back on 76.22% but there were some real ‘wow’ moments including his extended trot which just floats.
“It was such a shame today. He warmed up even better than yesterday and then caught me out a bit in the arena. But he’s so gorgeous and felt a million dollars; really ‘up’ today. He’s a nervous horse and we’re still learning to understand him. It’s all going the right way and he’ll get used to things the more he does; he’s worth it. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have another horse at this level and the luxury of one who looks like him.”
Carl rode to an old music of Uthopia’s and he was asked when ‘Del’ might get a music of his own; “It’s a real investment these days so I’m waiting a bit longer. Our short term goal is selection for WEG where we want to get qualified for Tokyo and bring a team medal back, then I’ll look to the future.”
Richard Davison was a close second with Gwendolyn Meyer’s Bubblingh – indeed three of the five judges had the duo to win – on 75.87%. The crowd appreciated his ‘young’ music with hints of Robbie Williams and some DJ ‘scratching’ and it’s a floorplan which really uses Bubblingh’s strengths. They really looked like they enjoyed it today. The also had a mistake in their two-time changes which may have cost them victory but Richard was thrilled with the Lingh-sired 12 year old’s performance at Bolesworth.
“We had a little chat after yesterday’s piaffe antics. I was 99.9% happy with yesterday’s test and he did a really good job. He’s very sensitive and everyone recognises that he’s needed time to mature and develop. At Windsor he was wired…we went to Aachen, he was still wired so it’s great to come here and he’s happy, I clearly need to do more shows. It was a big crowd here today and he really held his nerve which was my aim.
“He’s very capable and it’s a privilege to train a horse like him. I’m really enjoying producing him and he reminds me that you never stop learning with horses, that’s for sure. The judges are ready to give him the big marks and when you consider what they’ve had to take off these two days, I’ve had good scores.”
Richard confirmed that he’s not going for selection for the World Equestrian Games. “He’s not ready so he’s not vaccinated to go to WEG. His owner and I are on the same page on his future and our big goal for him has always been Tokyo so that’s our ultimate aim.”
The exciting duo of Charlotte Fry and Van Olst Horses' Dark Legend completed the podium in only their second senior CDI, their fourth overall. At just 22, Charlotte oozes talent and Carl is already calling her his ‘new’ Charlotte and Dark Legend is just ten. A technically demanding test was awarded 72.5% for third.
Fourth spot went to Hong Kong rider Jacqueline Wing Ying Siu riding Ferrera on 71.7% to crown a great show for them where they completed their World Championship qualification. Fiona Bigwood completed the top five with Kjaeholm’s Abutsiaq on 68.92%.
Nina Barbour and her team at Bolesworth have worked hard to develop the dressage offering at the show and it really showed over the last two days. It’s been much appreciated by the riders and the crowds were out in force, especially today, despite the wind. Carl summed it up in saying; “It’s an amazing show, we’re so well looked after, the surfaces are the best and we get the top judges to ride in front of; it’s about time the Europeans travelled over to support us!”
There's a pony invitational on Freestyle supported by British Dressage on Saturday which will be available on live stream.