NAF Five Star Winter Championships 24: day three

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Sat, 13 Apr 2024 07:48

A "super granny", a seventeenth Championship title and a baby on board, day three of the NAF Five Star Winter Championships, incorporating the Petplan Winter Area Festival Championships certainly didn't disappoint.

Equi-Trek Elementary Gold Winter Championship
Winner: Dannie Morgan and Fever Tree, 74.792%

Dannie Morgan’s exciting prospect Fever Tree claimed his second title of the week, making it a double at Elementary level claiming the Equi-Trek Gold spoils at the start of day three.

Sired by Foundation and out of a Dayano mare, Dannie was full of praise for his winning ride’s effort: “Gordan’s always fabulous, he was great today. He was probably a little bit tired as he was on yesterday evening, so that showed a little bit tired in the test today but he did a fantastic job as always. I had a little bit of loss of balance in the medium trot,” which Dannie was quick to attribute to his own fault, “so a small mistake there but I’m lucky that he has a lot of highlights so we’re still able to do a good job elsewhere.”

Dannie rightfully oozes pride in his winning ride,“I just love him, love him to bits. His temperament, everything about him, he’s just a cool horse. I know I can come here and he won’t let me down, so there’s just more pressure on myself to do a good job, he’s just the dream!”

Dannie’s partner Davy Harvey placed second with Judy Peploe’s eye-catching grey Benefit, the duo scored 72.709%, whilst Kirstie Clarke and her own stallion Nureno earned a second third placing of the week with another strong plus 70% score.

Petplan Novice Bronze Winter Area Festival Championship
Winner: Sophie Savage and Two Tone Ted, 69.236%

It was an emotional win for Sophie Savage with her own Two Tone Ted as they secured their first ever winning test in the Petplan Novice Bronze Area Festival Championship.

“I honestly can’t believe it, when I start thinking about it I just feel like I’m going to cry, I am delighted. I imagined it so many times over and over in my head, that ‘one day you will win’ and I’ve done it!”

Sophie has always had a love of horses, but had to sell her horse when she was younger to buy her first house and raise her children. Her husband always promised her though that one day she would own a horse again. Twenty years later that promise was fulfilled and when she turned 40 she once again found herself a horse owner.  

Fast forward a few years and in 2021 Sophie met and bought Ted, a 16.1hh, skewbald gelding. Neither Sophie or Ted had ever done dressage before, they started off in a few unaffiliated competitions, before becoming BD members and competing in the Quest series. It wasn’t long before the pair moved on to the Petplan Area Festivals, qualifying for and competing at both the 2022 and 2023 Championships, followed by a third time lucky appearance for them in 2024!

On their winning test, Sophie said “as we went around the arena Ted was just chilled and forward, and when the bell rang I realised I was on the wrong rein for my start, so I thought ‘no I’m not going to be flustered and go in, in the wrong place, I’m going to turn around and go in as I practiced’. I took a few deep breaths and rode down that centre line like I meant business. He did a lovely first medium trot, I just felt I was forward in all my fifteen metre circles, he was just a star, he really was brilliant today. And I knew as I came down the centre line at the end that, that was a good test – and now I know what the feeling is like when you do a good test.”

The retired school nurse and “super granny” had her children and grandchildren watching on the H&C+ live stream. They were fourth in the arena this morning and so had a long wait to see if they were going to be crowned champions, “I didn’t look at the scores, my husband is obsessed with the scores! But when he came up to me I knew I’d done well, he was all emotional, and I said ‘there’s another 34 to go after me, there’s no way [I’ll win], if I get in the top ten, brilliant, but whatever as I know Ted has been a star. I just kept myself busy, I’ve done mucking out, I’ve groomed him, I haven’t been able to eat anything all day, it was an early 5am start but it’s been worth it.”

Fifteen-year-old Ted also won the Petplan Senior Horse award, which is given to the  highest placed horse over the age of fifteen in each Petplan class.

In second place was Sian Lowe and Pinecroft Indigo with 68.125%, while third place went to Rachel Gallop and Sazzaro Ballante on 67.500%.

Horselight Medium Silver Winter Championship
Winner: Hannah Luesley and EDH Franklin Rose, 69.504%

Hannah Luesley rode the stunning mare, EDH Franklin Rose, to victory in the Horselight Medium Silver, topping the scoresheet with a score of 69.504%. The seven-year-old thrived on the electric atmosphere of the championship Hannah tells us, “she was just super, she goes in the ring and absolutely lights up. She’s just with me 100% all the way and that’s all you can ask for really.”

The pairs preparation on the lead up consisted of training and more training, Hannah explains that “you can’t do anything extra to prepare” this leading them to take an impressive win on day three of the Championships.

