NAF Five Star Winter Championships 22: day four
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The sun has set on day four of the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships with over 12 hours of back to back dressage to delight the Hartpury crowd with ten champions riding to a place in the history books.
Superflex Intermediate I Freestyle Gold
Winner: Becky Moody with Jagerbomb, 76.37%
The feature class of the day was Superflex by name and equally as super by nature with Becky Moody and Jagerbomb completing a trio of NAF wins with victory in the Superflex Intermediate I Freestyle. As one of the standout combinations of the week, the scores have reflected popular opinion and today’s judges panel – Harry Payne, Mary-Anne Horn, Anne Keen – duly rewarded 76.37% for their Easter effort.
Renowned for producing a smart freestyle, Becky’s performance today oozed class, musicality and presence. A complex but flowing floorplan showed canter pirouettes between half pass on a single diagonal, as well as steep half passes in trot to match and big expressive extensions. Riding to a Kingsman themed ensemble, including Take Me Home, Country Roads for the canter tour, Jagerbomb showed his talent for Grand Prix with a handful of immaculate...but not needed one tempi changes within the two tempi line his only standout error in the performance. Becky repeated the two time changes on the final centre line before concluding in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
“I was really pleased with him,” Becky said, “it was his third test in a row for a big young horse, he was a little bit tired, bit he really really tried. The trot work was lovely, the canter, the pirouettes were still not where I want them but better then yesterday. I was really pleased with him, as silly mistake in the twos which was my bad, a little bit of oh my goodness, can I fit another row in! So instead of doing a spectacular extended trot down the center line at the end, which obviously it would have been, I did another row of twos, which we did manage to do, so he was cool.”
Speaking about her artistic choices for today’s title she continued, “I love that music but it’s not made for him, I’m a terrible mother because I haven’t got him is own! It was actually made for a full fusion horse I rode a couple years ago, he’s a much more established horse so it's quite a technical floor plan, but I decided to just go for it and Bomb is the kind of horse you ask him a question and he’s goes “yeah ok, I'll try”. So, he did. Its great music but it's not perfect for him but it's cool.”
So what’s next for the brilliant Bomb? “Inter II at some point this season,” Becky answered, “he’s doing everything for it now but he is only eight so I’m conscious we don’t push him too much. He’ll probably do the CDI here or the Inter II at the Premier League. Hopefully aiming for the Inter I at the Nationals and we’ll see about the Inter II. My main long term goal is Grand Prix next year. He can do everything, he just needs to get stronger so he can string it all together.”
Judge at B Harry Payne commented on our winner’s test at the conclusion of a great class, “Becky’s test was beautifully presented in a really good balance, it was very consistent all the way through. The music fitted the horse and suited him as well.” Speaking about the judge’s point of view in returning to business as usual here at Hartpury with spectators, tradestands and a packed schedule Harry said, “I’ve enjoyed myself, it’s great to be back out at a show with a great atmosphere.
It’s been a super week for Becky and her team, with three of the feature titles now in her name as well as a strong result on board Jack Diamond in today’s Equitex Advanced Medium, placing second to winner Charlotte Dujardin. Becky concluded by reflecting on the week with her number one, “I am really pleased how he coped with the three days if I'm honest, it's good knowing his stamina is getting better. I just know he’s just such legend and he’s even more a legend now at the end of that isn't he?”
Michael Eilberg and the ten year old Figlio (by Fidertanz) were worthy runners up on 72.37%, whilst local lady Lucinda Elliot with Hawtins Bellegra claimed another podium place with 72.16% for third.
KBIS Preliminary Silver
Winner: Violet Hawkins with DZL Royal Sunrise, 71.37%
Violet Hawkins, our very own talented BD youth rider, is taking Hartpury by storm championing the KBIS Silver Prelim class this morning with DZL Royal Sunrise (Paddy) at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships. Despite being an early second down the centre line, she impressively held her position on top of the leader board throughout all 21 competitors with a winning total of 71.37%.
