LeMieux Nationals 2023: day four
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It's been a sensational Sunday at the LeMieux National Championships - what a fantastic way to wrap up this year's competition! Riesenbeck travelling reserve, Becky Moody got her time to shine winning the Kudos Grand Prix Freestyle, Carl Hester became LeMieux National Champion, winning this title for the 11th time in his career, plus the future generation of athletes were on show in the U21 classes and the KBIS Young Horse Championships.
Kudos Grand Prix Freestyle Gold
Winner: Becky Moody and Jagerbomb, 77.925%
LeMieux National Champion – Carl Hester and En Vogue
Rounding off a sensational summer season, the Yorkshire-based combination of Becky Moody and Jagerbomb employed all their consistency and class to win this afternoon’s Kudos Grand Prix Freestyle on an exceptional 77.925%, for Becky’s first Grand Prix Freestyle win at the National Championships.
Becky (43) and her newest Grand Prix star have made a huge impression this year, Jagerbomb (Dante Weltino x Jazz), at the age of just nine, looking so comfortable and happy at the level. This afternoon, as if born to perform, Jagerbomb delivered a technically demanding floorplan with fluency and confidence, accompanied by the catchy compilation of Tom Jones hits that matches the affable bay so well.
Yesterday’s LeMieux Grand Prix winners, Carl Hester and En Vogue, who he co-owns with Sandra Biddlecombe, Charlotte Dujardin and Lady Anne Evans, experienced a costly interruption into piaffe, in an otherwise flawless performance; an aggregate score of 77.100% from the judges panel of Leanne Wall (E), Clive Halsall (H), Stephen Clarke (C), Andrea Smith (M) and Fiona Wilson (B) putting them second, but comfortably securing the 11th National Grand Prix title of his career, 31 years after his first, having achieved the highest combined score from the Grand Prix and Freestyle.
Third place on the Freestyle podium belonged to the British-based Australian rider, Jayden Brown with Willinga Park Quincy B on a score of 75.250%.
"It's great - he's just such a legend of a horse,” said a delighted Becky afterwards. “I’m not going to lie - I was really lucky that Vogue had a little bit of a moment, otherwise it would have definitely still been Carl’s! But you know, my horse was great. And I can't ask any more of him than that at the minute. He's only nine - he's really young - and it's his first season at Grand Prix, so he's just a baby.”
About her music, Becky said; “I actually used Tom Jones first of all for my Inter I Freestyle last year, and it was after about 18 months of hassling from Kim (Masson) who's a really good friend and a show groom. She is a bit of a music aficionado and she said, ‘use Tom Jones use Tom Jones’ and I said, ‘no, it's too cheesy!’. Then after 18 months I finally caved. And I’m very glad that I did because the first time I rode it, even for my Inter I, I loved it. And I just think it really suits his character. So when he was moving up to Grand Prix, we decided to keep the same music.
Becky has had several horses at Somerford competing across the levels this week; “It's a super venue. I think it gets a really good atmosphere in that arena. It gets good and buzzy - some of my horses cope with it better than others, but it's great experience for them. In terms of my results, I’ve had a real mixed bag - some really good ones and some that I want to go and do again, but we'll have to wait until another championship. Overall, I think all the horses are going to be going home with a good experience having learned a bit more.”
Becky and Jagerbomb travelled to the FEI European Championships in Riesenbeck as travelling reserves. “It was just the most incredible experience,” said Becky. “Some people think that it was a tough position to be in, but it wasn't because I just learned so much and the guys were amazing. It was incredibly inspiring. I definitely feel like I've come back a better rider and my horse has come back a better horse. It's fantastic."
About her plans for the coming months, Becky added; “Winter training, get better get stronger, and hopefully I might try and do London Horse Show, and just be ready to campaign next year.”
LeMieux National Champion
Winner: Carl Hester and En Vogue
“He (En Vogue) hasn't done one test this year where he hasn't been brilliant,” said Carl afterwards. “So just to have a small blip in the middle... he’s always got one eye on A the whole time because the music terrifies him. So he's nervous anyway, and then the fact that he's got a way out! But I’ve got all the good things he does too. His changes are amazing and when he gets it right, he's spot on with all those things.
