LeMieux Nationals 2023: day two
- Written By:
Friday at the LeMieux Nationals didn't disappoint as the sun shone down on Somerford Park. With two brand new first-time champions, alongside some familiar faces, the competition heated up as day two drew to a close.
BETTALIFE Novice Gold Championship
Winner: Alice Peternell and Vespasiano, 72.85%
On day two of the LeMieux National Championships, competition in the Kudos Arena got underway with the BETTALIFE Novice Gold, which saw a high-quality field of 40 combinations forward for a shot at the 2023 title. The competition went down to the wire, with the Wiltshire combination of Alice Peternell and the stunning Vespasiano emerging as the eventual winners.
Alice, who is based near Chippenham, rode Katherine Pfistermuller’s six-year-old Hanoverian stallion Vespasanio (Vitalis x Fürstenball) to a winning 72.85% from judges Jane Critchley (E), Jane Peberdy (H), Jenny Ward (C), Sarah Leitch (M) and Kirsty Mepham (B), edging ahead of long-time leader Anna Wilson with her seven-year-old black gelding, Finest Hour (72.74%). Close behind in third spot on the podium was Bryony Goodwin with her eight-year-old Dante Weltino x Rubiquil gelding, Dion II.
“He's a super horse and I'm very lucky to be able to ride him,” said Alice about the AES approved stallion who was fourth in the Prelim Gold here last year and finished on the podium at Hartpury’s Summer Regionals to book his ticket for today. “There are always things you can do better, but he's got the Elementary on Sunday so hopefully we make things even better. But he did a good clear round test.
“It was soft, and in good rhythm and balance,” she continued. “But you know, he's good and he copes with the clapping, and you never know what they’ll do until you’re here. I was so pleased he held it all together and fingers crossed for the Elementary.
Talking about what ‘Vespa’ is like at home, Alice says; “He’s lovely to ride, he’s easy to ride, but he’s quite a stallion to handle - he likes something in his mouth constantly! We have a blue pipe which he plays with, but he's pretty good for me in general. He travelled here with another stallion and mare so that's pretty good.”
There were enthusiastic cheers from the stands during the prize-giving ceremony this afternoon. “Oh, it's lovely. It makes all the hard work worthwhile,” smiled Alice. “I have to run a yard as a business, that's where I make my living, so trying to keep everything together to get to these events can be quite difficult - not having a day off for several weeks beforehand and things like that. Everyone cheering is just great!”
About her long-term plans with Vespa, Alice added; “We really hope he’s going to end up as Grand Prix horse, that’s our plan, so fingers crossed. There’s a long way to go yet, but he’s been consistently good to this point.”
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Gold Championship
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin and Times Kismet, 77.73%
Charlotte Dujardin and Times Kismet showed all their class to head today’s Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Gold. The pair, who also entered the winners’ enclosure yesterday, delivered an exceptional performance to earn a score of 77.73% from judges Debbie Wardle (E), Mary-Anne Horn (H), Clive Halsall (C), Claire Ballantyne (M) and Denmark’s Christine Prip (B).
Times Kismet (Ampere x Lord Leatherdale), an elegant, eight-year-old KWPN mare owned by Peter Belshaw, stepped into the international spotlight at CHIO Aachen in July, where she and Charlotte made a clean sweep of the Small Tour classes. Once again, consistency and quality shone throughout their test today, their score sheets featuring no fewer than 12 9s.
“I was so pleased with her today,” commented Charlotte after the prize-giving. “This is only her third or fourth Inter I so she is still very green and only eight years old, and I’ve had very little preparation to come into these Championships. I've had only two days to prepare and I have to praise my horses because they’ve been fantastic so far. I have had a wonderful show.
“She’s a top horse - she’s one for the future,” said Charlotte. “Next year I will still keep her at Small Tour. She does do everything for a Grand Prix, but she’s a very tall mare so I feel she needs another year. She’s done really well and it’s very easy to jump to that next level, but I think mentally and physically for her, it (staying at Small Tour) would be the right and correct thing to do. I’ll then save her for hopefully the following year for Grand Prix.”
You must be a proud coach seeing Annabella (Pidgley) enjoy such success? “It’s fantastic. While I was pregnant, teaching Annabella was the thing that really kept me motivated and going - still living in the dream of what I’ve always done.
“I think it was always a worry when I was pregnant - what am I going to do when I have to stop? But it was great because I managed to keep going with Annabella and go to shows. It was fantastic and what she’s achieved is phenomenal, and at her age - eighteen years old - and she’s done international Grand Prix! Watching her develop and win the medals this year at the Young Riders, again is just amazing.”
