NAF Five Star Winter Championships: day one
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British-bred Headmore Footloose claimed a second championship of his young career in taking the first of 39 titles on offer on day one of the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships at Gloucestershire’s Hartpury Arena. With his rider of a year and a half, Maeve Morris, ‘Eric’ was awarded 71.6% for his efforts under judges Anne Keen, Andrew Bennie and Tim Downes to take the Blue Chip Novice Silver Championship by just under one percent.
British stud Headmore is set to feature highly this week with ten horses bearing its prefix competing, all born at the Hampshire stable. Eric is a Headmore grandchild as his mum was also bred there.
At last summer’s LeMieux National Championships, Maeve and Eric were KBIS Prelim champions and have continued their winning ways today. Maeve’s step mum Nicola bred and owns the horse. He was originally intended for her to ride but Maeve fell in love with him, enough to make her swap disciplines from jumping to dressage and they’ve been unstoppable ever since.
Eric, rising six and by Florencio, is still stabled at Headmore and Maeve rides at the weekends when she shoots down from London where she works full-time as a property developer. She of course trains with Alice Oppenheimer and has had some lessons with Charlotte Dujardin when she’s down there.
“I had a lovely ride today – the best ever for that test. There was a slight sat-nav failure when I stared doing my Freestyle test! It all came together today; I always struggle with my 10 metre circles but I think I did okay in there.” An approving nod from Alice confirmed, along with the comment; “It was a lovely test to watch.” So, the trainer approved.
The duo are in action again tomorrow in the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Silver Freestyle, and if you were wondering about music, well, there’s a clue in Eric’s show name!
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold
It was a second score of the day for Britain’s breeders in the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle when Nikki Barker scored a whopping 77.03% with her own five year old Dan Icarus. Nikki bought Dan Icarus as a yearling from his breeder Viv Gleave who she jointly owns her stallion Durable with, who also happens to be the sire!
A delighted Nikki said; “He has exactly the same brain and temperament as his dad, it’s unbelievable how similar they are. He’s probably done about five tests in his life so he’s never done anything like this; he’s such a joy! With him, you get the horse you have at home in the arena here which is so special.”
Nikki and ‘Ruben’ rode to music put together by Ros Emery Kay with songs from Rocky. Nikki says that since qualifying for the regionals and subsequently for Hartpury, Ruben has really developed and his paces have ‘grown’; “I found myself ahead of the music as his movement is so much bigger so we halted early! Still, it gave him chance to smile nicely at the judges to finish!”
Nikki has a busy week with six horses qualified, including Ruben’s dad Durable so she’s had to enlist help from her support network. Even her dad has been coerced into lending a hand to drive a second lorry, ensuring Ruben had an extra smooth ride to Gloucestershire from Newmarket!
Petplan Equine Medium Bronze
There was no smile wider in the Hartpury Arena today than that of Sarah Edwards as she exited the prize giving following her victory in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Medium Bronze Championship. Riding her own Westphalian Impression G, by Insterburg, she scored 69.31% two win by just over two percent and take her first ever title. “I’m just so thrilled!” she kept saying and she patted ‘Charlie’ repeatedly.
The Director of her own successful head hunting business, Sarah has enjoyed a life-long passion for horses and point to pointing was her discipline of choice in her younger days. Along with her supportive husband she still breeds racehorses. “I took up dressage and loved it. I got my last horse, Mr Tintin here but he was at his limit. I wanted to do more and aged 50 I had an urge to wear tails. So, a year ago bought Charlie, my first warmblood, and getting here has been our ambition ever since.”
Some time off at Christmas was the only blip on their journey to get to Hartpury. “He felt very jolly in the arena walk and his test felt the best he’s ever done, it felt so smooth,” beamed Sarah. When her score came through, Sarah couldn’t quite believe it so she went to the Secretary just to double check but it was real! “It’s really a case of dreams do come true. I started as a real novice at Prelim on an ex-racehorse and BD has helped me learn so much, it’s been such an adventure. I hope to be here next year with Charlie in the Advanced Medium and then again the year after…in my tails!”
Equi-Trek Elementary Silver
Bethany Edginton, a young rider from Wakefield, has won today’s Equi-Trek Elementary Silver Championship with her Grandmother Jackie’s Oldenburg seven-year-old, Frankel. First to go in the 30-strong class, the pair led from the start with a cracking score of 72.29% from the judging panel of Sally Andrews (E), Alison Duck (C) and Sue Wood (M).
Like his racing namesake, Frankel is full of quality and took victory in convincing style. “I’m just so happy with him,” said Bethany, visibly elated after the prize-giving in the Hartpury Arena. Reflecting on the win – her first ever championship victory - she said, “I have never won anything like it…it’s just amazing, completely amazing!”
