NAF Five Star Winter Championships 24: day five

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Mon, 15 Apr 2024 09:00

The final day of competition at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships and Petplan Winter Area Festival Championships brought forward championship first-times and returning winners to claim the last titles of the week.  

With the show drawn to a close on a sunny Sunday afternoon, our thanks go to Kelvin Bywater and the organising team at Show Direct who made the show a great success, to NAF and Petplan who provide wonderful support as title sponsors, to all of the individual class sponsors, and to the officials who judge and officiate the sport to the highest standard. Thanks also go to Addington Equestrian for allowing use of an iconic venue, and finally, to the riders, owners, breeders, grooms, family, friends, and horses who made the event a truly memorable week for all involved.  

Petplan Novice Bronze U21 Championship 
Winner: Lydia Holmes and Caramelle, 71.597%

Lydia Holmes and the aptly named dun beauty Caramelle were the first champions crowned on the concluding day of competition at the Petplan Winter Area Festival Championships; the well-matched combination rode to 71.597% to capture the Novice Bronze U21 title, judged by Jo Rose (E), Helen Clark (C) and Linda Hoad (M). 

“It’s feels amazing, I’m really happy with it today. Caramelle knew her job and she performed really really well,” Lydia explained before admitted that she didn’t expect to take home a winner’s rosette, rug and sash, “Absolutely not! Coming here I was wetting myself thinking this isn’t going to go great but she has done really well and I am really happy with her.” 

Lydia was self-critical of her preparation before the event too, “I probably didn’t prepare as well as I should have. I have just had a couple of lessons with my coaches Jane Critchley and Jane Green and we’ve done loads of hacking, that’s Caramelle’s favourite thing.” 

Caramelle and Lydia have been a partnership for six years, telling BD about her character she explained, “She’s so good, she is really cuddly. She will do anything for a treat and she is just a really lovely pony to work with. We started off with some dressage but I was not very good at riding Caramelle so I did actually quit because it was too hard and I didn’t want to do it! Recently we have picked it back up again and have been really enjoying it and she has really been trying hard for me.” 

“We were here two years ago and I really couldn’t cope with the pressure, I really let her down. But this year she has helped me out so much, we’ve really had a good year.”  Next up the winning combination are heading to the Red Gorilla Combined Training Championships, before reassessing to make a decision on where to go next.

Alexandra Cordingley and Joris Couture were the combination to place second with 71.181%, followed by Jemima Byam-Cook on board her mother Nicola’s lovely palomino gelding Twyford Salamander scoring 69.167%. 

PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Championship  
Winner: Amy Hose and Enrique, 75.513% 

Success continued for Amy Hose as she claimed her second championship title of the week, this time in the PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Championship scoring 75.513% with her own 8-year-old Enrique, judged by Janet Surr (H), Susie Cumine (C) and Andrea Hessay (B) in the NAF Five Star Arena.

“It feels absolutely amazing to have won again, I couldn’t have asked for much more” I came here hoping that I’d trained hard enough, but for it all to come together for the five minutes in the test is an amazing feeling.” A delighted Amy tells us.

The duo won here on both the first and last day, Amy tells us how this feels, “you can’t ask for anymore, he was third yesterday in the medium freestyle as well, we’re quite new up to medium and I got here on a wildcard so that was still amazing as well. I just couldn’t have asked for much more, it’s so nice for it to come together and that my hard work is going somewhere.”

Amy talked to us about the reasoning behind her Freestyle music and the highlights of her test, “I just absolutely love riding to it, it means so much to me in a whole anyway. My freestyle is to Elvis which means quite a lot to me, I listened to it a lot growing up through my mum and grandma, my grandma is no longer with us, but it just means so much to me. It was my first freestyle that I’ve done for myself and my first season doing it, there was never a doubt that I didn’t want to do it to Elvis, so I was just hoping the judges liked it, thankfully it’s always been quite a hit with the judges so forever grateful for that.” 

Amy tells us about a few highlights of the test, “I threw a lot of simple changes in, they are a bit of a highlight for him. I really went for it in my medium canters, my trainer was stood at the side thinking ‘oh god she’s really going for it’ but I knew that I could get him back and that he was with me, he felt really confident in there today.”

The atmosphere in an indoor arena can be testing at times, Amy explains how Enrique has coped with it this week, “surprisingly really well, he’s gone through quite a testing stage recently, he’s so big and strong now, I wasn’t sure how he was going to take to the indoor in all honesty. But each day he’s growing in confidence, the first day he felt a little bit tight and then had a couple of days in between. Yesterday we wanted to ride just a clear round and get him round so I could really go in and ride him today and he felt so confident in there. I felt like I could have asked him to do anything, and he would have done it for me today.” 

