NAF Five Star Winter Championships: day one
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Women’s Wednesday was the theme of the day on day one at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships. The event got underway yesterday with an unprecedented nine national finals on offer, with all top spots taken by lady riders.
PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Gold
Lighting up the NAF Five Star Arena in the PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Gold was the exciting combination of Jo Barry and Gordon Grainger’s Goofy La Perle (pictured). Despite having music disk problems and a floorplan change, the delightful duo bounced back and stole the lead late in the thrilling class from none other than Jo’s former ride, Sugar Plum Fairy, now piloted by Jennifer Johnston-Harman. ‘Plum’ and Jennifer placed third, whilst second place went to the delightful Friesian stallion Jos K with Katherine Lewis – this combination have been twice runner up on day one of the NAF Five Star Winter Championships having just missed out on the Spillers Medium Freestyle win earlier on.
Reflecting on her 78.01% win Jo said, ‘I got back to the lorry and people kept sending me well done messages, I was shocked! I’ve only had him just over eight months, despite not always being easy he’s come on so much but I really didn’t expect this at all.’
This win marks Jo’s first Championship title since recovering from a serious head injury caused by riding accident in December 2014. ‘Looking back to three years ago I never thought that Championships were going to be possible again so this is like my Olympic medal. I really never ever thought I’d win another Championship, it’s quite emotional.’
Full of praise for Goofy La Perle Jo continued, ‘He went in there and was so grown up, he’s very professional. He just knows what to do when he sees white boards and flower pots, he was the same at the Winter Regionals. Whatever issue we have in the working in, be it big or small, is just put away and he gets on with it. It’s lovely to have that attitude and he really took me through the test, he’s only done a few low key competitions in Holland so this is his first big show.’
Jo and the seven-year-old gelding by the popular Belissimo M will also contest both the Elementary Gold and Medium Gold Freestyle competitions later this week.
Blue Chip Novice Silver
The rider to take the first title of the day was mother of three, Claire Johnston, from Leicestershire, who in the morning was crowned Blue Chip Novice Silver Champion 2018. With Sensation, her beautiful black Sir Oldenburg x Don Frederico eight-year-old, she posted a score of 72.22% for a clear victory.
“I’m slightly overwhelmed,” said Claire after the prize-giving. “I came here wanting to do well of course but I never expected to do this well. Everyone told me ‘go big or go home’ and I thought perhaps I sat a bit too quiet, so it was exciting to hear my score.”
“This has been a really good year,” reflected Claire who’s resumed her competing and training with ‘Jazz’ after a difficult 2017, a year in which she both lost her father and broke her ribs in a fall from another horse.
Claire was joined at Hartpury by her daughters and her veterinarian husband without whom, she says, the year would have been much harder. “You know…being here together as a family has been wonderful in itself so to win is an absolute bonus for us. My family has been so supportive.”
Jazz was bought as an unbacked three-year-old after Claire, who trains with Ian Woodhead, spotted her advertised on HorseQuest. “I used to event but stopped after having children as I was just too busy. Then when the children were older, and with time on my side, I decided to find a two- or three-year-old. And there she was! She’s a sassy mare, quite domineering and loves the attention of competing.”
Petpan Equine Medium Silver
The Petplan Equine Medium Silver Area Festival Championship belonged to Staffordshire rider Jo Stoyell and her ten-year-old T Movistar x Voltaire gelding Movinight. “I’m still shocked,” smiled Jo after receiving her award in the NAF Five Star Arena.
Bought from Sarah Tyler-Evans as a two-year-old, Movistar has only just stepped up to Medium level, making the result all the more impressive. “He was very weak behind, struggling a little to gain strength and find balance, so we introduced water treadmill work which has made a huge difference. Not only is he now stronger, he’s also more symmetric in his movement.
“I feel that it’s really starting to come together for us,” said Jo who’s developing the talented ‘Rosco’ with help from trainer Malcolm Brown. “He was a little accident prone as a youngster but he’s very intelligent and has now redeemed himself. He’s a lovely horse – a real poppet. He can be a little sharp to hack but he’s very sweet.”
