Keysoe CDI: Youth talent on top form
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British and Irish under-21 riders impressed in the hotly contested youth classes at Keysoe CDI in Bedfordshire (07 – 09 October 2022).
British riders were on flying form throughout the three days of competition, with combinations making their mark in front of an international panel, including judges from Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Holland, Germany, Brazil and New Zealand. In what has been hailed as “a new dawn for Irish dressage” by governing body Dressage Ireland, three Irish riders won four classes clocking up an unprecedented achievement for the sport in Ireland, while young British talent proved equally impressive.
Riding for Ireland, British-based Martha Jobling-Purser won two Junior classes, with Pony rider Ellen McDonald and Children on Horses competitor Maeve Deverell both winning a class apiece.
CDIY Young Riders
British duo Annabella Pidgley and Jessica McConkey, both seasoned campaigners and teammates, rose to the challenge of going head to head in all three Young Rider classes.
Twenty-year-old Jessica, who was part of the Young Rider team at this year’s European Championships at Hartpury with Lady Gaga, rode her own 12-year-old gelding Wilson Stensvang (Wilkens x Blue Hors Don Schufro) - pictured above - to victory on the first day achieving straight 8s from all five judges in the Young Rider team test for her flying changes setting the standard with an excellent score of 71.32%.
Being part of the World Class Programme, Jessica was fortunate to be mentored by Lottie Fry, which later led to an opportunity to work at Van Olst Horses in the Netherlands, where she remained for 15 months.
Based with her trainers Amy and Tracey Woodhead in Grimsby since June this year, Jessica is enjoying one of her best seasons to date, having won the Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Silver title at this year’s LeMieux National championships, as well as reserve champion in the Young Rider class with Wilson, who she found in Denmark three years ago.
“Wilson is so easy to fall in love with; he is full of character and personality and just very lovable and cute. He is Mr Constant in the arena and gives me 100% all the time,” said Jessica, who earned three PBs with Wilson at Keysoe and competed in their first ever freestyle together taking away “lots of amazing positives from this show”.
“Amy and Tracey have been amazing in helping me develop Wilson to become more established and more confident in this work. We still have a lot more to work on, but the difference they have both made in my horses’ way of going has been substantial and is already showing in our results!”
The Young Rider Individual and Freestyle classes were won by Annabella Pidgley and her mother Sarah’s outstanding eight-year-old Westphalian mare Espe (Escolar x Dimaggio) - pictured above, winners of this year’s British Dressage Junior Championship at the LeMieux National Championships at Somerford Park.
Bred by Walter and Hedda Droege, this young bright bay star was presented at mare shows in Westfalen as a three-year-old and won the Bundeschampionate qualifier in Hagen under Eva Möller, going on to be selected to represent Germany at the 2019 World Young Horse Championships in Ermelo.
This in-form combination, who spearheaded Britain to team bronze at this year’s Europeans, the nation’s first Junior team medal for 24 years, train with Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and Charlotte Dujardin. Keysoe was their Young Rider debut.
Jessica said she and Annabella celebrated their respective wins by sharing some “bubbles” together after the show: “We are very good friends so we both want each other to do well, but we’re both also very competitive so naturally we both want to win. The positive competition and friendly rivalry ups our game!”
Great Britain and Ireland once again went head to head in all three tests as Martha Jobling-Purser and Sophia Marston battled it out for top spot, with Martha winning the Team and Individual tests and Sophia taking the Freestyle.
Based in Northumberland, 17-year-old Martha, the grandniece of Irish Olympian Juliet Jobling-Purser who competed in eventing at the 1968 Olympics, claimed the Individual and Team tests with her nine-year old KWPN gelding Ivan Carlos (by Ampere) - pictured above - who she has been riding for the past 16 months.
“Blackie’s a very sensitive horse but also incredibly kind and we have built a strong partnership. He is always motivated to work and loves hacking and jumping too,” says Martha, who trains with Clive Halsall as well as Tracey and Amy Woodhead who Martha spent several months working with.
