LeMieux Nationals 2021: day four
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The final day of action at the LeMieux National Championships 2021 started grey and rainy but as the action got underway, the clouds dispersed and gave way to the sunshine. It was a fitting finale Sunday with ten champions crowned, with the National Champion accolade going to Emilie Faurie, some 27 years after he last took the title.
British Dressage U21 Championships
Winner: Annabella Pidgley with Sultan Des Paluds, 75.65%
After an exceptional season on board her mother Sarah Pidgley’s Sultan Des Paluds, Annabella Pidgley continued her run of great form with a win in the British Dressage Under 21 Championship. With a leading score of 72.9% already on the board with her second ride Dibert L, Annabella went one better with Sultan completing a one-two, with her champion earning 75.65%.
Taking centre stage in the Arika Arena at the very start of the final day, Annabella showcased the work that earned her two silver medals at this year’s FEI Junior European Championships. Speaking about being at the LeMieux Nationals after her win, Annabella said “It’s amazing, it’s so incredible with the crowd – to have an audience again after sucha. Long time in competition without anyone watching is so good for the sport. I’ve never really experienced an atmosphere like it, even at the Europeans, it was really nice to have a home crowd and looking around, knowing so many people and feeling so much support.”
“It was really really good, I was really pleased,” Annabella continued talking about her top drawer test with the 11 year old gelding by Soliman des Hus. “He was a little bit tired because I also did the Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium – but he was super and it was a nice clear round. We’re just working on coming together more and more every day as a partnership.”
The elegant duo, trained by Danish medalist Cathrine Dufour and Britain’s golden girl Charltote Dujardin have been working hard in the run up to the event, “we’ve been working on our flying changes, getting a bit more expression, just to go for the even higher marks and try and push our score up.”
“Looking forward to next year, I think I’m going to carry on campaigning at Juniors and I would love to go to another Europeans, either with Sultan or with my second horse Dibert and to just really keep improving and getting better so that when I do step up to the higher levels I’m already ready to go out and do really well.” With the European Championships for Juniors and Young Riders back on British turf next year at Hartpury College, we can look forward to what 2022 brings us, not only for Annabella but also the wider wealth of talent in the British youth rider ranks.
Third place went to FEI Pony combination Mette Dahl and George Clooney, in this strong PYO class showcasing the FEI age groups at the LeMieux National Championships.
Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Gold
Winner: Annabella Pidgley and Sultan Des Paluds, 73.763%
Annabella Pidgley and Sultan Des Paluds (Soliman des Hus x De Niro) once again displayed their super partnership with another win on the final day here at Somerford. The 16-year-old from Windsor and her double Junior European silver medal partner, Sultan (11), owned by Sarah Pidgley, secured their second national tile by claiming the Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Gold.
The combination, who are enjoying a phenomenal first year together, won the competitive class with 73.763%. This mark, from the judging panel of Fiona Lace, Sue McMahon, Mary Robins, Penelope Lang and Jo Graham, gave the duo the winning edge relegating Becky Moody and Jagerbomb to second place (73.316%).
Annabella also took third with Dibert L (Vivaldi x Balzflug) with whom she was unbeaten in the Junior classes at the recent Grote-Brogel CDI in Belgium.
Hear what Annabella thinks of her superstar medallist partner in our BD Fanzone interview on Facebook.
Equitop Elementary Gold
Winner: Sarah Wilkinson and Koko II, 74.813%
Runners-up yesterday in the TopSpec Medium Gold, Sarah Wilkinson and Koko II went one better today to claim the hotly contested Equitop Elementary Gold Championship. Sarah, from New Zealand, piloted her beautiful six-year-old Desperado x Johnson mare to earn the winning score of 74.813%.
“I was really happy with her [Koko] today,” said a delighted Sarah. “We had the Medium yesterday and I had the help of my trainer Gareth [Hughes] today and she we really super. The balance through everything is good, but she's only six so for her to keep the cadence, she struggles a bit - she can get a bit quick, but today she really held her own.”
Sarah acquired Koko when she had just turned four and she'd only recently been started under saddle. “Actually, I’d gone to the yard to look at another horse. I turned up and the horse I went to see was too small. They told me there was another mare and then they pulled Koko out the box. I saw her go around with the rider, she'd only been under saddle for a few weeks, and I just thought wow. I had a ride on her and honestly her attitude is just amazing.
