NAF Five Star Winter Championships: day four
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Day four at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships was blessed with blue sky, sunshine and eight classes of dressage worth celebrating in both the NAF Five Star and Petplan Equine arenas.
Superflex Intermediate I Freestyle Gold
Winners: Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Bella Ruby, 74.16%
Alice Oppenheimer has had a fabulous week at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships, winning the Superflex Inter I Freestyle Gold on 74.16% with Headmore Bella Ruby, to add to her Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle Gold win on Tuesday.
She reflects on her week, “In the Inter I yesterday, I had some amazing bits and then I had some mistakes, so I just said to mum, I just want a nice ride round and to try and ride without mistakes and finish on a nice test.” Alice says, “She’s done a lot this week, forth test this week, but she was amazing. She tried her heart out, she was a bit tired, obviously this being day four in a row.”
She came into this competition with no expectations but knowing her horse she knew how the pair could get the most out of this experience, “I cut my warmup down. She’s the type of horse, I can just pootle around the warmup and not really put any power in and then trot round the edge and lift her up and always responds.”
Talking about her test, “she’s got lovely great, big changes and she’s got such an off the floor extended canter that’s what we put at the end of our canter work.” Creating a freestyle test is a unique way to express your horse's personality and Alice did just that “It wasn’t perfect, but I honestly think she wouldn’t have tried harder for me today and that’s pretty special.
“It was quite emotional at the end of the test because it’s a really special feeling when the horse gives you absolutely everything in the arena,” Alice states, as the team all had a happy cry at the end of the test. The relationship they have is something special and Alice knows what an amazing horse she has, “I knew she was tired but every time I asked a question she responded with the right answer. That’s what I love about her.”
Finishing second was Kate Cowell and Rayban on a score of 73.08%. Third went to Sara-Jane Lanning and Sigurd with 71.29%.
KBIS Prelim Silver
Winner: Luis Vilhena and Loves Black STH, 74.66%
Getting action underway in the NAF Five Star Arena on day four of the NAF Five Star Winter Championships was the KBIS Preliminary Silver Winter Championship won in emphatic style by Luis Vilhena and his hot prospect, Loves Black STH I.
“It was OK!” smiled Luis modestly. “As I rode around the outside of the arena, I was trying to remember the test as I’m still a bit green with it, but as soon as the bell rang and we went in, it all went well and he was very relaxed and very calm, just like he is at home. It was a nice test.”
Their super test was duly awarded 74.65% from the judging panel of Pamela Bushell, Linda Whetstone and Mary-Anne Horn.
The stunning Millennium x Voice black stallion, at five years old, has a maturity beyond his years. “He has an exceptional temperament,” says Luis. “I’ve worked so many horses in my life and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before, he is very special. He’s even had kids of four years old sitting on him and playing with piaffe – he’s just a very good boy.”
Originally from Portugal, but now living in Brentwood, Essex, Luis previously worked for Paul Hayler. “It was while working for Paul that I started competing, but I am a bit nervous at competitions. I don’t know why but I always get nervous and cannot sleep for a week before,” he admits. “But I’m enjoying it now and have really started to want to do more.”
Second place went to Lauren Crowe and Scout on a score of 72.64%, with Georgina Nicholls and Briarwood Notorious completing the top three with 72.01%.
Petplan Equine Prelim Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Matthew Crompton and Spring Song, 76.11%
Staffordshire farrier Matthew Crompton stormed to victory in the Peplan Equine Area Festival Prelim Silver with his uber talented five year old, Spring Song. The judging panel of Richard Baldwin, Debbie Wardle and Fiona Wilson were unanimous in declaring Matthew the winner with a whopping 76.11%.
A delighted Matthew told us; “It was just really unexpected today. She’s a beautiful mare and she just gets better and better. We came here today just to see what she could do and she pulls that out of the bag! She’s only five and with COVID and lockdown she missed all of last year so she’s come out all guns blazing. The break did her good, gave her time to mature.”
A full Hanoverian by Summertime Blues, Spring Song and Matthew already have a busy season of championships ahead; “We’ve qualified for the Area Festival Prelim, Novice and Novice Music this summer – I’ll need to check the rulebook now I’ve won to see what I can do!” he joked.
