LeMieux Nationals 2021: day two
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Amazing weather, great sport and a feel good atmosphere was enjoyed by all on day two of the LeMieux National Championships at Somerford Park in Cheshire. A small tour double, some special performances by British-bred horses, a maiden victory and one very surprised rider were among the day's stories.
BETTALIFE Novice Gold
Winner: Sarah Rogers with Full Moon II, 77.852%
Sarah Rogers scored for Team Bechtolsheimer in the Bettalife Novice Gold with the homebred Full Moon eclipsing the competition, finishing an impressive four percent ahead of the field.
The five year old ‘Moony’ (Furst Heinrich x Gribaldi) comes to the LeMieux Nationals off the back of just four British Dressage tests, this however proved little worry to the powerful gelding who excelled in the hands of his pilot Sarah, rider to Laura Tomlinson at their beautiful base in Gloucestershire.
Speaking after her win, an elated Sarah said: “I’m delighted with him today he was a little unsure at times but I feel like in the end he just trusted me. We were able to show him off and show what he can do.” The elegant rider has been a consistent partner of Moony having produced him from the age of three. “There’s still so much that‘s in there for the future but we’re just taking it step by step and we’re trying not to hurry him even though he’s so talented. He’s lovely to work with and really sweet.”
It’s been a busy week for Sarah, Laura Tomlinson and the wider team with homebred horses representing Family Bechtolsheimer from Somerford to Aachen. A busy spell and major shows however didn’t alter the team’s cool preparation, “we haven’t really changed so much, we always keep lots of variety in our training so he goes out in the field every day, we go hacking, we go on the water treadmill. Just trying to keep him happy in his work and keeping it fun for them”.
“I was abroad for eight years,” Sarah told us speaking about her time in the sport, “I worked for Klaus Balkenhol for five years in Germany and then I moved to Paris for three years where I rode for Marietta Almasy, a dressage judge over there where I competed internationally as well and then I moved back to the Cotswolds where I had the opportunity to work for the Bechtolsheimer family.”
With the sun shining on day two at the LeMieux National Championships, the wining rider concluded: “It’s been lovely, great venue, great weather, lovely surfaces, everything has been really well organised – it’s been so far, so good!”.
Equitop Elementary Silver
Winner: Georgie Nicholls with Woodcroft Kika Quina, 73.854%
LeMieux National Championships debutant Georgie Nicholls (19) is enjoying a fantastic year inside the white boards. Following a dual win on her Winter Championship debut at Hartpury in July, she continued her run today by taking the two top spots in this morning’s Equitop Elementary Silver - the first class of the day in the picturesque Vector Arena, alongside the lake.
Her winning ride today was Katie Haigh’s six-year-old mare Woodcroft Kika Quina (Johnson x Rohdiamant), with whom she posted a super 73.85%, just beating the Sparsholt Summer Regionals score that earned them their ticket to Somerford.
Georgie, who works for the Oppenheimers at Headmore Stud, also stormed into second with Sarah Oppenheimer’s eight-year-old Florencio-sired, Headmore Figaro - her winning ride at Hartpury where they claimed both the Novice Silver and Novice Freestyle Silver winter championship titles. The attractive chestnut gelding, who started his career under Alice Oppenheimer and Dannie Morgan, today was piloted to 71.66% by Georgie.
“I’ve had her [Woodcroft Kika Quina] just over a year now,” said Georgie. “She was originally bought for Katie [Haigh] who’s a para dressage rider, and we’re just getting her out and getting a bit of experience before she goes on and eventually works with her.
“I just wanted them both to go and have a nice time today. We were aiming for top ten and if that happened we were going to be ecstatic, but if it didn’t we’d be happy they’d had a lovely ride. It’s such a good atmosphere to bring them into, Luna (Kika Quina) is only six as well. I was delighted.”
Talking about her preparations for Somerford, Georgie was quick to credit the team behind her, “I didn’t know what to do! I’ve got Alice [Oppenheimer] behind me at Headmore Stud and she is super experienced in every way. They give me so much support so I just do what they tell me to do and it seems to work!
On her two rides, she says, “They’re really different horses. Luna hasn’t got much experience at shows like this whereas Figaro has been to a few bigger shows with other riders. Luna is like six going on 40, she knows her job and loves what she does. Every time I take her anywhere she is on it and raring to go. She doesn’t like being left behind if the lorry is going out! Jack (Figaro) is super solid - he’s two years older and I could take him anywhere and know he’ll be fine.
Speaking about Headmore she says, “It is amazing, you get so much support but you don’t even realise. And you don’t get the pressure at the same time, the only pressure I get is from myself. It’s just such a great team, it’s really special – we all pull together and help each other.”
“I’ve got the Novice Silver tomorrow on Kika Quina and that’s us done.
The podium was completed by Jonathan Sutton (28) from Stratford-upon-Avon with his nine-year-old German gelding, Ferrera Torres (by Fernando Torres) who posted 71.30%.
