NAF Five Star Winter Championships: Day Five
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Those at day four of the NAF Five Star Winter Championships were treated to weather conditions akin to our normal April day, not the supposed high summer fo August. Wind and rain made conditions tricky but the horses and riders were up to the challenge with five champions crowned today.
Petplan Equine Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship
Winners: Susan Chant & Pascal McCoy, 70.39%
The Petplan Equine Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship was the first class of the day in the NAF Five Star Arena, where Susan Chant and Pascal McCoy battled through torrential rain and strong winds to score 70.39% and finish in first place.
Susan, who is based in Wiltshire and works full time in retirement apartment sales when she’s not in the dressage arena, said “He really performed today, he was nice and forward. Perhaps a bit tense in the walk but overall, just amazing. It’s exciting to be here as we qualified in 2019 but he had a few issues and we didn’t make it. Even this year it’s been a challenge and I’m just shocked, he’s certainly my horse of a lifetime.”
Susan rode as a teenager but could never afford her own horse, she now works to fund her hobby and bought Pascal McCoy¸ who was originally intended to be a para horse, from Assouline Dressage as a 10 year old.
“To start with, I was terrified of going in the arena but he’s given me the confidence and we’ve come this far. We’re working on his changes and hope to qualify for next year’s championships here at Advanced Medium.”
15 year old Pascal McCoy is Susan’s first affiliated horse. They train together with Lucy Straker and Sue McMahon, Susan keeps him at Lucy’s yard where she also has a young horse.
This is a first win for the duo, although not their first outing to the Area Festival Championships, Susan and Pascal McCoy came fourth in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships in 2018 in the Elementary Silver class.
In a class of 26, judged by John Robinson, Andrea Smith and Alison Duck, Jade Whitelaw and Dauphin III came in second place with 68.04%. Third place went to Annabel Abell and Sheepcote Lets Go, who scored 66.97%.
Petplan Equine Prelim U21 Area Festival Championships
Imogen Thompson-Bland from Petersfield was crowned winner of today’s Petplan Equine Prelim U21 Area Festival Championship. With her nine-year-old mare Fürstin Firefly (Fürstenball x Quendel de Bornival), she earned a score of 71.59% in blustery conditions to take the 2020 edition of the coveted title.
“I was very shocked!” said Imogen, the reality of what she’s achieved still sinking in. “It’s very windy and rainy and my horse hasn’t been in conditions like this, so I was really happy with her.
“I’m so happy to be here, it’s been a great experience for my horse,” she said. “It’s just been really nice to be at the Championships, even with the coronavirus restrictions.”
Imogen has partnered Firefly for five years and qualified for the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships on a wildcard. Speaking about her mare, she added, “She’s very chilled and hardworking, she loves her work and she’s a huge character.”
Imogen dedicates her time with Firefly purely to the dressage arena but spends plenty of time keeping her work varied at home with hacking and jumping too. Speaking about her future goals she said, “We’ll see how it goes but I’m hopeful to have a go at Juniors with her.”
Student Imogen has recently completed her GCSEs with her results coming in just yesterday. When asked what’s better, great GCSE results or winning a Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships, the answer… ”definitely a Petplan Equine title!”
Second place went to Lexie Brennan and Clontumpher Dream (70.90%) with Flora Hayes with Haybells Cinderella completing the top three on 70.27%.
Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze Area Festival Championship
Winners: Sam Whyley & Tremadoc, 71.52%
In a closely fought class, where the top 5 scored within 1% of each other, and second and third place were decided on the collective marks, the Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze Area Festival Championship certainly was one to watch today.
Sam Whyley with Tremadoc topped the class of 23, judged by Carole Thornton, Sharon Butterworth, Rebecca Trower, scoring 71.52%.
Sam, a local freelance riding instructor in South Wales, said’; "It was brilliant, he was so much more confident today after being a little bit nervous in there yesterday as it was his first big Championships. I could take the handbreak off and really ride him today - he felt amazing, he was so rideable and he's just a joy to ride."
The wet and blustery conditions weren’t a concern for laid back Sam; “It was a bit windy and rainy but we're from South Wales...this is cricket weather for us! So we're not too worried about the rain!"