Matthew had a great group to cheer him on; “We’re a big family, my wife is very supportive. She does the work at home, my parents help out and George Harrison, my trainer, has come down to support. It’s just a real team effort. I’m so grateful for all the I support get which enables me to do my farriery work – I was shoeing just this morning!”
Runners up place on the podium went to Rafaella Baily with Pammy Hutton’s Kalosca on 74.44% and third spot was claimed by Tamsyn Hammond and Chelveston Lass, owned by Helen Hurford-Dawson on 73.26.
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep, 76.01%
Winning the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold gave Charlotte Dujardin a third national title to this week's tally, scoring 76.09% on Imhotep, to beat a strong leader board.
Having previously competed under Sadie Smith, the eight-year-old Everdale/Vivaldi gelding is performing well considering he has only done a handful of shows with Charlotte. Pete, as he is known to his owner, Coral Ingham, is an exciting horse for the future. Charlotte thinks so too when talking about him, "Pete [Imhotep] has actually done very little," said Charlotte, talking about her winning ride. "Coming out here, going into the arena, he did a mistake-free test, a little bit tense in places. He's inexperienced, this is what he comes for, these shows are great for him to get that experience.
They are looking forward to a bright future together, "He's done a few Premier Leagues that he's done very well at this year, so again, yeah, he's definitely a horse for Grand Prix, through and through - he has it written all over him.” Charlotte is wanting to keep Imhotep around, “For Paris 2024, Carl is going to have to fight me for him!" she smiled.
We are all happy to be back out competing and giving young horses their chance to shine, "This is what it's all about really for me. Having these young horses coming through, being able to compete them, bring them to shows like this, educate them and have them for the future,” says Charlotte.
Rounding off the podium was Katie Bailey and Defago with 75.61% in second and Becky Moody on a score of 74.91% with Jagerbomb, for third.
Prestige Italia Novice Silver
Winners: Georgina Nicholls and Headmore Figaro, 74.69%
It was another win today for Georgina Nicholls and Headmore Figaro in the Prestige Italia Novice Silver with a score of 74.69%, after winning the Novice Silver Freestyle yesterday. Adding another win to her string of titles from the up-and-coming star.
Proving to be a vital part of the team at the Headmore’s, Sarah Oppenheimer must be pleased that Georgie kept up her persistence to work there, after originally turning her down due to the team not taking on apprentices, her impressive work ethic and “outstanding dedication” is certainly paying off.
“I’m just really proud of Georgie, it’s her first every major Championship, to come away with two wins on three horses is amazing.” says Alice Oppenheimer, her mentor and trainer. Thanking the team at home as without them at Headmore, the pair wouldn’t be able to have weeks like this.
A busy day for Georgie as she has competed in four classes, coming 10th on Woodcroft Kika Quina in this class and 4th in the Prelim Silver but achieved a second with Briarwood Notorious.
Jack Morris and MFS Isabella Utopia finished second on 72.65%, with Luis Vilhena and Loves black STH I with a score of 70.80%, in third.
Petplan Equine Elementary U21 Area Festival Championship
Winners: Kendal Bow and DPUK Blue Moon, 70.34%
This afternoon, under sunny skies at Hartpury, Kendal Bow rode to victory in the Petplan Equine Elementary U21 Area Festival Championship. The 20-year-old from South Lanarkshire piloted the diminutive DPUK Blue Moon, a 12-year-old son of Mooiman, to a winning 70.34%.
Small but mighty, KWPN x Welsh pony ‘Blue’ stands at just 14.2hh and has been ridden by Kendal throughout his seven-year BD career. “I am actually quite shocked; I didn’t know how it was going to pan out, with the travelling down but I am over the moon,” Kendal says. “So, with the weather it actually worked out in our favour, he’s a bit of a diva, he can get a bit hot headed, but it actually made our test a lot smoother. It was a quiet, safe test. All his transitions were really good, in and out and up and down the gait.”
Blue is a dressage pony at heart, “he is very playful, he is a drama queen, he loves attention on him, he’s the only pony I have at the moment, he hates having others around.” Kendal gives me all the attention he deserves, “He loves his cuddles.”
Kendal has a bright future ahead of herself outside of the dressage arena, “currently I am at uni, first year, GM Academy Performing Arts in Edinburgh. So had to downsize the ponies to do that, as it takes me in a different direction, but I would like to keep going with Blue, keep producing him. I have had him for eight years, so keep going up the levels to Advanced, that’s my goal.” She has goals in front of the camera too, “Long term I intend to do acting on the side.”
