HOYS fab four for Dujardin
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Charlotte Dujardin delivered the winning performance aboard her new equine prodigy to claim last night’s Dressage Future Elite Championship at the Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham (3 – 7 October 2018).
The Olympic dressage champion completed a fourth consecutive victory in this prestigious event in front of a packed out HOYS crowd at the NEC. Riding Mount St John Stud’s Mount St John Valencia, Dujardin posted a score of 78.04% to complete her quartet of wins, all on different horses, producing further evidence still of her world class string of horses.
A high class field took to the iconic Andrews Bowen International Arena, each performing an Inter I Freestyle under the NEC lights, and it was tight at the top. Second placed Katie Bailey put up a good fight aboard Eagle Nouvelle for a score of 77.62% but it was Dujardin with the brilliant liver chestnut mare, Mount St John Valencia, who held her superiority.
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, the Andrews Bowen International Arena was jam-packed in anticipation for the dressage, which followed a superb afternoon masterclass by Emile Faurie.
For talented eight to ten year old horses, this class is invitational based on rankings throughout the season 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 an Intermediate I Freestyle competition. Eight competitors came forward last night under a top judging panel of Sandy Phillips (C), Stephen Clarke (H) and Peter Storr (M).
First into the arena was Dylan Deutrom (22) with William Deans’ nine year old, San Marco (Status Quo x Gribaldi). The horse captivated the audience from the get-go with his powerful, elastic trot work. The shoulder ins, half passes and extensions were elegant and in a super frame. The horse was full of energy, however tension had an impact on the walk and canter resulting in mistakes in the tempi changes and green pirouettes and a score of 65.12%. “It’s a lovely horse,” commented Stephen Clarke, summarising the performance over commentator John Stokes’ roving mic. “We saw some very expressive trot work. The horse was very impressed in this atmosphere but that’s what this competition is all about – giving these young horses experience. The rider did a good job. It’s a lovely horse for the future.”
Katie Bailey followed with her 2019 Magic PSG Freestyle winning partner, Eagle Nouvelle, owned by Hannah Dovey. Riding to their ethereal freestyle, produced by Tom Hunt and set to James Newton Howards’ scores from Peter Pan and Maleficent, Katie presented the 10 year old son of Singapore beautifully. The trot work was elastic, supple and fluent, and the walk covered much ground. The canter tour was clean, secure and expressive with super tempi changes and beautiful pirouettes, and the horse looked very at home in the intensity of the NEC. They leapt into a strong, early lead with a score of 77.62%. Sandy Phillips, who was enjoying her first time judging at HOYS, commented, ”It’s a very elegant horse and they improved as they went along. The pirouettes were a highlight and the whole performance was supple and elastic. They are a wonderful partnership to watch and are certainly ones for the future.”
Next up was Abi Lyle with Fennella Ross’s delightful eight year old Farrell (Fabregas x Davignon). An orchestral U2 compilation, very fitting for the lady who rides for Ireland, suited the bay gelding well. Much of the canter work was secure, balanced and bold, the trot also was in a good balance and frame. In the extended trot, the horse for a moment was a bit surprised when he caught sight of himself on the big screen, and there was some loss of balance in the canter pirouettes, but the test was very enjoyable to watch and was awarded a score of 72.16%. “She did a great job,” said Peter Storr. “I was impressed with her choreography, and I could see what she was doing, which was good. The canter pirouettes are not yet established, so didn’t come off, and he was scared when he saw himself on the screen. But it was lovely to watch with super music. She [Abi] did a good job.”
The fourth rider in was Emily Harris with Fay Thomas’s nine year old Freya FST, a British bred daughter of Fidertanz. Emily and the elegant chestnut are a super partnership and produced some lovely highlights. Riding to Impossible Opening from the Finding Neverland soundtrack, their trot work showed good quality, and Croatian Rhapsody complemented their bold canter tour well, with two-tempis on a half 20 metre circle into half pass, both ways, a highlight. Emily, clearly thrilled with her ride, flung her arms around the Freya’s neck after the final halt. The score for the talented pair was later announced as 71.75%. “I love the way she separated the trot and canter work,” summarised Stephen Clarke. “And the two and three tempis on a circle line were difficult, but she pulled it off. She did a great job.”