'Morris' is owned by Sam's friends Jo and Ali, "He started doing a bit of BD with owner Jo alongside eventing but as Jo became busier with her law degree I took over the reins. The more we've done the more it's spiralled into an exciting competition career, he's showing so much promise for the higher levels too. He's so trainable and his attitude is amazing, I'm excited about this future."
Sam aims to progress Morris towards Advanced Medium and Small Tour in the near future, "Taking the accelerator off during lockdown has been really helpful, we've trained more and been able to worry less about making mistakes as we progress. He's such an exciting horse."
Sam has been to the championships twice before, however this is his first outing here with Tremadoc, and what a debut they made!
Sam Mirehouse and Pauldarys Tiger Two Sox were in a very close second place with 71.13%, Lucy Cole and Sunny Bill also scored 71.13%, with their third place being decided on the collective marks.
Petplan Equine Medium U21 Area Festival Championships
Winners: Charlotte Neal & Walters Fable, 68.48%
The Petplan Equine Medium U21 Area Festival Championships didn’t get the best of the weather on day five of the championships, but a class full of bright future talents and a jubilant winner shone through the cloud and rain.
16 year old Charlotte Neal was the young lady to impress the judges panel of Sandy Phillips, Nick Burton and Penelope Lang, earning 68.48% to top the tables on her own Walters Fable (Walentino x Joli Coeur). Their test showed beautiful balance and rhythm, ending in a medium trot up the centre line worthy of any champion.
Speaking about her success on board dancing partner ‘Jeff’, Charlotte said, “when I trotted round the arena he was really spooky at the camera but he went in and focused on the job. My final medium trot up the centreline felt amazing!”
Having been with Charlotte for three years, it’s clear that Jeff is a firm family favourite. “He’s very cheeky,” the bright young rider started, “he’s really quite a character who loves fuss and his food, especially sugar and carrots.”
Reflecting on her experience and time in the saddle on board her superstar horse Charlotte said, “he’s my first horse and was more experienced than me but we’ve learned from each other. He’s taught me a lot and our partnership has really developed.” The talented young National Academy athlete is hopeful for a start at Prix St Georges level in the future and looks forward to making her tailcoat debut.
Staffordshire based student Charlotte is also celebrating receiving her GCSE results yesterday – “I was really happy with my results and I’m staying on to do A levels in Maths, English Literature and History.”
Second place went to the last rider in the class, Scotland’s Rose Foley, who put in a ride to be proud of with Cordici K to finish just one mark behind Charlotte, whilst Isabell Platts and Walton Gladrags showed their skills for third.
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver
Winners: Lauren Williamson & Vancouver LG, 74.44%
The final class of the NAF Five Star Winter Championships was a fitting end with the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver giving us a musical finale. As ever it was a fiercely contested affair with 22 starters coming forward in front of Andrea Smith, Isobel Wessels and Jenny Ward.
The early pace was set by Ali Dane riding Lissa Lowrie’s Stanii Askbank with a very solid 72.13% and she held the lead for nearly two hours. Kate Slone (neé Oppenheimer) then entered with her own SOS Sealpoint. Kate, a vet at Cathcart & Winn in Farnham, and ‘Moosey’ have already had arena time at Hartpury this championships but the dun mare, who regularly BE events, was on her toes. Today she was much more focused and 73.24% gave them the lead by just over one percent.
Kate remained in pole position until the third last combination when Lauren Williamson and her own Vancouver LG, a former breeding stallion, entered the arena. After a shaky start with a ‘giraffe leap’ (Lauren’s words!), they settled in to a great test set to Disney’s iconic music from the Lion King which impressed for 74.44% and the win.
“We competed on Monday in the Elementary Music and he was just overwhelmed. He’s scared of everything and normally I do every arena walk possible but today he was much more settled,” explained Lauren.
Lauren got the ride on the Dutch Connaisseur sired eight year old when Mike Battersby from LG Sporthorses rang her to see if she’d like to take him on. Breeding life didn’t suit his temperament so he was gelded and a competition life was deemed more appropriate and the two haven’t looked back since coming together in April 2019.
Lauren, from Cholmondeley in Cheshire, juggles some youth coaching, riding and some judging with her all important role as mum to her three and seven year olds. She trains with Sarah Probyn, Patsy Bartram and recently Stephen Clarke, who Lauren says “really believes in this horse which means a lot”.
Photos: © Kevin Sparrow