Marriott, O'Hara and Begg take multiple titles at Equissage Pulse Para Bronze and Silver Championships
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With three different championships at Hartpury (23-24 August 2023), para dressage riders and their supporters enjoyed two days of serious competition, mixed in with fun and friendship. The new Summer Freestyle Championships, run alongside the Bronze and Silver Championships, produced multiple titles for Felicity Marriott, Lacey O’Hara and Alice Begg. The RDA Championships, in association with British Dressage, gave riders the chance to experience a full-on para dressage championship environment.
Felicity Marriott had a very successful two days, winning the Grade 1 Bronze and Silver Championship classes and the Grade 1 Bronze Freestyle Championship with her dancing partner, Serafina Hit (Samba Hit III x Phin Phin), pictured above.
“Seren can be a bit nosey and opinionated and likes to challenge me,” said Felicity who is a coach in training with the RDA and has an PGC in Sensory Integration. “Her attitude makes up for her small stature! She was brilliant at the show and really liked the indoor arena. It was only our second time in the arena with three judges.”
Felicity picked a music programme, produced by Equidance, with emotional tracks by Lewis Capaldi (Someone You Loved) and Alan Walker (Faded). “Seren likes the music and engages with it – she likes to have a beat and I work with a metronome at home.”
Seren is based with Felicity's trainer Holly Norris of HMN Sporthorses in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, and she and her mum Gill travel there from Cornwall at the weekends to ride. “Holly seems to get the way to teach me and Seren – it takes a special coach to understand both of us! My body can be quite whacky and Seren isn’t the easiest ride. I have to ride her, I can’t be a passenger. I’m very lucky to have been introduced to Holly.”
Felicity is working on improving her skills and her ambition is to ride in the gold section and qualify for Addington CPEDI in 2024.
Lacey O’Hara and her pony Lyndhurst Soldier, pictured above, were Grade 2 Bronze Champions and Grade 2 Freestyle Bronze Champions. She and ‘Charlie’ have been a partnership since last December and are new to freestyle competition.
“We absolutely loved the freestyle. We only had three weeks to do the music and our upbeat programme was put together by Equidance,” said Lacey who trains with Sophie Wells. “Charlie is definitely a diva – he knows he’s good-looking. He wasn’t fazed at all by Hartpury as he previously competed at the international there as part of the Australian para dressage team.” The pair have now done eight competitive tests together and won seven of them.
Alice Begg took all three top places with her talented trio, Gluckauf, Nalique and J’Adore II in the Grade 5 Bronze Championship, while Gluckauf, pictured above, also added the Grade 5 Silver sash to their haul.
Fourteen-year-old Gluckauf (by Grand Cru) has been owned by Alice for 10 years and she has produced him up the levels to Prix St Georges. He recently won the Fenning Farm Summer Area Festival at PSG Bronze and Advanced Medium Silver.
“Alfie knew me before my accident so has gone from knowing me when I was strong and equal on both sides to having a weaker left side and a left foot that doesn’t work and he’s never tried to take the mick,” explained Alice, who trains with Alex Hardwick and Nikki Barker. “He loved the atmosphere. His bronze test could probably have had more suppleness through his body but the silver test felt great.”
Athene Lindebjerg is no stranger to winners’ sashes and this beautiful mare didn’t disappoint at Hartpury, giving Mari Durward-Akhurst, pictured below, a great ride in the Grade 1 Freestyle Gold and achieving the highest score of the Championships of 73.63%.
“I felt Athene went really well and it was more polished than our performance at Hartpury CPEDI3*. I was really happy that the shoulder-in came off, we nailed the halts and finished on time with the music,” commented Mari who trains with Rob Waine. “Mum and I designed the floorplan and Julie Payne very kindly allowed me to use the music which she had used with Athene at the Europeans in 2017, which was put together by Julie Geraghty (Equivisions).
“I’ve been riding Athene for about six months now. It’s taken time to get used to each other as I am not able to use my legs so Athene has had to adapt to this. I cannot thank Di Redfern enough for allowing this wonderful opportunity and I’m really looking forward to developing our partnership and seeing our scores increase further.”
Athene’s previous rider, Julie Payne, won the Grade 2 Gold with 10-year-old Don Frederico gelding, Divinity, pictured above, on whom she had podium placings at Hickstead and Addington CPEDIs. “Cornelia Cook bought him for me when he was six-and-a-half and he wasn’t backed until then. He’s big and gangly and still like riding a five-year-old,” explained Julie.
