NAF Five Star Winter Championships 23: day five
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The final day of competition at Hartpury University & College saw nine riders produce polished performances to deliver them the ultimate titles on offer at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships and Petplan Equine Winter Area Festival Championships.
Petplan Equine Novice Bronze Under 21 Area Festival Championship
Winner: Gabriella Kozersky with Slieve Rushen Frank, 72.15%
Our first winner of the last day of the Petplan Equine Area Festival Winter Championships was Gabriella Kozersky with Slieve Rushen Frank who soared above the rest of the class with a score 72.15%.
Talking of her experience of competing at the NAF Five Start Winter Championships, Gabriella said “It’s been absolutely amazing, we didn’t come here expecting anything, I just wanted to perform for me and my pony and do it for him as well as myself, I know he’s got it in him but I thought it could go either way! It’s been so nice to come here and to be in a championship environment, it definitely feels more competitive and intense, and you really want to do well here and ride your best.”
The combination have done Elementary and tried a couple of Mediums under the guidance of coach Diane Thurman-Baker, who Gabriella credited for encouraging and progressing her through the levels.
In preparation for the Championships, she said “I try to keep everything the same and it’s a simple system that I have with him, just giving him time to relax, warm up and be supple. We try to get into the zone where it’s just focused on him and myself and we’re ready to perform in a test environment. We just keep working on the basics and on getting better, keeping learning, seeing more, riding in more arenas and scenarios to get more experience and it’s been so nice to do it here.”
“It’s so nice to receive the email saying that you’ve qualified! It’s a really nice feeling when you’ve worked hard and you’re determined to get somewhere. Our percentages have actually increased throughout the process and it’s been really nice to keep working towards something.”
Gabriella and the 10-year-old grey Connemara are certainly a busy pair, having been at Solihull yesterday eventing before travelling down to Hartpury for Championships. They have also qualified for a working hunter class at the Royal International Hunt Show, “We try to keep it varied, we do a little bit of eventing, working hunter and dressage, we also occasionally do a little show jumping. It’s nice to be able to build our partnership where we can try a little bit of everything, keep it interesting for him and aim for different things in different areas.”
Having been together for four years, Gabriella describes him; “He definitely has his own personality! He enjoys being king of the yard at home and takes full advantage of that, he definitely loves the attention, and has loved being on his own on the lorry today. He has areas where he wants it done his way, so I know how he wants it and we’ve built our partnership around this. He loves attention and is very fond of treats!”
In second place was Freya May Binfield and Midnight Legend, scoring 69.1%, followed by Annabelle Wesley and Armada Dyffryncothi Bridget, who won yesterday’s Petplan Equine Preliminary Bronze Under 21 Area Festival Championships, with a score of 68.75%.
PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Silver Championship
Winner: Molly-Rowan Sharples with Sheepcote Jackson, 74.68%
The NAF Five Star Winter Championships has been a host of riders enjoying fine form and achieving more than one title, and Molly-Rowan Sharples became the latest rider to match the feat, winning the PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Silver Championship with Sheepcote Jackson (Johnson x Don Primero). Riding to music from the Man of La Mancha chosen by Jackson’s owner David Pincus, Molly rode to a stellar 74.68% rewarded by Pat Watts, Joyce Wood and Lotte Olsen.
"It felt amazing, even better than yesterday! All the things I wanted to improve, I got there. We both felt more relaxed and more comfortable in there with the atmosphere,” Molly said about her test today. Plenty of riders would feel increased pressure after winning, but the 21 year old took nothing but confidence and positivity into her second title chance, “I’d say definitely motivating, there were bits of the test yesterday I wanted to get even better so it was nice to go over everything last night. In the warm-up we tweaked a few things and it was inspiring and motivating.”
Freestyle to music dressage is a great chance to showcase creativity and musical flair, something that the winning rider revealed she has close ties to: “I think it ties in really nicely with my career before dressage which was classical music, I did that for my whole childhood – 15 years! It’s so nice to tie my two passions together. Being able to hear the phrasing in the music and making sure on the day that it goes really nicely with the test is invaluable.”