“She's exceeded all my expectations,” continued Sarah. “She's improved since the Winter Championships. Her attitude is amazing and she picks everything up so fast, she just needs more strength.
“She has one mate, my chestnut mare, and that's the only other horse she likes! As long as she's next to my mare Hello she's very happy, she's always the happiest horse when I put her in her box at night.
“When I first got her I hadn't really made any plans, but over the last year and a half she's shown how amazing she is. So I'm hoping she could also be a Paris 2024 hopeful behind my chestnut mare.
Talking about her Somerford experience, Sarah said, “This is my first National Championships. It's been really amazing - everyone has always said that the Nationals is amazing but the venue here is phenomenal and it's just done really well!
Impressively, the top three all achieved 74%-plus scores with Becky Moody and Jack Diamond in second (74.375%) and Spencer Wilton with Woodcroft Django Mon Ami third.
Shearwater Young Dressage Horse Championships
The popular Shearwater Young Horse Championships are a highlight on the final day of competition at the LeMieux National Championships. This year’s three finals drew the crowds as the top four in each age category went before the panel of Erik Theilgaard, David Hunt and ride judge Tom Goode who selected our three worthy winners.
Shearwater Four-Year-Old Championship
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin and Mon Amour
The four-year-old horses got the 2021 Shearwater Young Horse Championships underway with four outstanding contenders in Franklin Hit (Franklin x Royal Dance), Majesteit TCE (Kastel’s Grand Galaxy Win x Sandro Hit), Mon Amour (by Martinez) and Magic Dream (by Governeur).
Ride judge Tom Goode took time with each contender and carefully considered their attributes and any weaknesses before reporting back to fellow judges David Hunt and Erik Theilgaard. The outstanding winner for the panel was Mon Amour, presented by Charlotte Dujardin who co-owns the gelding with Peter Belshaw. The judges summed up their winner after the announcement of the final placings; “He has everything. He’s a beautiful looking horse, he has energy, an amazing hind leg, he’s elegant - he’s the perfect type of dressage horse.”
The judges were impressed by Mon Amour’s natural athletic movement. “With hindlegs like that, there’s no doubt that he’ll make it,” agreed the Radio Nationals team of Kim Ratcliffe and John Bowen. “That hindleg is just unbelievable. It’s not just the hock movement but the entire musculature and movement through the hindquarters.”
Commenting after dismounting from his test ride, Tom Goode said, “He’s a super horse. He has amazing balance for a four-year-old, he’s really good on the aids and equal both sides – he’s an exciting horse.”
“I think Tom did a super job. It was not easy to get on Charlotte’s horse in public!” said David Hunt. “He did a super job letting him relax and it shows the horse is beautifully trained.”
“I think that’s a fantastic horse,” added Erik Theilgaard. “He has great presence and for Grand Prix the walk is very good.”
“I have to say ‘Monet’ is my perfect horse. I’ve ridden a lot of special horses and he’s right up there with them,” said a delighted Charlotte. “He has everything you could want; he walks like he’s going to piaffe, his canter is amazing and already does a change when you put your leg back and he never runs out of energy. His desire to work – he just wants to keep working and working. Plus, he’s so good looking – he literally has it all! There isn’t anything he’s missing, his trainability is unbelievable.
“He’s done two shows, Wellington which had no one there, then Hartpury which was a handful of people and then came here to the Nationals. Yesterday when I finished my test, he looked up at all the people and his eyes were literally on stalks – he couldn’t believe it. To come here and deal with everything that’s going on is brilliant – it’s quite a busy arena with lots going on. For him to go in and deliver like he has, I’m so pleased with him. Carl’s already said he’s read the encyclopedia of dressage, like he did for Valegro, and he feels like he has all the ingredients. He makes my job super easy - I sit there and he does it all. I’m excited to have him for the future,” concluded Charlotte.
Second place was awarded to Michael Eilberg and the super-talented British-bred bay gelding Franklin Hit, owned by Geri Eilberg and bred at Caledonia Dressage Horses in Scotland.
Anna Burns and the KWPN mare Magic Dream, owned by Becky Moody, took third. Described as a horse with good paces and a nice powerful horse, she was a little unsettled in her mouth and connection today.
Fourth place was awarded to Majesteit TCE, presented by Melissa Chapman and owned by Michael Chapman. The chestnut gelding was described as being correct biomechanically but lacking some natural elasticity. The walk was a little short to start with but began to relax and overtrack. “He has a lovely trot with really good rhythm,” reported Tom. “He’s nice in the contact but not quite as sharp off the aids, but he could be a bit tired as it’s his second day competing.”