12 year old Violet, one of the youngest competitors of the day, discovered dressage when she was 10 and has already made her mark in the dressage world. After a successful start to the year coming first in her regional qualifiers back in February and having won all-bar-one tests entered in 2022 with partner Paddy, today performance has been no different. When the young star isn’t riding, she’s getting crafty with a sewing machine and has a knack for performing. Her father excitingly expressed that Violet got into the final two for the casting of Matilda in the west end, however the unfortunate events of COVID put an abrupt end to the auditioning process.
“He was amazing and completely took it in his stride," young Violet said reflecting on her win on board her stunning 11 year old chestnut pony, DZL Royal Sunrise (Domingos Golden Surpise x Brockwell Prince Charming)., "he did a really nice test and it was probably one of the best tests he’s ever done." In the stable she describes Paddy as being very grumpy and pulls faces unless he gets a bit of attention or food. However, she recalls him to be “quite spicy” this morning in the arena walk but was relieved to tell us when they went into the arena, "it went really well. I’ve been working on getting him going forwards more as sometimes he can just get behind my leg. I’m really proud of him.”
Buckinghamshire based professional Jayne Turney, who trains Violet, spoke proudly of her protege after the prize giving and gave her full credit for great riding and dedication. Jayne converted Violet from showing and its dressage all the way now for the young rider who's even had a sit on her top coach's magnificent Cruz III, former FEI pony and winner of the Magic Prix St Georges Gold in 2020.
When asked who Violets admires, she names multiple World and Olympic champion, Charlotte Dujardin and her professional dressage trainer Jayne. With big heroes comes big dreams and although Violet and her pony are petite, her aspirations are far from it. She says, “for me, it’s 100% dressage, I want to do it as my career.” She continued talking about her future goals, “i’d really like to take him to do Children on Horses and then try to take him to the Pony Europeans.”
Securing second place was Hannah Luesley riding Newton Grand Design scoring 71.20% and third place was Imogen Casely and Parvadean Estelle with 70.97%.
Equitex Advanced Medium Gold
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin with Times Kismet, 75.50%
Resplendent gold is Charlotte Dujardin’s colour, and she glittered once again in today’s Equitex Advanced Medium Gold with up-and-coming Kismet taking her turn in the spotlight. Under the watchful panel of Andrea Smith, Jane Mcgarel-Groves and Claire Deithrick, Charlotte presented the expressive seven year old mare in an expected polished fashion to take the class with 75.50%.
Peter Belshaw’s KWPN mare by Ampere has won all but one of her starts with Olympic medallist Charlotte in the saddle over their two year partnership. "I’m very, very happy. I felt a little bit emotional coming out because for her to do a test in that environment when she’s still very green is amazing," an elated Dujardin said following her lap of honour. "I felt like a lot of people came forward along the long sides to watch. She was wild at the Regionals – I did everything I never should have done! She was leaping puddles and mistakes everywhere and I haven’t done a show since. To be in that environment and do the test she did, I was really really happy. Her changes are still green – a bit swingy but the rest of it is phenomenal. She has so much swing, so much ability, she’s got everything you want, and super that she’s got that temperament as well to go in there and perform – I’m just over the moon."
This latest star to shine in Charlotte's orbit has bundles of character to match her athletic scope: "Hmm, what can I say that’s polite about her? When you ride her, she’s amazing, she literally can’t wait to be ridden. She’s up and down the stable like get me out, get me out and she’s not one for going in the field. She’s about the only one we’ve had that you can’t turn out. We’ve tried everything, on her own, with others, big field, small field, she just will not go out, we can’t work out why. She hand grazes, it’s as much as we can do. She’s got a funny character, but you’d never know when you ride her. The special ones always have something about them!”