“His whole year has been brilliant and that's a lot of tests he's done this year. His Grand Prix was one of the nicest I've had to ride, so the fact that he was so nice in the Grand Prix as well, of course makes it worthwhile because it's always, you know, these are fun!
“The horse hasn’t had me ride him for eight days,” said Carl, referring to his time away in Riesenbeck. “And then I can't suddenly school him loads when he’s not done anything. So to then come here and do that is amazing. I’ve just been riding him so quietly at home for the week, so he had an excuse, but he'll go home tonight, get off the lorry and just go in the field so that’ll cheer him up by tomorrow morning!
“At the end of the day I'm not going to dwell on that (the blip) because I wanted him to be a National Champion and that's what I got so I’m very happy.
During the prize-giving ceremony, Carl was quick to congratulate Becky on her Freestyle success; “I would like to say a congratulations to Becky. She’s brought this horse on herself, she was travelling reserve, and she played the part so brilliantly. So, from all the team – you deserve it.”
The Centre Line Preliminary Gold Championship
Winner: Andrew Harris and San Serai ZK, 76.896%
On the final day of the LeMieux National Championships, The Centre Line Preliminary Gold Championship was the first class of the day in the Vector Arena, where Andrew Harris topped a high scoring class to win with 76.896%.
On talking about his test today, Andrew said it went “very well. Nice and smooth, very free and mistake free luckily, I was happy with how he went."
"He is a five-year-old and he's basically been very steady in such an atmosphere. When you're on board he sort of trusts you and is very relaxed. There is a little bit more tension there when you're not on board.”
Andrew, describing San Serai ZK as like a “Labrador” at home, is currently riding San Serai ZK for his daughter Emily, who started off his competition career but has handed the ride temporarily over to her father as she is about to have a baby. The five-year-old black gelding comes from an impressive bloodline - by Secret, who also sired an incredible 25 percent of the 5-year-old class at this year's FEI World Breeding Championships.
Andrew Harris has previously competed at the top level in both eventing and show jumping, having won several major events and being shortlisted for the Barcelona Olympic Games. He switched to dressage in the early 2000s, and alongside competing has also turned his attention to outside of the boards as both a UKCC Level 3 coach and a List 3a judge.
San Serai ZK has already qualified for the Winter Novice Regionals, and this will be their next focus.
In a very close second place was Charlotte Lutener and Nacho SR scoring 76.437%, and Jessica Dunn and Fortuna BG scoring 75.575%.
Rotheras U21 Championships
Children on Horses
Winner: Darcey Blaze Marcus and Tackmann’s Dark Deluxe, 74.075%
With a talented pool of Children on Horses riders, it’s been nip and tuck between the four starters in this year’s Rotheras National Championship all season – the winner of today’s contest was Darcey Blaze Marcus and Hiedi Marcus’ Tackmann’s Dark Deluxe.
Violet Hawkins and DZL Royal Sunrise took the second spot, whilst Mimi Kempster followed in third, and Ella-Grace Dovey in fourth. All four riders scored about the 70% barrier.
Winner: Abigail Gray and George Clooney B.S, 74.476%
After a phenomenal appearance at the FEI Pony European Championships, Abigail Gray presented her team partner George Clooney B.S in winning fashion to claim the Rotheras Pony National Championships with 74.476%.
“It went really well and I’m really happy with George and he’s such a showman. We’re quite a new combination, we’ve been together around a year. We get on so well together and I’m very lucky to own such a wonderful pony.”
“He's got a lot of character,” Abigail said describing her superstar pony, “he loves the stage!” The duo will now aim to campaign for a place on the British Pony team again next year with the ultimate goal of the FEI European Championships; all whilst balancing competing alongside school work with the bright young rider detailing her favourite subject as art and least favourite...chemistry!
