Day two: LeMieux National Championships
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High winds and showers continued into day two of the LeMieux National Championships at Stoneleigh, but this didn't detract from a fabulous second day of top class dressage.
Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I
Charlotte Dujardin completed the Small Tour double today with her stunning grey mare, Florentina, when they topped a highly competitive Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Championship. They were of course victors in yesterday’s Fairfax SaddlesPrix St Georges Championship.
Despite ‘Flora’ being out of the show ring since June with Charlotte’s busy summer calendar, the pair have quickly found their competition stride and no one would bet against them taking tomorrow’s Freestyle and the Saracen Horse Feeds Supreme Champion title.
Charlotte was clearly delighted with her mare’s work today’s challenging conditions; “There was lots of blowing and flapping in there but she wasn’t bothered and was incredibly brave. Today she was more consistent but we did have an issue in the halt and rein back but otherwise, I’m really pleased with her. There’s not another show in the world that gives an atmosphere like this one and if you go well here, you know you have a good horse.
“I’ve had her since she was two and in the early days, it felt like a long wait until she’d be competing but it’s scary how quickly the time has gone; she’s been incredible and has such a fantastic temperament,” the Gloucestershire rider said.
Charlotte bought Flora from a Brightwells sale and for the first time, Brightwells will be hosting a sale on Saturday night of around twenty foals selected by the Anglo European Studbook so it could be a chance for someone to pick up a future Stoneleigh champion at Stoneleigh!
In a close battle for the remaining podium places, it was two further Carl Hester pupils who won through. Runners up place went to Hannah Biggs with her own Britsh-bred Don Caledonia on 71.44% and Katie Bailey, riding Leslie Forlee’s Bocelli IV completed the top three on a score of 71.21%.
Dodson & Horrell Novice Silver
Self-employed Dorset rider Danielle Rhodes topped a great few weeks with a win in the Dodson & Horrell Novice Silver Championship with Denise Kersley’s stunning Jannick. Just last weekend they were crowned the Nettex CHAPS champions at Novice level at Bury Farm and in a quick turnaround headed to Warwickshire.
First to go after lunch, Danielle rode a powerful test with the pinto cross Friesian and despite a blip in one canter transition, judges Fiona Lace, Penelope Lang and Jane Peberdy were suitable impressed to award 72.43%.
“He’s amazing – just fabulous!” said Danelle. “We had a hiccup when he struck off on the wrong leg in canter…twice and I’m gutted about that but it was his best trot work ever. I really wanted to do well today and I rode for the win; it’s such a high standard here. We’ve made real progress together in the last few months and he just loves to be in between the white boards. The work we’ve done and recent big events have definitely given him the mental capacity to deal with today. I’m over the moon with him!” she concluded.
Danielle headed to Dorset some four years ago and started working with race horse trainer Paul Nichols to earn some money while she built up her client base and one of her first was Denise, who also owns prolific traditional gypsy cob stallion Tiger Tim. Danielle was also head girl for Irish event rider Austin O’Connor but declared dressage was definitely her first choice discipline these days.
The duo's championship season continues as they head to the Petplan Equine Area Festival Finals next Friday.
Just behind in second spot was Charlotte-Elizabeth Barber and CE Florioso on 72.03% and third went to Katie Lawrence riding Donaulied with 70.67%.
TopSpec Medium Silver
This afternoon, beneath bright, blustery skies, the TopSpec Medium Silver title was won in convincing style by LeMieux National Championship newcomer Nathalie Wahlund. On her Championship debut, she rode an assured and expressive test aboard Oldencraig Echo O to head the class with a score of 70.83% from judges Pam Bushell (E), Judy Firmston-Williams (H), Jennie Loriston-Clarke (C), Sara Jane Lanning and (M) Mary-Anne Horn (B).
“I’m so happy and today was so much fun,” said Nathalie, clearly delighted with their result. “It’s a first Nationals for me and Echo so I’m super happy! He was maybe a bit tense to begin with, just before he went in, but once inside the arena he grew in confidence. He was just really good and there were no mistakes - it was a clear round and the trot work felt fantastic.”
Oldencraig Echo O (by Zjengis Khan) is a nine-year-old Dutch gelding owned by Penny Brinsley, and has been ridden by 21-year-old Nathalie for the past 18 m0nths.
Nathalie originates from Sweden and works as a rider at Oldencraig Equestrian in Surrey where she trains with British Olympian Vicky Thompson-Winfield and is gaining much competition experience aboard the centre’s horses. “Vicky is a great trainer and I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without her.”
Echo is described as 'super fun to ride'. "He loves to work and he can go on forever. He’s a real worker and is a very sweet horse. We put a lot of work in so it’s very satisfying to get this reward."
Looking to the future, Nathalie says; “I would like to start PSG this year, then maybe next year do some Premier Leagues.”
Dodson & Horrell Novice Gold
The Dodson & Horrell Novice Gold Championship final is always a good class to watch and this year was no exception. A competitive line up of horses, with an average age of five-and-a-half, came forward and the quality was high. The clear winner however was Alex Hardwick with her mother Sally’s diminutive Uphill-sired gelding, Glasgow MH.
World Class Podium Potential rider Alex and the gorgeous seven-year-old were awarded a score of 73.14% ahead of Dannie Morgan and Headmore Figaro (71.85%) and Alice Oppenheimer with Headmore Bella Ruby (71.40%) in third.