“I love the type and the way the horse performs and stays in balance,” commented Erik Theilgaard. “I like the hind leg very much. He started a bit tense but relaxed really nicely. He’s good quality.”
Shearwater Five-Year-Old Championship
Winner: Beth Bainbridge and Tiger
The next exciting group of horses into the LeMieux Arena were five-year-olds Loves Black STH (Millennium x Voice), MSJ Gold Standard (Governor x Fürstenball), Mount St John Diamonds are Forever (by Diamond Hit) and Tiger (Blue Hors First Choice x Sandro Hit).
Elite Dressage’s black mare, Tiger, topped yesterday’s preliminary assessment under Beth Bainbridge and she continued to impress today to be deemed the 2021 Shearwater five-year-old Champion. Assessing from the ground, David Hunt described her as being a very nice mare, she bends all the joints and is very trainable too. Erik Theilgaard remarked that her trainability stood out and that she looks trainable to go through the levels.
After putting the lovely young horse through her paces, Tom said, “She’s a lovely horse who gives a really nice feeling. She has a lovely energy and is well trained.”
“I’m so proud of her!” beamed Beth afterwards. “She [Tiger] went in and felt like a champion today. She saw the crowd and was like ‘okay, I’m going to do this’! She was amazing, absolutely amazing. Like a five-year-old, she looked at the crowd and took it all in, but she performed like an absolute professional.
“She’s always been a very bold mare and taken on the arena and atmosphere very, very well,” she continued. “All the things we’ve had fun doing with her this year have lead up to her going so well today. She’s lovely – she’s the most adjustable five-year-old I’ve ever ridden and she wants to do it – like a showgirl!
“She goes in the ring and wants to go but is happy for you to ride her, take a half halt, put your leg on, anything - so you can get the best out of her in the ring.
“Without a doubt she’s one of the most talented horses I’ve ever ridden movement-wise and she has the temperament to do the job – I look forward to taking her up the levels!”
Runner-up after the final standings was the beautiful chestnut mare MSJ Gold Standard, ridden by Jenny Martell for the Mount St John Stud. The mare was a little sensitive to a change of rider but soon settled with Tom at the helm. “She’s a lovely stamp of a horse and gave me a very nice feeling,” he said. “She certainly has the sensitivity and scope for the future.”
“I thought she was sussing Tom out at the beginning,” observed David, “but he didn’t rise to the bait and the horse came back and looked great.
“She’s a mare with quality paces and got better through the ride,” added Erik. The commentary duo of John Bowen and Kim Ratcliffe remarked that the horse has a big scopey walk that looked like it wouldn’t suffer when asked to collect, as some big walks can do.
Third place on the podium was awarded to Loves Black STH, a KWPN stallion owned and ridden by UK-based Portuguese rider Luis Vilhena.
When ridden by Tom, the horse resisted a little initially but moved with more swing and cadence as the ride went on. The panel commented that the stallion has three good paces. He just needs to strengthen for more push, but he’s a good horse and an attractive horse. Tom enjoyed his test ride saying, “He’s a lovely comfortable horse with soft movement. The longer I was on him, the better it felt. He gives a nice feeling."
The talented Mount St John Diamonds are Forever, partnered by Amy Woodhead and owned by Mount St John Equestrian, was close third in the initial assessment yesterday and placed fourth today. There’s no denying the quality and ability of this mare who won the Shearwater four-year-old title last year, but today wasn’t her day as she was unsettled by the change of rider.
Shearwater Six-Year-Old Championship
Winner: Sadie Smith and Swanmore Dantina
The final group of horses to come forward for judging were six-year-olds Swanmore Dantina (Dante Weltino x Charatin), MSJ Encore (by Escolar), Waverley Fellini (Fürstenball x Sandro Hit) and Keystone Divino (by Dimaggio). All four showed much promise but it was Sadie Smith’s ride Swanmore Dantina who was declared the 2021 six-year-old Shearwater Champion.
The British-bred mare, owned by Sadie, has a high-quality trot and canter with a great hindleg and is beautifully produced. Tom Goode enjoyed his ride, remarking on the mare’s super self-carriage and response to the aids. “She has the attributes to be a top horse and is exciting for the future,” he says.