Sadie Smith and her British-bred mare, Swanmore Dantina (Dante Weltino x Charatin), fourth in yesterday’s PSG Gold, put in an impressive performance to take second place on 75.118%, with Becky Moody and Jo Cooper’s James Bond 2, third (72.82%).
HorseQuest Elementary Silver Championship
Winner: Katie Alexandra Scott and Liverpool KS 72.063%
The sun was shining as the HorseQuest Elementary Silver Championships kicked off the competition on day two in the Vector Arena, and on their championship debut Katie Alexandra Scott and Liverpool KS (Foundation x Spielberg) won with a fabulous score of 72.063%.
‘Junior’ as he is known at home, has always stood out to Katie, “I picked him out as a two-year-old, he was with his breeders in Poland and I found him in the bottom of the barn, I saw his face over to door and said I want that one.” Katie was denied the young KWPN she told us, “they said he was not for sale yet, they were still producing him.”
“However, they called me a year later and said he’s really small and I could come and get him if I wanted him and I am so glad.” The now seven-year-old stands at 16.1hh and today on his Championship debut won a competitive glass of 37 starters! Katie overjoyed with emotion described how he felt in the ring, “I think the trot work was really good, I was really happy, and just keeping him with me and staying connected.” despite the impressive score Katie explained the test wasn’t without mistake, “actually I forgot to do my give and retake the reins so couldn’t be happier that we’d won.”
It is also Katie’s first time at the National Championships, knowing that he was the horse for her, “you just get a feel for them sometimes and I just loved him” it is an incredible show of partnership coming into this big atmosphere and winning. Although the dream almost didn’t become reality a week ago, “I’m really shocked because he lost a shoe last week, he stood on the toe clip and we thought we’d need to withdraw him, but here we are.” Thanking her farrier, “Jamie Reid, who Junior would not be here now if he hadn't worked really hard to get it right for me.”
Speaking on her experience today, “Literally it’s the dream I honestly can't believe it. Just because I didn't think I'd be here this week. We've all cried and all my friends and my team have cried in the lorry. Who gets to win at their first nationals, it was just amazing.” Katie has also produced Junior herself, “he’s the first young horse that I bought for myself to produce” making the title today even more special.
Junior is a ‘cheeky chappy’ at home, “he’s just the dream horse, he's such fun and such a character. He’s got such a fan club, everybody loves him.” His friendly personality making him even more fun to produce, “he's got a lot of character and got a lot to say for himself but I think we're just on this little journey and I'm chipping away and I'm just doing what's right for him. I've got big hopes for him.”
Talking of the future with Junior, “I'm hoping to do some Prix St Georges” Katie also has a number of young horses she is producing, “I’ve got some young horses, he’s the oldest one so I’ve got a bunch of young horses coming through. I’ve got one qualified for the final on Sunday, so it’s really exciting.”
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Silver Championship
Winner: Alex Chick and Giovanni BM 69.17%
First time championship winner Alex Chick and her twelve her old gelding Giovanni, known at home as Gee produced a consistent test to be awarded 69.17% by the judges in the picturesque Vector Arena. The sun was shining down on the pair this afternoon where they showed of their test highlight, the extended trot, “I was super pleased with his pirouettes too,” Alex told us.
Producing him herself with the help of her trainer since he was a five year old, she tells us about their training at home, “He’s super talented but he’s quite a hot horse and it’s taken quite a while to get the changes because he’s such a hot character but today I finally felt like we put it all together.”
When looking for horses, she went to a Brightwell auction with the intention to buy a different horse, “He wasn’t actually the one that I wanted, I wanted another one but that didn’t work so then I thought I’d go for him and I’m so glad I did because he’s been phenomenal.” Fast forward to today and it was might to be, that their paths crossed.
Working full time for Woodcroft Stud riding mainly young horses, Alex says it’s nice to have one of her own to work through the levels. “I love riding all of the three and four year olds but it’s nice to have a change. It’s a lot of late nights fitting it all in.”
Talking about the atmosphere at Somerford Park, “It’s been amazing, I am buzzing to be here and to even get here in the first place and then to win has been great. It’s really nice and such a fantastic venue. The shops are amazing, the food’s been really good as well, some gorgeous mac and cheese. Can’t get much better than that!”
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Freestyle Gold Championship
Winner: Annabella Pidgley and Espe, 75.27%
The Young Rider European Championships double gold medal combination of Annabella Pidgley and Espe were back in the winners’ circle this afternoon. Riding to the Taylor Swift arrangement that accompanied their golden performance in Budapest, they delivered a fantastic score of 75.27% to take the 2023 crown.