Equi-Trek Elementary Silver
A thrilled Danielle Hardwick took the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver on the 10-year-old Edendown William Wombat, affectionately known as ‘Will’ by their enthusiastic support crew, with a score of 69.58%. Danielle was very pleased with their faultless performance in a competitive class of 28 starters, “He was really good, he felt great as sometimes he can come out quite hot and tense but today he was so relaxed. All the simple change transitions, and the canter trot transitions were easy for him which we can struggle with sometimes.”
Danielle, who is based in Walsall in the West Midlands, has only been riding William for just over a year, he’s owned by Ruth MacCarthy who had previously competed him successfully in International Para classes. “Ruth had him on a yard not far from us, she was pregnant at the time and was looking for a rider so I started riding him and we’ve now bought in to him so we’re half owners now.”
They kept preparation simple for the championships since their qualifying win at the Addington Regional Finals in February, “We haven’t competed as he’s not the type of horse that needs it, he has done a lot of competing before, we’ve mainly been training with Rhett Bird and that’s what we’ve focused on.”
Danielle is a busy lady, working for her trainer Rhett full time for the last six years, she has a yard of youngsters to ride at home and is now training to be a personal trainer as well! She looks to aim the Honeypot Strombli sired William for Medium regionals this summer.
The combination will return to the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships on Friday for the Albion Medium Silver, where they will be ones to watch after their eye-catching performance today.
Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Bronze
Popular rider Jade Clark (26) from Kinver, West Midlands, rode Helen Dolisznyj’s stunning Lusitano gelding, Espirito to a win in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Prix St Georges with 67.28%, a two percent margin over second place.
“I’ve been riding him for 18 months, we started at Advanced Medium and have been working our way up. We hoped to qualify for the championships last year but it was postponed because I broke my leg falling off a young horse which was unfortunate. My first competition back was the semi-final so I’m thrilled to get here.”
Owner, Helen, was absolutely beeming with Espirito’s win having discovered his talent six years earlier, “I saw him as a three year old in Golegã, Portugal where he was piaffing like nobody’s business, really technically correct. Then when I saw him in the stable I thought he was a bit small, but six months later I just couldn’t forget about him so I called up and bought him! He has an amazing canter, his ability to collect is phenomenal so we’ve always known he’s going to be a grand prix horse. He’s full of character and so cheeky, despite being one of the smaller horses on the yard, he’s just like a big dog when you take him to a show, he’s such a good boy!”
Jade trains with Carl Hester and Sue Brennan, whom she works for at Brennan Equestrian producing and schooling horses. She now looks to compete Espirito at Intermediate I level and is aiming for the Iberian Dressage Masters this year..
Baileys Novice Freestyle Silver
Twenty-two year old Angharad Harries claimed her first ever dressage championship title today in the Baileys Novice Freestyle Silver Championship on a whopping 74.91%. Aboard her own six-year-old Samba Hit II mare Gayla VD Kempenhoeve, Angharad danced her way to victory using a Celtic-themed soundtrack produced by Camille Peters.
‘It felt really good, a lot more relaxed than the Regionals and a lot more rideable,’ enthused Angharad. ‘The trot work felt really good and the canter was really nice and soft, I felt like I could really ride her and go for it.’
The dynamic duo narrowly pipped 10-year-old Myles Graham and Heavenly High Jinks (74.07%), who’ve come on leaps and bounds since placing fourth in last year’s Prelim Bronze Championship and Novice Bronze Area Festival Championship, to the top spot.
‘I didn’t have any expectations,” continued Angharad. ‘I just wanted to get around without any mistakes – so I couldn’t really have asked for more!’
Angharad, who has been working for Hughes Dressage for over three years, found ‘Gayla’ at the Equine Elite Auction in 2015 and it was love at first sight thanks to ‘her massive character’. The pair is working up the levels, hoping to qualify for the Nationals later this year at Elementary and possibly Medium ‘but only if she’s ready’ concluded Angharad.
Petplan Equine Medium Bronze
Eventer Georgina Tapner has clearly taken to dressage, as today she topped the Petplan Equine Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship with a solid 68.77%. Riding her own six-year-old Belissimo M-sired chestnut gelding, Bugatti II, they claimed the title at their first championships together.