Erik Theilgaard praised her super trot and canter, saying she’s a “classy horse”. David Hunt summarised by saying that she’s beautiful, elastic, supple, light, elegant and powerful. “What we dream of finding in a dressage horse.”
Their prize-giving was rather eventful as poor Sadie hit the deck when she tried to put the rosette on the mare’s bridle… ‘Dia’ had a canter about the ring, Sadie remounted, then her rein broke, so she didn’t get a proper lap of honour!
After she’d dusted herself off, Sadie said, “I was so pleased with her today. In the first round on Friday she was really confident and taking me. She did everything in the test really nicely. She hasn’t done a championship quite this big before; I did the championship as a five-year-old at Keysoe last year but that was obviously different. She’s come here, just got on with it and it’s like she’s done it all her life. I was a bit worried that she might be a little bit tense with the crowd and the other rider getting on but she was really good. She looked really lovely with Tom on. She’s so nice to ride and I hoped he’d like riding her – she was such a good girl for him.
“I actually part own her which is so nice because many of mine I ride for others. I’ve known the part owner since I was about ten and he’s always supported me, so it’s lovely for him. I’m just so chuffed. She’s so easy, she’s such a pleasure to have – Trish Gardiner hacks her out because she walks dead straight, won’t spook and doesn’t pull her about.
Bred by Ben St John James – Sadie used to work for him and Roland Tong, and rode Dia’s dam – Dia was actually bred for a good friend of Sadie’s who thought she’d grow too big. “I really liked Dia so I had a look when she was three,” said Sadie. “They’re still quite involved and message me to see how we’re getting on.”
Another to highly impress was Nichola Hannam’s MSJ Encore ridden by Michael Eilberg into second place. The attractive bay gelding has great ability, with a super trot and canter, and a lovely expression and presence. He’s a scopey, athletic, powerful mover combined with having super balance for a big horse.
“He has brilliant adjustability already, has great balance and is very responsive,” said Tom afterwards.
“I was very impressed with the sharpness,” commented Erik Theilgaard. “The walk could have more ground cover but it is correct.”
Completing the top three was our 2020 Shearwater five-year-old champion, Waverley Fellini, ridden by Greg Sims and owned by Stena Hoerner. The Radio Nationals team described ‘Leni’ as being a very nice, attractive horse with a lot of energy and a good canter.
“He’s really fun to ride,” said Tom. “He’s on the aids, he’s forward going and has nice energy. He’s a little strong at times but I really liked him.”
David and Erik added that he just needs to be more up through the shoulders and in a more uphill frame.
Fourth place was awarded to Charlotte Nash’s chestnut gelding, Keystone Divino, ridden by Charlotte Dicker. He was willingly forward with a good hind leg in trot. The Radio Nationals team commented that they’d like to see more freedom of the shoulder but that this is something that can be developed. He has a big scopey canter that could perhaps be a bit more uphill.
Tom commented that he’s a beautifully schooled gelding with an amazing walk, and the canter is really nice. He just needs to develop more swing in the trot. “He’s a very nice horse,” agreed David and Erik. “He has super overtrack in walk but we’d like to see more freedom in the trot.”
Mobiliser Preliminary Gold
Winner: Freya Metters and Heathersedge Just a Vision, 75.000%
As the rain cleared and the sun came out on the final day of the LeMieux National Dressage Championships, the first winners of the day were Freya Metters and Heathersedge Just A Vision, who scored an impressive 75% to win the Mobiliser Preliminary Gold Championship.
Taking place for the first time at the LeMieux Nationals, the Mobiliser Preliminary Gold Championship was the first class of the day in the Vector Arena, where Freya was the last but one rider to go; performing a solid test and clinching the top spot.
Lancashire based Freya, who’s been riding Heathersedge Just A Vision for three years since he was four, said “He was really good, really accurate the whole way through, he’s got three good paces so it was all nice and it just felt like it flowed.”
On what ‘Jack’, as he’s called at home, is like, Freya said “he’s quite hard work in the stable! He’s a secret stresser so he lives out, but to ride he is a dream. Getting him ready he bashes you about a bit but once you’re on he’s perfectly behaved.”
Freya, who is both a showing and dressage rider, bought Jack for showing initially he also demonstrated a talent for dressage; “I’ve always done a little bit of dressage with my own horses, and then with Jack we felt he would excel at dressage so after Covid we decided to try the dressage and here we are! So it’s paid off – this is his first season of dressage.”
