NAF Five Star Winter Championships 23: day three
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Day three saw four NAF Five Star Winter Champions and three Petplan Equine Area Festival Champions crowned, as we had a fourth title of the week for one of our dressage superstars and a Cardiac Physiologist winning her first ever title!
Equi-Trek Elementary Gold Winter Championship
Winner: Dannie Morgan with Viva la Reinne VH, 74.84%
Dannie Morgan completed his visit to the NAF Five Star Winter Championships with a fourth title, as Kristina Rausing’s Vive la Reinne VH notched up her second win of the week in the Equi-Trek Elementary Gold Winter Championships. In another highly contested match, Dannie rode to 74.80%, in front of Janet Surr, Fiona Wilson and Susie Cumine.
“She’s an amazing mare,” Dannie said about the Revolution-sired mare, “she’s highly talented and developing in her balance all the time. She showed a lovely way of going today, I think the Elementary 59 is quite a tricky test for inexperienced horses because there’s lots of transitions and things like that. But I was really pleased with her, she was slightly tired today, but it’s amazing to get that score.”
The Southampton-based rider was quick to praise his team, who’ve shared every second of his success on a remarkable week, “it feels a bit ridiculous to be honest to win my fourth championship title this week. I’m just very proud of the horses and grateful to all the team that makes this possible.”
“We can’t do it on our own, good horses make good riders,” Dannie explained when asked about the contribution and the invaluable role that owners play in the sport, “I’m very fortunate and grateful to Karen and Kristina Rausing for putting that sort of horsepower underneath me. I’ve got quite a few lovely young horses that we’ve had from three year olds and it’s amazing to be able to produce that quality of horse and I’m just very grateful.”
Today’s victory marks 11 at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships for 31 year old Dannie, who summarised what it’s like to have a week this like, “I feel like everyone would agree that it’s been a hard winter, slogging away and we work very hard and it can feel a bit tough with the weather. In this sport you have bad days as well as good days, I really enjoy the good days and it makes it all worthwhile. But I never expected to have a week like this so it is very special.”
A long-awaited return to the top step of the podium just alluded Henry Boswell as he produced Kristina Rausing’s Bellinski to a second runner up spot of the week. The score for Kristina’s second superstar was 73.59%, with Henry delighted at the sensitive but talented gelding’s performance. “He was pretty electric and nervous and really kind, it’s taken us this long to really get him confident in the right – last year was a write off, not because of naughtiness, he just couldn’t quite cope in the ring under pressure, he was too distracted by life. This year he’s really come into himself and gives you the best feeling, he’s the dream horse.”
“He really wants to do it and he puts so much into it,” Henry continued about the seven year old, “he’s already giving you 100% and if something triggers from the outside, it’s an external pressure he can’t quite cope with, he doesn’t know how to tone it down his effort yet. I still haven’t ridden a clear round and there’s so much more to come, I still feel like I struggle to keep his energy and power in the box to ride a nice calm test. In the end he’s going to be fantastic but he needs to get strength to contain that huge movement that he’s got.
There’s plenty to look forward to in the future too as the offspring of both Belinski and winning mare Vive la Reinne VH waits in the wings: “He’s not a stallion anymore but he was licensed when the Rausing’s bought him, they did an embryo transfer with Dannie’s mare; at some point someone is going to be lucky enough to get that foal and I hope it’s me!”
There was plenty of great camaraderie and competition between our top placed riders with Henry concluding on his hopes and very creditable placings, “he was second to Dannie in the Novice, we were early on and got a whopping score – I thought I had a great chance and then Dannie was last to go, as much as I love and he rode a great test it was gut-wrenching to lose on the last rider! It’s been fifteen or sixteen years since I last won a title and I thought yesterday was the day, but second it is and the most important thing is that I’m thrilled with him. I think his titles will come, he’s one of those horses that gets nines if he does something, I’ve just got to steer him around quietly and calmly and one day a clear round will come.”
Petplan Equine Novice Bronze Area Festival Championship
Winner: Sophie Lawson and Llanarth Magestic, 72.22%
It may have been a gloomy start to day three of the Petplan Equine Winter Area Festivals, as the rain poured down on the outdoor arenas, but that didn’t stop Sophie Lawson glowing with pride as she topped the class of 31 riders to become the 2023 Petplan Equine Novice Bronze Area Festival Champion.
A speechless Sophie said the win felt “amazing, amazing, I can’t really put into words.” She said she didn’t even expect to win at the qualifiers, mind about the Championships. The duo won the Winter Petplan Equine Area Festival at Beacons Equestrian to qualify for a spot this week at Hartpury.