“Amy warmed me up through video call at Keysoe CDI with her new-born baby Amelia beside her. We have a great relationship as we have some of her young horses at home and Amy is always at the end of the phone when I need any assistance. I am really fortunate to have so much support.”
Martha describes this year’s competitive outings as “a season of highs and lows”. “Our highs have been Blackie being so consistent and placing nationally and internationally including a win at Le Mans CDI in France, as well as winning the Advanced Medium Gold at Mount Ballan’s summer regionals.
“Our low came just before the Europeans, when I felt Blackie just wasn’t himself, but thanks to some investigational work at Rainbow Equine from vet Jonathan Anderson, we are hopefully back on the right track.
“We’re pretty good at dealing with the lows and don’t like to get too hung up on the bad times – we just work out how we can make it better!”
Martha describes her weekend at Keysoe as “a fun experience”. “Blackie was a superstar and the judges commented on how well our tests flowed. In the Individual test, he got a bit strong in the canter, but we had no major mistakes in both tests we won.
“In the Freestyle, the trot was super, but unfortunately, he added in some extra flying changes, but overall we were delighted with how confident he was at this show. Our plan now is to focus on the movements in the Prix St Georges test and continue improving his confidence at shows.”
Sophia Marston travelled from her home in Coventry to enjoy a memorable weekend with top three placings including a convincing win in the Freestyle on the talented 13-year-old Dutch-bred gelding E-mail (by Jazz) - pictured above, owned by Imogen Murray and Seonaidh O’Neill.
“’Emu’ came to me about 11 months ago which was brilliant - the two sets of owners are very supportive, generous and kind to allow me to have this experience,” said Sophia who is new to this level. “They are amazing and never apply any pressure on me; they just say ‘let’s see where this journey takes us’!”
Sophia’s winning freestyle music was produced by Tom Hunt and borrowed from her mother Claire, who last rode to it 10 years ago, earning them top spot with 71.55%. “As a little girl I used to dance to it on foot, and it then became my Elementary music for my horse Solitaire who was injured this year but it’s now Emu’s dance music.
“It’s a powerful and emotional piece of music for us as a family as it brings up many memories. I’m not that brilliant or confident dancing on foot and I’m not a loud person, but when I’m on a horse, I can show my inner self and it represents my family’s journey and what horses and dressage has meant to us.”
Sophia, who trains with Michael Eilberg, describes Emu as a “sensitive, talented and kind horse who tries too hard and can be sensitive”. “I was proud that Emu trusted me and showcased what I knew he was about. At Keysoe he let me ride him and I feel he is growing with every competition and I’m excited about what he can achieve.”
Sophia spent this summer working for the Eilbergs to help pay for lessons. “Michael is very important in my journey as he believes in me and tries to explain things to me in a way I can understand as this [dressage] world is all new to me - before this I was jumping and eventing mad.
“Michael understands that my family work very hard to support me; my mum works full time and has another job on top and my nan also still works full time to help support this journey, even though she should have retired!
“I’m very lucky as my mum used her student loan to buy a field for us, however we don’t have an arena or electricity and use a neighbour’s manège when we can, so most of our schooling is done in the field or on the roads, but this also has helped us prepare for riding in all weathers and on any surface.
“The best bit is that BD has never asked or cared where or what I have, they just have inspired me to dance with my horse. Once you enter that arena, we may all be on different types of horses, however desire, drive and dancing the best with your horse and feeling and understanding them is what is required. So never give up, believe in your dreams and enjoy the present!”
In another challenge for the top, two riders, Ellen McDonald from Ireland and Britain’s Demi Howard-Cartwright dominated the first two placings across the three Pony tests over the weekend.
Fourteen-year-old Demi, who was fourth at this year’s LeMieux National Championships, rode her liver chestnut 12-year-old pony, Fin C WE (Famos x Eiger III) - pictured above - to top spot in the Pony Individual and Pony Freestyle where she took a commanding lead to win on 72.30%.