Nine-year-old Espe (Escolar x Dimaggio), owned by Sarah Pidgley, experienced some costly tension in yesterday’s PSG, but today that was put behind her as Annabella explains; “She been really hot and spicy here. I think it’s because of all of the people and she feels the atmosphere. She was a bit naughty before my test, but I was really pleased with how she listened to me once we entered the arena and how she kept it together.
“Everything is a highlight with her,” continued Annabella. “She's so expressive, particularly today because she was really on fire. The trot work was just so powerful and she's really fun to ride when she's so excited to work and brings that type of energy.
“Yesterday she was a bit naughty in my first halt. She got a bit scared of the people, but I was really proud of how I managed to reassure her after she got frightened and spooked. We managed to go back up the centre line and then do a really nice test for 72%. I think it's so nice that we've now got the confidence in our partnership to keep going when something like that happens and actually get quite a big score of 72%, so I've been really, really pleased with her.”
About how her training with Charlotte Dujardin has helped, Annabella said; “Charlotte’s training has really helped the partnership to come together. Here last year, she (Espe) lit up in the arena and just couldn't keep control of her power, and we had to retire. She’s come back a year later to have the same power but this time with 72% and then 75% and a win. I think just speaks of Charlotte's training. Not only does she train the technicalities and the movements but also how to bring that bond together with the horse, and I think that's really shown in the improvement. And to me that's a win in itself - to have had such a big improvement because that's all we can ask at the end of the day.”
On how their partnership has grown over the past 12 months to come back and win, Annabella said; “It's been incredible. I usually would have been maybe a bit disappointed that we had a mistake, but I was just over the moon because that improvement is all we want to see in our horses.
“You can't control the competition, and from last year having that huge blip and retiring to this day keeping it together - that's all I can ask for. And we stepped up a level. Last year was in the Advanced Medium this year the PSG, which was quite a big step for a young horse,” continued Annabella. “She's nine now so I was just really, really pleased with her. After she's had two gold medals at the Europeans, it's just a really nice way to finish the season.
“It is nice to be back on home soil with home crowds and to feel the support and to see so many familiar faces,” added Annabella about what it feels like being back on home soil. “I always love coming to the Nationals here at Somerford. It's always got a great atmosphere, but of course competing abroad and Aachen (Annabella and Espe dominated the CDIY classes at this year’s CHIO Aachen) is also amazing. But I think that this show brings more and more atmosphere every year I come in. I competed in Aachen for the first time this year and I can see parts of Somerford really coming up to that atmosphere, especially in that arena today.”
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Supreme Champion
Winner: Becky Moody and James Bond 2
The ultra-consistent Becky Moody claimed the Fairfax Saddles Prix Supreme Championships after posting two confirmed performances at the first Small Tour level with Jo Cooper’s James Bond 2; yesterday the duo were worthy runners up to Charlotte Dujardin on 74.176 before going on to score 73.625% in today’s sun-drenched freestyle. “I was super pleased with his Prix St Georges yesterday, it was probably one of his best tests to date. Today in the freestyle he was a little tired. I think having done the Inter I this morning, but he is he is really coming on and I'm really excited about him.”
Talking about the nine year old James Bond’s consistency, Becky continued, “I think that's what's changing, that's what's taken time. He's getting stronger, he's getting more confident and he really is training quite a lot for Grand Prix work now. So actually coming and doing this is starting to be a bit easier for him, which is how it should be because that's when it looks good and when it looks easy.”
Renowned for delivering an impressive freestyle, Becky was critical of her performance, which nevertheless produced a superb score: “I was really frustrated in that because I got a little ahead of my music. So it wasn't my finest freestyle, because I love that music and I think actually because he has changed a little bit in his movement I then got a little bit out of sync with my music. He's doing the Inter I Freestyle tomorrow. We'll see if we can nail it in that.”
“I do love it at Somerford and the main arena has a real buzz to it with the stands around it. The arena next door, like I was riding the six year old in there, and it's nice it’s just that little bit quieter. It helps the young horses just to cope with it a little bit more. But I mean, we've been incredibly lucky with the weather haven't because it was not a good forecast! I have got so many raincoats packed it's unbelievable! When the sun is shining everything is good.”
It’s been a flat-out week already for Becky who’s competing no fewer than seven horses at the LeMieux Nationals, with the total tests clocking up due to multiple starts in the Freestyle competitions which she described as ‘a little crazy’. The Sheffield-based rider returns in the Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Freestyle tomorrow where she’ll aim for her second Supreme title of the week with her top drawer Desperado-sired stallion.