"I play the violin and the hard,” Molly explained in further detail, “I went to a few different music schools and I was practicing eight hours a day doing competitions for that as well. It’s nice that the competition experience there has really helped with horses too.”
“It’s unbelievable,” she concluded, trying to summarise what it feels like to win at a major British Dressage Championships, not once but twice, “I’m still in a state of shock! I can’t quite believe it, when I saw it on the scoreboard I thought ‘what!’ But it’s an amazing experience and I’m so grateful to everyone here, they’ve done an amazing show.”
Second place belonged to Jess Ralton with Sandie Newton’s ten year old gelding Dallaglio II (74.30%), whilst Grace Blenkinsopp completed the top three scoring 73.53% with her own AES registered Archangel I (Cyden Bodyguard Moorland x Dimaggio).
Petplan Equine Novice Silver Under 21 Area Festival Championship
Winner: Zoe Florence with Sweet Madness, 69.51%
The long trip south for Aberdeenshire rider Zoe Florence (20) was made all the more worthwhile having enjoyed a fantastic victory in this morning’s Petplan Equine Novice Silver U21 Area Festival Championship. Partnered by her talented six-year-old gelding, Sweet Madness – a British-bred son of the prolific sire Negro - she delivered a winning performance to take the win on 69.51%.
"He went really well,” said a delighted Zoe following the prize-giving in the NAF Five Star Arena. “He coped with the atmosphere so well. It’s his first big show and I just couldn’t have asked any more from him. He was with me the whole way.”
Zoe describes Sweet Madness as ‘very sensitive’. “If he had a bad day he would tell you, if he had a good day he would tell you. He loves all the horses and loves going out to the field, he’s such a sweetheart.
“He's so good to ride,” she continued. “You can do anything with him and that’s what I like about him - you can razz him up, but you can also slow him down and make him relax. It's a perfect combination for a horse.
"I just can’t believe how much he’s coped with being at the Championships, because he’s only six and we’ve had a break from competing as well. He's been super.”
Talking about her experience of competing across a number of BD series and why she likes to compete with BD, Zoe said: “I love the atmosphere and all the people are so lovely, and the team spirit as well being in the Scottish teams – everyone supports each other and that’s what makes everything better because it’s a lot of fun. There are highs and lows of course! But it’s just great atmosphere and I love the buzz of it and that’s what keeps me going.”
Zoe’s mum, supporting Zoe at Hartpury today, bought Sweet Madness from his breeder in Kent when he was two years old, and Zoe backed him herself. “He's been diagnosed with arthritis, which we manage through walking, stretching, heat, and chillout time.
“We’ll see how he is and hopefully his arthritis will let him carry on, as he just loves the shows and he loves meeting all the other horses,” continued Zoe. “So I hope to go up to Elementary and see how it goes. I’m not in a rush with him at all so we’ll just wait and see.”
Zoe herself is no stranger to championships shows, having competed her previous horse, Hirstmund Merlot, who was a native Highland cross thoroughbred, in Quest and at the Associated Championships (they won the Native Championships in 2017), as well as regional teams.
Second and third place on the 15-strong leader board of national contestants were both awarded 68.82%, with slightly higher collectives going to Abigail Williams (20) and her 10-year-old mare Ekko Dolce Vita (by Don Olymbrio). Thirteen-year-old Isabel Georgetti with Claudia Mascarenhas’s British-bred dun gelding, Josse, took a well-deserved third place.
Petplan Equine Preliminary Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Lily Carson with Red Valentino SCS, 71.46%
It was a close-fought affair in the Petplan Equine Preliminary Silver with just half a mark separating the top two placings; Lily Carson would be the rider to come out on top, excelling with Sue Carson’s Red Valentino SCS. The duo scored 71.46%, with Katie Horgan and her own Miracle SB worthy runners up on 71.39%, and Tiny Baseley with Americano Arenas earning 70.90%.
“I’m over the moon with him,” Lily said of her achievement with the six year old gelding, “it’s like a dream come true really, even though I never dreamt of doing anything like this. I’m sort of lost for words! I think it’ll hit later. I also went to university here so it’s special to be back and riding again.”