“Winning the Freestyle with a PB score on the last day was a real highlight, said Demi, who trains with Tracey Collis. “We don’t normally do that well in the freestyle as Finn can get over exuberant, but I’m learning to manage his excitable ways. Our freestyle was put together by my music sponsor Ros Kay featuring music from the film, The Kings Speech.”
It's been a busy year for this talented combination who were on the Nations Cup team in Le Mans finishing in silver behind Germany and selected as first reserve for the Pony Europeans this year.
The family have owned Finn, a German Riding Pony gelding, for three years having previously been ridden by Tabia Schroer and Raphael Netz in Germany before moving to the UK with Bonnie Bourne who took him to the Europeans in 2019.
“Finn is like a fine wine and getting better with age,” said Demi, who keeps her horses at home in Sunningdale, Berkshire. “At the age of 19, Finn looks and feels about 10! He’s a gentle and sensitive soul, but he can also be sharp and spooky, so he needs me to be confident and at times hold his hand!
“I have had him for three years and my mum brought him for me as a schoolmaster, but he has certainly been so much more than that. What makes Finn special is that he has such a big heart and never seems tired or fed up with his job. Every morning he seems to say, ‘what we doing today?’”
Demi also paid tribute to her support team, including Diane Daynes of Equine Myo and Better Care who treated Fin over the three days. “She also worked on my shoulders and taped them for me which I really helped my performance for the Individual test where we cracked the 70% barrier. Finn also felt in a much more up and open frame which was reflected in the marks.”
Looking ahead the plan is for Finn to now have some downtime and enjoy hacking and quiet training ready to campaign next year. “I am also excited to have been given the ride on a second pony, a 10-year-old palomino called Don De Luxe who belongs to Libby Hart,” said Demi. “Joey is a super talented pony, so I will be spending the winter getting to know him and competing at the High Profile Shows later this year.”
Ireland’s 15-year-old Ellen McDonald from Co Armagh is a member of the Dressage Ireland Northern region and has been competing internationally for just over a year. Ellen rode to victory on the first day winning the Pony team test on 69.34% with her 12-year-old chestnut German Riding Pony Dante Alighieri (FS Don’t Worry) - pictured above - just ahead of Demi and Finn on 69.08% and Britain’s Sofia Games and Steendieks Cadillac on 69.02% in third place.
High score winners dominated across the three tests as Britain’s Violet Hawkins and Evie Head challenged Ireland’s Maeve Deverell with the trio swapping top three places over the weekend.
Twelve year old Violet Hawkins and her 11-year-old part Welsh pony DZL Royal Sunrise (Domingos Golden Surpise x Brockwell Prince Charming) made their mark on the first day, winning the Preliminary test on 72.25%, just ahead of Evie and Maeve.
Winner of the KBIS Silver Prelim at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships earlier this year, Violet started out in showing and discovered dressage after being introduced to Jayne Turney who inspired her to train and compete.
The family, who live near Brackley, Northamptonshire, bought “Paddy” from Mollie Witham in May 2021 and have enjoyed many successes together including being on the winning team at the Youth Inter regionals, winning the CoH competition at the Home International and winning at their first Premier League and High Profile shows this year.
“Paddy is really talented and finds everything easy, but he can be challenging!” said Violet. “He can be really spooky and is worse at home so sometimes we can only work in one half of my arena, however he has the most amazing medium trot, and when he trots down the centre line at a competition, he is normally a complete professional!
“He has certainly taught me the need to be patient, take the good days with the bad, and always be ready for a quick spook!”
Violet says Paddy demonstrated this perfectly during the prizegiving at Keysoe. “We stood in the front of the line up while the national anthem played, but it ended a bit dramatically when Paddy took exception to the other ponies leaving and did a lap of gallop at the end, but I knew we’d stop!”
Violet also enjoyed success with Jayne Turney’s Cruz (Caesar 171), being placed third in the Individual on 70.78% in only their second competition together and describes him as “one of a kind”.