“He doesn’t think he’s a horse. He thinks he’s a teddy bear!” The pair hadn’t competed since May since Leo had an abscess which required an operation. “Overall, I was really pleased with him. He did the best warm-up I’ve ever done but I overcooked him by about five minutes so he lost a bit of activity when he went into the test. I was pleased with his walk marks which were 7.5s and 8s. It was brilliant that BD has put on a summer freestyle championship – hopefully next year there’ll be more gold riders entered.”
Julie used a music programme produced by Pegasus which features light, upbeat music to suit her elegant horse.
The Grade 3 Gold winner was Vicky Earnshaw, para rep for BD’s North & East region. She and Prince Pepe, pictured above, are another partnership to have achieved podium places at the Hickstead and Addington international shows.
“He coped really well with the atmosphere and took it all in his stride,” said Vicky. “The tests we did weren’t foot perfect as I’ve been playing with the gears we’ve found at home and I rode each test differently. It was a really positive experience and a huge learning curve for us both. The freestyle programme was one I’d done for an able-bodied horse years ago and includes Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ which makes everyone smile. I think Pepe likes it – he went up an extra gear so our timings were slightly out!”
The Grade 4 Gold winners, Katie Radzik and Springpower, pictured above, are a relatively new combination and an exciting one. ‘Finbar’ is an ex-eventer who competed with Izzy Taylor at 5* level. After an injury, his owners Jeremy Brereton and Linda Mars wanted a lighter life for him and he came up for loan.
“He’s very different to my other horses,” commented Katie who trains with Russell Guire. “He really lights up in the arena and is a bit of a showman. He’s adjusted to life as a para horse very quickly. He does like to go fast so I’ve had to teach him to slow down. He’s very sweet and we’ve really gelled. He hadn’t done freestyle before and finds it quite exciting. I really like the Batman music I’ve chosen for him.”
Namibian, winner of the Grade 5 Gold class, recently made a miraculous recovery from illness. The 15-year-old, pictured above, suffered from sepsis and pneumonia in January and at one time was not expected to survive. “It took Barney six months to recover, just in time to get our final qualification points,” explained his rider, Julie Frizzell who trains with Sophie Wells. “We never got to the bottom of what caused it and we’re still working on fitness.
“He came to me through the Godolphin rehoming scheme and I’m very lucky to have such a horse. His brain is the most wonderful thing. There’s not a party trick he can’t learn!
“It’s the stuff dreams are made of for him to go from being so poorly to going down the centre line. He felt the best he’s ever been and gave me everything I asked for.”
Silver Freestyle winners
The Grade 5 Silver winner was Donna West and Hio Lookswell, pictured below, who Donna bought as a three-year-old from Ireland. Two years ago, Donna had a nasty accident and can’t use the lower part of her left leg. “Fortunately, I have a really good trainer, Paul Friday, who trained us to do dressage,” she explained. “I couldn’t ride for two years and had to retrain Hio to understand me. He is so lovely and generous, he tries everything I ask of him. We’ve taken it slowly but I hope to move up to Gold as soon as possible.”
Donna works full-time at a special needs school so riding has to fit in around her work. Her music programme included A Team and James Bond themes and was put together by Equivisions. “He was a little bit tense in the arena but coped really well. This was our first time at a Championship and only the second time we’ve ridden to music.”
Donna was full of praise for the supportive and friendly atmosphere at the show, particularly as she travelled there on her own.
Elan Williams was the only competitor in the Grade 1 Silver Freestyle and her two horses scored very similar marks. In the end it was WSH Something Borrowed (Trinny), pictured above, that pipped Brandini to the red rosette. The combinations were also second and third to Mari Durward-Akhurst in the Gold class.
“She was amazing - just on fire,” said Elan, who used a Neil Diamond compilation for her gold programme and a Lady Gaga-Dua Lipa-Taylor Swift combination for her Silver programme. “Trinny was very chilled – just perfect.”
Bronze Freestyle Champions
Ursula Treadgold, Grade 4 Bronze Champion, describes her 12-year-old coloured cob mare, M.Y. Ruby, pictured below, as ‘adorable’. “She tries so hard and just wants to do her best,” said Ursula, who is a long-time pupil of Lindsey Dawes. “Considering she hadn’t done very much until she was nine or 10, she’s come on very well. The music is a mix of MP4 and Heather Small. It was put together for a previous horse by Equidance and isn’t quite right for her. I’ll be getting together a new floorplan and music for her.”
