BD Winter Regionals: Merrist Wood
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The organising team at Merrist Wood (15-21 February) had to be quick on their feet to reorganise the show to accommodate the terrible weather brought by Storm Dennis. Saturday’s classes were brought forward by a day and all but one of Sunday’s classes moved.
It was a Herculean task to make sure everyone was informed, judges rebooked but a worthwhile one to give competitors the chance to compete. Dressage riders showed their true grit and carried on as best they could and many achieved personal bests. Congratulations to everyone who got a golden qualifying ticket and good luck to those hoping for a wild card.
Alice Oppenheimer had a busy week taking home two titles as well as supporting her clients. Maeve Morris won the massive Equi-Trek Elementary Silver class on Headmore Footloose (Eric) on a fabulous score of 73.49% while sister Kate Slone was reserve champion in the Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Silver with SOS Sealpoint.
Alice herself was on fine form winning both Advanced Medium titles with her stunning mare, the rising eight-year-old Headmore Bella Ruby (pictured last year). This lovely horse seems set for a stellar career and is the current Advanced Medium National Champion and was Elementary Winter Champion in 2019.
The mare is homebred by Belissimo M out of Headmore’s foundation mare, Elite Rubinsteena (by Rubinstein). Bella scored over 70% in the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold despite a bit of a spook in her last extended canter, but as Alice commented later, it shows her talent “ if you have a mistake like that in front of three judges and still win.”
I could have gone for more power but had to play it safe as I wouldn’t normally do two tests with her on the same day. There’s still a lot more in there.
“I could have gone for more power but had to play it safe as I wouldn’t normally do two tests with her on the same day. There’s still a lot more in there.” Alice’s ’Les Miserables’ freestyle programme, produced by Sara Green, is a new one and she had only ridden through it once before. “It’s outstanding and really special and gave me a great feel to ride to.”
Jezz Palmer was another double title winner, winning the Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Gold with Astrid Renshaw’s Blousey Brown and the Baileys Novice Freestyle Gold with Richard Burge’s five-year-old stallion, King IV. Blousey was bred by Astrid and is with Jezz to give her some experience before Astrid takes over. “This was the best she’s been at a show,” commented Jezz, who runs JLP Dressage in Hampshire with his partner Lucy Pye. “As she’s 18hh it’s taken more time for her to get strong.
“I was pleased with her Elementary 59 test where she was sixth and thought she might be a bit tired but as soon as she heard her music she lit up. She’s learning that once she’s within the white boards she’s there to do a job.”
Jezz is full of praise for the five-year-old stallion, King who gave Jezz his third Merrist Wood Novice Freestyle title in a row. “This was the most confident and fluent test he’s done,” he said. Jezz describes King as a super-laid back chap who is good in any arena.
Dannie Morgan and High Hoes Estelle had the highest score of the show, to win the Prestige Italia Novice Gold title, winning by six percent. The six-year-old Escolar mare now has 10 results on her BD record and all are first places. Estelle was bred by Nicky Callam who now part-owns her with Dannie. “She’s a superstar – she’s never scored under 70%,” enthused Dannie. “It was only the second time we’ve run through Novice 37 and it’s quite tricky and fiddly for a big horse. I was shocked to get 77% at this stage as she’s still a bit green.”
Rowan Bryson’s Lazulith has been to the Nationals at every level since Elementary and she won the Inter I by three percent. Last year she won the Petplan Equine Area Festival national title at Inter I so this is her first year as a Gold competitor. The 13-year-old (Laudabilis x Furst Piccolo) was also second in the Prix St Georges. Rowan has owned ‘Larry’ since he was five and they know each other well. “This is his first regional title – he’s always been the bridesmaid in the past,” she said. “I recently moved to Katie Bailey’s yard and it’s made a huge difference. Her training has pushed us and massively improved his trot work.” Rowan is a freelance groom/rider and is on the BEF Young Professionals Programme.
Molly Key took the Magic Prix St Georges title with Veronica Compsey’s Absinth W (by Abanos). Now 15, ‘Ant’ was 2018 Petplan Equine Area Festival Prix St Georges Champion and also won the Advanced Medium winter regional title at Merrist Wood in 2017. “He’s consistently good at everything and gets better every day,” said Molly, who scored over 70%. “We don’t have massive breakthroughs but just keen chipping away at the work. This was one of the nicest tests he’s done.”
Twelve-year-old Fi Grabham wasn’t content with taking the KBIS Prelim Silver title on Waxwing Pocket Money, but also had the reserve placing with Bernwode Broadway. The eight-year-old Welsh pony is by Moelview Masquerade and has been produced from scratch over the last two years by Fi. “He was quite tense and felt like he might explode,” said Fi. The heavens opened just before she was due to ride her test and they had to stand in the entrance way, which mum Pippa said was her worst nightmare. “He managed to contain himself in the arena!”
The Prestige Italia Novice Silver title was taken by Francesca Sagina who rides Jimmy Choo II for Andrew Gould who bred him. He is by Lord Leatherdale out of a United mare. “I was so pleased with him as he tried his best,” commented Francesca who will be competing at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships for the first time. “He struggles a bit with his balance on the 10m circles and tighter turns because of his size but we’re working on it.”
The Baileys Novice Freestyle Silver was won by Ali Dane and Stantaii Ashbank on 75.64%.
