New and established combinations shine at Sheepgate
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Sheepgate Premier League (28 - 29 June) offered two days of inspiring dressage. While the classes were not as large as at some southerly Premier Leagues, both spectators and riders enjoyed this very competitive and well-run event.
Each day’s Grand Prix was won by Steph Croxford and her reliable Mr Hyde. Enjoying a rare child-free weekend, Steph took the opportunity to take both ‘Mr H’ and her up-and-coming ride, Mr Benn II, to their first show together. “Mr H is never going to be Valegro but he shows consistency and does his best within his natural ability,” said Steph. “Both horses went out and tried.”
Mr Hyde scored over 69% in Saturday’s qualifying LeMieux grand prix, beating Joanna Thurman-Baker and Highcliffe Apollo into second place.
Ten-year-old Mr Benn came third and fifth in his Cavalor Inter II classes. “He looks like he should be the drum horse at the Trooping of the Colour,” said Steph who had to find an emergency farrier on Friday after he pulled off a shoe the day before. “He’s not called Thug at home for nothing!”
Becky Moody is one of our most successful riders and her performances at Sheepgate didn’t disappoint with wins on both days. She began her red rosette haul on Friday with a narrow win on Odwigs Echo in the Fairfax Prix St Georges (PSG), just nudging out Lara Dyson and Jazzed Up by one mark. In the Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I she took the lead from Jessica Thompson and Ibi Kanobi.
The 11-year-old coloured gelding is owned by his breeder Lucy Swindon and normally she and Becky share the ride. However, at the moment Lucy is pregnant so it’s been down to Becky to introduce him to small tour. 2019 is his first full season at the level and it got off to a good start with a third place in the Magic PSG freestyle at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships.
“He’s really cool,” commented Becky. “He’s got a very good walk but his other paces aren’t particularly special. But he’s very rideable and gets consistent sevens and sometimes we can squeeze a bit more.”
Eureko improved from ninth in Friday’s Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I to win the class on Saturday by almost four per cent ahead of Amy Woodhead and Branduardi. Eureko (by Uphill) has been owned by Jo Cooper since he was five and as Jo works abroad, she shares the ride with Becky.
“He started at Inter II at Myerscough and [the higher level] is helping me get him into shape and he’s feeling stronger. “On Friday he felt a bit fragile when we went into the arena and I rode it a bit fragile too so we had a catalogue of mistakes. I rode much more positively the next day.”
Amy Woodhead improved Branduardi’s scores of 68% in Friday’s PSG and Inter I to over 70% in the same classes on Saturday. She won the Fairfax PSG on the exuberant Breitling W x Weltmeyer stallion and only lost out to Becky Moody and Eureko by 1.5 marks in the Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I class.
“Bran has been standing at stud and I only picked him up two days before the show,” explained Amy. “On the first day I was trying to find the buttons again and by Saturday I’d got it! He’s a fantastic horse and was great to ride in the competition.” Branduardi stands at Caunton Manor Stud and is owned by Victoria Wright.
The prestigious Mount St John Stud showed the depth and quality of their breeding programme with a trio of mares all scoring successes. Aimee Gascoigne was recruited as a rider three months ago and, as well as focusing on riding the four-year-olds, she has been given the ride on WEG para dressage silver medalist, Mount St John Diva Dannebrog.
For both rider and horse it was their first Premier League. Diva (by Don Schufro) competed at grade III para dressage for a year with Natasha Baker – a level which does not require cantering. She resumed her able-bodied dressage career with Aimee in May and has quickly adapted to her new regime.
Aimee started the show with a second place in Medium 73 to Amy Woodhead and Fhillipo, improving to first place in Medium 27 on the second day. Good results for a new partnership. “We clicked straight away,” said Aimee. “She went to big shows with Natasha so nerves don’t affect her, she’s a true professional.”