Amy is hoping to qualify for the Advanced Medium by the end of summers but emphasizes the amazing journey they’ve had so far. “It’s been an amazing journey with him so far, so really looking forward to going places with him now.”

The pair have already qualified for medium summers so their next stage is to step up into that and start playing with their changes. “We’ve had a couple of dabbles with it but now I can start to really train it as we probably won’t do any other Elementary tests now so I can really start to play with the changes which should be quite exciting.”

In second place was Hannah Macmillan and 10-year-old Brookeborough Lad, scoring 72.628% closely followed by Louise Jackson and Rupert Bear IV with a score of 72.179%. 

Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold Championship 
Winner: Joanna Thurman-Baker and Sol Invictus X, 72.278% 

Chilton-based rider Joanna Thurman-Baker rode to an emotional success with her own Sol Invictus X, taking the final dressage to music title of the week in the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Gold. The judge panel of Lotte Olsen (H), Debbie Lush (C) and Pam Bushell (B) rewarded Joanna and ‘Simba’ with 72.278% for their winning test. 

“It feels quite unreal,” Joanna put the championship winning feeling in to words, “for me he was so good in his test, I was as thrilled as I ever possibly could be. When I saw the score I thought that was amazing but then I didn’t want to re-look at the scores to see if anyone else had gone above me! To win is icing on the cake for the whole support team.”

“The fact that I got in the arena, because going round the outside he was stopping and staring at all the trade stands and everything, so I was worried we wouldn’t get in. As the test progressed he got more and more confidence in there, which was just such an amazing feeling as a rider.” 

“The music is music that I made myself,” Joanna explained about the artistic side of her test, “I run an equestrian podcast called That’s Lame alongside Evelina [Shrieve], who also won her class earlier on this week as well. Using the podcast software I thought I could probably make my own music, so I found some songs that I like and put it all together. But every time I do it, it is on a bit of a wing and a prayer because I think if this goes wrong it is all my fault, but it has played so happy days!”

Joanna chose tunes from the video game Skylanders, “it is just really fun and upbeat music that I think really does suit him, I just really like it.” 

“He is a really interesting type of horse,” the former youth team rider added, speaking of her patience in giving her dancing partner time to mature, “he is hugely talented and an amazing mover but I think that goes hand in hand with him being incredibly tricky and very difficult. I have had to retire quite a lot with him out at shows but I think he is 11 now and we are really starting to gel as a partnership and he is really starting to trust me out in atmospheres like this, which is amazing so I am really excited to see how far I can go with him.” 

“I would love to try and take him up to Prix St Georges,” Joanna concluded.  

Claire Abel and GF Sezuki (Sezuan x Sherlock Holmes) equalled the winning score of 72.278% but missed out on sharing the title by just a handful of points, as the win was decided on artistic mark count back. Jezz Palmer earned another placing, marking an outstanding week for the Hampshire-based rider, this time with Janet Oliver’s Honey D’Or who produced a lovely test for 71.834% and third. 

Petplan Preliminary Silver Area Festival Championship 
Winner: Rachel Gallop and Sazzaro Ballante, 73.125% 

With 35 starters taking to the Petplan arena on Sunday morning, the Secret-sired Sazzaro Ballante oozed class in the Petplan Preliminary Silver, with Rachel Gallop at the reins of a winning test worthy of 73.125%. 

Rachel was full of praise for her relatively green ride, "he’s only six and only did his first shows at the end of November last year; I started riding him when my sister broke her arm, he’s her horse. I started competing him and here we are!”

“I’ve always ridden Sara’s horses and I jump them for fun,” Rachel explained about the connection between the dual-discipline siblings leading to her return to BD competition, “I do love riding on the flat but I haven’t competed for a very long time, because of her injury I got back into it but our mother always made us do everything when we were younger. Now that I’m older I think that was brilliant!”

“I usually come for the Blue Chips, so it’s a bit odd to come this week but it’s been brilliant.”  When asked if her experience in the championship jumping ring eases the stress of taking on a major affiliated dressage event Rachel added: “I think you’re always going to feel nervous because you want to do well; I’ve been to quite a few big jumping show so maybe I had fewer nerves from that point of view because it’s not my first, but it’s a completely different ball game! When I first started having to learn a test – I can do twelve jumps – but then you forget them! That’s getting easier the more I do!”

“It’s incredible,” she continued, discussing her close family ties which without doubt contribute to both Rachel and Sara’s success: “we run our business together Prestige Equestrian together, my sister, mum and me. We’re very close, we do our best to stay friends, but I’m so glad she’s here with me and she’s an amazing support. We work really well together.”

