Fifth consecutive HOYS win for Charlotte

  • Written By: British Dressage/Joanna Bowns
  • Published: Fri, 08 Oct 2021 17:08

Charlotte Dujardin delighted the judges, and the crowd, with a winning performance to retain her Dressage Future Elite Championship crown at the Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham (06 – 10 October 2021).

With Carl Hester and Coral Ingham’s young talent, Imhotep (Everdale x Vivaldi), she posted a tremendous 84.62% to complete a fifth consecutive HOYS victory. Charlotte and eight-year-old ‘Pete’, fresh from their domination of the Small Tour classes at the LeMieux National Championships, lit up the Andrews Bowen International Arena with a performance showcasing the charismatic gelding’s vast potential.

A high class field of eight- to ten-year-olds took to the iconic Andrews Bowen International Arena, each performing an Inter I Freestyle under the NEC lights, and each showing great ability and focus. Andrew Gould with Genie III, and Nikolas Kröncke with Flanell jostled for the remaining podium places. Both partnerships impressed with a high-class performance but it was Gould who had the edge for second spot with Kröncke completing the top three.

This competition for up and coming horses, now in its seventh year, provides a unique opportunity to expose young horses to the big stage, as well as acting as a shop window for our sport at an event which is famed for show jumping and showing. This is an invitational class, based on rankings from High Profile, Premier League and CDI shows on average percentage in Small Tour classes. The top ranked combinations are then invited to take part in this Intermediate I Freestyle competition.

Eight competitors came forward last night under a top judging panel of FEI 5* trio, Peter Storr (C), Isobel Wessels (M) and Andrew Gardner (H) who afterwards took it in turn to sum up each performance.

First to come through the curtains into the arena was wonder woman Alice Oppenheimer, who only days ago completed the London Marathon, raising more that £21,000 for The Brooke. Her first ride of two, Sarah Oppenheimer’s 10-year-old Headmore Bella Ruby (Belissimo M x Rubinstein), got the evening off to a super start, scoring 74.63% for a harmonious test choreographed to music from Les Misérables.

“That was a really nice start,” commented Andrew Gardner, summarising the performance over the roving mic. “The horse and rider were in harmony, the horse was very concentrated and it was without mistakes. She [Alice] did a good job. I particularly liked the second pirouette – it had good structure – and the horse has nice paces.”

Following Alice was the Gloucestershire-based German rider, Nikolas Kröncke. Famed for winning individual gold at the FEI Pony European Championships with Konrad in 1997 aged 15, and several team golds through U21s, Nikolas has recently returned to the arena after a 17-year break from competition. He’s clearly not lost an ounce of style and captivated the audience from the get-go with 10-year-old Flanell (Fidertanz x De Niro).

The chestnut stallion, ridden to music by Klazz Brothers for a feelgood classic meets Cuba vibe, started boldly into two-time changes from the first halt and continued with confidence and super expression throughout. A big smile from Nikolas at the end of the test said it all and they set the bar with 77.04%.

“It was a fantastic test and I really enjoyed the music,” commented president of the ground jury, Peter Storr. “The horse is stunning – a beautiful type – and it was well-ridden. A super rider and a super combination.”

Next up was Andrew Gould with Tatiana Milne-Skillman’s Genie III (Zhivago x Sandro Hit), a combination enjoying a successful 2021 with several podium places both nationally and internationally. Their test from beginning to end was correct, confident and bold with the 10-year-old bay stallion assured in his work and complemented well by a compilation of powerful, symphonic compositions. The panel was duly impressed with what they saw and awarded the talented duo 77.67%.

“That music got to the depth of my stomach,” said Isobel Wessels afterwards. “It was so atmospheric and enhanced this beautiful horse. He’s a fabulous horse and it’s great to see Andrew back on the scene. They are a great partnership.”

Calum Whitworth followed with Judith Davis’s beautiful 10-year-old Hawtins Barolo (Belissimo M x French Kiss) who were awarded 75.87% for a super test riding to selection of current-day hits from Galantis, David Guetta, Little Mix (Heartbreak Anthem), Coldplay (My Universe) and The Weekend (Starboy). Calum was rightly delighted with his test and received an extra cheer from the crowd in recognition of his birthday – what a way to celebrate!

