NAF Five Star Winter Championships: day three
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The NAF Five Star Winter Championships is always well supported by multiple gold medallist, and local girl, Charlotte Dujardin. She loves to ride here for the opportunity it gives to expose young horses to the big stage. The opening class of day three was no exception, 2019 being the year for her and MSJ Charmer to make their championship debut together at the show; and they did it in style, winning a super-hot Blue Chip Novice Gold Championship with a cracking score of 77.96%.
MSJ Charmer (Charmeur x Danone I) is a five-year-old gelding who Charlotte co-owns with Verity Jenner. “I was just hoping to get him round and have a good ride,” said Charlotte. “He went a bit green but he tried really hard. There’s a lot for a young horse to see in there [Hartpury Arena] but he coped so well. He’s new to it all but he’s not spooky at all. He just went in and delivered. I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Known at home as ‘Cookie’, MSJ Charmer was bought by Charlotte as a foal from Emma Blundell at the Mount St John Stud. “He’s such a cool horse and it’s lovely to have had him from a foal. I know everything about him. I normally buy them between two and three [years old], so this feels surreal – to have had him since a baby and now to be competing him here,” she smiled.
“This is only the second time I’ve competed him as Rob [Barker] qualified him for the Regionals, and I’ve loved every minute. Verity Jenner, who owns him with me, is here too. It’s the first time she’s seen him compete.”
From Emma Blundell’s first crop of foals, one of things about MSJ Charmer that caught Charlotte’s eye was his incredible canter. “He cantered as a foal as he does now. The canter is like Valegro’s. And he’s been a pleasure to produce. He’s such a cool horse. He’s lovely to do at home and you forget he’s five. He’s brave; he hacks; he’s very mature,” she added.
The Blue Chip Novice Gold was a highly competitive affair with the top ten competitors all on 70%-plus. The runner-up spot was taken by Becky Moody with the young stallion James Bond 2 (77.90%), with birthday girl Judy Harvey and SP Bento (76.23%) completing the top three. Happy birthday Judy!
Petplan Equine Novice Bronze
A rider on the first horse she’s ever owned was the winner of the Petplan Equine Novice Bronze Area Festival Championship this morning. Buckinghamshire-based Laura Green and her towering gelding Ireldo L (by Hofrat) achieved a score of 70.06% to take the coveted national title.
“I’m thrilled with him,” beamed Laura after the prize-giving in the Hartpury Arena. “It feels incredible to come here and win. He felt very good today. He was hot in the warm-up, but he relaxed in the arena and tried his heart out for me. He really allowed me to ride the walk, and the canter was so uphill.”
Laura has a background working with horses for TV and film and has been involved in shoots for Game of Thrones, War and Peace and King Arthur. Three years ago however, she swapped careers to pursue her dream of becoming a dressage rider. “I now work as a groom and rider at Twyford Mill Equestrian in Buckinghamshire and back and produce young horses and schooling liveries,” said Laura who trains with Tom Graham, George Blackburn and Judy Harvey.
Six-year-old Ireldo L is a bay KWPN gelding whose legs go on forever. “I stopped measuring him when he got to 17.3hh!” laughed Laura. “I bought him as an unbacked three-year-old from Henry Boswell. I backed him and produced him myself, and he’s been a dream to produce all along. He always tries for me.”
Petplan Equine Novice Silver
Cheshire rider Fiona Newall has won today’s Petplan Equine Novice Silver Area Festival Championship title today in convincing style. With her beautiful German gelding Don Romance she headed the field on 72.22% and with a winning margin of almost two percent.
Mum of two and full-time accountant, Fiona, was clearly delighted when we caught up with her after the prize-giving. “This is absolutely amazing,” she enthused. “I cannot believe it! He was incredible today because he lit up in the arena yet was still so rideable. I have never felt his trot like it. I don’t know where it came from!”
Fiona has owned Don Romance (For Romance x Don Kennedy), now six, since he was a three-year-old. “I saw him advertised on Facebook. He was for sale along with several showjumpers although he’s dressage bred. He was a dressage gem amongst them and I could see all his potential.”
With the support of her parents Ian and Lorna, who were on hand to support today, Fiona manages to fit her riding in around her career and family. “I couldn’t do any of this without them. They are a huge support”
Fiona trains with Kate Cowell who she credits for ‘transforming her riding.’ Don Romance’s routine includes daily turnout and working just three or four times a week to give him time to grow into his 17.2hh frame.
Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Silver
After taking a second place spot in yesterday’s Intermediate I Bronze, Charlotte Cundall went one better today as she claimed victory in the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Silver Championships with the Lady Joseph Trust’s Simply Red. Grade V Para Dressage starlet Charlotte was the only rider to crack the 70% barrier with her winning score, a supreme 71.70%.
“I’m absolutely over the moon, I just can’t believe! To come second yesterday and go one better today is amazing, I’m ecstatic,” Charlotte enthused about her win today, “We went in the Advanced Medium Freestyle earlier but I was just so pleased with his test in this class, he was brilliant.”