Speaking of their test highlights, a Sophie modestly said: “we held it together in the test, it was fairly accurate. His medium canter wasn’t too bad, better than previous. I’m generally just pleased overall.” Just 18 months ago Sophie had surgery on her ankle as a result of a torn tendon and ruptured ligament.
Owned by Hannah Brock, who bought the Welsh gelding from stud at two years old for a showing career, it was when Hannah and Sophie decided to take up dressage training to help improve Llanarth Magestic’s showing that they found the 13-year-old had a natural talent for it. Sophie is also fairly new to dressage, having previously competed within eventing.
The pair have been riding together for 9 years, and have recently been training with Nicola Cooper and Justine Sole. In the lead up to the Championships Sophie spoke of their preparation; “he’s been using the water treadmill to help strengthen him up, we’ve had lots of lessons and training, it’s not all been plain sailing as with anything, but we’ve done our best and got here.”
Sophie is brand new to the Petplan Equine Area Festival series, having never competed in them before. Speaking of her first experience of being an Area Festival competitor, “It’s been really good, really supportive, it’s amazing to be able to come and compete in this atmosphere as an amateur who’s never done anything like this before.”
Outside of the arena, Bristol-based Sophie works as a Cardiac Physiologist, which means she’s part of the team who monitor people who have arrythmias, or who have problems with their coronary arteries.
Sophie and Llanarth Magestic are also competing later this week in the Horsehage Preliminary Silver Winter Championships, with their sights also set on the Cavago Associated Championships later this year.
In second place was Maisie Morgan with her own Bright Rinco, scoring 71.04%, followed by Lily Carson and Red Valentino SCS in third place with a score of 70.49%.
HorseLight Medium Sliver Winter Championship
Winner: Maeve Morris and Headmore Footloose with 70.50%
Maeve Morris and Headmore Footloose produced a beautiful test to score a 70.50% and win the HorseLight Medium Silver Winter Championship today at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships! This makes it the pair's fifth title together, with previous wins in the Prelim, Novice, Novice Freestyle and Elementary!
Maeve was overjoyed with the result today, “it’s been amazing, he was a bit hot in the arena walk this morning, but he got himself together for the test and that’s all we needed really.”
When talking about her test and fifth title she expressed how it felt, “honestly amazing. I just wanted to get my first shoulder-in and I would have been chuffed but then to actually win the class was amazing!”
The striking 17.2hh bay is homebred, bred by Maeve’s stepmother, who herself came third in the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver this week on Headmore Bugatti with a great score of 70.30%. “My step-mum bred him for herself but she’s tiny and he’s massive, so I got him. She thought that she would like me to do the Prelim on him as she wasn’t eligible to do it, and then I won so she had to let me do the novice!”
The gorgeous gelding is full of character, “he is quite cheeky, he’s naughty in the school, he’s spooky at home to ride” but, “he’s a very loving horse, everybody loves him.”
After the ten-year-old had added a fifth title to his record Maeve described him as, “so consistent.” ”His head is second to none really, it’s just whether or not I ride him properly.” Everything is looking positive towards moving up the levels in the future, “We’re going to try and qualify for Advanced Medium now, as he’s got his changes too hopefully.”
Our second-place combination was Alicia Laughton and Armada Bathsheba with a score of 70.09% and finishing third on the same score of 70.09% was Louise Gallavan and Febergé TF.
Superflex Intermediate I Gold Winter Championships
Winner: Davy Harvey with Hawtins Rossana, 72.70%
Davy Harvey (28) delivered a fantastic performance aboard Judy Peploe’s stunning mare, Hawtins Rossana, to win this afternoon’s Superflex Intermediate I Gold Winter Championship. The duo posted 72.70% to take the win – the Oxfordshire rider's first-ever Winter Championship title – ahead of Becky Moody who claimed both second and third spot with James Bond II (72.45%) and Jack Diamond (70.74%) respectively, both owned by Jo Cooper.
“It was really good, I was really pleased with it,” enthused Davy about his test. “There’s always a couple of bits in every test, but I was so happy she stayed with me the whole way around - and for us that’s what we want.”
Hawtins Rossana (by Rubin Royal) is a 15-year-old British-bred mare. She has been partnered by Davy, with whom she’d developed an effective partnership, since 2021. “She loves her work. I think I definitely have to reason with her, you can’t tell her to do anything. The more I ride her, the more she gains trust, and she’s happier to do more for me without questioning me and saying no. She’d rather do it all at 100 miles per hour... so we’re gradually slowly down!
“We’ve been working on collection” commented Davy who trains with Carl Hester. “We did the Prix St Georges Freestyle yesterday. She is really spicy, and I was apprehensive she was going to go in there (the arena) and be a bit mad! We aimed to focus on today and tomorrow, and give her confidence in there yesterday. It seemed to work. Today I felt I could ask for more.”
