NAF Five Star Winter Championships 22: day three
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It was a Good Friday to remember on day three of the NAF Five Star Winter Championships with the Hartpury campus bathed in sunshine, plenty of spectators taking in the action and a further seven champions crowned.
Superflex Inter I Gold
Winner: Becky Moody and Jagerbomb, 74.31%
Winners of the Magic Prix St Georges on the opening day here at Hartpury, Becky Moody and the mighty Jagerbomb (Dante Weltino x Jazz) triumphed once again this afternoon with a decisive win in today’s feature class, the Superflex Intermediate I Gold.
Becky and the able eight-year-old produced a beautiful test showing super balance and engagement, which was duly awarded 74.31% from the judges panel comprising Andrea Smith (C), Pam Bushell (M) and Kirsty Mepham (E).
Winner of the BD 7YO Championship title last year at Somerford Park, ‘Bomber’ has a temperament to die for and looked totally at home in the electric atmosphere of the NAF Five Star Arena in front of today’s Good Friday crowd.
“Overall, I was really pleased with him,” said Becky afterwards. “He had a little less energy than we had in the Prix St Georges, and I’m a little frustrated with myself that I didn’t keep him quite as sharp as I needed him in the pirouettes – they’ve been becoming really good and are a real forte of his.
“The first one [pirouette] was fine, he just lost a bit of energy. The second one had a bit of a mistake. Otherwise, there was a lot of good work, and I was pleased with the trot extensions. I was also pleased with the halt and rein back, which we’ve had a couple of issues with, so overall I was happy.”
With Bomber’s natural adjustability and capacity for collected work, when asked about his future potential as a Grand Prix horse, Becky commented, “I really hope he has; he has the natural capacity for the piaffe and teaching him the passage has actually really helped him develop his basic trot. So hopefully he’s going to be as good a Grand Prix horse as he’s proven to be Small Tour. We will see, he’s only eight. He will maybe do an Inter II, and then we’ll aim for Grand Prix next year.”
Talking about what it’s like to be back riding at a ‘normal’ NAF Five Star Winter Championships with no Covid restrictions in place, Becky said, “I just think getting out to these shows is great. It makes you realise how much you missed it whilst it wasn’t happening!
“It's funny because we were probably really lucky in lockdown. We had a great group of people at home that we manged to keep in a bubble. To a degree it was really nice to have that time training and focusing on the horses. And I could do exactly what I wanted with them because I wasn’t dashing off teaching or doing this [competing]; so they got pampered, I rode them when I wanted to ride them, and I hacked and jumped.
“It was great but then you realise how much you miss this aspect [competing], which is such a big part of it.”
Becky and Bomber return for tomorrow’s Superflex Intermediate I Freestyle Gold. “He’s never done an Inter I Freestyle,” she said. “It's not his music, it’s stolen from somebody else. That’s kind of how I roll with my music quite often! We will give it a go and see where we get to.”
Becky’s nearest rivals, on 72.01%, were Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Dionysus, winners of yesterday’s Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle. In third was Lucinda Elliott with Judith Davis’s Belissimo M x Weltmeyer mare, Hawtins Bellegra (70.00%), forming a British bred one-two-three.
Equi-Trek Elementary Gold
Winner: Sonnar Murray-Brown and Faside Simply Amour, 71.71%
Gloucester based Sonnar Murray-Brown didn’t have far to travel to win the Equi-Trek Elementary Gold on his exciting mare Faside Simply Amour this morning in the NAF Five Star Winter Championships. Topping the podium with 71.71%, Sonnar’s final centre line in medium trot was a particular highlight and wowed those watching on and the judges panel assessing a class full of future talent.
“I was really pleased with it she got better and better as it went on, and more and more relaxed,” Sonnar told us, “I was worried she would maybe blow up in there a little bit and not have a great experience but she was really on my aids and she got better and better and I was so proud of her, I couldn’t have asked for her to be any better today.”
This is only the bright mare’s second competition season and, having only started her dressage career last year, is very green to major Championships. At seven years old she shows huge potential Sonnar says, “her strengths are probably her trot, trainability, her work ethic and I think her range of movement is just amazing. She tries her hardest and that’s a joy to train with every day.”
Having bought her off a video from Faside Stud as a three year, Sonnar fell in love and saw something special in her, “I just loved her in that video, she was a scrawny little thing, probably looked like she was more ready for a point to point then she was dressage, but there was something about her that I saw, and I thought I want that.”
