NAF Five Star Winter Championships: day five
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The curtain came down at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships with an emphatic win in the Albion Medium Gold for Charlotte Dujardin and River Rise Nisa (Negro x Amsterdam). Always a highly competitive class, and a real treat for Sunday spectators, this year’s Albion Medium Gold lived up to every expectation.
Charlotte and the beautiful River Rise Nisa who is owned by Sarah Tyler-Evans were judged the unanimous winners by judges Sue McMahon (E), Penelope Lang (C) and Nick Burton (M), with a score average of 76.62%. Jayden Brown and Atterupgaards 02 took second (73.47%) with Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Davina in third (72.25%).
Charlotte was thrilled with ‘Nancy’ who’d already added Saturday’s Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold to her CV. “She made no mistakes today and although she was a little tired from yesterday, I’m very happy,” said Charlotte.
We’re so lucky in the UK to have an Olympic, World and European Champion so actively using the national competition system to develop young horses, and each test she rides is a master class in itself. Over the course of the five days Charlotte achieved a total six victories, including a one-two-three, with her incredible team of horses.
“I’m delighted with all my horses this week. I really couldn’t ask any more from them at their stages of training, so yes, I’m very happy.”
PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle
Only 0.84% split the top four combinations in the PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Silver championship. Nicola Byam-Cook came out on top with her own Twyford Salamander, a Welsh C gelding known as Solo at home, on 71.99%. Alexis Ross finished close behind on 71.73% with Jane Pocock’s Quartz and Claire Ryder and Contado took third spot with 71.60%.
Nicola and Solo, a former FEI pony with previous rider Bonnie Bourne, are still a new combination, “I got Solo in the August of last year from the Bournes, I just wanted something that I wouldn’t fall off but that I could be competitive on, which isn’t easy to find! I asked his owners if I could try him for a month, I didn’t want to buy something that I’m nervous of because when you do a lot of riding by yourself you need something that’s safe. I took him to a show ten days after I got him and he won the qualifier at Merrist Wood, I was like yep I’ll keep him!”
They rode to music from the Disney film, Moana, a compilation put together by another champion from earlier in the week, Holly Colgate-Hardaway and selected by their biggest fans, “I’ve got two children who are five and six, so when we were putting the music together I wanted something that the children wouldn’t mind because we’d be playing it a lot, day in day out. They chose Moana, Jemima chose the trot music and Rupert chose the canter music, so they feel like they’re part of it! It’s a nice family occasion and they came to watch today.”
Nicola hasn’t done much dressage before today’s win but was a showing rider, “The last time I rode to that prize-giving music, I was champion at the Royal International, I was a pony rider in 1991!” However, today’s performance has definitely given Nicola the dressage bug, “I’ve gone from just wanting something safe, to win the regionals, to win today and become a dressage diva! We’re hoping to be selected for the inter-regionals, he just seems to get better and better and we’re a real partnership now.”
Petplan Equine Preliminary Bronze
Youth triumphed in the Petplan Equine Preliminary Bronze Area Festival Championship with six-year-old Animo’s Boy topping the large class with Heather Wallace at the reins. The super duo scored 71.25% in the Championship judged by Anita Darken (E), John Robinson (C) and Nicky Du Plessis (M); their winning percentage was the only score to break to magic 70% barrier.
Heather, from Tushingham in Shropshire, said about her win ‘I wasn’t expecting to win but I hoped I would, if you’re going to go to the show and you’re not trying to be competitive – why are you there! I knew we were capable of winning if I could keep a lid on him, but I didn’t think we would do it!
Animo’s Boy improved on his winning Area Festival score of 70.5% to excel in the Petplan Arenas at Hartpury. ‘The trot work was better, I’ve just started training with Jess Dunn and she’s been helping us achieve more cadence, the canter was good but the free walk and the halts still need more work. It wasn’t a foot perfect test so there’s still room for improvement! I was made up with the score, I wasn’t expecting it!’
Heather describes the jumping bred gelding as a ‘timebomb’, ‘I bought him as a just backed four year old to do everything with, he’s always been sharp and quite spooky I’ve taken him to loads of places to prepare, we’ve had lots of lessons and hired lots of venues! The more he sees the more normal it becomes.’ he’s done quite a bit of BD and he’s show jumping at 90cm and 95cm – next week we’ll do our first horse trials. I’m a strong believer in variety and education! We’ll aim for the Regionals and the Petplan Area Festivals and get cracking at Novice level hopefully!’
The top three was completed by Suzanne Dickens with Jane Duncan’s Treworder (Grafenstolz x Welton Crackerjack) and Donna Fitzerald with her own Castlelawn Diva (Castlelawn Galloway x Welcome Flagmount).
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold
It was an emotional afternoon for Alice Oppenheimer as she took first and second place in the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold with the full siblings Headmore Davina and Headmore Dirubinio.
