Keysoe CDI: British youth riders on top form
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Keysoe International’s three days of Under-21 classes (13 - 20 March) saw young combinations shine with high scores and plenty of personal bests across the well supported classes.
The hotly contested Young Rider Team and Individual tests were won by in-form duo Jessica McConkey and her big moving 13-year-old Danish mare Lady Gaga (pictured above), who impressed the judges with her expressive paces, endless gears and enthusiasm.
Jessica, a member of the Under 21 international squad for a fifth year running, recently returned from 16 months spent with the Van Olsts in the Netherlands and is now based at her own yard in South Oxfordshire.
“Lottie [Fry] was my mentor through the World Class programme and when I called her for advice on taking the next step to become a professional dressage rider, I was shocked when she suggested that I came over to Holland with my two horses for a couple of months,” said Jessica.
“Not long after, Anne and Gert Jan Van Olst offered me a more permanent placement during which time I learnt a lot from training my own horses, as well as riding younger and more experienced Grand Prix horses as well as handling and caring for sport horses at the top of their game. The experience has been invaluable and is something I will be forever grateful for.”
Jessica has owned her 13-year-old Danish mare ‘Millie’ for five years and describes her as “full of character and sass, which makes her a special horse in the arena because she brings the same energy into the test”.
Jessica, who trains with Paul Fielder, describes her trip to Keysoe with Lady Gaga and her second horse Wilson Stensvang, who was making his international debut, as “a dream”.
“All our hard work and winter training paid off in the arena; it was almost a sense of relief when I heard my scores because you put so much pressure on yourself to perform, especially when I factored in the investment my team had put in over the winter, so the last thing I wanted to do was let them down.
“Millie and I gained PBs every day, and Wilson, also did a super job competing at such a new level having only ridden a handful of PSGs and holding his own in a very competitive class to get placed fifth both days.
“However, Millie’s highlight was the Freestyle for sure. Normally she can get quite nervous with the loud music, but she remained relaxed throughout. Obviously, it’s even more fun when we have Lady Gaga music to dance to!”
As they head to this year’s winter championships next month (Wilson in the Advanced Medium and Millie in the PSG), Jessica is hoping for selection to a few more internationals this year in their campaign for the Europeans, as well as entering some Premier League shows.
On the final day of competition, Sussex-based young rider Anna Dalrymple, close runner-up to Jessica in the Team test, rose to a final challenge in the Young Rider Freestyle with Maxine Vainio’s 13-year-old bay gelding Vagabond de Massa (pictured above), reversing the placings by claiming a victory with a personal best of 76.26%.
“We created a new freestyle this year made by Tom Hunt which I love riding to; it’s a compilation of music from Kung Fu Panda, which suits not only his paces but also his personality!
“V and I have had a great start to the season so we were feeling ready to take on the first CDI of 2022,” said Anna, who has trained with Sarah Millis for the past eight years. “In the freestyle, we had the highest technical marks for our canter pirouettes, as well as our trot half passes, with the judges giving 8s for choreography, interpretation and degree of difficulty.
“They were hot classes on all three days, but we love a challenge! It’s great to have healthy competition to help us encourage and motivate one another to better ourselves and our scores.
“My main goal was to improve on my marks which we achieved by gaining PBs every day and it was lovely to spend time with the other young riders and squad members so early in the season.”
Anna, who has been selected for this year’s International Pathway Squad, also paid tribute to her trainer: “Sarah has helped me through pony years and my jump onto horses. She constantly inspires me to better myself and always puts so much time and effort into our partnership. She is a great coach not only on the riding side, but as a mentor too. She has been on the circuit for youth teams herself, so is able to share her experiences with me which is super helpful!”
Seventeen-year-old Annabella Pidgley was also on top form with both her rides taking top spot in all three Junior tests to achieve an outstanding hat-trick.
Riding her mother Sarah’s eye-catching 12-year-old liver chestnut gelding Sultan des Paluds FRH (by Soliman De Hus), and flamboyant eight-year-old Westphalian bay mare Espe (pictured above), Annabella set out her challenge on the first day in the Junior Team Test taking the first two placings with little to choose between them.
There were more high scores to follow for Annabella in the Junior Individual and Freestyle tests, as Espe, a bright bay mare bred by Walter and Hedda Droege who was selected to represent Germany at the 2019 World Young Horse Championships, continued to show her talent, scoring more than 77% in the Freestyle.
Team Bigwood/Dahl also a busy weekend with Fiona and daughter Mette contesting nine tests with four horses and four first places between them over the three days.
Sixteen-year-old Mette and her 11-year-old grey gelding George Clooney BS (by Caesar 171) - pictured above - bred by Julie Lockey, continue to go from strength to strength enjoying a memorable show winning all three Pony classes, including two scores of 74% in the Team and Individual tests before topping it off with a personal best score of 76.89% in the Freestyle.
“I never normally get to see Mette compete and watching her ride the kür brought a tear to my eye,” said Fiona. “They did a near perfect test, and I was so proud of the two of them. This is their last year in ponies, so it was fantastic that they did so well together.
“Mette’s freestyle floor plan was marked highly as it is complicated, and it has to be in time with the music; there is no room for errors. Her kür was composed by Dressage & Music with a Robbie Williams theme featuring the track ‘Let Me Entertain You’ for the trot work.”
Fiona describes Mette and George’s partnership as a “real friendship”.
“George always looks so pleased to see Mette when she comes onto the yard; they know each other so well. We bought him in 2018 and Mette has worked solidly with him since. She adores George and it has been lovely seeing them both develop into such a strong partnership.