‘Sazzaro’ will enjoy a holiday now before the next steps, “I think she [Sara] wants me to keep doing some things with him. He’s going to have a little break now and then we’ll see how we go, I’m very much governed by her and I’ll do whatever she wants!”

Mia Kirby and WFD Wild Thyme were rewarded second place and 70.903% by Sue Staines (E), Maryanne Horn (C) and Carole Thornton (M); 70.764% was the third position score for Lauren Green with her own Connemara gelding Dalgan Chester. 

Petplan Novice Silver U21 Area Festival Championship 
Winner: Keira Jasinski and Treworgan Dancing Diva, 67.986%

Keira Jasinski and Treworgan Dancing Diva topped the top of the scoresheets in the Petplan Novice Silver U21 Championships with a score of 67.986%.

On her win today, Keira said “it feels great, there’s no other feeling like it. It was really fun, I had great fun riding around, she’s always a joy to ride around in those arenas”

Keira describes the ten-year-old bay mare, known as “Riva” as “lovely to have at home, she’s like a proper family pony, we’re lucky enough to have them at home and she’s out in the garden most days, she’s definitely got a bit of character to her, she’s full of sass. She’s lovely,”

This isn’t the first time this duo have featured on the podium, having competed in the 2023 Winter Area Festival Championships and coming second in the Petplan Preliminary Silver Under 21 class, narrowly missing out on the top spot.

Keira, who is 17 and based in Norfolk, is currently at college studying a Level 3 Equine Anatomy and Physiology and hopes to be an Equine Physiotherapist.

Keira also competed this week on her other horse, Altogether Endeavour, in the Petplan Elementary Silver Under 21 Winter Area Festival Championship, and will now be looking to work up the levels on both her horses, aiming for the Elementary U21s class, and has high hopes for the future, “it would be a dream to compete at some of the High Profile Shows and CDIs.”

In second place was Oliver Lawery and Seiont Glesyn who scored 67.778%, followed by Lilly Newcombe in third place on 67.153%.

Magic Prix St Georges Silver Championship 
Winner: Isobel Lickley and Katniss, 70.000%

Staffordshire based Isobel Lickley was the worthy winner of the Magic Prix St Georges Silver Championship with Nicola Lickley’s Katniss, scoring 70.000%. 

It was a lucky day for Isobel with her first ever championships and a win! “It’s amazing, exceeding all expectations and I am so proud of Katniss and to come to my first championships and win is just incredible.” Isobel explained.  Isobel who has worked up the levels since a very young age, told us about her first time at  regionals, “It was probably about when I was eight or nine years old on a pony called Mighty Max at Prelim level.” Now winning her first championship at Prix St Georges.

Describing Katniss, “She is a very very special horse, I absolutely love riding her, it’s incredible and I am just very very excited that I have this opportunity and that I could steal her back from my mum.”

The duo have been training hard at home with Isobel’s mum and Peter Storr, “one thing that we took from the CDI was that we needed more expression in our flying changes, so we have worked on that at home. I was really happy with those today, so training is paying off.” 

About the big atmosphere at Addington and if Isobel felt any nerves, “I actually didn’t, I feel like as I have got older, the less nervous I get. I was just really excited for the opportunity and for the day to see what me and Katniss could do.” 

Isobel has big ambitions and a bright future ahead of her, she explained to us what’s next, “Of course I want to keep progressing as a rider, I am doing my UKCC currently, so I want to go through the training aspect and go through my levels. But of course, I would love to progress riding, the ultimate goal like everybody, is Grand Prix. So just training hard with that and we will see where it takes me.” 

Second place in the strong class of finalists went to Chrissie Havis with her own Beckhouse Piano Blue, scoring 68.578%. Followed by Gracie Catling with Julia Catling’s Tsjebe Fan 'e Vesta Hoeve on  67.794%

Petplan Advanced Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship 
Winner: Daisy Hills and Midtgaards Gijon, 70.214% 

Daisy Hills earned the final Petplan title of the week, taking the premier position in the Advanced Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship.  Daisy only did her first affiliated with her winning ride just five months ago and explained how it feels to earn a Winters win, “I really didn’t expect it to happen, so for it to come off today is amazing, I’m so pleased.”

“I only really came over to dressage a year ago properly, it’s just so accessible and having local shows near home to be able to get out and qualify for easily makes it great. I have done a bit with BD Youth before, I did the Inter Regionals and Home Nations for the last two years – it's been a really great way of meeting people having only just got into dressage."

“He’s got really expressive changes, it’s a real highlight for him and is something we always try and maximise the marks for. His half passes were really good today too, he was just so with me,” she continued, evaluating her performance with the elegant 17.1hh ‘Gi’.  