She won’t be hanging up her title just yet and has plans to step it up for next year, “Would like to get back here at Medium next year, he’s kind of gone up the levels from Prelim and Novice and want to keep continuing with that.” We wish them the best of luck.
This 24-strong class was close at the top, with Hilary Cowie (15) and Shall We Dance II scoring 70.09% for second place and Morgan Kent, also 15, posting 69.75% for third aboard Kolstein's Don Amigo.
Petplan Equine Prelim U21 Area Festival Championship
Winners: Emma McClelland and Mountain Hill, 72.70%
Winners in the Prelim Under 21 are Scottish pair, Emma McClelland with her ten-year-old gelding, Mountain Hill with a score of 72.70%.
This is their first year competing, only attending a handful of tests, which they have won in Scotland, they have recently stepped up to Novice level.
On her first experience at the Championships, Emma said “I was concerned because of the heat – because we’re from Scotland! I didn’t warm him up too much and just let him walk around and stretch. Before we went in one of the main things was to get him to look around the arena because neither of us have done much dressage so it was quite a big show for us. Once he had gone around he wasn’t too spooky so we just went in and he rode really nicely – I think he enjoyed himself, he seemed to love being in there with everyone watching”
Emma and Mountain Hill, who are based in Aberdeenshire and had a 10 hour journey to Hartpury, are both new to dressage, having only joined British Dressage in November. In the lead up to the Championships they have been focusing on getting to grips with the basics in their training; “I train with a few different people – Julia Gourley and Jean Steven are the main two, I have weekly lessons with them. I’m just trying to get the basics and take things slowly, I don’t want to rush anything and definitely get our foundations right.”
Emma describes Mountain Hill, who’s stable name is Breeze, as “super sweet, he’s a 14.2hh connemara, he just loves being with people, he’s loving being here because he gets a lot of attention. As long as he’s got food he’s happy!”
Emma is studying Dietetics at university in Edinburgh, although due to COVID-19 she is currently back living at home where she works on balancing both horses and her uni work. On her future dressage plans she said “I want to progress up the levels where we can and not rush things too much, and just make sure that we enjoy ourselves.”
Second was awarded to Daisy Bullman and Godrics Dionysus with 72.43%. Sasha Good and L’Sierra, are third with a score of 72.36%.
SPILLERS Medium Freestyle Silver
Winner: Ruby Hughes and Nancy Scott's Classic Bee Gee, 71.55%
Taking our final class on day four at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships and her first title at her debut Championships was BD Youth rider Ruby Hughes who scored in the SPILLERS Medium Freestyle Silver with Nancy Scott’s Classic Bee Gee. Dancing to aptly chosen Bee Gees tunes, Ruby and fifteen year old KWPN ‘Barry’ scored 71.55% to top the tables with Chrissie Havis and Beckhouse Piano Blue (71.44%) in second, and fellow BD Youth rider Demi Howard-Cartwright and Fin C WE in third (70.27%).
After a host of titles at this year’s Winter Regional Championships, Ruby went one better with today’s success, speaking about her super time in the NAF Five Star arena today she told us, “It’s so exciting I’m so proud of how it went and I could never believe this would happen!
“He was such a good boy, he stayed with throughout the whole test,” she continued about her superstar ride whom she’s campaigned successfully in Children on Horses classes throughout their first season together. “It also was my first-time riding through my new freestyle, I was a bit ahead of my music so I added an extra simple change meaning I was a bit late for my final halt, but apart from that I was so proud of how it went. He stuck with me the whole time and he was such a good boy.”
Barry, who’s partnered Ruby for a year, came to the Hughes family via family friend and owner Nancy Scott. “My mum went to Holland with a client looking for a new horse, I rode him and honestly I couldn’t leave him! I’m so lucky that a good friend of ours, Nancy Scott, decided to buy him for us.”
Ruby, daughter of Tokyo 2020 team travelling reserve Gareth Hughes and international rider Rebecca Hughes, says she has her sights set on a career in the sport - when asked about her bright future plans in the saddle the talented young rider answered: “Definitely! Since I was younger I’ve always wanted to be one, being an international rider and trainer is definitely my dream.”
End of day results with full judge breakdown:
Photos c Kevin Sparrow