Day three - LeMieux National Championships 2022
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A chilly morning gave way to autumnal sunshine on day two of the LeMieux where we witnessed the first 80% score of the show, a horse called Anton taking top honours and a Brightwells buy proves to be a winner.
LeMieux Grand Prix Champion
Winner: Kathleen Kroencke and San Royal III, 74.47%
Saturday morning at the LeMieux Nationals is the highlight of many a dressage fan’s year as it’s Grand Prix day. This year’s field was a cracker with a varied range of horse ages and experience from 2017 National Champion WG Rubins Nite at 18 years young to Daniel Sherriff’s ride, I’m Bayford Hall Incognito and stallion Indigro ridden by Andrew Gould both just nine. Top class competitions need world class judges and the combinations were treated to being under the watchful eyes of Isobel Wessels (E), Andrea Smith (H), Stephen Clarke (C), Richard Baldwin (M) and Peter Storr (B.
It was the youngest horse in the competition who set the early pace, I’m Bayford Hall Incognito ridden by Dan Sherriff when they posted 69.89% so that set the bar for the others beat. The evergreen WG Rubins Nite and Hayley Watson-Greaves have targeted the Nationals this year keen to take the title for a second time and they threw their all at it and as ever his trademark extended trot was the highlight to garner the marks which totaled 71.67% and into the lead.
The next contender was 2018 National Champion Lara Butler but her partner this time was Ursula Bechtolsheimer’s home bred 17-year-old Kristjan. The duo was having their first run since Aachen in July and were in fine fettle today with the judges regularly reaching for their eight button – it was fairly mistake free and consistent to post 73.86% to take a strong lead.
Next up was one of the pre-competition favourites, Gareth Hughes, who won the Grand Prix title last year, and Judy Firmston-Williams’ Sintano Van Hof Olympia, his 2021 European Team Silver medal partner. The Sandro Hit gelding got off to a bright start but then the nerves crept in in the first passage piaffe tour and the marks reflected that but one the walk was behind them, the marks began to flow with the canter work with a raft of eights boosting the score. It was trending very similarly to Lara’s when he exited so it was going to be close. The final score was confirmed as 73.10%, not quite enough but into second.
Straight in after Gareth came Kathleen Kroencke for Germany riding K&N Stables Ltd’s 15-year-old San Royal 3. This duo has plenty of experience and have had a great 2022 with two international starts producing two second places in the Grands Prix and two wins in the Freestyle. The test itself was a picture of consistency with just marks being lost for the canter transition from passage and not quite a clean line of one time changes but such was the quality of the rest of the work, the judges unanimously put her first on a score of 74.47%.
Andrew Gould is a rider back on his way up and in exciting young stallion Indigro (Negro x Prali) he has the partner to get to the top. Owned by Tatiana Skillman, the nine-year-old certainly held his own in this company. The canter flying changes lacked a bit of security but the piaffe and passage is very strong and earned a number of nines. The final score was 72.23% which slotted into fourth but this is a horse with great talent and is certainly one to watch.
So round one of the Grand Prix went to Cotswold-based Kathleen Kroencke, who trains with Spencer Wilton, and she was clearly delighted by her day’s work and her horse, “I’m really pleased with it, I am so grateful for every test I can do with him. There were a few mistakes, which were my fault but we tried really hard and got such a good score. Super, super – I’m over the moon. He’s quite tall but he’s the most gentle soul I have ever known and he’s so good in the ring he knows when he is on, picking his ears, he’s an amazing and lovely horse.
Kathleen and husband Nikolas made I am still based over he with Spencer at the Cotswolds Club and I’m not going to change that. We really enjoy our time in the UK, I think we have been here for two years now, we really feel at home here now, it’s been an amazing time. To ride in the UK, it’s such an amazing country and the horses, I couldn’t think of a better place.
This show has certainly captured Kathleen’s heart; “I think [the Nationals] are very similar to some of the international shows, it’s got some amazing riders and combinations, everything is so professional. It’s no difference between riding here or in Europe, as well as the High Profiles and Premier Leagues,” she said. And what’s next for the duo? “We’re aiming for the London International Horse Show, that would be my huge goal if I could ride there but otherwise it’s the Aintree High Profile in a couple of weeks,” she concluded.
It's all to play for tomorrow in the Kudos Grand Prix Freestyle and many will be looking to dance their way to the top plus which of the Brits will take 67th National Champion title?
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle Gold Champion
Winner: Becky moody and Jagerbomb, 80.12%
We welcomed Becky Moody back into the winners’ circle one more time as the curtains closed on day two, as the Sheffield rider further solidified her winning hold on the 2022 edition of the LeMieux National Championships claiming the Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle Gold Championships and with it, the Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Supreme Champion spoils. With the gifted Jagerbomb, Becky showcased her freestyle finesse to earn the highest score of the show so far – a magnificent 80.12%.
Talking about her performance, which earned considerable cheers from around the LeMieux Arena, Becky was full of praise for brilliant Bomb, “that’s pretty cool, isn’t it! It’s such a fun test to ride, it’s pretty packed from one thing to another and it was mistake free. I didn’t feel we had quite as much engine as we did it at Hartpury but some things were better, some things not so much, but it was just fun to ride and the music is really good. I’ll put my hands up and admit the cheese was good.
