Multi-talented combinations showcased at the Red Gorilla Combined Training Championships

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Fri, 03 May 2024 09:30

There was an amazing display of both dressage and showjumping skill at the Red Gorilla Combined Training Championships (27-28 April 2024) at Onley Grounds Equestrian Complex in Warwickshire. With fierce competition your dressage test could make all the difference to the final score!  

Our very first champion crowned over the weekend was the endearing partnership of Kate Heap and Nescio PK (Indian Rock x Gracia Donna x Don Schufro) who took the title in the Introductory B and 60cm class. ‘Nev’ as he is known at home not only produced a winning test and clear round of showjumping to win the Introductory and 60cm but also placed third in the Preliminary and 70cm class at his first championship event.  
Kate spoke to us about what she was most proud of after finishing their dressage test, “Nev doesn’t have the best track record of making it around the arena, he has been named nervous Nev since we had him and use to have a nasty rearing habit. I was just pleased he hit the outside track and that he went in the direction I wanted him to go in.”  
Having previously competed at National championships on a different horse Kate jests that she is a “dressage rider gone rogue” the Combined Training series offering something different to those who would usually just compete in only one discipline. “As a non-showjumper, when I got here yesterday and saw the arena with the Red Gorilla banners and nice greenery around the fences I thought I was going to die!” Despite the apprehension felt after seeing the showjumps Kate and Nev produced a lovely clear round. 
In preparation for the championships Kate tells us that despite not having jumped him much in the past, “I have taken him to a few arena hires recently and he has gone from being very tentative to the other end of the spectrum, so I just felt quite confident because he had been so good in the environment.” The evening before the big day Kate explains, “I was actually more worried about the dressage, because I didn’t want to come away with bad scores, so once that was done I felt a lot better and because he had been so good, that gave me the confidence that we were going to be ok.” 
The 16.3hh gelding known for having a nervous disposition showed that he could cope really well with that atmosphere of a stay away show Kate explains, “this is his first ever sleepover show, so I didn’t really know how he would cope. He has had ulcers before, so I didn’t know if when I got here this morning if he would have had a bad night sleep and chucked his toys out of the pram.” But Nev took it all in his stride, this allowing the combination to “really enjoy the jumping” on the day. 
Kate opens up about buying Nev and what the two of them have had to work through, “I brought him in August 2022” Kate fell in love with the sweet KWPN despite being told that he could be very sensitive, “I do like something with a lot of spunk, I don’t like to use my legs or carry a stick, so I asked if they had anything with a bit of go. Leading me to try Nev, and it was a lot of fun. I felt like I was floating when we cantered, and I fell in love with his canter there and then.”  
The pairs journey from then hasn’t been an easy one, “when we moved him home he got more sensitive, and then we had the battle with the ulcers. But I couldn’t even ride him round the edge of our arena at home without him rearing, it has taken me 13 months to get him to go around an arena and be happy and confident. This was helped by doing a lot of hacking with him and arena hires, it has been a saga and taken a lot of time but it has been well worth the wait.” 
Speaking on why she chose to compete in the Combined Training series and how it has made such a difference to both their confidence Kate tells us, “When I brought him we really struggled to get round the ring because he was so scared of everything, so I thought he needed to jump. He needs to get in the menage and see that it is not just going round in circles, he has to be brave and has to be bold in order to work out that you can actually have a really fun time if you do that. So I started jumping with this championship in mind simply because I just thought it is a really good way for him to have to man up and it has made a big difference. Before we started jumping we were getting 65% scores in our dressage and since we have started jumping we have had scores over 70%. It has made him more eager to go in the menage and eager to have fun.” 
At only six-years-old Nev is showcasing his talent, Kate reflects on how it feels to get the results at a championship event, “He has just been a pure delight today and I feel very proud of him because he did have to put his big pants on today and he really stepped up.” Kate tells us that her kids poke fun at her for coming “last” and were the first she was on the phone to following the win, “they were the first I told that we had won a rug and a saddle cloth. It does feel like such a journey but he is still so young and this was a good indication of whether he can cope with a stay away show.” 
With an exciting future ahead of the young gelding Kate plans to compete at Senior Home Nations this year, “I just need two more sheets to do Home Nations selection this year, because I think he needs to go and see more of this environment. He has also qualified for the Regionals so we are going to do that, this year.” But not forgetting their new found love for jumping Kate would also like to still enjoy “the adrenaline rush of hurling yourself over fences.” Looking further ahead Kate tells us, “I look to also hopefully get him out at Elementary next year, but he is so big and I feel like I need to not overdo him and let him grow into his body, so what happens in the next two years will depend on Nev.” 