In the Grade 5 section, Sarah Oram, pictured below, added the Freestyle Championship win to Tamrik Captain Jack Sparrow’s third place in the Grade 5 Bronze Summer Championship. “I bought him as a yearling from the Welsh Tamrik Stud. I’d had a Clydesdale and wanted a smaller version. He’d torn an eyelid so he couldn’t be shown which is why I was able to buy him,” explained Sarah whose trainer Alison Short put together the floorplan.
To match his name, the music chosen was ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. “There’s only one edit in the whole programme and it includes lots of natural changes so it works really well. I was a bit disappointed when I came out as the surface rode a bit slow. I had to move the movements a bit and got a bit flustered. But [judge] John Robinson gave us 73%!”
Bronze Summer Champions
Kyla Mantilla Ross and 12.2hh pony, Jananda Fringe Chic, pictured below, Bronze Grade 3 Champions, began competing together last November. They have placed first at six out of seven of their last three tests and have been demonstrating consistently improving scores.
Lesley McNaughton-Wells, pictured below, bought her Grade 4 Champion, Roandale Saxon, as a foal. The part-bred Dales also has some Gypsy cob blood. “He’s been shown in-hand and done workers classes as well as dressage,” said Lesley. “He was reserve Prelim Part-bred Gypsy Cob Champion at the Cavago Associated Championships last year. It’s still early days in his training and I think the showing has helped with his confidence. Initially he was a bit shell-shocked at Hartpury with all the wheelchairs and walking sticks – his eyes were out on stalks. By the afternoon he was better and by the next day he was OK with everything.
“Hartpury had the most amazing flower pots with very vivid colours. In the warm-up test he caught me off guard by spooking. I had a word with myself and thought our Championship test was the best we’ve ever done.” Lesley is an electronic engineer and trains with Diana Zadga. “It was an absolute dream to compete with all the para people, they are open and helpful, particularly as I was there on my own. The whole of the show organisation couldn’t have been nicer.”
Lightweight show cob, Cochrane, is on loan to Jess Pritchard (16) from his owner, Lucinda Freedman. The pair, pictured below, won the Grade 3 Bronze Championship last year and moved up to secure the silver equivalent this year.
Jess’s mum Shelley describes ‘Ted’ as a ‘super boy’. “He’s been to HOYS so he wasn’t bothered at all about the atmosphere at Hartpury,” said Shelley. “Jess was very pleased with the accuracy of her test, particularly the eight-metre circles and voltes.”
Jess trains with Sarah Morland and also has help from Sarah Jones-Williams at competitions. She is starting a small animal husbandry course at college in September.
Ellie Hamilton, pictured above, clinched the Grade 4 Championship with Twynmelyn Aderyn Du, her first-ever pony who she’s had for nine years. “We started at Prelim and got the dressage bug. We did our first para dressage competition in April and did two tests to qualify for Hartpury,” said Ellie. “He took everything in his stride. The week before I could only work him in hand as I was getting his saddle sorted so I didn’t really expect anything.”
“Medium trot is his favourite thing. He flew across the arena and got 8s from two of the judges.”
Riding for the Disabled
Grade 6 and 7 riders had the chance to compete alongside the para dressage classes in a Championship run in association with British Dressage.
Lucinda Mitchell won the Grade 5 Walk, Trot and Canter test on 71.03% with 24-year-old A Splash of Colour, pictured above. Lucinda bought her from gypsies at the side of the road when she was a yearling. “She had to be broken to side saddle 15 years ago when I became disabled. I went to Talland to learn to ride side saddle” she explained. “I keep Splash at Talland and train with Emma Harford – they’ve got everything I need there. Splash is amazing – I can lead her from my mobility scooter. She helped me out in the test and went beautifully – foot perfect.
“This is our first time doing para dressage and everyone was so helpful I’ll definitely do more.”
Tara Redfern’s Connemara Grade 7 Champion, Jane Barber’s My Lad Bob, pictured above, is also 24-years-old and they are based at the Wenlo RDA centre near Stourhead. “Jane has been letting me compete him for about two years,” commented Tara who has been to the RDA Nationals twice with Bob. “This was our first time doing paras and it was a huge step up. Bob was on his toes as he came down the centre line and did a lovely test. Hopefully we will keep him going for as long as we can. The RDA centre has been so good to me and they are all pleased we’re doing so well.”