“I was chatting to a friend who took a picture of her when we first got her and I wasn’t there when she arrived, and they were like ‘hmmm should we sent a picture to Sonny of what he’s bought, or not?’” Sonnar laughed as he told us about the early days with his latest star, “she was this tiny scrawny little thing and her neck coming out her withers, her withers up here, her bum down here, everything was a bit everywhere, but as soon as I rode her I knew this horse has just got something else and got some gears in there.”
Taking his time to enjoy and train her, Sonnar reflected on how much he has learnt and developed as a rider in return and is now reaping the rewards: “I’m proud of her and the way she coped in there today, it’s showed me she’s got the ability to cope with that and go in there and deliver. Know she can produce some of the stuff she produces at home, which you know is so hard for so many horses.” Glowing in admiration for this young mare, “she really listened to me today, and that was really phenomenal that’s she managed to trust me and just do it, that meant a lot.”
They don’t plan on stopping here Small Tour hopes on the horizon and Sonnar believes she can go all the way, “I just have to do my job properly and train her right.”
With seven combinations over 70%, credit goes to those joining Sonnar at the top of the rostrum; Amy Schiessl and Insanity placed second whilst Robert Barker and Damon’s Destiny completed a talented top three.
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver
Winner: Nicola Morris with Headmore Bugatti, 76.75%
Hartpury and Headmore go together better than cheese and wine, Morecambe and Wise, gin and tonic...but perhaps not more than Fred and Barney, the Headmore duo taking both Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle titles this week. After Headmore Flintstone's win on day one, today it was Headmore Bugatti's turn in the Silver title opportunity with Nicola Morris expertly piloting the handsome chestnut gelding to victory with 76.75%.
"I was absolutely thrilled with him today," an overjoyed Nicola said following her prize giving where she picked up a beautiful framed photo of her and Barney in action given by proud class sponsors Baileys Horse Feeds. "He's never seen anything like that or been in an atmosphere like that at a big show and I didn't know what to expect - I was hopeful he'd be his normal self and be as rideable as he generally is in a test. And that's the best he's ever gone! He felt phenomenal in there today, he felt amazing and obviously loved the atmosphere. I think he loved it in there and loved showing off, and I thought whatever happened he couldn't have done any more."
Success in this class runs not only in the breeding but also in the family as Nicola's daughter Maeve claimed this title herself on board Headmore Footloose in 2019. Today's winning family member said the pressure was well and truly on, but with a great team, a great ride and a great choice of music, the title returns home to Hampshire once again. Speaking about her freestyle choices Nicola said, "Sara Green did the music, she said to me 'don't tell me you don't mind because it makes my job really hard!' He's a fun horse so we thought lets not go for classical and instead we chose cartoon theme tunes. It suits his personality, he's so cheeky! In the stable today he's already stolen other people's hay and we went into his stable and found he's stolen a broom! He'd dragged it into his stable and over the door...found with a few bits missing but that's him!"
The win was an emotional affair on day three in the NAF Five Star Arena, a reminder of the heart and soul put into competing by horse, rider and team. "I did have a little cry on the way out," Nicola continued, "he couldn't have done any more for me. He was so with me today and put everything into it, you can't ask for anymore than that from your horse. I'll never find another one like him. He's got everything, work ethic, paces, he's a great size."
Proud trainer Alice Oppenheimer watched on and told of the backstory behind the winning partnership: "I actually bought Barney as a foal off mum because I really liked him as a foal, the plan was to keep him but he didn't really grow big enough for me. When Headmore Footloose grew too big for Nicky and she gifted him to Maeve, mum thought he would be the perfect fit for Nicky. We've know each other since I was at primary school, she's a client but also a really close friend of the family and I wouldn't have sold him to anyone else. It's amazing that we're here a couple of years later."
"I hate watching! I swear when I'm in the ring my tests last exactly five minutes but when you're watching it feels like they're in there for 20 minutes! It was horrific! They did such a lovely test and I knew when they did the first Medium trot they were going to be fine, they make such a lovely picture."
Concluding with what this latest title means for the stud and family, Alice said, "Barney grew up with Fred (Headmore Flintstone) who I won the Novice Gold FS on - we have a photo of them as two year olds together in the field, we need to recreate it with their winning rugs and sashes when we get home! Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble have done us proud."
Day three at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships ends with another fine example of teamwork and partnership and in the fitting words of Winnie Murphy, longstanding BD Communications Manager now moving on to a new chapter at the BEF, 'Hartpury belongs to Headmore' with a few more exciting days of the 2022 edition still to come.