Freya trains with Hayley Colwell and Becky Moody, qualified for the National Championships by winning her Summer Regional and describes winning as “amazing, absolutely amazing! I was aiming for a for a top ten but I would have been happy if I’d just done a nice test”
Looking to the future Freya is aiming to work up the levels and has already brought Jack out at Elementary.
Joining Freya on the podium was Lucy Goodman and Sheepcote Big Deal with 73.218% in second place and Georgie Wheeler riding LUXE PB in third place scoring 72.184%.
TopSpec Medium Silver
Winner: Jade Clark and Jemimah HH, 69.757%
The final class in the Vector Arena of the LeMieux National Dressage Championships was the TopSpec Medium Silver Championship where Jade Clark and Jemimah scored 69.757% to take first place. Jade took up dressage in 2012 when she was 17 and trained her Connemara to Prix St Georges level. She went to work with Sue Brenan who had a mare to breed from, Lord Leatherdale was selected as a stallion, and Jemimah is the result! Sue jointly owns the now seven year old with Jade and they have Grand Prix dreams for the mare.
Jade, who trains with Carl Hester, said about her performance; “It was a bit hairy to be honest, my warm up was a bit wild and not really the best preparation – however when I went in she seemed to settle and was really on my aids and listening. There were a few things that we could’ve done a little better but on the whole I was really happy. The trot work was a highlight, I’ve started to get a bit more swing and suspension in there and she’s definitely getting stronger and more powerful. At times I feel like I’m holding on to her too much!
Rhiannon Hinton and Quaikin Horatio came in a very close second scoring 69.568%, with third place going to Sara Squires and Laetitius C with 68.946%.
Arika Grand Prix Freestyle
Winner: Emile Faurie and Dono Di Maggio, 75.95 %
LeMieux National Champion – Emile Faurie and Dono Di Maggio
The show finale was certainly a fitting end to an epic four days of competition with the podium positions going right down to the wire. Anna Ross set the early pace with Newton Domino with a 72%+ freestyle and it proved hard to better until yesterday’s winners, Gareth Hughes and KK Dominant, owned by the Kroll family danced to their upbeat techno routine which really got the crowd behind them. Sadly, they didn’t manage to pull off a clear line of one time tempi changes which proved costly but they took the lead by a narrow margin.
It was then the turn of Becky Moody with her own Famke PF and they put in an amazing performance to a captivating Madonna soundtrack which just oozed girl power – 74.725% was the confirmed score from the five judges to take the lead.
The final competitor was Emile Faurie, who last won the National title in 1994 with Virtu, riding Dono di Maggio for Theadora Livanos, who’s currently recovering from injury. The tall imposing chestnut Dimaggio gelding cut a beautiful silhouette in the evening sunshine as the music began. The canter work was a real highlight with expressive changes. It was a strong test, but would it be enough to overtake Becky and ‘Iris’?
It felt like an age before the score was confirmed as 75.95% and the Arika Grand Prix title belonged to Emiile and Dono.
In second place was Becky Moody and Famke PF scoring 74.725 %, with third place going to Gareth Hughes and KK Dominant with 72.625%.
With his win in the Grand Prix yesterday, Gareth had a two percent lead over Emile for the National Champion award which looked like a great cushion but the costly changes and a stunning performance from Emile gave the Oxfordshire rider the title for a third time. He was a back to back winner in 1993 and 1994.
After the prize presentations, Emile explained; “In yesterday’s Grand Prix he felt great but I made mistakes. He was quite on, and quite lively but I had mistakes in the twos and ones and that’s expensive so we thoroughly deserved our second place. Yesterday I slightly over did the working in – I did about ten minutes too long and it was hot.
“Today we got it just right and he felt amazing in there – like he was on springs. The music I rode to today is really special to me – it’s a Tom Hunt original. Tom’s brilliant at listening to you and gauging what you want. I’m not a hip hop kind of guy! He came back with the music and from the very few first bars I loved it. He composed it specially and I just love it. It really fits Dono.
“It’s amazing to win today – it’s a great honour. Okay, the best weren’t here today but still I think he delivered a great performance and it’s a huge honour to win on him. The time will come when he goes back to his owner but that’s fine, she’s such a wonderful girl and so talented and so deserves to have the ride on such a talented horse so I’ll be happy to hand the reins back.”
Photos: © Kevin Sparrow