Speaking on her journey with the 16.1hh bay Hannah tells us, “I’ve been really lucky to ride her, she’s owned by Michael, Ferdi and Geri Eilberg, they’ve given me the opportunity to ride and compete her, which is obviously invaluable.” Since their first competition in October 2023, Hannah shares, “I go to local shows and train with Mike and here we are!”

The wonderful mare is described to us by Hannah as “super, she is really trainable, really rideable and super talented, I feel like I’ve got a Ferrari beneath me!” After having already had their first Championship's success together, also finishing a very close second place on Wednesday in the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver, Hannah tells us, “I think we will just carry on training this summer with Mike and we’ll see what the future holds.”

With the top three finishing within less than a percentage of one another, Sophie Chatwin and Katherine-Trix Us were in second place with a score of 69.459% and Heidi Hutchinson rode Florida of Westoak to third place, scoring 69.098%.

Superflex Intermediate I Gold Winter Championship
Winner: Sadie Smith and Swanmore Dantina, 75%

Sadie Smith and the nine-year-old mare Swanmore Dantina had great success in the Superflex Intermediate I Gold Winter Championship with an exceptional score of 75%.

Speaking of her test today, Sadie commented, “I was really pleased with my test, she felt really confident and fresh; I haven’t done many shows with her over the winter as I wanted to focus on the training and making it all better and stronger. Today I felt like it really came together, everything felt easy for her.”

“I was really pleased with her frame, she’s got a beautiful frame and always goes with her ears forward.”

Sadie was critical of her halts and rein back, but praised her mare’s collection and pirouettes, “there’s always something that could’ve been better but she gave me a lovely ride and I love her to bits.”

Talking of their highlights, “I actually find the Intermediate I test suits her more than the Prix St Georges, she’s got such lovely looseness in the trot and I can really show that off on the centre line with the shoulder-in and half pass.”

Sadie tells us about the mare, “It’s funny, I bought her when she was three but I was originally going to sell her. She’s ended up staying and it’s the best thing I ever did. She was quite ordinary as a four-year-old, three nice paces but nothing special, but her temperament and her heart is amazing. She always gives 100% and she always tries. I’m very lucky.”

At home Swanmore Dantina ‘does everything’ and enjoys hacking.

“It’s a tough sport and everyone’s trying hard to do their best, when you have days like this it really helps you to keep going. Especially with the way the weather’s been!” Sadie credited her local Hampshire riders Dannie Morgan, Jezz Palmer and Roland Tong as being great supports as she set out to work for herself, “Me and Dannie work together a lot especially, it really helps to come to a show and have somebody there to tell you if it looks ok, it’s nice.”

Sadie is looking to aim Swanmore Dantina at some Inter II competitions when it feels right, “she’s almost there, I just want to wait to feel like she can do a good test. She’s only nine and she’s got a great career ahead of her.”

Petplan Advanced Medium Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Sophia Marston and Solitaire II, 68.761%

With less than one percent between the top three, Caroline Tupling (E), Claire Ballantyne (C) and Sandra Smith (M) oversaw a close-matched contest in the Petplan Advanced Medium Silver Championship, rewarding the winning score of 68.761% to Sophia Marston and her own Solitaire ll.

“Most of the test was brilliant,” Sophia commented on her successful performance, “I just got on her and she felt insane. I say the highlights were mostly the trot and she’s starting to really be confident in her changes now, most the changes were really clean and felt like really promising changes coming through so super pleased.”

“I’ve been training quite a lot with my trainer via Zoom,” the talented young rider discussed her preparation for the Winter Championships, “we’ve been mainly hiring arenas as we haven’t got an arena at home and going through the test, tricky parts of the test with her.”

“Solly” has been a long-term project for Sophia and the duo have overcome true adversity to enjoy their moment in the spotlight: “I’ve had her since she was a yearling, she started my dressage career really so we worked our way up from Prelim all the way up to Advanced Medium now. Last year she unfortunately had an accident in the field, so she fractured her P1, she was off for quite a while but she’s back up and running and strong as ever, so whatever happens is a bonus and I’m just super pleased to be here.”

“She’s a top mare, definitely the head of the pack. But I’d put anyone on her, my step dad who doesn’t ride horses has taken her on hacks and she’s super safe and lovely to ride.”

Sophia is currently at University studying Biology, Chemistry and Psychology and spoke about the complexities of balancing riding and studying, “It’s been hard trying to balance everything, it’s a big step up from GCSE’s but my family have been great, I couldn’t expect any more from them they’ve been so good and supportive.”

A no-pressure approach to stepping up to Prix St Georges is on the horizon for the duo, “I’m just enjoying the journey and if we get to the top then it would be amazing but I’m already so proud of what she’s achieved so anything else is a bonus with her.”

Sophia concluded by reflecting on her Petplan Area Festival journey, “the atmosphere is brilliant, I’ve done the Area Festivals since the Prelim and worked my way up so it’s been brilliant to qualify and even the atmosphere outside is just as good as inside so it’s a brilliant competition.”