“He’s answered everything I’ve asked of him this year with such an amazing effort,” she continued on her latest superstar, a fitting successor for the marvellous Carinsio – who also enjoyed success in this class on his way to the top. “For eight years old, to have won that and come second to an Olympic medal winning horse, I couldn’t ask any more than that. He’s going to the NEXONE final next week and then some chill time before working towards becoming a proper Grand Prix pony next year. He finds the work easy; he has a real talent for it, it’s just a case of getting him stronger so he can sustain it all the way through a Grand Prix test.”
The gelding has all the class to follow in the footsteps of his talented sire, Sweden’s Dante Weltino, currently ranked number 13 in the FEI Dressage World Rankings. “I love his trainability,” Becky spoke about what makes her home-bred so special, “I’ve got to the stage with training horses that I’d always take trainability over amazing talent. I don‘t think it matters how talented something is, if it isn’t trainable, or doesn’t want to do it, it’s not nice for anyone, horse or rider. Whereas when you get one who wants to do it you can make it better and better. 80 might by the new 70 but if you can just do everything somewhere between fairly well and good, you’re on 75% and that’s a good enough mark to win most straight tests – so you don’t have to have a nine or ten horse – it’s nice to pick those up in some movements. It’s much easier to have a 7.5 horse that’s consistent all the way through and you can build and develop as he’s done.”
A splendid day in the office for Michael Eilberg saw another podium placing with his own and Nicola Hannam’s MSJ Dante VX taking second with 77.62%, whilst local lady Sarah Higgins claimed third with Sarah Rao’s Geniaal (74.25%).
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Silver Champion
Winner: Harriette Williams and Creto, 70.47%
Having tasted success this week already, with third in yesterday’s PSG Freestyle Gold, Harriette Williams and her stunning black mare Creto lifted the 2022 Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Silver title this morning. A super test under the Somerford sun, featuring expressive work particularly in the extended canter and lovely sequence changes, was awarded a final mark of 70.471% from judges Debby Lush (E), Alison Duck (H), Paul Hayler (C), Helen Clark (M) and Linda Hoad (B).
Harriette (26), who runs her own training and livery yard in Suffolk, has enjoyed a fantastic year with 12-year-old Creto (Conteur x Falkenstern), notching up PSG-level wins at both Vale View High Profile Show and Keysoe Premier League in the spring, with today’s win surely the icing on the cake.
“I was really pleased with her,” Harriette told us after the prize-giving. “This is day three for her competing here, so we were a little bit worried she wouldn’t have enough gas in the tank, but I had a nice clear round. Her changes and extended canters were her highlight. This is what you aim for when you come here - it’s been a good day.”
This is the LeMieux National Championships’ second year in its new Cheshire home. About her first-time Somerford Park experience, Harriette says, “It’s been brilliant. It’s been my first time competing at Somerford and at the Nationals. I think they’ve done an amazing job and it’s so nice to see people out competing again.
Talking about Creto, she says, “I’ve had her for five years. I brought her through the Brightwells sales as a seven-year-old and she had only competed at Novice and Elementary in Holland. I bought her as a future top horse and it’s looking that way.
“She loves to work and she’s really trainable. Yes, there are horses out there that are bigger and flashier, but she works hard and is really adjustable. She’s hopefully going to be a nice Grand Prix horse for the future. The aim is always Grand Prix – not all horses are made for the Grand Prix - but I think she’s got all the capability to get there."
KBIS 7 Year Old Young Horse Champion
Winner: Michael Eilberg and MSJ Encore, 78.90%
The first of the KBIS Young Horse Champions were crowned today in the seven year old class where Nicky Hannam’s MSJ Encore (by Escolar) topped the podium, ridden by Michael Eilberg. “I’ve had him since a foal, he’s always been a cool dude and is such a lovely character,” Michael fondly told us about the gelding known at home as Eric who earned a 78.90% awarded by judges David Hunt, Ulf Moller and Judy Harvey.
“He’s so very trainable. He finished second here last year in the six year old so it’s nice to come back and win as a seven year old, a real bonus.” Michael has been busy over the last few days with many rides here under his name, but this is his first win at the LeMieux National Championships.
The pair showed off to the crowd in the LeMieux Arena earlier this morning where the sun was shining at Somerford, “he had really consistent marks today, he was in the eights for all his gaits. He’s got a bit of a special canter and a lovely trot to ride and he walked especially well today. Everything was really good in there today.”
The KBIS Young Horse Classes are a great experience for all abilities of horse at this age and it’s great to see a partnership like this succeed. “I’ll keep training him and like all the others, just see how far we go, he’s got the brain for it,” Michael told us. “He’s such a lovely character and he really tries to understand everything you try to teach him. I always find myself coming out of the ring with a smile on my face with this one.”
It was an over 70% podium with Robert Barker and Herbstrot awarded second place with 75.84% alongside Charlotte Dicker and Catherston Timeless who went home in third on 73.95%.