“George is so cheeky when he doesn't have a rider on his back. When we got him, I thought we could persuade him to be better behaved, but no! He is like a naughty child but so adorable with it. He can't be trusted and is always causing chaos!
“I get very nervous watching as I know how hard they work at home. Mette is very dedicated and riding George comes first in her life. It is her passion.”
The team also celebrated Abbie Twine winning the “Best Groom of the Show” award: “With so many riders at the show, the days were very long. Mette was always competing early, and I was on at 9.30pm so, after prize-givings, we didn't finish until 10.30pm,” Fiona explained. “It was exhausting but worth it. Abbie is constantly smiling and good fun to be around. We all have a laugh together and she is great with the horses too!”.
Having made a successful debut at Myerscough Premier League just a week before, 14-year-old Crystal Robinson-Long was delighted to receive a late invitation for the Children on Horses classes with her newly acquired 13-year-old Dutch bred mare Evita Ronia (pictured above).
This talented combination, trained by Annie Rawlins in Sussex, scooped first place in all three classes scoring plus 70% in tests.
“I’ve had Evita for just seven weeks and she is the nicest horse with a great temperament,” said Crystal. “Evita gave me everything I asked for and standing on the podium for three prize-givings in a row was very special.”
The family bought the 16.2hh dark bay mare unseen from the Netherlands due to Covid restrictions on recommendation and Evita has more than fulfilled her promise.
“Evita knows her job and has lots of energy but a very sane brain. She can be feisty, but I feel very confident on her,” said Crystal. “She is also friendly, loves cuddles and absolutely loves stable toys so we bought her a Kentucky horse toy at Keysoe in celebration of our performance), which she enjoys throwing around!
“The weekend was just wow! I was slightly nervous about the trot up as she can sometimes be a little strong in hand, but her previous owner, Diana Van De Bovenkamp, assured me she’s great and she was!
“Evita gives me an amazing feeling and it was great to spend time with her and get to know her better. My high point at Keysoe was the team test and gaining a qualifying score,”
Crystal competed in CoH last year with her other ride 18-year-old Ernie (Baldovino) who she describes as “a great teacher”.
“Ernie had colic last November and a subsequent operation so is just coming back into some light work, but I’m hoping at some point he will compete again.”
Looking ahead Crystal says she would love to go for the Europeans this year in Children on Horses and then hopes to have four years in Juniors.
“I want to train hard, perform well and see where I can get to in the sport. We are off to Belgium next week to compete at Sentower Park, and I would love to go to as many internationals as I can to gain experience as my big aim is for the Europeans.”
Results: top three
Young Rider Team Test
1. Jessica McConkey and Lady Gaga, 71.66% (GBR)
2. Anna Dalrymple and Vagabond de Massa, 71.52% (GBR)
3. Maddy Frewin and Blue Hors Dexter, 70.34% (GBR)
Young Rider Individual Test
1. Jessica McConkey and Lady Gaga, 72.50% (GBR)
2. Sophie Taylor and Jerrydale, 72.35% (GBR)
3. Anna Dalrymple and Vagabond de Massa, 72.20% (GBR)
Young Rider Freestyle
1. Anna Dalrymple and Vagabond de Massa, 76.26% (GBR)
2. Jessica McConkey and Lady Gaga, 75.72% (GBR)
3. Sophie Taylor and Jerrydale, 72.49% (GBR)
Junior Team Test
1. Annabella Pidgley and Sultan des Paluds FRH, 74.44% (GBR)
2. Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 74.19% (GBR)
3. Sophie Wallace and Rosalie B, 71.16% (GBR)
1. Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 73.67% (GBR)
2. Annabella Pidgley and Sultan des Paluds FRH, 73.57% (GBR)
3. Sophie Wallace and Rosalie B, 71.81% (GBR)
1. Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 77.18% (GBR)
2. Ruby Hughes and Extra Time P, 72.20% (GBR)
3. India Durman-Mills and Escade, 72.17% (GBR)
1. Mette Dahl and George Clooney BS, 74.05% (GBR)
2. Sofia Games and Mister Snowman, 72.48% (GBR)
3. Myles Graham and Dresscode Cocktail, 71.57% (GBR)
1. Mette Dahl and George Clooney BS, 73.97% (GBR)
2. Demi Howard-Cartwright and Fin C WE, 70.78% (GBR)
3. Sofia Games and Mister Snowman, 70.32% (GBR)
1. Mette Dahl and George Clooney BS, 76.89% (GBR)
2. Sofia Games and Mister Snowman, 73.88% (GBR)
3. Myles Graham and Dresscode Cocktail, 71.72% (GBR)
Children on Horses Preliminary B
1. Crystal Robinson-Long and Evita Ronia, 75.71% (GBR)
2. Isla Sully & Reitland's Don Totilas, 70.64% (GBR)
3. Sophia Longworth and Brandini, 67.87% (GBR)
Children Team Test
1. Crystal Robinson-Long and Evita Ronia, 73.20% (GBR)
2. Sophia Longworth and Brandini, 65.15% (GBR)
3. Millie Caldecott and Beaurepaire Frodo, 64.82% (GBR)
Children Individual Test
1. Crystal Robinson-Long and Evita Ronia, 70.52% (GBR)
2. Isla Sully and Reitland's Don Totilas, 66.74% (GBR)
3. Sophia Longworth and Brandini, 63.86% (GBR)
Photo © Kevin Sparrow