Lucy Mills and MSL Saltarello Hit earned their second podium place of the week with the runners up position on 68.290%, and the Krack C-sired Katharine-Trix us put her best hoof forward for Sophie Chatwin in third.

Petplan Novice Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Natasha Gibbons and Penhaligon Soleilette Aimee, 71.666%

The final Petplan Area Festival class of the day at Addington Equestrian was the Petplan Novice Silver Area Festival, where 34 riders battled it out to be crowned the 2024 champion.

It was Helen Clark (E), Maryanne Horn (C) and Kim Warren (M) who judged the popular class that saw Natasha Gibbons and her own Penhaligon Soleilette Aimee finish in first place with a score of 71.666%.  

Although Natasha has been to both Winter and Summer Area Festival Championships before, it’s an Area Festival debut for six-year-old mare Penhaligon Soleilette Aimee. Bred by British-bred by Theresa Oakes of Penhaligon Stud (Freischutz x Soliman De Hus), Aimee was bought as a foal at the 2018 AES & Brightwells Elite Foal action held at the LeMieux National Championships.

On how "Aimee" has taken to the whole experience, Natasha said “we came up really early for the arena walk, she was pretty chilled, she got a little bit buzzy when it got busy, but she was fine. She has been chilling in the lorry park all day, then came out like she has been doing it all of her life.”

This is a first win for Natasha, who described the winning feeling as “wonderful, it’s the first one and she has exceed all expectations today, she’s been amazing!”

She told us why she regularly competes in the Petplan Area Festivals, “they are really encouraging for slightly less professional riders, because it is not quite as intermediating than when you are in a big warm up with lots of very nice horses. The whole process is really easy and friendly and also encouraging.”

Natasha has been riding since the age of five, and works at her family run livery yard Treetops, as well as being the co-founder of Treetops Horse Box business with her uncle and not to mention the mum of a toddler. On how she balances such a busy schedule she said “I have an amazing team, my family rally around everyone chips in whether it is doing the horses, childcare or the lorries. It’s just a very big team effort. With us being here today there is a whole team of people at home doing the yard, we are very lucky everyone mucks in to make it all happen.”

Natasha also spoke of how she juggles being a mum to a young child as well as working and competing, “it is quite tiring, but I am lucky Isaac is very laid back and from day one he’s been round the yard in the buggy, I am very fortunate he allows me to do what I love doing. But again I have a very good team, both sets of grandparents are amazing they have him lots, my partner is also very good he’s got him today.”

Natasha now has her sights set on Novice at Regionals, as well as putting together some music to start competing in freestyle classes.

In second place was Erin Dobby and Woodlander Million, who scored 70.764%, with Jennifer Bowman and Licanto H finishing in third place with 69.444%.

Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver Championship
Winner: Katie Warner and Active Nuvolari, 73.797%

Katie Warner’s stunning mare Active Nuvolari produced a fantastic win in the final class on day three, scoring 73.797% to take the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver title.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” Katie said after taking her lap of honour in the NAF Five Star Arena, “it’s been such a huge achievement getting here. To come here and do so well I am just delighted.”

“I really struggled with the preparation for the show,” Katie explained about the build up to her championship debut, “she had a little tweak a couple of weeks ago so she’s been on box rest the last few weeks with fairly limited exercise. When I came here and saw the big rings, it’s a massive show for her so I really was a little bit worried so for her to go in the ring and pull of that sort of performance has just shown me what a special horse she is.”

“She’s such a girly girl, very clever, quite sensitive, she likes living out with her friends. Shes got her little Shetland friends! She can be sensitive and quite on point but she’s really learning to be relaxed now. I think she’s going to be a real star, she’s such a nice person to get on with.”

Reviewing her winning performance, the Berkshire-based rider continued, “I think she went in and was really relaxed today, I know she moves really well, she can be really nicely connected when she’s relaxed like that. She’s got a lovely trot and the mediums are nice but I think there’s a lot more to come with those."

Active Nuvolari, known at home as ‘Purdy’, carried not only her rider to victory but also Katie’s third child, who's due in August. Talking about how she balances horses and family life, she said, “I’ve had to see my own horses as a hobby and not get too invested in how they come out on paper, I just go out and enjoy them, sometimes I need a bit of help. My mums here today, mum does a lot of child care. My trainer does loads for me, I think you’ve just got to get into the place where it’s the journey you’re enjoying rather than the results then the results will just come.”

Katie is planning on qualifying for the Summer Regionals, “although I’m not sure I’ll actually get there. I think now’s a really good opportunity to get some training in and get her ready to come out at a higher level next year.”

Second place belonged to Tereza Hejdukova and Anna Wilson’s Euripides, scoring a super 73.241%, whilst the tiny but tremendous Welsh Pony Parvadean Estelle earned 71.945% with Imogen Casely to take third spot.