Horselight Medium Silver
Winner: Michael Bates with Fiorello, 71.17%
An early draw reaped dividends in the Horselight Medium Silver Championship for Surrey rider Michael Bates who combines horses with a full-time role as a chiropodist. Deputising for owner Julie Martin, he partnered Fiorello to take the title with a fantastic 71.17%, the only combination to break the magic 70% barrier from a 33-strong field. Even more impressive when you consider it’s only their second test together.
“He’s a fantastic horse,” enthused Michael. “I only got the ride because his owner had an accident and broke her wrist before the Regionals. She rang and asked, as her trainer, if I would take on the ride for Merrist Wood [Regionals]. So that was our first show where he won and today is our second! I couldn’t be more proud of him really, he’s been fantastic, I can’t ask any more. But I now have to hand him back,” he lamented.
A small mistake did nothing to hamper the score as there were plenty of highs to rule out a single low. Michael regularly rides the horse at his yard where Julie has him full-time.
“Julie has been with us a long time, three years with him, and it’s a happy relationship and I hope he can go on and recreate what we got today with her – he’s a super horse, there’s nothing bad to say about him. His temperament is superb, he’s a pleasure to have. He’s a credit to haven and to own, and whoever had him before has done a great job with him,” commented.
Fiorello was actually third in this class three years ago and won the music equivalent with former rider Becky Latimer.
Michael was rightly going to make the most of a job well done; “We don’t know a huge amount about him but he’s been a very well horse, maybe a little on the small side for me, but I’m not going to turn down a chance to come here. I believe in the horse, I believe in how we train the horse and I think it’s been nice to train them for three years and actually have an opportunity to have a 100% outcome at the Regional and this. It’s nice to show her that what we’re trying to get you to do is working. I’m thrilled for Julie and her husband, they invest a lot of money, a lot of time – you have bad days and you’ve got to enjoy days like this it might not happen again,” he summed up.
The second podium place went to Danielle Balsdon riding her own Lord Lennox with 69.23% and Gareth Bulley completed the top three with his own Frouwke on 68.55%.
Petplan Equine Area Festival Novice Silver
Winner: Hiedi Marcus with Hawtins Fiorella, 71.46%
Our Petplan Equine Area Festival Novice Silver Champions are a tale of triumph and to never abandon hope. Surrey duo Hiedi Marcus and Hawtins Fiorella put a nervy Elementary test on Thursday behind them to claim the Novice honours in style by over 1.5%. Judges John Robinson, Nicky Du Plessis and Sue Staines had a tough task with 32 high-class starters but Hiedi and Fiorella shone through with the only 70% plus score – 71.46% was the final score.
“It went very well thank you very much! We did the Elementary yesterday and my goal for today was to be really calm and enjoy it. In the Elementary, the tension showed in the walk, still got eights. You can’t replicate these atmospheres at home so it’s only by qualifying and coming to a big championship that you experience the razzmatazz of Hartpury! It’s important to give confidence to your horse in these circumstances,” she exclaimed.
Then Hiedi expanded on the Furstenball x Weltmeyer mare’s history which hit home to all around; “I bought her from Judith [Davis of Hawtins Stud] as a rising four year old. She is 11 now but we had a difficult start with her with ulcers – I’m actually lucky to still have her as it got so bad. That’s why she’s still Novice at age 11 and training Medium at home. I think she’s fabulous, I love her to bits,” Hiedi explained.
“We tried all different things including an awful lot of help from vets. She’s been gastroscoped three times and actually none of the treatments were helping. In a last-ditch attempt before having to consider euthanasia I ended up taking on a horse feed which originated in America called Thrive Feed – I didn’t really want to take on a new job but the previous distributor retired and there was a danger of the feed not getting into the UK so my business partner and I took it on the feed and that was the salvation of my horse. It’s quite an invested relationship.
“She’s a sensitive soul, even today I didn’t know what the experience would be like – you never practice riding in a rug, why would you? Her management is really important, all the turnout, consistency of care, even who handles her. She’s just one of those types that’s predisposed. She had four or five bouts of colic when she was four or five and that’s when I thought let’s check out what’s going on and that’s when we found out.
“It was good two years she was off and a good year to put the weight back on – I hand fed her for three months. She’s lots better now though! Judith has been a huge support. When you purchase a horse and things unravel, you don’t always get that level of comfort and help. I think it’s a credit to the stud that she’s like that,” Heidi told us.