About the mare’s ample enthusiasm, Davy said: “She loves to trot – it's her favourite thing in the world, and she loves extended canter – you feel her waiting for it in every test and when I say it’s time, I think everyone gets worried we’re not going to stop at the end. She loves it, I’m always saying ‘not too much’.”
For the prize-giving Davy borrowed his groom Scott Williams’ ride, Sapphire Blue, also owned by Judy, who at the time held the lead in the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Silver, “Hopefully he’ll be back with the one I stole! It’s been a really good day, he got a decent score!”
On the support of Judy, Davy said: “We couldn’t do it without her. Rossana wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for Judy. She’s not been an easy horse. Judy has owned her since she was four – what I’ve done is just a little piece of it. I think a lot of people would have said she’s too much and put her in the field to have a foal.”
Today marks the first Winter Championship title of Davy’s career so far: “I don’t think I can quite believe it still, you never think it could be you and you would ever be good enough to do it. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, it’s amazing.”
Davy is back tomorrow for the Intermediate I Freestyle Gold and added he was looking forward to it, “I love our music, I just hope the judges do too.”
This talented combination has enjoyed a successful 12 months competing internationally at Small Tour. Their standout results include top-three placings at Hartpury CDI last summer and, more recently, third place in the PSG at last month’s Addington CDI.
Delighted owner, Judy Peploe commented: “All I want is for them to be as good as they can be, and she trusts him. She’s just getting better all of the time, which is beyond our wildest dreams really. We felt like we’d won when he came out and said she was with him all the way through [the test], and then when they said the results it was just amazing. There will be lots of bubbles!”
Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Brendan Tegg with Foxcourt Solar Eclipse, 70.21%
Brendan Tegg secured the win in today’s Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Silver Championships, amongst a close-fought class of 33 finalists. Riding Sarah Davies’ Foxcourt Solar Eclipse, a homebred eight-year-old son of Sunset Boulevard, Brendan posted 70.21% from the judging panel of Joyce Head, Caroline Tupling and Claire Ballantyne.
“I was delighted with him,” said Brendan afterwards. “The trot work was a highlight - he was super relaxed so I could just relax and enjoy it, which is the first time on him. Usually, it takes a lot of managing as he can be quite spooky. He really swung and was very soft, was really lovely. I was really happy – it was nice to just enjoy him.
Away from the arena Foxcourt Solar Eclipse is quite the character too, as Brendan explains: “He’s fab at home, he’s a character, we call him a clown. He’ll pull anyone’s hat off walking past his door! He loves the attention, loves the fuss.”
The duo won the Medium Silver class at the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships in 2021, so are no strangers to this series. “They (the Petplan Equine Area Festivals) are good for bringing the horses first through the levels before you do the Regionals. We use them to introduce a horse to the level.
Brendan, of Foxcourt Stud in Carmarthen, gained his 2023 Hartpury qualification at Beacons Equestrian Winter Area Festival in February.
“To anyone considering them, I’d say just give it a go, why not! It’s always a learning experience. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t go well, as long as you feel as though you have come away feeling like you’ve learnt something. Take that home and work on it for next time.
“I think that’s really important - to remember we’re on a horse, and that the horse doesn’t know it’s a competition. We just come and make sure the horse gets a good experience from it and that’s it. That’s why I'm so chuffed that he (Foxcourt Solat Eclipse) went in the ring and just breathed through the test. I was like, yes finally this horse is realising it’s not a scary environment, he can just go and enjoy himself.”
About his run-up to the Championships, Brendan said: “I think in the past five weeks I’ve learnt a lot and it always comes down to the rider. [I’ve done] Nothing new, but just more details and really getting him to be looser in his body in the training and putting the focus on the relaxation at home. A lot of learning from the rider, that’s it really.
“It’s just keeping the focus, on us as riders to make that communication with the horses as clear as possible and hopefully we can be friends. I really think that’s important and that’s definitely made a massive difference with him, taking the pressure off and trying to get him relaxed before we even start the more collected work. That’s why I'm so pleased he kept that in the test. When I finished, it was the first time ever [he was relaxed]. We didn’t really care about the score, both me and his owner were super chuffed. It’s nice then when the judges like it too – an added bonus.”
About their future plans, Brendan added: “We’ll carry on as we are, nothing new just try and see if we can do it again basically. We’ll carry on with his single changes, as they’re still fragile, and then once he’s really confident, we’ll work on the sequence changes and aim for Prix St Georges. We just want to focus on keeping him relaxed and confident.”