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Silver
Winner: Jo Barry with Goofy La Perle, 70.684%
The inaugural Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Silver Championship was won today by Jo Barry with Gordon Grainger’s Dutch-bred Goofy La Perle (Belissimo M x Jazz), fresh from their PSG-winning outing to the Scottish Championships a week ago.
The beautiful bay 10-year-old, who with Jo won the Elementary Gold national title back in 2018 and numerous accolades since, has all the ability under the sun but his journey to small tour has not been without setback. They once again impressed this afternoon to take the win on 70.68% from the judging panel of Mary-Anne Horn, Sue McMahon, Debbie Jones, Maria Eilberg and Sarah Rodger.
“This is a real shock to the system!” said an astonished Jo afterwards. “We qualified him thinking it would be good to get to the regional and then somehow got here – it’s been a real whirlwind for him.
“He’s only done four PSG tests this year as he’s had a lot of time off this year with white line disease,” she said. “He’s just not had the easiest run up to this level over the last few years so to come and do a clear round and do this today is amazing. I’m very surprised, I wasn’t expecting this at all!”
Describing her talented yet accident prone partner, she says, “He’s Goofy by name, goofy by nature. We have had a hotline to the vets for the last year. Before the regionals he decided to cut his tongue – that was eight stitches and it was eight weeks before we could ride him. There’s been a lot of ‘holding your head in your hands’ this year with him but you have to let horses be horses. But with that still comes lots of hassle – if I could wrap him in cotton wool, he’d still manage to hurt himself.
“When he puts his mind to it – and that’s key with him – he has what it takes. He’s not a jigsaw, he’s a Rubik’s Cube and I feel I’m close to getting it sorted but the injuries just mean I lose the picture. But it’s days like this that make if feel worth it – it’s just hard work!”
Completing the top three were Shelley Reeve-Smith and Sinderella in second (69.76%) and Emma Jablonski with Higgens Van De Uilenhoek, third (69.26%).
Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Gold
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep, 74.026%
Charlotte Dujardin picked up where she’d left off 24 hours earlier in taking her second small tour title of this year’s Nationals with Carl Hester and Coral Ingham’s Imhotep. It wasn’t the fault free performance we’ve been used to seeing from the Newent rider but after such a busy summer, we can forgive Britain’s most successful female Olympian for having one ride which wasn’t quite perfect. A missed zig zag and a two time change in the line of threes pegged the scores back but such is the Everdale-sired eight year old’s quality, 74.026% was still the score to take the Saracen Inter I Gold title.
British bred horses occupied the remainder of the podium with Lucinda Elliot and Judith Davis’s Hawtins Duchessa taking second with 71.316% and Sarah Rogers piloting Viva Lotta to third on 70.947% for owner and breeders Ursula Bechtolsheimer and Laura Tomlinson, completing a great day for the yard.
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Freestyle Gold
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep, 78.675%
A matter of hours later, Charlotte and Imhotep were back in action in the sun drenched LeMieux arena in the inaugural Fairfax Prix St Georges Freestyle Gold, one of the seven additional classes at this year’s show. ‘Pete’ has clearly inherited energy, stamina and a hunger for work from his sire, Olympic and European medallist Everdale as the bright chestnut bounced around the arena with the same enthusiasm as his previous appearances. Charlotte used the familiar ‘Cecelia’ music which has helped her (and Carl we think) to many titles at small tour level and ‘Pete’ excelled in only his second Freestyle. Their bubbly routine earned 78.675% from judges David Trott, Helen Bradley, Caroline Tupling, Clive Halsall and Steph Cooper.
Becky Moody had to play bridesmaid again with her promising star Jagerbomb on 76.125% - whtile Alice Oppenheimer had a more settled ride aboard Headmore Dionysus to claim a podium place with 74.425%.
After the prizegiving for both small tour classes Charlotte said; “I’m so happy with Pete today. If I’m really honest, I’m disappointed in myself – I had to big rider errors. I messed up my zig zag and in my three time changes I did a two…but Pete was wonderful! He did the job – even if it was right or wrong, he still did it! He’s really not done many Inter Is so he’s quite green at the level – his last was Wellington Premier League – and he’s dealt with everything so well here. He hasn’t done an arena walk but just goes in and does his job – he never ever tires!
“He’s fantastic; I’m so excited for him for next year when I’m hoping to do Inter II and Grand Prix and see how it goes.
“Having been with Everdale at the Olympics and Europeans, there are so many similarities, the energy is never ending! The springiness, the bounciness…he’s already got the piaffe and passage and just moves from one to the other, just like Everdale. It’s unbelievable to ride – in extended canter I feel like I’m going so much bigger and faster than I am. Everything just feel so big- when I have control of the power, he’s going to be unbelievable. I’m really excited about him, I just need to make sure that Carl doesn’t steal him now!”
Photos: © Kevin Sparrow