Sarah Miller and her very own Piper took the title in the Preliminary and 70cm championship! The duo shone in a highly contested class while impressing the judge and delivering a super clear round showjumping! When reflecting on her test Sarah told us, “It was really nice, calm is how I would describe it. I thought she felt a little bit flat but clearly I was incorrect. But it was really accurate and she was a good girl.” 
Followed by a “really nice” jumping round, Sarah feeling really please with how it felt explains, “it was probably the nicest round I have done this year, she actually felt really nice and forward and I really enjoyed it.” Leading the combination to finish at the top of the scoreboards. Sarah explained how it was an unusual feeling to win, “I am really pleased to say we have come quite a long way to get here, so we really made it worthwhile.” 
Sarah brought the ten-year-old mare during lockdown, “it would have been three or four years ago now and I was looking for a jumping pony but she was really good at dressage.” This lead to the pair venturing between the white boards, “I ended up getting into British Dressage, we generally do Area Festivals and went to the championships last year.”  
The 14.2hh Chestnut loves to jump, “she really enjoys her jumping” Sarah shares, “I get a bit nervous, so competing at the championships has forced me to do it at a bigger venue and it was really fun.” Describing the atmosphere that could be felt on the day, “it’s been really great, this year it has felt a lot busier and more exciting. There is lots of friendly people around and it has been a really nice atmosphere.”  
Sarah plans to compete at the Summer Area Festivals this year and would also like to give dressage to music a go, having recently just completed their first freestyle test in order to qualify.  

Tyler Cassells and Dynamic III (Dancier x Flamenco x De Niro) did the double and delivered an outstanding performance to win not only the Preliminary and 80cm championship but also the Novice and 80cm class too! The 6-year-old gelding owned by Lisa Deaville and Sue Blythe flaunted his talent, showing that he is an exciting prospect for the future.  

The first champion crowned on the second day of the championships was Paulina Ciechacka-Shearn riding Secret Britannia (Britannia’s Mail x Secret Picnic). Although the combination produced a winning dressage score Paulina tells us, “I actually didn’t think that I had ridden that test well at first and felt pretty disappointed with my self.” However, the judge was left impressed with what she saw, changing Paulina’s opinion on their test, “the judge wound her window down as I was leaving the arena and said; ‘really well done, this was exactly how this test should be ridden.’ I was very surprised as it genuinely did feel that great to me but this comment definitely put a big smile on my face and immediately brightened up the very grey sky.” 
Taking this new determination into the jumping arena, they jumped an incredible clear round, Paulina explains what it is like to jump the super talented mare, “Twix is super easy to jump! She is careful and very obedient, so you just need to try to sit quiet and steer.”  
The 11-year-old bay was bred and owned by Kate Hort until she came into Paulina’s life just over a year ago. Paulina shares the journey the two of them have been on, “I wasn’t planning on competing her. She just meant to be my all-round fun horse to take the beach, go on fun rides and teach my children to ride.” But the British bred’s talent caused Paulina to have a change of heart, and register her with both British Showjumping and British Dressage and started competing at Kelsall Hill where they are based. Further Paulina tells us, “I had my BE debut on her back in September last year and we won the BE90. She has been produced and previously competed by Alex Hua Tian so she is really lovely to ride.” 
While training at home Paulina tells us that “Twix” is lovely and super easy to ride and looks after most of the time and only on occasions can have a bit of a marish madam which she finds “rather entertaining.” In preparation over the winter, they have mainly concentrated on dressage and as Paulina reflects on their journey together, she tells us, “I thoroughly enjoyed learning from this little mare.” 
Paulina’s favourite moment of the championships was of course the win! “Getting my first ever sash and leading the lap of honour” being two of the highlights. The championship atmosphere was not dampened by the weather, “it was a very cold and wet day but despite that all the other competitors and all ground staff were very friendly and upbeat so it was a lovely atmosphere.”  
Following the pairs championship success Paulina tells us, “we will be trying our luck at the BD Summer Regionals at Novice and Elementary with a hope to qualify for the Nationals. Also, I have a few BE runs planned over the summer with a massive hope to qualify for the grass roots.”  

