British dominate Olympia podium on day one
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What a night to get the 2019 instalment of the London International Horse Show underway! A new innovation, ‘Dressage Unwrapped’ drew a great crowd as names like Carl Hester, Gareth Hughes, Richard Davison, Richard Waygood, Pippa Funnell and Charlotte Dujardin gave a dissection of dressage and stripped everything back to basics to impart their considerable knowledge. That set the scene for an epic evening which, for the second year, featured a new pilot shortened Grand Prix test, supported by Horse & Hound.
At the end of the first group, it was 23 year old Charlotte Fry who lead the way on only her fifth Grand Prix appearance with Van Olst Horses’ exciting 10 year old prospect, Everdale (Lord Leatherdale x Negro). It was a performance full of potential despite Lottie admitting to feeling a little starstruck competing on the Olympia stage for the first time. But this is one cool young lady and a final score of 75.36% catapulted them to top of the leaderboard.
Lara Butler and the evergreen Rubin Al Asad, owned by the Bechtolsheimers, always rise to the occasion at Olympia and really hit the right note tonight with a superb turn around the iconic London arena. The pilot test seemed to really suit the Rubin Royal 17 year old and he cruised through the movements to get close to Lottie with a grand 74.05%.
It was then the turn of the Queen of Olympia, Charlotte Dujardin and the expectant crowd eagerly waited for the performance they missed out on last year when Emma and Jill Blundell’s Mount St John Freestyle was forced to withdraw at the eleventh hour. Freestyle entered the arena brimming with confidence and Charlotte effortlessly guided her around the alien test. There was just one opportunity to showcase their trademark extended trot in the test but it was nailed as were the changes – just an early transition to piaffe was the only blip. The crowd knew they’d watched something special and as the scores flashed up from the five judges, it was confirmed, 81.55% and a healthy lead.
Next it was her trainer and mentor with his own, Lady Anne Evans and Ann Cory’s British bred Hawtins Delicato. ‘Del’ showed some elements of his boundless quality but a mistake in the two time changes, which Carl put down to rider error, pegged the score back but it was still a very credible and impressive 75.78% to slot nicely into second between ‘his Charlottes’.
Richard Davison, who’s had significant input into this evening, both the display and shortened Grand Prix, was last to go with his homebred Bubblingh, owned by Richard and Gwendolyn Meyer, and 72.36% gave them seventh overall. Louise Bell made a perfect Olympia debut with her own Into the Blue as the broke the magic barrier with 70.02% for ninth while Gareth Hughes gave the Kroll family’s KK Woodstock an Olympia debut to remember with 69.78% to complete the top ten.
All the riders seemed impressed with the new Grand Prix test – they felt the movements came up very fast but they’d get used to that in time. Carl said; “Even more importantly, I enjoyed watching it which is vital. Last year it wasn’t good to watch but this is much better.” Charlotte added; “It was tricky as everything is off the right rein while the normal GP is of the left and there’s places that if you don’t get a good transition, the next movement is put at risk but it was good to ride.”
On to the business end tomorrow where the all-important FEI Dressage World Cup points are at stake and hopes will be high for a repeat of tonight’s all British podium.
Photo © Jon Stroud Media