Future stars out in force at Keysoe
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The Pony classes at Keysoe CDI3* (15 – 17 March 2019) were well-attended by former representatives of the British team, all of whom had the same goal in mind: qualification and selection for this year’s FEI Pony European Championships.
Leading the pack on Friday was 2018 team member Annabella Pidgley, who took a decisive 1-2 in the Team test, before claiming second place in both the Individual competition and the Freestyle aboard Cognac IX. Originally competed by Greece’s Theodora Livanos, the eleven-year-old gelding (FS Chambertin x Waldemar) made his debut with Pidgley last spring, when the new partnership took the Team test at Compiègne on their international debut. Pidgley’s second partner here, as at Compiègne, was her Europeans mount Ine, who took second in the Team test and seventh in the Individual.
Pidgley has used the winter to solidify her partnership with Cognac, who looks set to be an enormously promising mount for the fourteen-year-old rider.
We’ve spent the winter working on his overall way of going, it’s really showed and paid off; it all came together [at Keysoe], so I’m really happy. We did a test ride in January and got 76%, but we haven’t been out much over the winter. He’s super consistent and he really likes competing and being out – he just likes to show off!
Holly Kerslake made an impression throughout the weekend too, riding the 10-year-old stallion Valhallas Zorro (pictured). The pair, in its third season contesting the internationals together, took both the Pony Individual and Freestyle to Music, as well as finishing third in the Team test. For Kerslake, this is a fitting beginning to a poignant year: 2019 will be her last year riding her 2017 Europeans mount.
“He’s been a really good boy – we had a really good start to the competition on Friday in the team test, when we got 69%. Yesterday, we got 71% - he was a really good boy. Today, he’s a little bit more tired, but he really tries – he always wants to try his best in the arena,” she says.
Prime Squad members Charlotte McDowall and Alivia II (Olivi x Jazz) did the double in the Junior sections, winning both the Individual and Freestyle competitions. Gloucestershire-based McDowell took over the ride on the former Grand Prix mount of Julie Hugo-Ross in the latter part of 2018, and their early efforts have been impressive: they won their first two Advanced Mediums together in August of 2018 and have gone from strength to strength since, ordinarily taking the top spot at the level. Keysoe marks their first international as a partnership.
Olivia Wrennall and her striking Hanoverian Disneyland took the win in the Junior Team test, finished second in the Individual, and gave the appreciative audience a treat with their suitably Disney-centric Freestyle, which earned them sixth place in this competitive class.
Bon Jovi was arguably the star of the show, taking all three of the Young Rider classes with rider Rebecca Swain. The thirteen-year-old KWPN gelding by UB40 was originally piloted by Dutch Olympic rider Diederik Van Silfhout, and has been with his Surrey-based young rider for two seasons. Keysoe has been a happy hunting ground for the duo: they claimed the win in the Prix St Georges at December’s High Profile show at the venue.
Nevertheless: “I didn’t really expect this,” a breathless Swain laughed after her final victory. “He felt super, really with me.”
For eighteen-year-old Swain, the weekend’s successes are the culmination of a long and concentrated effort to get the best out of the horse. Remarkably, Swain managed all three of her fantastic results despite a nasty bout of tonsillitis that nearly saw her sit the show out.
“He’s not been the easiest,” she admits with a smile. “But he has lots of variety – we do polework, we go on the gallops – and we’ve spent the winter working on his suppleness, so it seems to have paid off. I’m glad we came!”