It’s been an incredible breakthrough year for the teen who reflected on her amazing achievements, “the Europeans were the highlight, it was such a wonderful experience and it was such a privilege to go,” before adding how inspiring it was to compete at the LeMieux Nationals, “it's very cool to be around all the big top riders and even go up against them yesterday.”
Two fellow team riders joined Abigail at the top of the leaderboard as Ella Glennon and Amden Supreme Golden Dancer took the runners up spot with 71.143% and Demi Howard-Cartwright took third with Fin C WE.
Winner: Sophie Wallace and First Light, 72.121%
A competitive Junior fixture saw 2022 FEI European Championship bronze medallist Sophie Wallace take the top spot of the podium with First Light. The seven year old by Furstenball produced the standard Team test to earn 72.121%.
“This is only our third or fourth competition so I’m really pleased with how he went. The warm up was great, I went in with a really positive feeling and that carried on throughout the test. There are a few things we still need to improve on which is really exciting, as we know we can hopefully improve our score again. Considering he’s only seven I couldn’t ask for much more.”
Sophie is excited to aim for European selection in 2024 with the eye-catching gelding, “he’s very cute, he has the cutest little face – he's so easy to do everything with! Hacking, going on the gallops, he loves it all and he’s so easy to deal with on the ground as well.”
“To be surrounded by them [Carl Cuypers and Lara Butler] every day and have their help and support is amazing,” Sophie said about having a dream team around her; when asked what key learnings she takes from Carl and Lara into her learning, she continued, “I think it’s just to work with the horse and be with them all the time, just encourage them to be themselves and do what they’ve got to do.”
Scoring a superb 70.154% for second place was Isabella Caldwell with Sarah Higgins’ Don Geniro, whilst Megan Field took third with her own Bright Time FST.
Winner: Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 74.167%
Annabella Pidgley completed a busy week with Espe in winning fashion, claiming her second title of the week in the Rotheras Young Rider Championships. Their winning score was a superb 74.167%, rewarded by Claire Ballantyne (E), Jenny Ward (C) and Andrea Smith (M).
Speaking of her test today “It was really good, I was really pleased with it and it was a great way for me to close the season. It was a lovely clear round. She stayed with me. I was really pleased. I just tried to work on what we've been working on all season and it really came together. And it was nice to take the win.
"We’ve been working on more collection in our canter, she's a very expressive mover, she's very free, so containing all of that energy has really been a focus and today it was much more contained.
"What a way to top off my season two gold medals and now to be the British young rider champion, it’s just really come together this season."
Annabella commented on being at the LeMieux Nationals and riding both in the Young Rider class and the Grand Prix; “it's an honour to even be able to ride in Grand Prix classes and to compete in them and to yesterday be riding in a class with Carl was just so inspirational. I just try to enjoy it and, you know, appreciate all this experience that I'm able to gain both at Grand Prix level and then also taking that into my Young Riders and be able to use that experience to help me with my PSG."
On what advice she would give to up and coming young riders, Annabella said “enjoy the journey. Enjoy the wins, enjoy the highs, even if it's not necessarily a win on paper, but if you showed any improvement or something that you've been working on has come up, I think you really have to appreciate that because it's so easy in the sport to be so critical of ourselves because we are and we're paying to be judged so is critical in itself, but to just appreciate when you do show improvement. Like here with Espe in the PSG, she was really tense last year and I actually had to retire whereas this year I managed to keep that tension under control a bit more and we finished on 72 – even though we had quite a big spook at the beginning of our test. And for me even though I wasn't winning, I wasn't quite up there, I was so, so happy with the improvement and I really learned to appreciate that especially this year.”
Reflecting on the success that she has had this year, Annabella said “it's been unbelievable. I mean this year, all my dreams have come true. To become double European Champion was surreal. I didn't believe it initially, I didn't believe it when I won gold in Hungary and it's just been incredible and to come here and to just really round off the Young Rider season. It's been more than I ever could have asked for and also to ride at Aachen and to win in the Aachen arena and the Young Rider classes was also another huge highlight of the season and we've had Espe since she was six years old so to see the development of the mare to now being nine and to be winning all over Europe. It's just incredible.”