Speaking about what's next for the attractive bright bay talent she concluded, "she’s seven and she’s done what she needs to do, whether she needs a bit of a break or does a bit and then has a bit of a holiday, it doesn’t really matter, does it? I hope she will be a Grand Prix horse. But you never know until you're there and actually doing it but I mean she shows so much potential, her ability and her scope she has it all. This is what is so fantastic having these shows, and putting them in these environments, you know training them, educating them and hopefully next year doing some small tour stuff and going to some internationals with her, again educating. There is no rush, she will take her time, she’s a big mare, a very tall mare, I feel very lucky to have her and ride her for Peter Belshaw."
The Equitex Advanced Medium Gold produced one of the highlights on day four with a multitude of talented types on display. An in-form Becky Moody produced Jack Diamond to second place in this contest, scoring 72.14% whilst Lisa Hopkins’ Liss La Belle looked full of promise in third.
Prestige Italia Novice Silver
Winner: Tracey Lawson with Q.T., 77.16%
Hampshire duo Tracey Lawson and Q.T. has had a NAF Five Star Winter Championship debut to remember – three days…not one but two championship titles claimed! Today, with a stunning score of 77.16% they simply stole the show in the Prestige Italia Novice Silver Championship under judges Fiona Wilson, Felicity Scott and Helen Clark to add to their Equi-Trek Elementary Silver title.
“I was just trying to copy Charlotte who also won this class, it appears to have paid off!” exclaimed a delighted Tracey.
She went on to explain; “I didn’t expect it at all, it’s been a very very difficult couple of years for everybody with Covid and it’s been an extra difficult time for me as I’ve been through a very nasty divorce so I’m climbing back out of it now and it just shows that if you get rid of the things that hold you back in life you can release your dreams. I’m getting on in life with a lovely horse and a lovely dog and they’re helping me recover physically and mentally. QT is the best partner, a faithful partner! I’m sticking to geldings and dogs now!”
Tracey was clearly delighted with her equine partner of 12 months, “The test felt really good, I’m looking forward to seeing my test sheets and seeing how I can improve further. Today I tried to go for more looseness and flamboyance today and just it’s his first time ever at a championship so you don’t know until you’re here until they react. I think I held him a bit more together in the Elementary and then today I set him a bit more free and said ‘go and show your moves babe’.”
“His trot work has been correct but I felt I lacked the extra expression that I see other riders have so I was really pleased with that today. I felt like he could have a little extra expression but still stay calm and balanced so that he didn’t boil over!” she continued.
The emotion and adrenaline of a championship show was clearly catching up on Tracey; “I’m exhausted! I’ve been sleeping with a nine-month-old puppy in an ice cream van for four nights! I’m looking forward to going home and getting some sleep now, it’s been wonderful but I’m 53 and it’s really hard work when you’re by yourself and you’re looking after your horse and dog by yourself but gosh this makes it worth every single second!”
Second spot went to Jessica Griffiths riding RS Fürst Love on a score of 73.70%, which would have won many a championship titles, while in third was Anna Burns, partnered by Lancelot BS on 72.90%.
SPILLERS Medium Freestyle Silver
Winner: Katherine Tullie with Joie a Vie, 71.77%
Katherine Tullie made it a worthwhile trip south from her family farm in the scenic surroundings of Duns in the Scottish Borders to take a close contest with her elegant chestnut mare, Joie À Vie in the final class of day four, the Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver. Dancing to music from the 2010 film, The Tourist, the duo put early nerves behind them to post 71.77% when drawn third to go and none of the combinations could better that score.
The tall, elegant duo looked at home in the Hartpury arena. Katherine summed her test up; “She was super nervous so I was just trying to ride the best I could. It’s the first time she’s ever been here, I was really pleased with her, she did some super trot work. I almost cried when I came down the centreline and halted, but I thought ‘you’re being a bit dramatic’! Super pleased with her attitude today. She really settled into it and listened to me when I was pushing forward and holding her hand a little bit.”
Her music is an ‘oldie but goodie’; “My music is from The Tourist and it’s very old music, I had it for my now retired grey horse, from about ten years ago. It actually suits her better and she goes really well to it, it’s not too loud and bangy, she can be sensitive. It’s quite dark and dramatic and it really suits her pace as well.”