Sam Duckworth was successful with another stunning Mount St John mare, MSJ Top Secret (Totilas x Dacaprio), who at eight years old is the oldest of Emma Blundell’s homebreds. The pair were a close second in Saturday’s Fairfax Prix St George and won the Advanced Medium 98. “She’s been a bit more quiet on the competing front as she has been in the breeding programme and has five foals due next season [by embryo transfer],” explained Emma Blundell. “I’m so pleased with how she’s done here. She’s got a lot of talent for the collected work for her age and is training a lot of the Grand Prix movements at home. She gets very excited at shows so we need to get her out more.”
The horse that Emma calls “the prettiest mare we’ve got”, Mount St John Kom Fairy Tale, won Saturday’s Cavalor Inter II with Sam Duckworth at her first attempt at the level. Third in the Inter I at the LeMieux National Championships 2017 with Charlotte Dujardin, Fairy Tale (known at home as Princess) has had some time out and is now back and raring to go. By Furst Heinrich, she is part of the Stud’s breeding programme and her embryo transfer foal will be the last one to arrive this year.
“Her forte is the Grand Prix work,” commented Emma. “She’s very talented for all the collected work. She hasn’t done so much competing so still gets very excited at shows. It’s a new partnership with Sam and they showed some really good work.”
Friday’s Cavalor Inter II was a close contest between Lara Edwards’ stallion Bodyguard Moorland and Lisa Marriott’s Valucio, with Bodyguard clinching first place. “He’s not a big, flashy mover but he has a natural ability to sit and collect,” said Lara who has trained for seven years with Rhett Bird. “He feels very established at Inter II now. He struggled a bit with the first medium trot but otherwise he gave me a great ride.”
For the first time ever, Bodyguard (Gribaldi x Negro) got his tongue over the bit towards the end of his second Inter II test and had to retire - a shame as he was scoring seven point fives and eights before that point.
Friday’s Advanced Medium classes were both won by Natasha Leak and Belissimo with 71%+ scores. In one test, Natasha scored a nine for her riding and a perfect 10 for the final halt. On Saturday, it was Darcas Lever’s turn to take the prize in Advanced Medium 85 with Flying Dream II (by Feedback), who she has been riding since the beginning of the year.
Mollie Whitham and DZL Royal Sunrise were the best of Saturday’s pony combinations and won both team and individual tests, each with personal best scores. Mollie, who trains with Becky Moody, said on Facebook that she was pleased with how ‘Pads’ really tried hard in the heat and felt really good. The pair’s next appearance is at Hickstead CDI where they will represent Great Britain.
Class 6 Fairfax PSG – Becky Moody with Odwigs Echo 71.23%
Class 7 Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I – Becky Moody with Odwigs Echo, 70.46%
Class 8 Cavalor Inter II – Lara Edwards with Bodyguard Moorland, 68.29%
Class 9 Grand Prix – Steph Croxford with Mr Hyde, 68.1%
Class 10 FEI Pony Team – Meghan Anderson with Berlioz, 64.27%
Class 11 FEI Pony Individual - Meghan Anderson with Berlioz, 64.84%
Class 12 FEI Children on Horses Team – Annabel Coller with My Delilah, 62.5%
Class 13 FEI Children on Horses Individual - Annabel Coller with My Delilah, 58.1%
Class 18 Equine Construction Advanced Medium – Sam Duckworth with Mount St John Top Secret, 72.68%
Class 20 FEI Pony Team - Mollie Witham with DZL Royal Sunrise, 68.97%
Class 21 FEI Pony Individual - Mollie Witham with DZL Royal Sunrise, 70.08%
Class 22 FEI Children on Horses Team – Annabel Coller with My Delilah, 66.73%
Class 23 FEI Children on Horses Individual - Annabel Coller with My Delilah, 64.58%
Class 25 Fairfax Prix St Georges – Amy Woodhead with Branduardi, 70.57%
Class 26 – Saracen Horse Feeds InterI – Becky Moody with Eureko, 72.32%
Class 27 – Inter II – Sam Duckworth with Mount St John Kom Fairytale, 67.89%
Class 28 – LeMieux Grand Prix – Steph Croxford with Mr Hyde, 69.13%