“That was another really good test,” commented Andrew Gardner. “We’ve been spoilt tonight. These are young horses but we’re seeing horses confirmed and on good lines.

“I liked the uphill tendency and the consistency – it confirms they’re on sound lines.”

Next into the Andrews Bowen International Arena was Lucinda Elliott partnered by Judith Davis’s 10-year-old mare Hawtins Soave (Sir Donnerhall x Belissimo M). The elegant mare, beautifully presented by Lucinda, was awarded 75.87% to match Calum’s but edged ahead by a whisker on collectives. Their programme, set to atmospheric and emotive music by Jo Blankenburg was elegant, expressive and showed great harmony between horse and rider.

“The music was beautiful,” commented Peter Storr. “She’s a nice type of horse and the music enhanced the horse well. It was a great performance.”

Matt Frost followed with the charismatic and athletic mare, Helga (Chagall D&R x Samba Hit II) owned by Nicola Keenan and just nine years old. Riding to well-known hits from David Guetta, Kygo and Sia, they performed a highly enjoyable programme with the horse showing so much potential for the future. A mistake in the three-tempis and a mistake in the right pirouette were costly for this pair, pegging their mark back to 73.50%.

“This horse is not so experienced,” commented Isobel Wessels. “But Matt is an experienced rider and she will have learned a lot tonight. What a horse!

“He [Matt] won’t have to kick her around a Grand Prix test, that’s for sure!” she added, referring to the mare’s lovely natural energy and enthusiasm.

The penultimate rider of the evening was the defending Dressage Future Elite title holder Charlotte Dujardin with Carl Hester and Coral Ingham’s HOYS debutant, Imhotep, or ‘Pete’. Charlotte and this eight-year-old son of Everdale so impressed at Somerford last month but entering the buzzy arena at HOYS is another ball game, yet Pete’s focus never wavered.

Riding to a wonderful Simon and Garfunkel medley, the chestnut gelding showed lovely expression, suppleness, happy power, and confidence - everything you’d want to see in a developing Grand Prix horse – for a score of 84.62%.

“Well what can I say,” said Peter afterwards. “The music was sensational and the way she [Charlotte] rides is amazing. She is dubbed the Queen of dressage and tonight she showed exactly why!”

Before Charlotte’s score was announced, Alice Oppenheimer returned to the arena with her second ride, Amanda Radford’s liver chestnut 10-year-old Headmore Dionysus (Dimaggio x Rubinstein).

Alice and the small but mighty ‘Dillon’ impressed with a test full of energy and athleticism set to music from the stage show Cats to put 76.16% on the board and slot into a well-earned fourth place.

“The old saying is always relevant that horses are great levellers – nothing is guaranteed – but all the horses tonight, the attentiveness, they’ve all coped really well. The highlight is that we’ve seen horses for the future, with fantastic movement and on good lines with the training,” concluded Andrew Gardner on an impressive evening of competition.

Reflecting on her victory, Charlotte told HOYS, “I am absolutely thrilled with that. It is the first time he [Imhotep] has ever done a big competition like that, so to come into that kind of arena and perform the way he did, I am thrilled. He has got the biggest heart.

“He is going to be a very special horse,” she continued. “He is definitely one we’ll be lining up for Paris. Hopefully, next year he should be at Grand Prix level. He shows so much talent and is so much fun to ride.

“Horse of the Year Show has so many memories for me - I love coming here. It was my childhood, and seeing all the people now that I used to ride with - there is nothing to beat it. It’s great exposure for my young up and coming horses. For him to come here and do that is great. There is a special vibe here.”

1. Charlotte Dujardin with Imhotep, 84.62%
2. Andrew Gould with Genie III, 77.67%
3. Nikolas Kröncke with Flanell, 77.04%
4. Alice Oppenheimer with Headmore Dionysus, 76.16%
5. Lucinda Elliott with Hawtins Soave, 75.87% (233)
6. Calum Whitworth with Hawtins Barolo, 75.87% (232)
7. Alice Oppenheimer with Headmore Bella Ruby, 74.63%
8. Matt Frost with Helga, 73.00%

Full interview with Charlotte courtesy of HOYS/LloydBell Productions


Photo © Horse of the Year Show/1st Class Images
Words: British Dressage/Joanna Bowns