Julie Middleton Ried and her “wonderful partner” Lady Jessicka won the Elementary and 80cm championship, beating all the competition with an impressive dressage score and a stylish clear round.  
“Jessie did a lovely dressage test gaining 73.59%” Julie tells us, “She doesn't have big flashy paces, so we try our best to gain marks for accuracy.” Some of their highlights being gaining eights for their entry and final centre line and a nine for their final halt! Julie explains she was very happy to have the judge comment recognising their “super harmonious partnership.” The stunning Piebald mare went on to jump a beautiful clear round, “she loves jumping and flew around the course.”  
Julie shares how she often gets nervous at championship events, but this time had decided to “simply enjoy riding my wonderful horse and be proud to have qualified.” At the time she was really pleased with their performance but had no idea it would be good enough to win, “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the results as we were up against some really smart combinations.”  
The two of them have had an amazing partnership together for many years, Julie explains that she has owned “Jessie” since she was five-years-old and the 15.3hh mare is now 19, “she has been the most wonderful partner” Julie tells us, “she always tries her best.” The combination has had a vast eventing career, “we evented for ten seasons up to BE100 level. She qualified for the Badminton Grassroots Championship but sadly our year was cancelled due to Covid.” This leading them to catch the dressage bug five years ago when they began training with Ali Dane. Julie tells us how Ali has been influential and a major part of their training and preparation for the championships, “Ali is the most amazing coach who looks at the whole picture, not only getting the best out of our ridden partnership but also encouraging good horsemanship, rider health and fitness as well as supporting us with performance planning.” 
Speaking more on their training at home Julie says, “Jessie is such a great horse to train. She tries so hard to please and has a real workman-like attitude.” Away from the arena she enjoys down time hacking with her friends and spending plenty of time in the field. Between the hard work put in at home and their training with Ali Dane, Julie tells us, “we have gone from riding basic eventing tests to now competing at Medium level.”  
Away from the horses and competing Julie is a Learning Support teacher at Pangbourne College, the work life balance can be challenging during the week Julie explains, “I really enjoy my job, but school days are long as I am at the yard before and after work. However, when it comes to the school holidays, I am blessed to have plenty of extra time to spend with Jessie.”  
“Our next goal is to work towards the Area Festivals at Elementary and Medium, including dressage to music. We will also look forward to taking part in the Associated Championships with the CHAPS and Veteran Horse classes.” Julie proceeds to thank those involved in organising the championships, “thank you so much to British Dressage, Onley Grounds and Red Gorilla for putting on such a fantastic event.”  

Our final 2024 Combined Training champion was Francesca Leaning riding Jeu Carla-H (Clarino x Ulrika I x Wisma), who took the win in the Elementary and 90cm class. Francesca reflecting on her test she said, “all of it went well, I was really pleased with my test, she is a hot, sharp horse when she wants to be and she is a bit of a princess. When she is on a good day she is fabulous and when she is on a bad day she is slightly difficult. I was delighted with her to be honest she went in and was really chilled and happy. We had one little blip in our canter work, where she picked up the wrong lead, but other than that for me it was a fantastic test.” 
The stunning bay rounded off what has been a very successful championship for our title claiming mares! Francesa explains that “jumping is her forte” the 10-year-old absolutely loves jumping and this made the challenge something Francesca wasn’t particularly worried about, however she did explain that “her jumping at the qualifier was very wild and I had absolutely no breaks, but we found some new breaks and it went really well. She jumped a beautiful round, and we were very much in control, and it was super. So, I was really pleased with that.” 
It felt “amazing” to win Francesca tells us, “I have never won a championship, or a rug or anything like that so for me this is quite massive. I never win, I don’t ever win things because I don’t do it for that, I do it because I love the horses, but for me this was amazing.” Also going on to share, “it was also really nice because Red Gorilla support me a little bit as well, so it was great to be able to win something they sponsor so that was really cool.” 
Francesca has only owned the 16.3hh KWPN since last September, telling us how the stars aligned for them, “she was produced by Imogen Murray who is an amazing five-star event rider, but I have known the mare since she had her because I am a physiotherapist and I treat all of Imogen’s horses. So, I have known the mare a very long time.” Since then, they have done a little bit of eventing and dressage over the winter, Francesca explains, “she is a very tricky mare and can be very sharp when she wants to be, so it has been a lot of work.”  
The combination train with Sue Colley who has been “instrumental” in making this happen for the two of them Francesca tells us, “she has been fantastic and has helped me so much with her. We have gone from having moments where we rear in the dressage test, to this which is really really exciting.” The bay mare is known at home for being a “massive princess!” Although Francesca explains, “that is what makes her very good.” This behaviour is usually caused by the mare being unsettled, “sometimes she gets stressed, and it is in those stressful moments she can be more difficult.” However, Francesca tells us, "generally at home she is very good and very chilled we have a lot of fun.” 
Francesca has to be mindful of what may cause this stress, “it is managing the competition stress and everything else for her, there is a system and a routine for her to be really happy and for everything to go well, if you follow the system she is very happy but if the system isn’t there then we might not be quite so happy.” 
Francesca is a Veterinary Physiotherapist, she explains how she balances her own horses alongside a full-time job, “life is very hectic, I have two young children as well, but I love it. I love treating horses, I love my job. I also run a rehab yard at home, I currently have nine in at the moment most of which are all on rehab from injuries. So, life is very hectic but it’s great and I love it.” 
After having a “very exciting day” and also coming away with a title, “we had a lot of fun and it has been pretty cool, I am still buzzing about it now.” Looking towards the future Francesca tells us what she hopes is next for them, “she does a little bit of eventing as well, we do a bit of both, so my plan is to go and do a one-star event on her this year and also I would really love to go and do an Advanced Medium test at the end of the year, that is my goal.” 