For their performance around Prelim 19 in the Petplan Equine Arena Lily continued, “I was very pleased with my test, I did the Novice on Friday where I had things to work from and improve on. We managed to do that for the test today and the results showed from that. It’s just building his confidence in the arena, he’s only six, hopefully it’s just the first of many big shows for him. We went away had a practice yesterday to improve on the comments we got to do the test today.”
The combination were jubilant at the 2022 Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships and under Lily’s guidance the tall gelding has progressed over the winter to show another assured performance, “He’s just matured in character and strength, and developed within his test work. He’s getting better and better.”
“He’s an absolute dream to work with,” the 23 year old hailing from Derbyshire added about the character of her ride, “and he’s a gentle giant at 17.2hh. He’s not strong, he’s not an arrogant character or anything, simply a gentle giant.”
Lily concluded with a word for Sue Carson, who supports her in the role of both owner and coach, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without any of her help or support, I also have support from Paul Fielder who I train with too. Without them I wouldn’t have been here today.”
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold Championship
Winner: Davy Harvey with Diamond Blue, 76.72%
The final day of the 2023 NAF Five Star Winter Championships saw Davy Harvey, from Oxfordshire, add yet another victory to his impressive show tally. Already with two championship titles to his name - the Inter I Gold with Hawtins Rossana and the Advanced Medium Gold with Diamond Blue, 28-year-old Davy concluded his show with a runaway win to claim this year’s Equitex Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold Championship title.
Piloting Judy Peploe’s elegant 10-year-old gelding Diamond Blue (by Don Frederic), Davy delivered a winning 76.72% from the judge trio of Pamela Bushell, Penelope Lang and Mary Robins, to secure the pair’s domination of the Advanced Medium Gold classes.
“I was very happy, we just went for it again,” said Davy afterwards. “We’ve got a really hard floorplan. Last night I was lying in bed thinking whether I could make it easier, but I thought he obviously won yesterday and if he didn’t win today, I’d be annoyed if I didn’t try.”
Davy and Diamond Blue’s stylish programme was accompanied by music from the 2013 film Rush: “It’s an old music that we’ve recycled,” explained Davy. “We’ve got a really good person, Robin Diamond. He doesn’t actually do horsey stuff, but he used to ride himself. He’s a musician and technical musician lecturer by trade, and he’s been really helpful in sourcing it. I think he really enjoys it.”
Although riding was a big part of Davy’s childhood, it wasn’t until later that he fell in love with dressage. “I wasn’t going to do it (dressage) as a job, it was never the intention,” he explains. “I grew up in a horsey family and rode as a kid, but never dressage – I was rubbish at it! I was only interested in how fast I could go and how high I could jump.
“I later began to understand what it was, realising that there was a lot more to it than ‘who could trot the best 20 metre circle’! As a kid, I didn’t even know you went sideways, I just thought you bumbled around so you could do a course of jumps!”
When asked what he could imagine he would be now, had he not gone into dressage, Davy replied: “I don’t know. I often think I would have liked to have been a vet, or something sporty like sports psychology. My family has always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do though, so I’ve been really fortunate in that sense.”
And has it sunk in yet that you’ve won three titles? “We’re all tired! But we’re running on adrenaline and the excitement of the show. I don’t even know what day of the week it is - I just know it’s the last day! It just feels mad, you never think that it could be you or that you could be good enough, you see all of these great horses and riders here so it’s surreal.”
Describing his preparation for riding multiple tests in one week, Davy said: “We’re quite well prepared going into the week. I’m probably a little bit over the top with making sure they’ve all been somewhere close to the show and I’ve ridden through the music, I’m a bit OCD about it. I’m really disorganised in my life, which irritates my partner greatly! But when it comes to the horses, I’m quite organised. Not necessarily knowing which class is on what day as I have no idea, but knowing what music and what floorplan it is, I know where I’m half halting and where I’m kicking on a bit.”