Describing their test, which was in the morning chill at 8am, Bethany commented, “He [Frankel] was really good. He can be quite spooky but today he focused on me and gave me everything. We’ve recently started teaching him changes and during a pre-Championships test run, he threw one in, so I was a bit concerned that it might happen again. But today he did a good clean test. He felt very good.”
Frankel, a picture-perfect grey gelding by Fairbanks out of a His Highness mare, was bought from Caroline Saynor as a four-year-old for Bethany whose burgeoning interest in dressage inspired her to train her showjumping pony in her new discipline. A search for a dressage horse ensued. “We told Caroline that we wanted something talented, but also sensible,” said owner Jackie, “And that’s Frankel.’
Bethany, 17, who trains with Becky Moody, is doing an advanced apprenticeship at S and T Equestrian and, long term, plans to develop her family’s livery yard into a more competition focused set-up. “I didn’t want her to be as horsey as me,” laughed Jackie, “but she’s even worse than me!”
Petplan Equine Area Festival Medium Silver
Holding on to an early lead, eventer-turned-dressage rider Georgina Tapner and her Belissimo M-sired gelding Bugatti II have added today’s Petplan Equine Medium Silver Area Festival Championship title to their excellent Hartpury record.
Winners of last year’s Petplan Equine Medium Bronze, the cool-headed pair were the first of the day in Petplan Arena 2. The only combination to breach the magic 70% barrier, with a mark of 70.68%, they lead throughout to once again claim their place on the Petplan Equine roll of honour.
“I’m so happy with him,” said Georgina of the good looking German gelding. “It was a bit daunting to start going first, but he stayed relaxed and gave me a great ride. I really enjoyed riding the test. There were no mistakes; it was a clear round.”
Bugatti, now eight, was bought as a four-year-old by Georgina who evented to 2* level. “I didn’t want to event any more, since having the children, so decided to do some dressage.”
Georgina is trained by both Charlie Hutton and her husband Paul, winner of Badminton Horse Trials in 2010 and here to support his wife today. Looking forward, Georgina modestly says she wants to ‘learn how to dressage’. The talented pair, who recently made their Prix St Georges debut, look on course for an exciting future.
Their 2019 NAF Five Star Winter Championships campaign isn’t over just yet as they return on Sunday for the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Bronze.
Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Bronze
A former event horse took top honours this afternoon in the Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Bronze Area Festival Championship. Laura Fisher and Sam The Man Veldhoek (by Oswin) were awarded a personal best score of 68.59% to win the class and take their 2019 championships tally to two; the multi-talented combination are fresh from victory in the Ideal Saddles Novice/90cm Combined Training Championships last month.
“I’m so thrilled with him today,” enthused Laura after a celebratory glass of fizz. “All of the test felt good, and I was happy that we achieved all the tempi changes. He’s normally quite lazy but today he was really up for it and piaffed all the way to the arena! He really likes to be out.”
Laura and Ozzie, as the gelding is known, enjoyed a successful eventing career competing up to 2* before he was forced to retire from the sport some three years ago due to navicular. Now 17, and with the help of trainer Debbie Jones, the Belgian-bred son of Oswin is flourishing in his second career. “Debbie has transformed us and helped to make the horse more confident,” said Laura. “She’s a judge also so she can help me from the judge’s perspective. I’ve trained with her since the end of last year.
“When I was eventing I called it ‘stressage’ but I love it now,” added Laura. “Retiring from eventing was the turning point. At the time it was just doing what’s best for him so it’s exciting to have achieved what we have. He’s always done a good dressage test so in a way this was a natural progression.”
North Wales based Laura, who works in Rural Development Marketing, is aiming towards Inter I with her ‘horse of a lifetime’. “I also have a few youngsters at home to bring up through the levels.”
Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold
Winning the hearts of the audience and judges alike, Katharine Lewis and Jos K claimed the Medium Freestyle Gold in style with a brilliant score of 73.22%, and the biggest cheer of the day.
The Friesian stallion by Tsjale 454 turned heads at the 2018 NAF Five Star Winter Championships with a runner up spot in the Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver class; this year the duo went one better with a thrilling freestyle programme that also delivered them a title at the inaugural BD Summer Music Championships last year. Their test today showed all Jos’s talent for the future, with a huge extended canter a clear highlight.
Speaking about her first Winter title Katharine said, “I’m absolutely thrilled with him, I’m so lucky to own him! I’ve had him since he was rising four, he’s been consistently qualifying for championships and he’s gone on to win at the Summer Music Championships and the Regional Championships. He’s just so consistent, and he’s growing in strength and confidence all the time.”