Katherine combines training her mare with life on the family farm, a mixed arable farm with cows, sheep, pigs and some goats so spring is particularly busy. “I keep her at home at our farm and train with Paul Hayler. I get up early to fit it all in – and don’t tell my dad when I go to a show, I just say ‘bye’! I’ve taken a week off lambing to come down here and it’s been manic at home, we’ve got spring drilling to do so no one is sleeping much. We hack a lot and she spends 90% of her time in the field and I just fit riding around everything”, she explained.
Katherine found her mare on a trip to Holland and bought the Everdale x Krack C as a three-year-old. “She’d been backed for about six weeks and was totally wild and unruly, but she was one of those horses I didn’t want to get off when I got on her,” she enthused. “I just want to keep training and see how far I can get with her, she’s got a lot of potential and she’s really talented. It’s just about getting her head right for bigger competitions and getting her less stress – she’s growing up now.”
Second and third places had to be decided on the artistic mark as the combinations concerned couldn’t be separated on their score of 71.27% It was Lauren Geraghty riding WS Jackson who edged it with a score of 327 ahead of Jade Struthers and Debbie Struthers’ Suarez who had 324.
Petplan Equine Prelim Silver
Winner: Jessica Nevin with Nicky Byrne, 70.62%
The battle for the top spot in the largest class of the Championships - the Petplan Equine Preliminary Silver - went right down to the wire after the first rider to trot down the centre line in the morning sunshine held the lead for no less than nine hours in the Petplan Equine Arena. Sarah Bird and Double Denim II's impressive lead with 70.34% would be beaten only by the final combination to go, Jessica Nevin and Nicky Byrne, who produced an exquisite test to deliver them the two marks they needed to take today's title. Their winning score was 70.62%.
“It’s nice to win a rug and a sash on my own horse, I haven’t done that for a long time,” declared the Gloucesteshire rider who started her career in the showing ring, “but we won the BD combined training championship last week – so it’s two sashes in a week!”
About their winning test today Jessica reflected "he was really good I thought he would pick up a little bit going into the arena, it he didn’t, it was quite warm when I was doing mine. He had enough energy to get to the end! Ernie isn't really bothered by stuff like that [atmosphere in the arena], he’s quite reliable, but it’s nice, you get a good feeling when you ride him."
The multi-talented duo not only have dressage and combined training as feathers in their cap but also eventing, with their next major appearance due at the Badminton Grassroots Championships in May. It's been a learning experience for both horse and rider with Jessica buying 'Ernie' locally as a very green horse; "I bought him about two and a half years ago," Jessica said on the cusp of a bittersweet but jubilant swansong, "I’m moving to London in May so he’s going on lease but the people having him are really nice. I’ll still go and watch Maisie, who’ll be taking over, as a proud owner. She’ll do a bit of everything with him but mainly eventing.”
“I finished university and came back home to work and I wanted a horse to a bit to bring on for a year…but he was so good I couldn’t bear to part with him," Jessica added more on her partnership and journey with her handsome skewbald gelding, "then Covid delayed things so I didn’t get to do much competing, then we qualified for Badminton so I couldn’t get rid of him until after that! He is lovely, he’s such a sweety – he just wants to be your best friend.”
With long-time leader Sarah taking a creditable runners up spot, third place belonged to Bailey Careford with Shadowcroft Silver Moor whilst praise also goes to fourth placed rider Helen Govier who completed a quartet of plus 70% scores from the 45-strong line up on board Marvin.
Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze U21
Winner: Alice Wigmore with Woodlands Unbelievable, 66.47%
Tactful riding and focus paid dividends for 16 year old A-level student Alice Wigmore, from Salisbury in Wiltshire, as she skilfully secured a Petplan Equine Area Festival Championship title this morning with her talented but sometimes spooky ride, Woodlands Unbelievable.