Charlotte thanked her trainer Amy Woodhead and today’s acting trainer, none other than Amy’s mum Tracey who stepped in at the last minute – “Amy had to dash off to Carl’s for a lesson so she briefed Tracey and said what we needed to do! She did a great job of helping me in the warm up and it really worked. The half passes in our test were a highlight, his changes were really clean and they’re definitely his forte.”
Having recently returned from a successful international debut in Denmark, Charlotte has spent the last couple of weeks working on the basics in preparation for the Petplan Equine Area Festivals. Looking forwards to the rest of the year she’s excited to having a shot at the BD summer regionals, the Equissage Pulse Para Dressage Gold Semi-Finals and a couple more trips overseas to fly the flag for Great Britain.
Summarising her Hartpury experience, Charlotte concluded: “It’s so surreal, you work hard all winter and it’s so nice to come here and for it to actually happen. Everybody comes to the winters with the same dream but only one person in each class can achieve their dream!”
Superflex Intermediate I Gold
Continuing arguably the best week of her career so far, Alice Oppenheimer notched up her third win of the week, and her fourteenth national title, with a victory in the Superflex Intermediate I Championship on-board her mother Sarah’s delightful home-bred Headmore Davina.
A polished test packed with powerful pirouettes, balanced trot work and an superb extended walk impressed the judges panel of Linda Whetstone, Jenny Ward and Penelope Lang who rewarded the duo 72.71% for their efforts.
“I was worried yesterday that we would get stuck on title number 13, I thought it might be unlucky!” Alice laughed after her prize giving, “Luckily Davina sorted that out for me!”
About her wonder horse Alice said, “She’s just such a talented mare, the pirouettes I had in there today were amazing. I always say she only makes a mistake if I do, it’s just up to me to ride her. You can really trust her – she pulls it out of the bag every time.”
It’s not been plain-sailing with the talented chestnut who proved tricky to back and produce as a young horse, “Dannie stepped in and was brilliant for giving her confidence. She was unridable in warm ups and nobody could sit her broncs – people would tell us just to leave it and breed from her but why would we breed from something that we can’t prove we can ride? Once we worked her out and got her going she’s just never said no, she’s just so special.”
Former pilot Dannie Morgan jumped in to praise proud breeder Sarah Oppenheimer, “It’s an amazing achievement for a breeder to have so many horses win here this week, we’re very lucky to be a part of it.”
In a week of outstanding team effort, Alice also paid credit to stand in groom Donald Fraser, who’s been on hand to help the Headmore crew, “I think he’s my lucky charm! He’s going to have to come with us every time!”
TheraPlate UK Medium Silver
It was a cracking class for the first ever Medium Championship sponsored by TheraPlate UK with 27 combinations coming forward to bid for the title under judges Debbie Jones, Sophie Dickinson and Cherry Elvin. Jennifer Martell, riding Fiderstan for owner Jade Guyton, made the most of a late draw to take the win on 74.41%, over three percent ahead of her nearest rival.
Fourth spot in the SureGrow Elementary yesterday set them up well for their ride; “He was so relaxed today and gave me everything! He ‘let me in’ and whatever I asked, he willingly gave. The atmosphere really helped as it lit him up and got extra power,” said a delighted Jennifer.
Jennifer and ‘Tigger’, by German sire For Compliment, have been together for about a year when her ‘boss’ Amy Woodhead secured the ride for her. “We’ve spent a lot of time getting him stronger as he’s so big. I also needed to get stronger as his paces are so big! We did a few tests, qualified for the Regionals and all of a sudden, we’re here – it’s been a whirlwind!” said Jennifer.
It was a return to Hartpury for Jennifer as she’s a former student here and it was while being a part of the Academy that she met Carl Hester as he’s a trainer for the programme and Amy was working for him. “I’ve been with her for two years; I love working there – Amy’s just the best boss. I’m so lucky to have three amazing trainers like Ian, Tracy and Amy. They all are very different but I’ve learnt so much from them. it's a great place to work and I can't wait to get home and take him [Tigger] for a ride on the beach!” she beamed.
“He’s just a gentle giant and definitely a horse for the future and I want to take him up to Grand Prix,” Jennifer concluded. Based on today’s performance, few would doubt her goal.
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver
It may not have been a smooth run up to Hartpury for Warwickshire rider Keri Bates and her Danish-bred Christianslund Gevalia as injury meant missed work in preparation but they didn’t let that stop them in storming to a resounding three percent victory in the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver. Para rider Izzy Palmer held the lead for much of the class with Sophie Wells’s Touchdown M but Keri and Gevalia proved too strong.
Keri, who runs Ekko Equestrian with her sister Rebecca from their base in Southam, has had the De Noir sired mare for two years after discovering her in her native Denmark. “She’d been ridden by a para rider but done very little,” explained Keri. The pair won their Regional at Addington so were in good form but a cracked splint bone meant an enforced rest but it clearly just freshened the mare up as all three judges were unanimous in scoring her as the winner.
Keri is now hoping to build the mare’s fitness up after the enforced layoff and bring her back out at Prix St Georges with the aim of doing an International plus balancing her busy schedule at the yard and her new found love of judging. “I’ve got my part 3 exam next week to become a list 3 judge and am really looking forward to it. The new fast track system has been amazing and I’ve learned so much in the last six months, I just love it!”