TopSpec Medium Gold Champion
Winner: Becky Moody and Lancelot BS, 72.18%
Becky Moody continued her lucrative week with another Somerford win this morning, adding the TopSpec Medium Gold title to her already impressive count at the 2022 LeMieux National Championships. Aboard another class act from her Yorkshire base, in the shape of six-year-old Lancelot BS (Dreamboy x Lancet), she secured her third win of the week on a super score total of 72.18%.
Lancelot BS is a stunning six-year-old gelding, bought by Jo Cooper and Anne Moody as a yearling from Becky’s long-time supporter Julie Lockey, who bred him. He and Becky qualified at the Port Royal Regional Championships in July, where they won the winning ticket in both the Elementary and Medium Gold classes.
“I was really happy with our test today,” said a delighted Becky after the prize-giving. “It was a really nice, neat and tidy test. He was a little bit tense, as there was quite a bit going on in the other two arenas - there was a lot of clapping, which he was aware of - but he got more and more confident as the test went on and by the time we got to the last quarter, he was really letting me in a bit more, so I could ride a bit bolder and a bit braver. He’s going to be cool!
“Anna Burns, my stable jockey, competed him in the five-year-old classes last year and, and she has actually done the six-year-olds here this year,” said Becky. “I've just done the straight classes with him, so we’ve done this, and I’ll do the Elementary with him tomorrow. He was quite a quirky horse as a four-year-old - quite sharp and sensitive - but he’s really coming good.
“He’s really talented for the Grand Prix work,” continued Becky. “He shows a lot of potential for the piaffe, has got a good engine, and apart from being a little bit sensitive has got a really good brain. He’s only six, so he’s just starting off with testing a few of those things, but he does show potential. In another year or two, we’ll know where we’re at.”
About her success this week, and whether she feels the pressure a little, or is riding the wave, Becky said, “Yeah, you do, don’t you, when you hit a wave like this you just go with it, but I just really focus on riding and what the horse needs at that point in time. Lancelot is quite good because he does need a bit of hand holding at the moment, and that occupies my brain.
“I am getting on alright, and the lung is holding together quite well, so that’s good,” said Becky, referring to her recovery from a partial collapsed lung less than a month ago. “I'm just a little bit wiped. Other than that, we're doing ok. I’ve got a brilliant team backing me up so the guys at home have done so much to help in the preparation, so a lot of this is down to all of them.”
Memorising so many tests is a huge feat, but a skill that Becky has perfectly honed. “Well, I always say to my clients, if I could remember other stuff like I can remember dressage tests, I would be well clever! But luckily... or rather unluckily, they’re the only thing I can remember. Other information goes in one ear and out the other. But dressage tests, for some reason, stay in.
“I'm a little bit of an encyclopaedia for dressage tests,” she continued. “It’s more like you have to be so tuned in to what each individual horse needs. I've got four horses here and they're all really different - they need really different things, different techniques, different approaches - and that’s what's so great about it. You have to get on each with a fresh prospective.”
Nicola Buchanan finished on Becky’s heels with a super ride on St Giles Flamboyant awarded 71.94%, while Rob Barker and Herbstrot completed the closely-fought top three.
BETTALIFE Novice Silver Champion
Winner: Hannah Luesley and Newton Astro Nascente, 74.87%
Devon-based young rider Hannah Luesley (17) delivered a thrilling win in this afternoon’s BETTALIFE Novice Silver Championship, piloting Elite Dressage LLP’s Newton Astro Nascente to win the championship finale on 74.87%, and by an almost two percent margin ahead of her closest rival.
Hannah, from Essex, but now based in Devon with Anna Ross and her team at Elite Dressage near Crediton, has enjoyed fantastic year with the talented Apache x Don Schufro six-year-old, who is known at home as Anton. The young partnership has chalked up two regional championship wins, a fourth place at the Winter Championships, culminating in their resounding victory here today.
“My highlight today… it has to be that lap of honour - it felt incredible, I’m not going to lie!” enthused Hannah after the prize-giving. “But in the test, he was just with me the whole way. He gives everything I want, when I want - he knows what he’s doing.
“I’ve had the ride on Anton for about a year now and he’s an absolute delight to ride; I adore him so much,” continued Hannah. “I got the ride on him by chance really. I’m part of the team at Elite Dressage but I just gelled with him and that’s the way it rolls. I love him so much, he feels amazing, he just wants to give you everything in the ring. As a person, he’s so friendly, so cuddly, he just wants to be your friend and be with you the whole time.”
Hannah moved down to Devon at the age of 16 to take up the position of apprentice at Elite Dressage, where she’s involved in the backing of young horses, and is a key part of the team. “I love, love, love it,” enthused Hannah. “And I’m going to ride a couple of the more advanced horses next year as it’s my last year in Juniors.
“With Anton, we’ll carry on up the levels, carry on training and see how it goes. It means the world to me to win. This is what I’ve wanted to do forever, hence moving down to Anna’s at 16.”
Lucy Bridgwater and Monaco II delivered a super performance to take second place on 72.90%, closely followed by Katie James with Bouvardia (72.59%).