Another Wenlo rider was successful when Joseph Oliver and Clancy won the Grade 7 Walk only test. Other winners were Lavezah Cheema, Luke Rutter and Dennie Neal.
Congratulations to all the winners and competitors in these three exciting championships. Thanks to all those responsible for the organisation, the judges, scores, stewards and volunteers who make it all possible.
Results - top three places
Equissage Pulse Summer Freestyle Championships
1. Felicity Marriott and Serafina Hit, 71.94%
1. Lacey O’Hara and Lyndhurst Soldier, 64.58%
1. Ursula Treadgold and M.Y Ruby, 64.26%
1. Sarah Oram and Tamrik Captain Jack Sparrow, 69.88%
2. Lisa Michell and Call Me Heaven, 64.24%
1. Elan Williams and WSH Something Borrowed, 67.67%
2. Elan Williams and Brandini, 67.52%
1. Donna West and Hio Lookswell, 66.68%
1. Mari Durward-Akhurst and Athene Lindebjerg, 73.63%
2. Elan Williams and WSH Something Borrowed, 68.8%
3. Elan Williams and Brandini, 68.07%
1. Julie Payne and Divinity, 68.83%
1. Vicky Earnshaw and Prince Pepe, 66.59%
1 Katie Radzik and Spring Power, 67.3%
1. Julie Frizzell and Namibian, 67.43%
Equissage Bronze & Silver Championships
1. Felicity Marriot and Serafina Hit, 71.49%
2. Margaret Lupton and Domino XI, 68.86%
3. Francesca Bratt-Martin and The Blue Bandit, 65.26%
1. Lacey O’Hara and Lyndhurst Soldier, 64.37%
2. Lacey O’Hara and Miss Lottie, 64.29%
1. Kyla Mantilla Ross and Jananda Fringe Chic, 68.5%
2. Danielle Smith-Turner an Barravalley Breeze, 66.42%
1. Lesley McNaughton-Wells and Roandale Saxon, 68.81%
2. Ursula Treadgold and M.Y Ruby, 68.49%
3. Ellie Hamilton and Twynmelyn Aderyn Du, 67.3%
1. Alice Begg and Gluckauf, 71.35%
2. Alice Begg and Nalique, 70.96%
3. Alice Begg and J’Adore II 68.78%
1. Felicity Marriott and Serafina Hit, 66.67%
2. Elan Williams and Brandini, 66.56%
3. Elan Williams and WSH Something Borrowed, 65.42%
1. Jessica Pritchard and Cochrane, 68.89%
2. Janet Cummings and Rhonderful Dorrells, 68.81%
3. Vicky Earnshaw and Prince Pepe, 68.25%
1. Ellie Hamilton and Twynmelyn Aderyn Du, 68.93%
2. Ursula Treadgold and M.Y Ruby, 67.20%
3. Sarah Hannaford and Izzy’s Star, 65.73%
1. Alice Begg and Gluckauf, 69.7%
2. Molly Bowen-Morris and Kilbawn Lad, 63.87%
3. Sarah Oram and Tamrik Captain Jack Sparrow, 63.51%
RDA Championships in association with BD
Grade 7 – walk only
1. Joseph Oliver and Clancy, 66.71%
2. Alfie Brew-Lee and (unregistered), 66.77%
Grade 7 – walk and trot
1. Lavezah Cheema and Knocknacree Bertie, 67.86%
2. Errin Bowles and (unregistered), 66.91%
3. Alfie Armstrong Breen and Newtown Lady, 66.19%
Grade 7 – walk, trot and canter
1. Tara Redfern and My Lad Bob 69.41%
2. Jessica Limb and Hexden Dancing Stranger, 67.74%
3. Nia Harmes and Manila, 67.72%
Grade 6 – walk
1. Luke Rutter and (unregistered), 66.47%
Grade 6 - walk and trot
1. Dennie Neal and (unregistered)
2. Vivienne Milburn and (unregistered)
3. Frankie Townsend and Ballyerk Breeze
Grade 6 – walk, trot and canter
1. Lucinda Mitchell and A Splash of Colour IV, 71.03%
2. Charlotte Williams and (unregistered), 70.74%
3. Kerry-Anne Knight and Something Different, 70%
Photo © Kevin Sparrow Photography