Annabella is now taking a gap year to focus on the horses, before going to King’s College, London to study Business next year “I've applied to defer entry so I’ve just got a year out to be a real athlete and to focus on the horses. And to spend time improving myself as a rider, through gym work, nutrition and just through every lens that I possibly can now that I don't have school. I feel like although I carried on riding I almost missed out of two years with my horses; doing the yard work, just spending time with them. So now I'm really enjoying refocusing on all of that side of it.
Claudia Davis and Fergus RT were second, with Catherine Davis’ Uphill-sired gelding scoring 69.314%, followed by Hermione Tottman and Niki Tottman’s Exquisite in third.
KBIS Young Horse Championships
The ever-popular final judging of the British Dressage Young Horse Championships is always a highlight on the concluding day of competition at the LeMieux National Championships. This year’s finals for four- five- and six-year-old horses, under the sponsorship of KBIS British Equestrian Insurance for the second year, drew the crowds as the top four in each age category went before the panel of Denmark’s Christine Prip and Erik Theilgaard and ride judge Lewis Carrier who selected three outstanding winners.
KBIS Young Horse 4-year-old Championship
Winner: Ashley Jenkins with Game On I
The four-year-old horses got the 2023 KBIS Young Horse Championships underway with four high quality contenders in Game On I (Governor x Sir Donnerhall), First Dance T (Dark Glamour W x For Romance), Entourage (Escamillo x Rubinero) and Obsession M (High Five US x Jazz).
Ride judge Lewis Carrier took time with each horse and carefully considered their attributes before reporting back to fellow judges Christine Prip and Erik Theilgaard. The winner for the panel was Nicola Mahoney’s liver chestnut British-bred Hanoverian gelding, Game On I (Governor x Sir Donnerhall), presented by Ashley Jenkins.
Gloucestershire-based Ashley (31) commented; He's just the best character every day. It’s lovely to ride him, he wows me every day. He loves to canter around the fields, and he is a joy to look after and a joy to ride.”
Game On I received some super comments from the judges. “I think his type and his canter made him stand out,” commented Ashley. “His canter is pretty exceptional - this was probably what gave him the upper hand on the others maybe. He’s just a cute boy.”
Owned and bred by Ashley’s good friend, Nicola Mahoney, Ashley has been riding the liver chestnut gelding for just coming up to a year. “The guy who broke him in, Jamie Jenkins, did an amazing job. I have been riding him since then, he hasn't had anybody else riding him, he is just a brilliant character. He’s definitely one everybody goes to on the yard. They ask, what’s that one?
“With a horse like this, we just take every day as it comes,” added Ashley. “But he gives me high, high hopes for the future.”
Second placed was awarded to First Dance T (Dark Glamour W x For Romance), a British-bred Oldenburg mare owned by Anne Wolley Dod and ridden by Greg Sims, and third was awarded to KWPN bay mare Obsession M (High Five US x Jazz), ridden by her owner Katie Scott. Fourth was the Hanoverian stallion Entourage (Escamillo x Rubinero), qualified by Greg Sims but ridden in the final judging by his owner, Sarah Millis, due to Greg having two horses through to the final.
KBIS Young Horse 5-year-old Championship
Winner: Amy Woodhead with MSJ Viva Dannebrog
The middle group of young talents into the LeMieux Arena were five-year-olds MSJ Viva Dannebrog (Vitalis x Don Schufro), Hawtins Brindisi (Belissimo M x San Amour), Reventador (Revolution x Tuschinski) and WHD Elton (Emilio x Diamond Hit).
The winner for the panel was Emma Blundell’s chestnut mare MSJ Viva Dannebrog (Vitalis x Don Schufro). Winner of last year’s 4YO title, and placed fourth in the Small Final for 5YO at the FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championships, the mare has proved a fine example of what the judges are looking for.