Introductory and 60cm

1. Kate Heap and Nescio PK
2. Kirstie Harris and Quintin Point
3. Charlie Harper and Quantocks Best Kept Secret
4. Chloe Palmer and Grey Princess
5. Archie Evans and Barrpound Braveheart
6. Beth Willis and Costa Maverick
7. Laura Lyons and Lisbane Echo
8. Matilda Clark and FL Aiebony's Mystique
9. Donna Harris and Kylah Rose
10. Kirstie Harris and Tasty Tony 

Preliminary and 70cm

1. Sarah Miller and Piper
2. Mandy Keen and Jackpot IV
3. Kate Heap and Nescio PK
4. Tracey Bourne and Bertie Bobcat
5. Zoe Long and Ernie
6. Summer Bellis and Marshbrook Poppy
7. Emma Moore and Oldlands Livaldi
8. Jane Willett and Tia Maria X
9. Philippa Hamilton and Cappa Cavella
10. Shan Cothi and Laugharne

Preliminary and 80cm 

1. Tyler Cassells and Dynamic III
2. Victoria Gregg and Cloone Castle Margo
3. Sarah Miller and Piper
4. Daisy Beards and Spinway Colm
5. Amy Small and Crow Donahue
6. Talitha Jordan and Crippsy Bilbo Baggins
7. Sarah Edmunds and I Should Coco IV
8. Charlotte Dorey and Deards Silver Bounce
9. Bethan Stephens and Balnashallog Maestro
10. Isabelle Bloomfield and Creevaghstables Knockdoelodge

Novice and 80cm 

1. Tyler Cassells and Dynamic III
2. Bethan May Greaves and Attyrory Road Runner
3. Mandy Keen and Jackpot IV
4. Philippa Hamilton and Cappa Cavella
5. Rachel Ovens and Ardville Arkansas
6. Lydia Holmes and Caramelle
7. Alexandra Moore and Lulu Eile
8. Kirsty Scott and Noel's Last Indian
9. Victoria Gregg and Cloone Castle Margo
10. Kirsty Hume and Angus, Back in Black

Novice and 90cm

 1. Paulina Ciechacka Shearn and Secret Britannia
2. Laura Bennett and Kanjer 111
3. Beth Harrison and Garfach Whisky Rocks
4. Charlotte Bailey and Brucky Boy
5. Christina Wiederkehr and Kilimanjaro
6. Laura Cackett and Jumbo's VIP
7. Abigail Lloyd and Clonakilla Blaze
8. Harriet Bagley and Ballyoskill Boy
9. Natalie Woodward and General Custard
10. Megan Buston and Apple Z

Elementary and 80cm

1. Julie Middleton-Reid and Lady Jessicka
2. Gracie Catling and Dalyhill Rocker
3. Marie Pope and Party Pop
4. Susan Bill and Flamenco Princess
5. Anna Bates and Jolianna
6. Chloe Baglin and Millennium's Star
7. Heidi Reed and Ilar Vincent 
8. Shelby Dowding and Peasedown Agatha
9. Lorraine Simcox and Ozzy VII
10. Phillipa Macinnes and Dunguaire Darwin

Elementary and 90cm 

1. Francesca Leaning and Jeu Carla-H
2. Shelley Reeve Smith and Dante Fortuna
3. Ruth Whitmore and Autopilot
4. Laura Bennett and Kanjer III
5. April Joynson and Crosskeys Boy
6. Florence Dyer and Farinko Nieuwmoed
7. Beth Harrison and Garfach Whisky Rocks 
8. Samantha Gregory and San Marco II
9. Susan Bill and Flamenco Princess
10. Claire Gregson and Simply Stellar