About his process for devising a floorplan, Davy says: “We just bounce ideas off each other. I’m surrounded by horsey people the whole time and all we seem to do is talk about dressage, it’s our whole life. You hear randomly one day, someone will say something to you like ‘I saw someone’s floorplan last week and they did X,Y and Z’. I just store that and then when it comes to making it, I think well here are all the ideas, let’s see what we can do first. And we’ll try the hardest and work backwards. Diamond Blue’s floorplan has really evolved, and as he’s developed we’ve just made it harder and harder.”
The Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold always draws much interest with a high-class field of up-and-coming horses, and the 2023 edition was no exception. Second place in the field of talented combinations went to Hampshire-based Roland Tong with eight-year-old mare CHS Fonteyn, owned and bred by Carolyn Watson - the pair scored a super 74.00% - while Anne-Marie Cowan achieved third place in the line-up with her own and Lesley Perry’s 10-year-old black Oldenburg stallion, Kracka GH (by Kardinal), on 72.83%.
Magic Prix St Georges Silver Winter Championship
Winner: India Durman-Mills with Escade, 69.90%
Young Rider India Durman-Mills was the inaugural victor in the Magic Prix St Georges Silver Championship, with 2023 the first year that this title has been offered to riders in the BD silver category. With her own Escade, India showed the class that saw them ride to a team bronze medal at last year’s FEI Junior European Championships, the score today was a solid 69.90% at the next level up from their 2022 international experience.
“It’s amazing,” India started about her experience at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships, “it’s such a fabulous show to come to – there are so many people and it’s nice to perform in front of them. I was so glad he came out and tried his best for me, we had a small blip in the test but I was so happy that we had those good marks in there and we could pick it back up. He loves coming here and strutting his stuff so I’m really happy!”
Their test today managed to avoid the worst of the rain and showed plenty of class, India reflected: “Our canter work is picking up, I’ve struggled with the canter pirouettes but they’re getting better – we've only just really pushed on up to this level. He loves flying changes they always feel like his party piece and also the final extended canter – we always go for it! I was pleased with the trot work, it’s getting there, we had a little blip in our shoulder in but I know it’s things we can improve on, and the minor mistakes I need to improve on.”
Aligning her competition within the BD National system and international youth sphere, India has made the step up from Juniors to Young Riders, which represents the move from Advanced Medium to Prix St Georges. Speaking about the transition into Small Tour level competition, India analysed “it’s been hard, we did the Area Festivals at Prix St Georges last year and we’ve been chipping away but obviously it went into full swing this year! I’m so grateful from all the help we get from the BD International team but also Gareth Hughes who I train with as well. I’ve had the team around me, Verity my aunt who owns Eddie is always backing me, and it’s just not possible without all of that. It’s been hard and we still need to up our game for the rest of the season but I feel like we’re getting there.
“He’s such a special horse, I could never have imagined doing anything like this! It’s been a whirlwind since we started doing all this, juniors, the Europeans – sometimes I think ‘I actually did that!’ “He really is a family character, he’s always on the yard with his ears forward – he's cheeky but we love him. He keeps building in confidence and we build as a partnership all the time, he’s a horse of a lifetime.”
India is now working for Tim and Antonia Brown and was full of praise for the team giving her opportunities to train, compete and gain experience on new rides, “we’ve got lots of horses competing, aiming for Young Horse qualifiers and summer qualification, it’s so busy as you can imagine! I love every second and they’re an amazing team to work with as well, the owner Sara Lucas is so supportive and it just feels like everyone around you wants you to do well – you need that in order to succeed. We’re in a great place and the foundations are building up, I’m so happy with how everything is going.”
With abundant energy, India captured the excitement that comes with taking home the beautiful prizes provided by our title and class sponsors concluding, “he did look good in that rug, it’s such a nice colour! I’ve been aiming to win a rug for so long, we got one with the team in Le Mans and now we have another one...it’s been amazing, all I’ve wanted is a rug!”
Sian Turner and Rock That Tango, owned by Sara Gallop, took a deserved second spot on 67.26% with 2022 Petplan Equine Intermediate I Bronze Summer Area Festival Champions Jo Weekes and Rosetti’s Destiny placing a fraction behind to complete the podium with 67.16%.
Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship
Winner: Margaret Anita Jones with Dimagic, 70.13%
Margaret Jones, who hails from Conwy, topped a competitive field of 34 challengers to win this afternoon’s Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship on the concluding day of the 2023 Championships. Partnered by her handsome 17-year-old Dimaggio son, Dimagic, Anita rode a polished test to earn a new PB of 70.13% from the judges panel of Carole Thornton, Alison Duck and Janet Surr.
“Oh my god, I’m very overwhelmed about it,” said an emotional Margaret about her win. “My trot work was phenomenal, I loved it. I thought to myself ‘I’m going to give them something to smile about’ and thought I’m going to show them what we can do.
“Being in the rain warming-up I think he got a little bit tight. That affected the canter work a little, and I felt I could have ridden it a bit better. The changes came, I think I had one late one, but overall, I was smiling at the end and that’s the main thing.
“Dimagic is seventeen now and I had him as a foal,” continued Margaret. “He was born where I worked and so I’ve seen him since he was days old. I’ve backed him and we’ve had gaps in-between the dressage – happy hacking, fun rides and lots of different things. I feel like the past seven years we’ve really knuckled down.”
About her experience of competing in the Petplan Equine Area Festival series, Margaret said: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Area Festivals. I used to do Regionals before and always felt that it was a different league. It’s just given me more opportunity to do more championships like this. It’s given us more goals and I didn’t believe I could ever get here, and this has given us an open door to do this and experience this great atmosphere. It’s fantastic!”
And what’s next for the talented duo? “We go home and have a bit of a holiday! We’re aiming to do Prix St Georges and to get my Advanced and qualifications, fingers crossed. I said to my trainer, “I am there in the PSG next year”. He was laughing and said let’s get today over and done with. Because of his (Dimagic’s) age we have to look after him, and then we’ll see how far we can go, but that was always my first aim when I met my trainer. I want to get into tails. He said, we’ll get you there!
Margaret trains with the British-based Portuguese trainer, Rui Campeão. “We’ve been working together for three years, and I wish I had met him earlier. I remember when I went to my first lesson with him and I had been doing the changes four-and-a-half years before that. But because he’s such a big horse I struggled and struggled so I shut the horse down to cope with it. In his Portuguese accent Rui said, ‘he has a 12.2 pony trot’. Then from that day I always remind myself how far we have come in those three years. I’m very grateful to him!”
Margaret works at a schooling livery yard. “I teach a bit as well. I have an amazing support of clients and friends that have come with me today and I could never do it without them because they are so good at helping me out.”
There was an excitingly close tussle for the remaining podium placings. Lucyanna Westaway, from Cranleigh in Surrey, sealed second place with Francis Davies’ AHI O’Malley (68.55%), while event rider Jason Ferguson, from Gloucestershire, rode into third place aboard his homebred 12-year-old mare Barley Sugar Twist (68.38%).
Superflex Intermediate I Silver Winter Championship
Winner: Ros Collins with Filligran, 70.49%
Berkshire rider Ros Collins (née Bowley) was the winner of the inaugural Superflex Intermediate I Silver Winter Championship, this being the first year that this opportunity has been available for riders competing in the silver section. Riding Hassa Mohammed’s 10-year-old Danish-born gelding, Filligran, Ros delivered a winning performance awarded 70.49% from the judge panel of Pat Watts, Joyce Wood and Lotte Olsen.
“It feels totally, totally overwhelming - really thrilling [to win],” enthused Ros after the prize-giving. “We’ve already had the most amazing week with this gorgeous horse, and to come back and win today when he’s tired, with the weather in full winter mode - I’m beyond happy to be riding such a fabulous horse.”
Ros and Filligran were placed third in the Magic Prix St Georges Gold earlier this week. “I was a wildcard for the Prix St Georges Gold, so I’d have been happy to not even be in the top ten, so to come third in that extremely hot class completely blew us away and exceeded our expectations,” said Ros. “To come back today when he’s already had such a great week actually took the pressure off to be honest. I know he’s a wonderful horse and he’s been getting great scores. My job today was to give him the same information and keep doing the same with him, and he listened to me and tried as he always does.”