Getting out at Medium is the next thing on the agenda for the determined duo and if the faith and time invested by Hiedi into this special mare is anything to go by, they’ll get there.
Dargason’s Moonshadow piloted by Alys Matravers finished in second on 69.86% while yesterday’s Elementary Bronze champions Victoria Homden and Olly scored 69.51% to go third.
Petplan Equine Area Festival Novice Bronze
Winner: Bryley Llewelyn and Cwmtyysswg Will, 72.01%
It was a win for Wales in the Petplan Equine Novice Bronze as Bryley Llewelyn and Cwmtyysswg Will were popular champions in the first class of the day on Easter Friday. Their test in front of Fiona Wilson, Felicity Scott and Claire Deithrick earned 72.01%, leaving them no less than 2% ahead of the 34-strong field.
"He tried his heart out," school pupil Bryley told us after her prize giving in front of a rapturous crowd, “I couldn't have asked any more from him." The duo are no strangers to success in the dressage arena having previously taken home the winner's spoils at the Bronze Championships, as well as experiencing Quest at the start of their journey together where they claimed an U21 Prelim title in 2019. About their test today, the beaming young rider said, "it went really well and he tried his best – there’s nothing more that I could have asked for from him. He’s a star – just the best!"
Telling us about her 15hh Welsh section D/traditional cob gelding Bryley continued, "He’s just the most loving, caring character, he’s awesome on the ground and being ridden." Preparation for the Championships has included training with coach Nina Boex and the hard work paid off today with plenty of test highlights: "His medium trot was great today and the canter circles with the give and retake, he was there with me the whole time – I just loved all of it really!"
Whilst GCSEs beckon for Bryley, back in the saddle she told us about her passion for the sport, "I do a little bit of jumping but for me, it’s dressage all the way. Charlotte Dujardin is my idol, and I also really look up to Nina too"
"I suppose she sort of rescued him," proud mum Kimberley told us about Bryley and Will's origin story, "we bought him from the sales for next to nothing and they just clicked, nobody else has sat on him for five years." The next aim for the winning competition will be the Inter Regionals as part of Team Wales, and in the mean time it's some deserved downtime for wonderful 'Will' "he's going to have a night in the field, he loves that best - a night with his friends" our winning young rider concluded.
Petplan Equine Area Festvial Advanced Medium Silver
Winner: Lucy Lloyd and Glensensaw Sweet Girl, 70.38%
Under sunny Hartpury skies, Lucy Lloyd, from West Yorkshire, fulfilled an ambition by winning the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Silver Championship in impressive style this afternoon.
Together with her elegant mare Glensenshaw Sweet Girl, with whom she took second here last year in the Petplan Equine Medium Silver, she excitingly went one better to firmly place her name on the winners’ roll of honour with a strong score of 70.38% from the judges panel of Helen Clark (C), Helen Bradley (H) and Sophie Dickinson (B).
Relative newcomers to dressage having switched from eventing during lockdown, Lucy and Glensensaw Sweet Girl have enjoyed a fantastic 12 months including winning their Medium Silver Summer Regional Championship last year before being placed a creditable twelfth at the Nationals.
“She was amazing,” said Lucy talking about today’s winning performance. “Actually, I knew that we could do a nice test but it’s just getting everything right at the same time on the same day. Our changes can be a bit wild but it all just came together, and it was our personal best at this level. I’m really pleased.”
Spice, as the 11-year-old mare is known at home, was actually a surprise purchase for Lucy. “My mum and sister went shopping for a new horse for me when I lost my old one,” she recalled. “I turned up from work and she had a big pink bow on the door! I have had her four years now. We evented for two and then decided to change to dressage as it’s easier when working full-time and fitting everything in. We’ve both made the change quite well.
“I work in property development for a housing association providing supported living for vulnerable adults,” she continued. “It’s quite demanding but rewarding all at the same time. It’s good to have the horses to get out and take your mind off things.”
Describing Spice she said, “She is really loving. She can be a bit sassy sometimes but most of the time she is really kind and affectionate. She is just a dream to bring out and have at a show. She is a yard favourite with everybody.”
Claiming second spot behind Lucy was Natalie Passmore with her 14-year-old Johnson-sired gelding Diago II on 69.48%, whilst Lucy Kemplay and her 13-year-old son of Santana, Eires Rock, completed the top three on 68.03%.