“It's an absolute honour to win here, it's amazing and she came as the reigning champion from last year,” commented owner Emma (Blundell). “So obviously there's always a bit of pressure. When you compete in the four-year-olds, nobody knows what to expect and they've never been here before and you don't know how they are in the atmosphere. But after last year, we knew how she performed in that situation, so obviously you have to hope that they'll deliver again, but everything can be different.
“The others can have matured more, other horses have come in, but it was it was a really good class - the standard was very good. I was a little bit nervous but I'm really proud.
“It’s amazing,” added Amy whose sister Holly piloted the mare to last year’s title while Amy was expecting her first baby. “I just really wanted it to happen because it wasn't me that won the title on her last year - it was my sister - but the horse obviously has. So it was really special. I was just hoping that I could do right by the horse and Emma and go do the same again this year.
“She felt amazing, she always does in the arena,” continued Amy. “I think she really enjoys the atmosphere, which is what you look for in a young horse. That you can drop the reins and she can really relax, which is what you saw, or I can pick her up, or another rider get on her and she's really accepting, which is why she is so special.
“We don't train loads at home together, but we have a lot of conversations. Emma will come to mine and watch the horses work and actually, just of late, Emma has been coming and riding the horses. She has ridden ‘Vivian’ up to this show, so that's really nice at five years old. It’s nice that Emma can ride them and have little lessons and feel where I’m at in their training. It's really nice to have a pool of horses that are that trainable in their brains, and are of this quality, that can then come and win the championships.
Emma Blundell is a big supporter of the young horse classes, as she explains. “I think for us it's a big thing. The horses are against their peers, so it's competitive in terms of their age group and what’s around the country at that time. I think it is a very specific type of horse and not all of our horses would compete towards that championship. I think it's a lovely thing to aim for and I think it's really nice to have the guest judges and people coming in for a different outside perspective. It's very much one of our focuses of the year obviously for the business.”
And what’s next for MSJ Viva Dannebrog? “We’ll go home and train and hopefully go to the World’s for Six-Year-Olds and then come back and be champion again.
“It's not been as busy because we haven't had as many horses this year, with me having a baby, so we've tried to be selective of which ones I ride,” said Amy who together with Emma hosted the masterclasses earlier in the week. “But it's been really good, and a good experience for the horses we brought for the masterclass, and we really enjoyed doing it.”
Emma added; “I think I'm quite used to doing less of the riding and more organisation, and I enjoy that. It's great to see other clients that have bought horses over the years and catch up with them and watch their horses competing. The Nationals is always clearly a feature and a big highlight for us each year, it's been a great week, and I'm pleased that we delivered having been invited to do the master class.”
Second place was awarded to the Danish-bred gelding WHD Elton (Emilio x Diamond Hit), owned by Lauren Taylor and presented by Beth Bainbridge; third place went to Judith Davis’s Hawtins Brindisi (Belissimo M x San Amour), a British Hanoverian gelding ridden by Lucinda Elliott, with fourth going to the Oldenburg mare, Reventador (Revolution x Tuschinski) owned by Georgia Keegan and ridden by Robbie McNeill.
KBIS Young Horse 6-year-old Championship
Winner: Tom Goode and Iceland Girl PS
The final group of horses forward for judging were six-year-olds Hawtins Sarocco (Sezuan x Belissimo M), Iceland Girl PS (Ierland VDL x Londonderry), Magic Dream (Governor x Swarovski) and Willinga Park Miana (Franklin x Bordeaux). All four showed much potential, but it was Deborah Cunnigham’s Iceland Girl PS who was declared the 2023 KBIS 6-year-old Champion.
Iceland Girl PS, a real supermodel of a horse, won the 5YO title here last year. Bred at Gestüt Lewitz in Germany, and ridden by Tom Goode, head rider for Emile Faurie, the Oldenburg mare has a super uphill tendency and an outstanding canter.
Second place was awarded to Jo Cooper’s KWPN mare Magic Dream (Governor x Swarovski), presented by Becky Moody, third place to Judith Davis’s Hawtins Sarocco (Sezuan x Belissimo M), a British Hanoverian gelding ridden by Lucinda Elliott, with fourth place awarded to the KWPN mare Willinga Park Miana (Franklin x Bordeaux), owned by Terry Snow and ridden by Jayden Brown.