Talking about the highlights of their winning ride, Ros continued. “[I was] Really thrilled with the extensions - he’s really come on with that. He’s really learnt to sit and push more this year, so that’s had a positive impact on the canter pirouettes, the rein back and all of his extensions. He was great again today, he just listened. He’s remarkable, he really is.
About Filligran ‘the person’ Ros says: “He’s really charming. He’s stunning to look at as everybody can see, but he’s just as gorgeous on the inside. Every day I try to ride him first as he always puts everybody in a good mood. Whether you’re looking at him or riding him, he’s a gem.”
Ros explains that she hasn’t had formal lessons for a number of years. “I’m in the Silver section today because I hadn’t competed at the top level for a long time - I was focusing on training other riders. I’ve got a great friend, Julia Coppard-Dornig, who is an international rider, British but now living in Vienna. I send her clips and videos, and she messages me back and reminds me to do things. She’s looked at us as a combination a couple of times when she comes over. So that’s the next thing – to get better and spend more time with a trainer hopefully.
“I’m so fortunate to ride for Filligran’s owners who really just want the best for their horses – to have happy healthy horses, so they’ve given me this opportunity which I’m beyond grateful for. They’ve placed their trust in how I want to keep the horses, exactly the same as how they want to keep the horses. It’s all thanks to them, 100%.
“It’s been absolutely professional,” said Ros about the Championships. “Everyone that runs the show, and the stewards have worked so, so hard. I’ve been to the show, gone home and come back, and I’ve been tired. So I’m completely in awe of everybody that’s done a full week here.
“It’s a really fabulous professional show. It gives a really good feel for the horses, and I think everyone’s been really respectful of the horses in the prize-givings, which has given them a positive experience for the future – so just what we want in British dressage. A massive thanks.
Second place belonged 23-year-old Millie Gover from Surrey with her 13-year-old Belgian gelding, Kamil T (68.82%), with Hampshire rider Charlotte Blain and Jan Palmer’s 17-year-old chestnut mare Donatella IV (by Don Schufro) achieving third place on the podium (68.38%).
HorseLight Medium Gold Winter Championship
Winner: Tom Goode with Margot, 72.70%
International Grand Prix rider and trainer Tom Goode closed the show in style by claiming the final class in the NAF Five Star Arena on the final day of competition. Riding Lady Caroline Rake’s seven-year-old Oldenburg mare Margot (Morricone x Totilas), Tom took the win in the coveted HorseLight Medium Gold Championship on a super score of 72.70%.
“She just gave me a great feeling,” commented Tom afterwards. “Last year she was a little timid in arenas like this and I could really feel she was much more confident today and gave me a lovely feeling. I took her to a show at Addington last week, it was a two-day show and they’d dressed the arenas really nicely. It was a brilliant warm-up to this show to have that outing.”
Tom is Head Rider for Emile Faurie and is based at Emile’s base at Heath Farm in Oxfordshire. “I’ve been riding her (Margot) since she was four, when she came to our yard to be sold. A lovely friend, Lady Caroline Rake, saw me riding her, fell in love with her and she bought her. She’s seven now and it’s really cool. She’s just the sweetest mare, she’s so loving and she’s a lot of fun to train.
About competing at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships, Tom said: “You can’t beat it, it’s such a big atmosphere in that arena and I think at this age, and the level she’s at, it’s fantastic to be able to bring horses like this. It’s been a great experience, I had one class and we won, it couldn’t be better!”
“We’re going to focus Margot on the Advanced Medium work now and hopefully so some Premier Leagues.”
In front of judges Debbie Wardle, Sarah Leitch and Caroline Tupling, Darren Hicks took the runner-up spot with Gary Mudie’s eight-year-old gelding Kastello (71.98%) while Robert Barker with Vicky Archer’s 10-year-old Damon Hill son, Damon’s Destiny rounded off the top three on 70.54%.