Alice rode with poise and maturity, instilling confidence in the Udinho-sired British-bred gelding, to take the Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze U21 class on a solid score of 66.47% from the judges panel of John Robinson, Sue McMahon and Caroline Tupling.
“I was thrilled to bits with him [Woodlands Unbelievable] today.” said a delighted Alice after her prize-giving this afternoon in the NAF Five Star Arena. “I thought he was going to be more spooky - he’s usually so spooky - but I’m trained by Olivia Oakeley and she really helped me. She said to keep the reins short, and don’t let him look. We’ve been practising the test at home too and it seems to have worked!”
“Olivia said to me to just go in there and try my best, which I did, but I honestly didn’t think I was going to win – so I was really happy!”
About the handsome, chestnut 14-year-old, who certainly likes to keep Alice on her toes, Alice said, “He can be a bit naughty in prize-givings as he’s so sensitive - I think it’s probably the ginger in him - but he’s a good boy and he’s very sweet. He likes cuddles and he loves polos!”
Summing up her experience of competing at the Championships in front of the Easter weekend crowd, Alice said, “I was really nervous! I felt like I was going to fall off or something, but I didn’t, and it was quite exciting. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it!”
Alice is currently doing her A levels with Biology as her favourite subject and is now competing at Medium level.
Hot on the winning duo’s heels was the runner-up combination of Daisy Bullman and Godrics Dionysus, who were awarded 66.37%, with Genevieve Craven with Don Corrado completing the podium on 65.53%.
Petplan Equine Elementary Silver U21
Winner: Alicia Roberts with Godin Linda, 71.27%
Hartpury student Alicia Roberts (17), from Newport in Wales, pulled out all the stops to take the victory in today’s Petplan Equine Elementary Silver U21 Area Festival Championship. With her 11-year-old Dutch mare Godin Linda (by Breton Woods) she breached the magic 70%, with a fantastic score of 71.27%, to sit them at the very top of the podium.
Enjoying a day to remember, Alicia and ‘Linda’ also rode in this morning’s super-hot Prestige Italia Novice Silver finishing 12th in the 35-strong class with a score of 70%-plus.
“Our Petplan test is probably the best test she’s given me so far! I was so happy with her,” smiled Alicia this afternoon. “She’s a dream to ride so it looks a lot easier for me than maybe a lot of people think – it looks like I have to just sit and direct.”
In 2021, the duo competed in the Prelim Silver at the Nationals and the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships at Novice Bronze. “I’ve only had her for a year and we only started dressage last year, so to come up to Elementary, especially the Silver section, all came quite quickly. We’re both novices to the atmosphere and everything, so I’m extremely happy with how she went today.”
This may be a relatively new partnership, but nonetheless they looked totally unfazed by the big occasion today. “It felt like a bigger atmosphere here, but she does better then,” said Alicia referring to the way her horse relishes the big occasion.
“She’s the nicest, softest horse and I really don’t have to do much,” she added modestly. “She makes me look good! Her collected work was good today, and her medium canter and trot. We’ve been working on those a lot. She’s just so easy and she enjoys her work.”
Alicia is studying for her A levels at Hartpury – sociology, business and economics – and hopes to read Law in the future to become a Corporate Lawyer. With Godin Linda, she trains with Amanda Leaker about whom she says, “She’s the best coach I’ve ever had - she’s really good for both me and the horse. Linda is so easy at home so I’m hopeful to train her to a high level. She’s a very willing horse and we’re hoping to be selected for the Home International this year as well as going on to Medium and Advanced Medium.”
So how did this partnership come about? “It was a bit of an accident really, and she wasn’t actually for sale,” explained Alicia. “My favourite pony when I was younger looks exactly like her and so my mum made me try her about eight times and I fell in love with her. For my first horse, she’s the best I could have.”
Izzy Hardy with Dayton Di Villa Lori put up a good challenge to take second spot on 69.11%, whilst Flora Hayes and Machno Excalibur took their place on the podium with a test earning 68.43%.