‘I’m an eventer, I know everything about eventing but I haven’t got a clue about dressage – I’m just trying to feel my way through,’ exclaimed Georgina. ‘This is our first Winter Championships, so I couldn’t be more proud! He’s very solid at Medium now, so I’m able to enjoy him a little more. He’s never been to anything as big as this, so I really wanted to get into the prize giving and the indoor arena to give him that experience’
Georgina, who trains with Amy Woodhead and Charlie Hutton, hung up her eventing boots two and a half years ago and purchased Bugatti as a pure dressage horse as she had always enjoyed flatwork.
‘When you buy a four-year-old that’s partially broken, you have no idea what they’re going to be like in the dressage arena, but he just takes everything in his stride – although he’s quite sharp, so I never go anywhere without my neck strap!’
‘I don’t know what my plan is,’ continued Georgina. ‘He’s got a week off and then I’d like to keep on moving up, we’ve just starting dabbling in passage and piaffe, my aim for next year is to hopefully have a go at a Prix St Georges but I have no idea what’s in the test and where to start, we’re both learning together.’
Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver
The Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver class went right down to the wire in the outdoor arena at Hartpury College this evening. The eventual winner on a score of 67.46% was Molly Key with Veronica Chomse’s stunning Hanoverian gelding Absinth W.
Speaking to British Dressage about her test Molly said, ‘I’ve ridden a few Prix St Georges tests with him but this was the first time he’s probably done a clear round without any little hiccups, I couldn’t have been more pleased with him – he was brilliant!’
Miracle horse ‘Ant’ recovered from kissing spines surgery to add this title to an impressive history of Championship wins, ‘He’s got a fantastic temperament and attitude towards his work. It took a long time for him to come back but the operation needed to be done and his rehab was brilliant. He’s the most perfect horse to work with. What you ask he just does everything, he tries his hardest.’
Full time rider Molly praised Ant’s changes and lateral work from today’s test but enthused that his strength is it’s his outstanding personality and work ethic, ‘he’s getting better and better as he’s getting stronger, my trainer Damian Hallam wants me to take him out at Inter I so we’ll aim to do that soon. Damian is amazing, it’s his work that’s done this!’
Julia Morris with her own Willis and Serena Gordon with her own Wonderland completed the top three in the class judged by Andrea Smith (C), Gwyneth Lewis (H) and Richard Baldwin (B).
Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver
It was a family affair in the Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver event as Holly Colgate Hardaway soared to victory after scoring 72.78% with her mother Zoe’s Danish bred gelding Dalvangs Lorenzo.
Today Holly was riding to a Glen Miller composition formerly used at Grand Prix level over 25 years ago by Zoe and her horse King of Confidence.
Speaking about her test and her meaningful music Holly said, ‘It was really special today, our test used the same highlights with the shoulder in, medium trot and the half pass. My mum’s signature move was to do extended canter down the centre line and halt at the end – it always gives me goose bumps doing that movement!’
Explaining about her decision to use the music Zoe added, ‘It was so emotional with the music, she’s been asking for years and I kept saying no! Every time I hear it I still cry! I agreed to let Holly use the music at Advanced Medium level and she said that if she was using the music at Advanced Medium then why not just use it at the Regionals for the Medium too, I agreed again and here we are!'
Holly, who works as a freelance rider, is no stranger to success having won the Childeric Saddles Elementary Silver at last year’s LeMieux National Championships with Lorenzo. The Bogegardens Laurino sired gelding wasn’t backed until six-years-old and Holly has taken her time to produce him slowly, ‘baby-steps’ Holly’s younger brother added! Talking about her superstar ride she concluded, ‘He’s quite laid back, he thinks he’s like a small lead rein pony or family dog! We’re moving on to Advanced Medium so hopefully we’ll be back for the Nationals in the summer.’
Making for an eye catching top three, Katharine Lewis and her Friesian stallion Jos K took second place on 71.89% whilst Russell Guire placed third earning 69.39% with the stunning appaloosa Tresaison Roulette.