“He’s the most unbelievable, unflappable horse,” said Alex, clearly delighted. “He’s such a cool dude and I think he just proves that size really doesn’t matter. He might be only 16 hands but he can trot like an 18.2hh horse. And he’s got the most incredible brain on him. You just can’t fault him – he’s an absolute joy.”
Glasgow, who is known at home as Buddy, was bought last year for Alex’s mum, Sally, who gave the ride to Alex for the Regionals. “I’ll be quite sad to give the ride back to Mum to be honest,” laughed Alex. “I had a reason to hold on to him when we won the Regionals, but the now the Nationals is done…! But she’s going to have so much fun with him.”
Talking about the test Alex said; “We didn’t go full power, because he’s never done a championship before and he’s only competed a handful of times. The few times he has been to a show, he’s always scored well and he has so much ability that we’ve not had to push him and compete too much, so I just wanted to do a really nice clear round to give him good experience. He’s goes in the Childéric Saddles Elementary Gold on Sunday and I’m really looking forward to that, but he can have a duvet day tomorrow!”
“He has an amazing walk and a sensational trot, and it’s so natural to him. He’s my little red rocket,” said Alex, who trains with her Mum on a daily basis as well as with Carl Hester. “We get a nice tune-up from Carl. My mum always says it’s like a little bit of fairy dust sprinkled on top of you. You come away thinking ‘he makes it so easy’ – it’s incredible what he does.”
Equissage Pulse Para Gold
Stellar scores, sun, wind and rain were the theme for the Equissage Pulse Para Gold Championships amidst changeable weather conditions in the Horse Health arena. The five champions all produced standout tests to impress the judges panel consisting of John Robinson, Nicky Barratt and Mary Robins.
Grade I winners Mari Durward-Akhurst and Sky O’Hara scored 70.71% to pip Diane Green and Susanna Wade to the top step of the podium. Speaking about her winning performance 24-year-old Mari said, ‘I was really, really pleased with the test today, I thought everything came together. Even with the wind and the rain, I think it was probably our best test together! We’ve been working really hard at home to get him more through from behind and more collected. He was much more together today and we managed to keep the activity as well.”
Dancing partner Sky O’Hara has been with Mari for six years, having stayed much longer than the original one year loan agreement much to his rider’s delight. “Sky is 19 but you’d never know it! He’s an absolute dude and a bit of a comedian,” she added about his infectious character.
Mari is now aiming for European Championship team selection in 2019 following a very successful season this year.
Rising star Georgia Wilson captured the grade II competition in style recording 72.50% with her own Midnight II (by Hilkens Black Delight).
23-year-old Georgia is a pupil of none other than the queen of para dressage herself, Sophie Wells. “I was a bit nervous about competing today without her guidance,” admitted Georgia, “Training with Sophie is really good fun, she’s helped me a lot.”
The elegant duo earned themselves a spot on the World Equestrian Games shortlist following a season full of superb tests. Speaking about today’s top draw ride Georgia said, “She did everything I asked her to do today. Our transitions were smooth, she was really good.”
Amanda Shirtcliffe took a one-two in the grade III class with Jon Mcfarland’s experienced mare New Princess claiming the victory ahead of young talent Active Testarossa.
“I was really pleased with the young horse [Active Testarossa] today,” Amanda said, “She’s not really ready for this level yet but she went really well and did great pirouettes. Princess is established at the level so today was all about producing a good test. She was a bit vocal which ruined a few of the movements but other than that she performed really well!
“We’ve been working on improving our impulsion and getting a little more consistency with her [New Princess] contact at home. She’s very chilled out at home but she gets a bit of a sense of occasion when we go out – Princess by name princes by nature, she likes to come out and show off!”
With future games in mind, Amanda is planning on focusing more on her young star. “Princess has done me proud, she’s been a good stalwart for internationals. I’ll start concentrating on bringing the young horse through the levels now.”
Blind para dressage rider Nicola Naylor aced her test with Ferrari V scoring 69.51% to take home the winners’ spoils in the grade IV Championship.
Nicola credited Ferrari’s boost in confidence as a factor in their success today, “He was really fab today, he was much more confident and felt great. We’ve been working on getting him a bit more balanced and a bit more composed and collected, I think it’s really paid off.”
Talking about their future Nicola said, “We’ve applied to join the world class program and I think he’s ready to push on now. I’ve had him since he was five, I think he’s reached a point now where we can see if we can do some team events with him – which would be really great!”
The win was a bit of a surprise for Nicola who said that whilst she had hoped to do well she definitely didn’t expect the success! Second place went to Izzy Palmer with Sophie Wells’ Touchdown M whilst Marcelle Ward took the third place accolade with Dornroeschen.
Charlotte Cundall and Brenda Reddy’s BamBam were victorious in the grade V competition; their score of 68.53% left them just one mark in front of Charlotte’s other ride, LJT Simply Red.
Speaking to British Dressage after the prize giving Charlotte said, “The weather conditions weren’t ideal with the high winds! I rode last night and Bam was quite hot but it worked to my advantage, we had a bit more impulsion and expression than usual! I was thrilled with him.”
The partnership have been working together since December 2017, in a busy debut season they’ve seen numerous personal best scores and a first international win. “I’m so grateful to Brendy Reddy who owns BamBam. My day was made slightly easier by Sophie [Wells] being at WEG and doing an amazing job out there! I love coming here and it’s been a really great end to our season, it’s been a good 2018,” Charlotte concluded.