Day four: LeMieux National Championships '19
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Day four of the LeMieux National Dressage Championships dawned, another beautiful day, another spectacular schedule of competition and the final titles waited to be claimed by those who proved best of the best.
Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle and National Championship
The Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle, the jewel in the LeMieux National Championships crown, drew a knowledgeable crowd to Stoneleigh Park this afternoon. Ten combinations came forward and the competition was strong but it was the maestro himself, Carl Hester, who secured the class and his tenth National Champion title.
Carl and Nip Tuck rode the incredibly technical freestyle that they performed in Rio to earn the winning score of 78.47%, ahead of Lara Butler and Kristjan (75.55%) and Louise Bell with Into the Blue (73.60%).
At the half way mark, Maria Eilberg and the stunning grey Royal Concert had the lead with their brilliant Rod Stewart compilation which earned them 73.20%. Louise Bell and Into the Blue later delighted with a fun, expressive performance to the sound of Sweet Home Alabama and The Greatest Showman, the roan gelding and his rider showing off an extensive piaffe-passage tour. Josh Vietti’s Despacito set the canter off well, and there was great interpretation of music. A secure test with the horse showing a good ability to collect earned them 73.60%.
Next in, Laura Tomlinson and Duval’s Capri Sonne Jr, showed much ability riding to their familiar reggae routine, which many will associate with former ride Andretti H. The performance was tinged with some tension with ‘Cas’ not quite settled in mouth, but when it all comes together, it’s going to be spectacular as the stallion has so much ability. 69.67% was their score today.
Lara Butler and Kristjan entered next to Amazing Grace in passage. Accompanied by Thin Lizzy‘s Whisky in the Jar and Scotland the Brave, their test had bags of energy, high points and flair. A misunderstanding into half pass left was costly, the extended canter impressed and the one-time changes very confident. Ultimately second place was theirs with 75.55%.
The penultimate pair Carl Hester and Nip Tuck entered in passage to a good square halt, straight into piaffe-passage tour, including turning piaffe, to their familiar Rio music. Carl is so confident with this horse and the two time changes on a curve and the 23 one-time changes on a curve were beautiful. The canter pirouettes both ways were high quality, there was one moment when something in the grandstand caught the attention of ‘Barney’, but his mind was soon back on the job. The extended trot was cautious but beautifully balanced, and overall the test beautifully presented for a great reception from crowd and a score of 78.47% from the judging panel.
Last to go Sadie Smith and Keystone Dynamite showed a lot of energy and talent with some super highlights. There score was 72.85% despite some miscommunications, so what a promising combination for the future with more experience under their belts.
After the prize-giving, Carl told us, “That first centreline has some impact! He did 23 one time changes without an error and then I had one small blip on the straight but that was it. He knows that test so well and gives all he has, he’s just so obedient. It’s nice now that he enjoys it rather than being terrified, but then again at 15, he should really! It’s a really difficult programme and he makes it look easy.
It’s nice to get my tenth National Champion title with him. He deserves it for what he’s given to British dressage – he’s represented Britain at European, World and Olympic level and always been so solid – he was due this win.
Barney currently lives at Rob Barker’s yard and he’ll train with Carl to work towards a Grand Prix debut. “I’ll keep schooling him twice a week to keep him sharp and Rob can learn from him which will only help his riding and his skills for his own horses. If I hadn’t had a ‘leg up’ like this when I was younger, I’d never be where I am today so it’s important. Barney still has a lot to give and I don’t think he’ll ever retire!”
Equine Construction Advanced Medium Gold
The Headmore Stud is enjoying a fabulous LeMieux National Championships, with their horses in the frame all week. Alice Oppenheimer was runner up in yesterday’s Saracen Horse Inter I with top ride Headmore Davina but today she secured her first win of the show.
With another liver chestnut Headmore-bred mare, the up and coming Headmore Bella Ruby, Alice claimed a highly competitive Equine Construction Advanced Medium Gold with 73.71% ahead of Jane Turney and Cruz III (72.26%) and Sam Rahmatalla with Hawtins Falerno in third (71.78%).
“I was so pleased with her today,” beamed Alice. “She had the Medium yesterday, and she warmed up OK, but I got in the ring and she was so hot that I had to ride a safe test. I was quite disappointed with the feel I got in the ring yesterday, just because I know she can go so much better. She still got 70% though, and I thought if she can still get that, when she feels like that, I’m on to a winner – I can’t really complain.
“Today, she was so much more relaxed, so much more rideable, and I’m so surprised as it’s only her first season Advanced Medium,” said Alice of the Belissimo M x Rubinstein seven year old. “I was just coming here for the experience, I thought she’d be too green to do this well but she just gave me such a super ride in there.
“I need to thank my farrier Tom Smith. A couple of weeks ago we just slightly changed her shoeing to give her a little bit more support. I felt that I’d lost the quality in her changes, and we discussed it and felt that she could do with a little bit of help, a bit more support on her shoeing, and she’s been like a different horse since. She nailed it today and I’m so proud of her. Mum cried and I cried!
“I love that horse, she’s so special,” concluded Alice. “She’s just so lovely to ride, she’s got everything you want. She’s supple, she’s hot on the leg, she’s good in the contact, she’s clever, and she’s a real character on the yard.”
Childeric Saddles Elementary Gold
Becky Moody staked her claim in the Childeric Saddles Elementary Gold Championships as she rode to a one-two with two rising stars, James Bond and Jagerbomb. The winning margin is almost as impressive as the result itself as Becky scored an identical mark of 74.56% with Jo Cooper’s five year old stallion James Bond just pipping the home-bred Jagerbomb to the post on collectives, there were just two marks in it!
“He’s [James Bond] such a talented horse and has a really good attitude. Jagerbomb isn’t so talented but the more I do with him the more he’s developing,” Becky said about her two promising partners, “Jagerbomb did a really tidy, neat, correct test. His canter work and simple changes, transitions were really good – the other horse is much more talented but he just pulls it out the bag with the consistency and tidiness.”
“Both of these horses in their different ways are future Grand Prix horses,” Becky continued, “I’d like to keep hold of both of them!”
“I’d hoped James Bond would do well, he was second in the Novice to Charlotte at the Winters and e’s a really cool horse so I’d hoped he would score well! It’s been a pretty epic weekend, we’ve had six horses and ridden 11 tests so thanks to my wonderful team – the weather has definitely helped too, it’s been amazing!”
Becky will now focus on training and strengthening James Bond, known as Q at home, over the winter with a view to working towards Medium and Advanced Medium in the New Year. Whilst ‘Bomb’ will aim for the NAF Five Star Winter Championships, “It’s good for him to get out and do a bit, he’s a bit more edgy out of the two – he’s very good boy but he’s the one we’ve done the arena walks with this week! The long term aim with both is Grand Prix so it’s just working towards that.”
Photos by Kevin Sparrow Photography