Katharine presented her winning test to custom music produced by Gaynor Colburn, “It’s actually from a West End musical Gaynor wrote called Fire of London, she’s played it to his paces and it’s really dramatic.”
“You just can’t get bored of riding him!” Katharine enthused about her star stallion, found at a riding school as a young horse, “Friesians aren’t common and it’s really tough in the Gold section, so to not only hold his own but win is amazing. He just goes into the arena and he knows, you can just ride and know he’ll give his all.”
Katharine recently began training with Nicky Barrett and has enjoyed the progress and clearly reaped the rewards. “She’s really opened my mind and it’s going really well, she’s helped us and we’ve won today which is fantastic.” With Nicky’s help Katherine plans to take it slowly and sympathetically, and continue to train Jos through the levels.
With only one and a half marks between first and second, It was a close battle between Katharine and local rival Alice Oppenheimer, repeating their Spillers title duel from Merrist Wood’s Winter Regional Championships in February. On both occasions, Regional runner up Alice had to settle for second with her outstanding mare Headmore Bella Ruby. Today the duo danced to an emotive Les Miserables soundtrack to earn 72.83%.
Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Silver
In Suregrow’s first year of Elementary Freestyle Silver sponsorship, the UK’s leading fertiliser company were treated to a class of outstanding quality. Stealing the win by a comfortable margin was Wendy Hudson with her own 10 year old mare, Hawtins Chanel (by Curator). The duo scored 72.24% to top the podium ahead of Florence Human and Lynn Perry who completed the top three.
Victory smelled sweet for Wendy whose debut NAF Five Star Winter Championships was without a success, despite a challenging build up: “She had a week off just before we were supposed to be here, it was touch and go whether we would make it but we did and that’s the main thing! She’s not been the easiest but her personality and ability at shows is fantastic. She settles and behaves – bringing her to an occasion like this is great. She can be a bit of an introvert but she’s a very good girl.”
“I was really pleased with how in tune we were with the music today, everything happened when it should and where it should,” Wendy added about her test, “Let’s call it a safe and accurate round, but I just loved the atmosphere in there. I came out and said to my friends I don’t care what the score is, whatever happens I had the best time ever and all I want to do is go back in there and ride again!”
Finance Director and volunteer Treasurer for Newbury RDA Wendy will aim Chanel for the Petplan Equine Medium Area Festivals this season with the ultimate goal of riding in a top hat and tails o board her talented British bred mare bought from Judith Davis as a young horse.
Commendations go to Sophie Watkins, who was unfortunately interrupted by a fire alarm mid-way through her test. On board her lovely mare Inca Spirit Sophie restarted her test to score 68.33%, well done Sophie.
Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver
Bringing day one in the Petplan Equine arenas to a close, Ella-Louise Mayhead and Tirclyn Sportsman clinched the Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver with a super score of 67.06% to top the 18 strong class.
Ella-Louise and ‘Sporty’ placed second at their Area Festival Final at Beacons EC and went one better today as they impressed the judges panel – Linda Whetstone, Richard Baldwin and Felicity Scott.
“This horse is so dear to me and I just wasn’t expecting a win today at all,” Proud owner/rider Ella Louise enthused following her prize giving, “We’ve not had the best preparation, you see people getting ready – their horses are having last minute massages and lessons and test practice – we’ve not ridden through the test since October! He’s been off work and a month ago I really didn’t think we’d be here. But he’s just come good, he’s a total star and I had the best ride I’ve ever had on his today.”
Sporty was recently diagnosed with EMS which triggered a bout of laminitis back in October, an ongoing problem that Ella-Louise has worked hard to control. “Laminitis is one of those things you worry about every step, it’s always in your mind. We’ve been training the PSG movements for only two weeks, he’s really pulled it out of the bag!”
“I came out of my test todayand thought ‘I’m really pleased with that’, it was just brilliant!”
The gorgeous 14.3hh Welsh Section D cob was originally discovered as a rising four year old by Ella-Louise’s sister-in-law who bought him for very little money after he caught her eye in a Brightwells sale in Wales. “She fell off him quite early on and promptly said ‘here you have him’… I never game him back! We realised he was special, not just his temperament but his movement too. We’ve kept him and enjoyed him as a family.” In his successful career, Sporty has also won a national title with a pupil of Ella-Louise’s and enjoyed a trip to the Winter Championships in 2017 finishing seventh in the Advanced Medium Silver class.
Ella-Louise herself balances riding with coaching and working as a civilian for the City of London Police where she runs their mounted branch; “It’s a full time job, they’re very supportive and it works well. It’s a horsey job but it so far away from anything else horsey!”