“One day, Jayne asked me if I would cool him off for her, and then she let me gradually ride him more and more; Tom is just incredible and amazing to ride; he’s so powerful but at the same time he’s quite spicy!
“I’ve had to learn to be very quiet, whereas with Paddy he can be a bit lazy, and I have to be very strong with my aids. I’m so lucky to be given the opportunity to ride him and Jayne and I have big plans for next year, which is really exciting!
“It really was a dream come true to ride for GB this year, so I’m really grateful to those who selected me and gave me the opportunity!”
Evie Head from Whitchurch, Shropshire won the Individual on 74,77% with her own Dutch-bred 12-year-old bay mare Brouwershaven's Leonie (Heidehof’s Don Diego x Vita Nova’s Hanassi) - pictured above.
On the second day, Ireland’s Maeve Deverell and the nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse dun gelding Annaharvey Dunowen (pictured above) scored 75.025% to win the Children on Horses FEI Team competition. They also took second place in the Individual on 72.15%.
Results – top three
CDIY – Young Rider Team Test
1. Jessica McConkey and Wilson Stensvang, 71.32% (GBR)
2. Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 70.73% (GBR)
CDIY – Young Rider Individual
1. Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 73.52% (GBR)
2. Jessica McConkey and Wilson Stensvang, 71.05% (GBR)
CDIY – Young Rider Freestyle
1. Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 74.90% (GBR)
2. Jessica McConkey and Wilson Stensvang 72.64% (GBR)
CDIY – Junior Team Test
1. Martha Jobling-Purser and Ivan Carlos, 68.36% (IRL)
2. Ruby Hughes and Bee Gee 8, 67.57% (GBR)
3. Sophia Marston and E - Mail, 66.97% (GBR)
CDIJ – Junior Individual
1. Martha Jobling-Purser and Ivan Carlos, 68.41% (IRL)
2. Sophia Marston and E-Mail, 67.67% (GBR)
3. Crystal Robinson Long and Evita Ronia, 66.03% (GBR)
CDIJ – Junior Freestyle
1. Sophia Marston and E-Mail, 71.55% (GBR)
2. Crystal Robinson Long and Evita Ronia, 69.33% (GBR)
3. Megan Bullas and Fame, 69.29% (GBR)
CDIP – Pony Team Test
1. Ellen McDonald and Dante Alighieri, 69.34% (IRL)
2. Demi Howard-Cartwright and Fin C WE, 69.08% (GBR)
3. Sofia Games and Steendieks Cadillac, 69.02% (GBR)
CDIP – Pony Individual
1. Demi Howard-Cartwright and Fin C WE, 70.08% (GBR)
2. Ellen McDonald and Dante Alighieri, 69.18% (GBR)
3. Abigail Gray and Godrics Campeggio, 68.83% (GBR)
CDIP – Pony Freestyle
1. Demi Howard-Cartwright and Fin C WE, 72.30% (GBR)
2. Ellen McDonald and Dante Alighieri, 71.61% (GBR)
3. Lily Larkin and Blokland's Hoeve's Amor, 70.37% (IRL)
CDICh-A – Children Preliminary
1. Violet Hawkins and DZL Royal Sunrise, 72.25% (GBR)
2. Evie Head and Brouwershaven's Leonie, 71.78% (GBR)
3. Maeve Deverell and Annaharvey Dunowen, 70.73% (IRL)
CDICh-A – Children Team Test
1. Maeve Deverell and Annaharvey Dunowen, 75.02% (IRL)
2. Evie Head and Brouwershaven's Leonie, 73.57% (GBR)
3. Violet Hawkins and DZL Royal Sunrise, 69.82% (GBR)
CDICh-A Children Individual
1. Evie Head and Brouwershaven's Leonie, 74.77% (GBR)
2. Maeve Deverell and Annaharvey Dunowen, 72.15% (IRL)
3. Violet Hawkins and Cruz, 70.78% (GBR)
Photo © Kevin Sparrow