Petplan Equine Prelim Bronze U21
Winner: Lola Rega with Amy 13, 69.09%
Surrey rider Lola Rega (16) is embracing the competition offering with British Dressage to the max! Riding her own Amy 13, she’s a regular in Team Quest with her team Bridled Passion alongside competing in classes to qualify for the Area Festival series since 2020. The duo had a great grounding in Intro classes before starting Prelim at the tail end of 2021 and here they are as Petplan Equine Area Festival U21 Prelim champions just months later!
In front of judges Nicky Du Plessis, Judith Harris and Sue Petty, Lola and ‘Marisol’, as the lovely grey nine year old is known, produced a top notch 69.09% to score a 1.3% victory.
“I came out of it and I was really happy with it, she was really nervous and she trusted me in the arena. The was the most important thing for me as I wasn’t expecting anything from today! It’s my first Area Festival Championships and first at Prelim level, I did Intro last year and just didn’t expect to do it so soon, she couldn’t even canter at the start of this year,” Lola explained.
Lola clearly adores her dancing partner; “She’s only eight years old, she came to me from the Juddmonte Stud. She’s very sweet, she’s a very good girl and loves everyone – she'll steal a treat off you when she can! She loves working and loves to know what’s going on – she's very nosy.”
So how has her Hartpury experience been? “I was quite intimidated!” she admitted. “There are some amazing horses here, you look left right and centre and there’s another one, we did everything we could do! It was lovely to be outside in the sun! She really trusted me, she started quite scared of the boards but she could’ve ignored me completely and she wasn’t, she was there with me all the way. She’s only young but we had a lot of trouble with the canter, she started really getting it at the start of the year – it was just getting here that’s amazing.”
Lola is currently at sixth form college studying subjects law, criminology and business, “I’m going to see how this [dressage] goes, law is the backup but this is my dream,” she said.
Spaceman, ridden by Lily Jo Hampton was second on the podium with a score of 67.78% while Alexa Woods and Maesmynach Perlen completed the trio on 67.56%.
Petplan Equine Prelim Silver U21
Winner: Sophie Taylor and Vision of Dreams, 71.25%
Wiltshire-based rider Sophie Taylor won this afternoon’s Petplan Equine Preliminary Silver U21 Area Festival Championship in convincing fashion with her delightful palomino Quarter Horse gelding, Vision of Dreams.
Sophie (18), from Malmesbury, presented a stylish test with the talented 18-year-old, who is known at home as Sunny. Fifth to go in the 14-strong start list, they set the bar high with a score 71.25% and held their clear lead as the class reached its conclusion.
“He was just incredible, he stuck with me throughout the whole test, from the minute he went down the centre line to the second he halted,” said Sophie. “He was like “alright I’ve got this Mum” and he just got his head down and got on with the job, which is what I love about him, he is really really special.”
And you two have pretty much grown up together? “Yeah 100%. When I bought him, he spooked at a pole at the side of the arena, and I fell off! I’ve done a bit of eventing with him, he taught me how to jump and when I got him he couldn't even go on the bit. He was just a different horse. I'm really proud of how far we have come together.”
Sophie and Sunny have a six-year partnership and have been competing BD for three. Their achievements include great results at Quest and a top-ten place in the Prelim Bronze at the Summer Area Festival Championships in 2021. They gained their golden ticket for Hartpury at the Prestige Equestrian Winter Area Festival in February.
When asked what her best memory of Sunny is throughout their six years together, she said; “Probably today, I mean he was incredible at his regionals last year, he was really really amazing at Arena UK in the summer, and he was amazing today too! I think every Area Festival for him has been a huge highlight.”
Runners-up Olivia Luscombe and Wynwillow Corniche did a great job for 67.22%, and Violet Hawkins with Glenliched Fair Un Square completed the top trio on 67.15%.
Photos © Kevin Sparrow