Lara Edwards and Jazzed Up, who she co-owns with Laura Milner, followed with a really exciting, well-executed test for 73.70%. Their trot section, to Taylor Swift’s Shake it off, was punchy, balanced and confident. The canter, to Luis Fonsi’s Despacito, was brave with extended canter into pirouettes, and their pièce de résistance – three and two-tempis, ridden with one hand, on the centre line towards C. Lara and the 10 year old son of Jazz who have a remarkable partnership were awarded 73.70% for ultimately, third place. “She did the one-handed tempi changes twice, which was a very brave move, but she pulled it off,” said Sandy. “They did an excellent job. I loved her music. It was a wonderful job and she [Lara] has a lot to look forward to - it’s very exciting.”
Next up was Jayne Turney with Shirley Rixon’s nine year old Starnberg son, Penhaligon’s Jupiter. They showed some real quality, but also a touch of tension, during their Fleetwood Mac-inspired routine for 70.75%. The young horse oozes quality but was a little overexcited by the atmosphere, yet still there were some lovely highlights including an athletic counter change of hand and three-tempis on a turn. “He’s a really lovely horse,” summarised Peter. “He has some real highlight one of which is his extended trot, but tension spoilt the first one today. Tension got to him in the walk too, but he’s a young horse and she [Jayne] should be proud of him. She did a great job keeping him under control.”
The penultimate rider of the evening was the defending Dressage Future Elite title holder Charlotte Dujardin with Mount St John Stud’s HOYS debutante, Mount St John Valencia. Charlotte and this high-energy liver chestnut mare, who so impressed at Stoneleigh last month when taking the Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Freestyle, entered the HOYS arena – another buzzy, but quite different atmosphere - with exactly the same focus and verve. Riding to the their joyful soundtrack from the animated films Ice Age and The Snowman and the Snow Dog, they showed incredibly expressive and fluent trot work, and a super enthusiastic canter tour, perhaps with a bit of tension and a couple of blips, but so much scope and quality. Valencia, who’s known at home as Valerie, clearly has a mind-set to die for and looks every bit a Grand Prix horse in the making. Up went their score - 78.04%, taking them into the lead. “This is a very interesting horse,” said Stephen afterwards. “She has so much expression, especially in the trot. It’s a lovely, soft energy. She has tremendous ability for the future and is certainly in the right hands [to develop].”
“There was plenty of content in the choreography, without over asking the horse, and the music is beautiful. It’s very nice to see,” he added.
The final competitor of the night was Kate Cowell with Patricia Andrews’ impressive dark bay mare Dramatic Conquest (by Dramatic). The trot section, to Coldplay’s A Sky Full of Stars was softly powerful, with energetic, ground-covering extensions and fluent lateral work and changes of bend. The walk to My Name is Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean was relaxed and true, and the canter to Josh Vietti’s Starboy was super quality, but unfortunately marred by costly mistakes in the two-tempis. The score awarded was 71.13%. “Kate did a great job.” Said Sandy. “The mare was tense but improved as the test went along. She has a lot of elasticity, especially in the half passes. They’re a very exciting combination for the future.”
“This is such an amazing competition for these young horses. We’re lucky that we can present this for them,” concluded Sandy on an impressive evening of competition.
Reflecting on her victory, Charlotte told us, “I honestly had no idea how she [Mount St John Valencia] was going to go, in there today. She’s a new horse to me and I’ve done very little with her. The Nationals was just her third ever Inter I, and her first ever freestyle, so this was only her second ever freestyle. I really couldn’t be any happier.”
“The changes are still green, and unfortunately tonight she had a good look at the screen as she was heading towards it, so got a bit short in a couple, but she’s just an inexperienced horse. What I was most proud of is the fact that she went in there and she tried, she really tried. She allowed me to reassure her and she focused on what I was asking her. For a horse that has done as little as she has, I couldn’t be prouder.”
Describing her ride, Charlotte continued, “The trot work feels amazing! She’s so loose and athletic, she does lovely half passes and is just so expressive. I’ve just got to get the canter work a bit more established - she’s just a little bit greener in that. But then again, when I got her she was Medium level, she’d just done one or two Advanced Mediums, so she’s made a huge jump.
“I didn’t even expect to do as well on her as I did at the Nationals - that was a hard atmosphere for a horse that’s so green,” said Charlotte, who’s learnt in their short time together what a great competition mind the mare has. “I know now that she’s got a really big heart. She tries, she’s not spooky, she’s very honest, and for the future that is what it’s all about – having a horse that’s brave and copes with a big atmosphere. I’m really, really proud of her.
“She’ll now have a small holiday, then next year I’d like to go international Small Tour with her, possibly head her towards Aachen,” said Charlotte, talking about their future plans. “We’ll expose her to environments like that, then hopefully have her for Grand Prix the year after.”