“He’s such a good boy, he’s so chill and easy to do,” she continued about her lovely dancing partner, “he’s just a dream to do in every way.”

Daisy is currently in her second year of University where she’s studying Agriculture, “it’s something we do at home so I work on the farm at home and help out there around riding. Dressage is my favourite thing, I’d love to see where it goes.”

Kizzie Lucas and Candito were hot on Daisy’s heels with 70.043% in second place, whilst Poppy Burner and Sally-Anne Egginton’s Cillnabradden Evo earned the final Petplan podium placing of the week scoring 68.376%.

Superflex Intermediate I Silver Championship 
Winner: India Durman-Mills and Escade, 69.706%

India Durman-Mills secured the 2023 Magic Prix St Georges Silver Championship, and this year completed the Silver Small Tour set by claiming the Superflex Intermediate I title with Verity Saul’s Escade.  

“I’m so pleased with him, he gets better all the time,” India enthused after her prize giving, “he always excels in the canter, the changes were lovely today. He just embraces the atmosphere and we’re much more confident as a team now; it’s only third time I’ve ran through the Inter I at competition with him so it’s really new to us both still but he takes it in his stride.”

“We’ve done lots of test practice,” the Leicester-based rider, who’s a team medallist at both Junior and Young Rider level, explained, “I train with Gareth Hughes so we’ve done lots of work with him and also with the team trainers and Peter Storr, as we’ve been mostly focused on Young Riders. My Aunt Verity who owns him is always there to help on the ground as well.”

Speaking about their progression from last year’s Prix St Georges title to earning the Superflex spoils, she continued, “we stepped him up pretty quickly at the end of last year to have a go at Inter I. Our changes our so much more secure and the overall picture is better.”

“He’s by Jazz so he can be a little bit feisty, but I just love him,” she concluded telling about ‘Eddie’s’ personality, “he’s a real character, you definitely know he’s there! He can be as soft as a teddy bear but you also know he’s got energy. He loves his work, he does lots of different things - he does pole work, he goes out. He’s just a lovely horse, he’s part of the family.”

Chrissie Havis and the handsome skewbald Beckhouse Piano Blue earned the runners up spot on 67.696%, followed by Natasha Leak with her own Dutch-bred 14-year-old gelding Belissimo (by Belissimo M) recording 67.451% for third.  

HorseLight Medium Gold Championship 
Winner: Katie Bailey and Escomond, 73.153%

In her second win of the week, Katie Bailey clinched the top spot with Hannah Dovey’s Escomond in the HorseLight Medium Gold Championship, drawing to a close the 2024 NAF Five Winter Championships. 
Having won the Equitex Advanced Medium Gold Championship on Saturday, Katie once again impressed the judges to score 73.153%, with the Escolar-sired gelding showing much class. “One title is fantastic but to take home two is great, I’m really really proud of him. I think he’ll go all the way.”

“I had the Advanced Medium Freestyle this morning and he worked in beautifully, then we went through the pillars and I had a little bit of a different horse to yesterday. I think he lit up where we’d been in the prize giving yesterday. So this afternoon I rode him a little more forward and it seemed to do the trick.”

“We’ve had a fabulous time, it’s a big change coming to Addington but it’s been amazing and great fun here, “ proud owner Hannah Dovey reflected on the team’s success, “what’s really lovely is that his breeder Verity Jenner still has a share in him and Katie does as well, so the plan is to carry on and do some Premier Leagues this year and look towards progressing to Small Tour in 2025.”

“Verity has travelled down from Scotland to watch him this weekend too which has been really lovely, and it’s just so nice to have this horse,” Hannah concluded before confessing to ‘bubbly’ celebrations after Katie and Escomond’s first win.  

Claire Abel finished second with her own GF Sezuki on 70.270%, with Louise Gallavan and Karen Gallavan’s Fabergé TF finishing in a very close third place scoring 70.090%.

Full time accountant Claire actually notched up a trio of reserve champion positions throughout the week: “I’m just a proper amateur and have to compete against all the professionals, so it’s a lovely achievement. She’s [GF Sezuki] just come on and on throughout the week, the Advanced Medium Freestyle was actually only her fourth test at that level, I’m absolutely thrilled with her,” 

“Everybody says she looks so relaxed and I think ‘you should try sitting up here!’, she tries so hard that she can get quite cross with herself when she gets things wrong. She’s so focused on the job, she’s just lovely.”

“I work as hard as I can to reach a professional standard, I’m thrilled, I kept saying I’d be happy if I got one top ten placing so to have three in the top three is amazing.”