Equissage Pulse Para Home Nations crown goes to South & West
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Beginning a weekend of success for South & West, their team of talented para dressage riders took Onley Grounds Equestrian Centre by storm to claim the Equissage Pulse Para Home Nations title (18 – 19 May).
With four grades represented and seven teams on the start sheet for the 2023 Equissage Pulse Para Home Nations, the scene was set for two days of first-rate competition at a premier Warwickshire venue.
The contest for the team title would go right down to the wire, with two regions running neck and neck, to be split at the conclusion by just 0.3%. The quartet from the South & West were the team to claim the victory, with Isabella Benfield, Lucy Mae Bush, Lisa Michell and Laura Scott rising to the occasion and showing great resolve under pressure to notch up a great achievement for their region. Their final total was 408.84%, just a fraction over the score earned by Wales Pendragons (408.54%) made up of Veronica Bower, Elan Williams, Jessica Pritchard and Julia Godden. The third step of the podium belonged the South & East Green Goddesses, with Jo Dagley-Cleworth, Sarah Oram and Kyla Mantilla Ross producing 406.49% to be hot on the heels of the top two teams.
18 year old Isabella Benfield partnered her own Cookies and Cream II, with the skewbald mare putting her best hoof forward in the Grade 3 competition, whilst Grade 5 rider Lisa Michell enjoyed a fifth individual placing alongside her team success with Call Me Heaven (by Kings Composer). Lucy Mae Bush also represented the team in Grade 5, following her team mate with individual sixth on board Earthpower, Laura Scott flew the South & West gold colours in the Grade 4 category with standout success to add to the stellar team performance. On social media, Lucy Mae summarised the great team effort, “It would not be possible without the best team mates, Para Rep Mark and DO Mandy.”
The competition for the individual titles was split between four regions, with winners South & West taking another title, joined by Wales, North & East and South & East.
Laura Scott, who led her team to victory in the group competition, was spectacular in her individual performances which resulted in the Grade 4 Para Home Nations title and a unique achievement as the only rider to post plus 70% scores on both days of the fierce competition. The Somerset-based rider was victorious with her own Koko Pop, a 16 year old British bred gelding by Blackfriars; the combination earned 70.49% for Saturday’s opening round, before going on to notch up 72.84% on day two. Laura is a former event and point to point rider who turned her energy and talent to para dressage following a fall in 2017, this is her second appearance at the Equissage Pulse Para Home Nations following a stellar debut in 2022 where she also achieved two class wins. Speaking about this year’s event on Facebook, Laura commented “had a great time at the Para Home Nations as part of the BD South & West team, Koko was on fab form winning the Grade 4 with scores of 70.4% and 72.8% and even better was winning the team competition with the best teammates Isabella, Lucy and Lisa.”
In the Grade 5 competition, Sarah Oram and Tamrik Captain Jack Sparrow sailed to the top of the largest class at the Home Nations, flying the emerald flag for South & East. Two secure performances earned the duo 69.23% and 70.00% to place them ahead of Kathryn Gallagher and Swinging in the Rain (North & East) and fellow Green Goddesses team-mate Jo Dagley-Cleworth with Uptimistic, by Uthopia.
It was a clash of purple in the Grade 3 individual competition as North & East riders Jan Cummings and Vicky Earnshaw went head-to-head, separated at the end of day two by just 0.6%. Driffield’s Jan Cummings claimed the spoils after presenting her own German bred 11 year old Rhonderful Dorrells (by Rhondeo) for 66.79% and 70.83%; Vicky’s consistent performances with Prince Pepe – balanced alongside her role as Chef d’Equipe - secured the runner up spot, whilst Jessica Pritchard (Wales) and Cochrane climbed up the rankings to third after a sublime second day test added 70.71% to their final total.
Rising star Elan Williams continued her standout 2023 by placing first and second in the Grade 1 showdown, with her Hilkens Black Delight-sired BKS Brandini (137.34%) pipping WSH Something Borrowed (136.71%) to the post. Elan’s consistency with both of her rides has seen the two horses switching between the top spots at several major para dressage fixtures this year; next up for both is a visit to the Equissage Pulse Gold Semi-Finals, which Elan describes as “her biggest competition yet” before adding, “I am excited to qualify for the Gold Semi Finals & be amongst the best. I sure will learn lots of lessons during my time there.” The young rider with Quad Cerebral Palsy shared her experience at the Para Home Nations on reels, check it out here. Veronica Bower, fellow Wales rider and Pendragons team mate to Elan, placed third with Game Over completing their week on a high with 71.09% contributing to a closing total of 134.68%.
Thanks go to title sponsors of the Para Home Nations Equissage Pulse and to host venue Onley Grounds, under the dedicated management of Sarah Jacklin. BD Para Director Tracy Ormrod commented, "It was lovely to see such a close and exciting finish to the team event with some super scores over the two days. It is always a pleasure and a privilege to attend the Equissage Pulse Para Home Nations and see the camaraderie and support that riders, supporters, grooms and family give each other, even when they are competing for different regions. I look forward to seeing the event continue to grow, with even more riders getting involved with their region and experiencing one of the season's most exciting competitions."
Results – top five
1. South & West, 408.84%
2. Wales Pendragons, 408.54%
3. South & East Green Goddesses, 406.49%
4. North & East Buckingham, 403.73%
5. North & East Sandringham, 403.29%
Grade 1 Individual
1. Elan Williams and BKS Brandini – 65.94% – 71.40% – 137.34% (Wales)
2. Elan Williams and WSH Something Borrowed – 67.50% – 69.21% – 136.71% (Wales)
3. Veronica Bower and Game Over – 63.59% – 71.09% – 134.68% (Wales)
Grade 3 Individual
1. Jan Cummings and Rhonderful Dorrells – 66.79% – 70.83% – 137.62% (N&E)
2. Vicky Earnshaw and Prince Pepe – 67.26% – 69.76% – 137.02% (N&E)
3. Jessica Pritchard and Cochrane – 65.12% – 70.71% – 135.83% (Wales)
4. Mark Griffin and First Class IX – 65.63% – 68.75% – 134.38% (N&E)
5. Isabella Benfield and Cookies and Cream II – 65.71% – 67.97% – 133.68% (S&W)
Grade 4 Individual
1. Laura Scott and Koko Pop – 70.49% – 72.84% – 143.33% (S&W)
2. Sara Bates and Tango VII – 68.40% – 70.63% – 139.03% (N&W)
3. Julia Godden and Garties Mr D'Arcey – 64.90% – 66.90% – 131.80% (Wales)
4. Lisa Griffin and First Class IX – 64.05% – 66.78% – 130.83% (N&E)
5. Emma Saul and Quadriga III Ch – 60.36% – 64.52% – 124.88% (Wales)
Grade 5 Individual
1. Sarah Oram and Tamrik Captain Jack Sparrow – 69.23% – 70.00% – 139.23% (S&E)
2. Kathryn Gallagher and Swinging in the Rain – 65.83% – 69.74% – 135.57% (N&E)
3. Jo Dagley-Cleworth and Uptimistic – 67.50% – 67.50% – 135.00% (S&E)
4. Donna West and Hio Lookswell – 65.36% – 67.67% – 133.03% (N&E)
5. Lisa Michell and Call Me Heaven – 63.17% – 67.69% – 130.86% (S&W)