In the Equi-Trek Elementary Gold, Debra Fews came out on top with her Fidertanz homebred, Fabizio. The 10-year-old is so huge she hasn’t measured him for two years! This was his third regional title win. “He’s highly reactive to indoor environments so I had no expectations of a place. I entered because I wanted to give him a run before the Medium classes,” said Debra who has taken the 10-year-old’s training slowly because of his size. The pair was third in the Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver and Debra is hoping for a wild card for the Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Gold.
He’s highly reactive to indoor environments so I had no expectations of a place. I entered because I wanted to give him a run before the Medium classes.
Sara Malpass and Keystone Dicaprio were second to Maeve Morris and Headmore Footloose in the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver and then went on to win the Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Silver. Sara admits it’s been a rocky road with ‘Zeus’, a Dimaggio eight-year-old. “He used to rear because he was in pain, then when he was better, because of the memory of it,” recalled Sara. Zeus is terrified of other horses in the warm-up so Sara rode him at home before setting off and then rode him round the car park. “I now know how to ride him but it’s taken a long time for him to have trust in me. He was a bit naughty before the first test and didn’t want to go past the judge. I thought he might be tired for the freestyle but it turns out he wasn’t!”
Zeus’s Elementary tests benefited from him having contested the Medium classes the day before, where he tried his best but made mistakes through tension.
Hannah Biggs and Equine Construction’s Freeman is proving to have a lot of talent and potential. His TheraPlate Ltd Medium Gold win was his seventh first place in a row. Freeman has been produced by Hannah since he was bought from the Westphalian Elite Auction as a three-year-old. This was the first regional title for the Foundation x Ehrenstolz seven-year-old, who had only done Novice and young horse classes before jumping up to Medium in August last year. “I know there’s so much more to come from him,” commented Hannah. “He’s light-footed and elegant for a big horse and I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what he can achieve.”
Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold honours went to Sara-Jane Lanning and Trina-Marie Nethercliffe’s Dreamcatcher II, a 19-year-old Connemara x Irish Draught. Sara rides him at competitions in return for giving Trina lessons and in just two years has had a lot of success. Sara put together her own Cirque Du Soleil music programme, an upbeat choice to enhance Dreamcatcher’s paces. “He finds it easy to do half passes so I make the floor plan really difficult,” commented Sara. ‘The test felt like one of his best and it was spot on with the music.
Danielle Balsdon won the Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver with her 10-year-old L’Espoir gelding Lord Lennox. She commented on social media that Lennox had produced ‘a relaxed and safe’ test to win on 71.28%. Last year the pair were U21 Petplan Equine Area Festival Medium Champions and fourth in the Winter Championships at Medium Freestyle.
Despite the horrendous winds and rain and a huge class of 31, Roberta Collyer and Fiasco II won the TheraPlate Ltd Medium Silver class, capitalising on their success at the 2019 Bronze Championships where they won the Medium title also.
Mandy Brown calls herself ‘an enthusiastic amateur’ and says she has to be super-organised to fit her riding and competing around a busy job as an international executive and author. Her plans are obviously working as she and Keystone Rumour (Rhondeo x Weltmeyer) lifted the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Silver title. “It’s her first regional title,” said Mandy. “She went in and was on fire. It was the best test she’s done. She didn’t put a foot wrong from the beginning to the final square halt. She’s big and is now working at PSG and it’s helping with her collection.”
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver winner Sarah Ansty bought Woodhams Dorissimo (Dancer x De Niro) as a just-backed four-year-old eight years ago. “She can be sharp and tricky but she was a bit tired after the first test so it was nice to have to ride her forward,” commented Sarah. “The music is light and ‘tinkly’ which suits her as she’s a dainty little horse.
British Dressage thanks the team at Merrist Wood, the class sponsors and all involved for a successful Winter Regional Championships. Congratulations to the winners listed below, to all qualified combinations and to everyone who took part.
KBIS Prelim Silver
Fi Grabham and Waxwing Pocket Money 70.57%
Prestige Italia Novice Gold
Dannie Morgan and High Hoes Estelle 77.59%
Prestige Italia Novice Silver
Francesca Sagina and Jimmy Choo II 70.80%
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold
Jezz Palmer and King IV 74.35%
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver
Ali Dane and Stantaii Ashbank 75.65%
Equi-Trek Elementary Gold
Debra Fews and Fabizio 70.68%
Equi-Trek Elementary Silver
Maeve Morris and Headmore Footloose 73.49%
Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Gold
Jezz Palmer and Blousey Brown 73.14%
Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Silver
Sara Malpass and Keystone Dicaprio 73.33%
TheraPlate Ltd Medium Gold
Hannah Biggs and Freeman 75.36%
TheraPlate Medium Silver
Roberta Collyer and Fiasco II 70%
Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold
Sara-Jane Lanning and Dreamcatcher III 71.44%
Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver
Danielle Balsdon and Lord Lennox 71.28%
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold
Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Bella Ruby 70.66%
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Silver
Mandy Brown and Keystone Rumour 69.04%
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold
Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Bella Ruby 77.33%
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver
Sarah Ansty and Woodhams Dorissimo 70.39%
Magic Prix St Georges Gold
Molly Key and Absinth W 70.92%
Superflex Intermediate I
Rowan Bryson and Lazulith 69.74%
Photo © Kevin Sparrow