It was big sister Headmore Davina to take the title on a score of 72.78%, ‘Weirdly they are nothing alike!’ Alice laughed, ‘Robin [Headmore Dirubinio] is pathetic, nervous and insecure I have to hold his hand! He’s got a phenomenal front leg but you have to work to get the push behind, Davina is the opposite her hind leg is amazing, they are surprisingly different but then I’m not too similar to my sister!
‘I did cry, I said to my team I felt like Charlotte! It was a bit emotional, I gave myself a slap and reminded myself I was a professional!’ said Alice about her first Championship win in three years. ‘I was just pleased to be at the Regionals, then that went well so now I’m just glad to be here. My horses have been fab all week, they’ve been really consistent. It’s been busy but amazing, I’ve had a lot of friends win too so it’s been a good one for the Hampshire riders… we’re challenging Charlotte! It might take a whole country but we’re taking her on music class by music class!’ she concluded.
Alice completed no less than 11 tests across the duration of the show marking a brilliant return to the NAF Five Star Winter Championships having missed last years’ event due to a shattered finger.
Third place in the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold Championships went to Sara-Jane Lanning and Mi Amigo who earned a very credible 72.39%.
Petplan Equine Medium U18 Area Festival
A-level student Samantha Willson was victorious in the Petplan Equine Medium U18 Area Festival Championship with her mother Jackie’s beautiful homebred mare Delhurens Sunshine dancing in the rain to earn 68.28%.
‘We bred her and I backed her myself aged 13, I’m 17 now so it’s really special to win here,’ said a beaming Samantha, ‘She’s qualified for three Championships in a row now, last year I was third in the Novice Silver and took part in the Elementary. I’m really proud of her, to achieve this with a homebred is really special.’
It was a great day all round for the duo who also placed fourth in the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Bronze Area Festival Championships with their success joined by Samantha’s other ride, Paintball Picture Perfect, who placed sixth in the Medium U18s.
Samantha and Delhurens Sunshine (by Deanes San Ciro Hit) have recently started training at Prix St Georges level and are hoping to contest the Premier League events this summer with a view to aiming for the Junior FEI squads and internationals in the near future. ‘She’s a very trainable mare but she’s a bit quirky, she’s got a very lovely, kind personality and we’ve been together for so long we know each other really well,’ she enthused about her lovely horse.
Samantha trains with Claire Moir and credited some of her success to the BD Youth programmes, ‘BD Youth has really helped us, we’ve been to lots of different arenas and different places and shows to gain experience so it’s been very useful’
Second and third spot went to Ronnie-Mae Morgan and BKS Brandini and Petplan Equine Elementary U18 Area Festival Champions Emilia Nelson and WFS Top Red.
Petplan Equine Novice U18 Area Festival Championship
Sixteen-year-old Chloe Baker piloted her own 15-year-old Diamond Hit gelding, Cold Diamond, to victory in the Petplan Equine Novice U18 Area Festival Championships being the only combination to score above the 70% barrier with an impressive 71.60%
"It was really nice – and not too eventful, sometimes it can be!’ explained Chloe. ‘He went really nicely and was really listening, sometimes he can get a bit carried away in the mediums but he managed to keep it all under control today, so that’s always a bonus!"
Although the pair won their Area Festival at Duchy College with a mega 73.96%, they qualified for the Championships from the Final on a wildcard with Chloe expecting nothing from today except wanting a clear round.
"I always pick my tests apart afterwards, so I didn’t think anything about winning," she continued. "My mum told me to just wait for the score before I start criticising it, I waited until I’d untacked and put him away before finding out the score – I was really, really, really pleased with him, I wasn’t expecting it at all."
The duo has been together for just under a year and are now starting to flourish after a bit of a bumpy start.
Chloe explained: "He can be difficult sometimes, his trick is to rear when he doesn’t want to do something. We’ve been working on it and finding ways to avoid it, he doesn’t do it just to be naughty, I think it’s just his character. He’s a completely different horse in the stable as to what he’s like to ride, he’s like a big dog! My mum has quite a spectacular bond with him and he absolutely idolises her.
Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Bronze
Thea Millward (18) enjoyed a day to remember taking the final Petplan Equine Area Festival Championship, the Advanced Medium Bronze, with the chestnut Hanoverian Walentino 77. Thea and Walentino, a handsome nine-year-old Wolkentanz x Wanderbursch gelding were awarded a score of 68.21%.
“It’s really exciting and I’m very happy,” said Thea, reflecting on her achievement. “He was really well behaved today. Normally he’d be quite spooky, but today, he settled well as the test went on and was listening to me throughout.”
Talented young rider Thea bought the German-born chestnut as a seven-year-old and the two have since become a trusting team, “He can be quite insecure in big atmospheres like today so it was really positive that he listened to me and settled down.
“His flying changes were a lot better in this test. A lot straighter than they have been and the second extended trot was very good.”
Looking to the future Thea says, “My big aim for this year is to get to Prix St Georges as I’d love to do Young Riders.”
Completing the top three were Scott McLellan with Lemiroff Is in second, and Christine Cockerton with Evaldo in third.