Completing the top three combinations were 21-year-old Emily Dove with her KWPN gelding, Jaguar DHI (69.23%), and Judith Johnson with her Charmeur-sired KWPN gelding, Ice (69.02%).
Petplan Equine Novice Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Mary Pearson with Spielrencio, 71.11%
Mary Pearson’s long trip to Hartpury from her home in Midlothian was worth every mile, having won today’s Petplan Equine Novice Silver Area Festival Championships. With her five-year-old Spielrencio (by Spielberg), she posted a fantastic score of 71.11% to comfortably secure the coveted national title.
“It (the test) went really well from start to finish,” said a delighted Mary after the prize-giving. “He (Spielrencio) was really on-side and did everything I asked. It was lovely, it was really good, and I couldn’t be happier with him. Competing here is unreal - it’s stuff you always watch at home. I’ve never been before so to finally get here is amazing, I just can’t believe it.”
Mary has worked as a freelance rider and groom for the past 10 years and she trains with Karen Dewar. “In preparing for the Championships, we’ve not really changed anything, I’ve just trained loads with my trainer Karen Dewar - I’ve been riding at hers three times a week in the run up! It’s been really nice to have her continued support.”
Mary has owned the delightful KWPN gelding, known at home as Fudge, for two years. The talented young horse contested young horse classes in 2022 and will be aimed at five-year-old classes this year. About Spielrencio ‘the person’, Mary says: “He’s lovely, he’s just like a giant dog. He'd come home and sit in the living room with me if he could! He’s just so easy and lovely.
“It’s like he’s been here before, he’s just a gift, I’m over the moon.”
Laura Gray from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, secured the runner-up spot with her six-year-old Dutch gelding, Ming (69.58%), while Ben James and Clapton Banks Primadonna, winners of yesterday’s Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze, took third on 69.10%.
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver Championship
Winner: Scott Williams and Sapphire Blue, 74.54%
A rider making his NAF Five Star Winter Championships debut, Scott Williams (29), from Cardiff, rode Judy Peploe’s Sapphire Blue (by Sporcken) to victory in this afternoon’s Bailey Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver Championship. In the NAF Five Star Arena, Scott and the 10-year-old German mare posted a super 74.54% to win the close-fought championship final.
“It’s exceeded expectations,” enthused Scott afterwards. “It’s the first Winter Championships for both of us, so we didn’t know how we’d fare against everyone else. We’ve only been competing together for a year - it’s been a short partnership so far - so to get to this is huge.”
Scott works as a groom for Davy Harvey, winner of today’s Superflex Intermediate I Gold. On winning together on the same day Scott said: “Rosie’s (Hawtins Rossana) come a long way with Davy. I think we’re all very happy to see that and their progression since he started with us. We all work together to help each other, and all want the best success for all of us. Davy will help me if I need help with her (Sapphire Blue) and I do all the grooming for him.”
On working on Judy’s yard, Scott says: “It’s amazing. The opportunity with Simmi (Sapphire Blue) came up about a year ago when I started doing a bit of groundwork with her. Davy had the ride of the other two, and he’s got a lot of other horses to do, so he didn’t have the time to take on another. Judy said I could get going with her and see how she went.
“She’s been quite a stressy mare in the past, so Judy said, ‘just see how you go’. That's what we’ve done, we just try and keep as calm as possible.”
“I went to Carl Hester’s to do some work experience and got to ride a few of those,” said Scott about some of the opportunities that have helped him to progress. “I rode Valegro and had some help and some training tips while I was there so that was amazing.
“At home we just have a goal and then work backwards from that goal – so what training clinics we are going to go to, and we do test riding, and then I don’t change the training particularly leading up to a show because nothing should change. She shouldn’t be stressed by anything and I shouldn’t be stressed by anything. We'll then make a plan of how I’m going to ride each test and go from there. We'll do test riding, do a video and then look back over things and look at what we need to work on, and gradually do that until we’re ready for the day.”
Scott’s riding career, as with many others, started at a riding school. “It’s been quick! It’s been ten years since I started riding. I knew that I was behind a lot of people as so many start very young. I just figured I needed to catch up, so valued any knowledge I could get from professionals such as the lady who owned the riding school, and instructors who came in and taught. I wanted to learn and seized the opportunity I had. I’m very lucky, but you just have to work hard - it’s not going to just happen.”
Scott and Sapphire Blue will contest the Prestige Novice Silver Winter Championship, before heading home and switching focus to the Summer Regionals.
Herefordshire rider Emily Rowland took the runner-up spot with Lauren Taylor’s Don Roman (74.17%), while Amanda Barrett, from Lincolnshire, claimed third place on 74.07% with her seven-year-old Ampere-sired mare, A Capella.