TopSpec Medium Silver Championship
Winner: Virginie de Senneville and Fire Kracka, 72.16%
During the final day of competition in the Vector Arena, Virginie de Senneville rode Fire Kracka to the win in the TopSpec Medium Silver Championship with an impressive score of 72.16%. Jade Whitelaw and Late Night were in second place on a score of 70.21% and Yasmin Olsson-Sanderson rounded out the podium riding Inchello DHI to a score of 68.73%.
Following a double title win at the NAF 5* Winter Championships in April earlier this year, Virginie adds another sash to the collection on the gorgeous chestnut stallion Fire Kracker (Diva x Fidertanz x Diamond Hit). He impressed the judges today, Virginie told us about their highlights, “Just the fact that he stayed connected the whole time because obviously he needs a bit more engagement, and a bit more of everything because of it being a Medium test. He just stayed with me the whole time and all the little bits that are difficult at home, he just did his best and it was wonderful.”
Owned by Claire Wyatt the six-year-old already has a brilliant record, this was not his first experience in the atmospheric Nationals showground, “We did the prelim last year and he won. We also did the novice but I think it was a bit too much then for him, he did great but he wasn’t as good.” The combination have progressed since their last title win earlier this year, “we won the novice and elementary and he just keeps going and every time he gives a little bit more, he's very consistent. We can push a little bit more and we never have to go back a step, just go slowly forward.”
His incredible success comes from the training that happens at home, “he hasn’t covered this year, we've been mainly focused on the training. We have a very good routine we never change. It's always been the same. He also has holidays quite often and it works quite well.”
They are beginning to build a good reputation but that isn’t without expectation, “I think people expect him to do well all the time. So obviously, it's a little bit of pressure. But I just know him by heart, he knows me really well and I don't ride with pressure. He's always relaxed, never feels tense, so we're just going to have fun and whatever happens happens.”
“He's just always so relaxed. He doesn't feel like a stallion he’s so good and we have a really good system and have a really good routine, it suits him perfectly. So he is always the same, just relaxed. willing, he never goes against the hand and he never goes against exercises. Every time we try something new, he's a pleaser, he always wants to do well. He's brilliant.”
Virginie was very secretive about what is coming up next for the two of them, “he's got several plans, but I'm not allowed to say, he's got a great future. It's all exciting for him.” We are looking forward to seeing what is in store for Virginie and Fire Kracka.
HorseQuest Elementary Gold Championship
Winner: Bryony Goodwin and Dion II, 73.12%
The final class in Kudos Arena on day four of the LeMieux National Championships was the HorseQuest Elementary Gold, and the crowned champions were Bryony Goodwin and Dion II with a score of 72.12%. Only becoming a partnership earlier this year, this is their first National Championship title.
The bay gelding qualified at Hartpury Summer Regionals and has had a very successful season so far.
We're pretty exhilarated. Fantastic. So pleased with my test. It was such a hot class – I was looking through the entries and thinking I'd be really thrilled if we can get in the top 10 of this class. And then warming him up - he was a little bit unsettled by the clapping and things going on. But then the more we worked him, the more he settled. He just tried so hard for me on the test. I couldn't have asked any more often because he really gave it his all and stayed with me.
Had him for just over two years. Had a couple of Young Horse titles. Based in Gloucester.
Has a “Lovely, lovely attitude to work and training. He tries really hard. He's just a really lovely horse, we have such a lovely partnership now. He really tries.
On what's next for him: “Just slowly progressing. He's a big horse. So we're just taking our time to build him up. He's just done his first couple of Mediums. We'll just carry on really just quietly training him.”
What it's been like at the Nationals: “It's been lovely This is such a nice venue here. The stabling is lovely. Everything is just so easy. We've really enjoyed the show because it's a lovely atmosphere and everybody's so supportive, friendly and genuinely want everybody else to do really well.”
Photo © Kevin Sparrow Photography