New and established stars shine at Equissage Pulse Para Winter Championships
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While established stars shone in the Gold classes, several championship debutants enjoyed success to win Bronze and Silver titles at the Equissage Pulse Para Winter Championships (24-26 February 2023).
Sophie Wells took the Grade V Gold Championship with the highest score of the show – 73.21%. Her partner, the 14-year-old Don Jovi gelding, Don Cara M (pictured above), won the silver medal in the Grade V Individual at the World Championships last year. Since then, he has only done one show where he won the Bishop Burton Winter Regional Medium Gold and Medium Freestyle Championships.
“I’m very pleased with how this year’s begun,” commented Sophie. “He seems very happy in his work. I kept him ticking over during the winter, keeping his body supple. He was very chilled at Myerscough.”
Sophie took third place with her exciting seven-year-old mare, LJT Egebjerggaards Samoa. “She boiled over at the regionals so I changed the warm-up. She has so much ability and talent but can overtry in the arena. I’m working on her relaxation and then can build on her power.”
Sophie’s World Championship team-mate and Grade II Individual bronze and Freestyle silver medal winner, Sir Lee Pearson, brought Breezer III (pictured above) for his first outing since that competition and was pleased with how he coped. “He’s a sensitive soul – every day’s a new day for Breezer,” he explained. “He might finally be growing up – he was a little professional and really calm.”
Breezer is out of the same dam as Lee’s Grand Prix horse Styletta and is now training at Prix St Georges at home.
Grade III Champion Erin Orford was riding seven-year-old, Dragon’s Fire (De Niro x E. H. Hohenstein) - pictured above - who she started riding at the end of last year. He is owned by Sophie Wells, Jackie Walker and Valerie Woodford. Although he has only been lightly competed, he has gained a lot of ring experience by being a guinea pig for a number of Sophie’s high profile demonstrations, including the National Championships and Your Horse Live. Sophie has also qualified him for the regionals.
“The qualifying class on the Friday was my first test this year,” commented Erin who has ridden for Britain on numerous occasions. “He’s a little pocket rocket but not spooky. He’s very sensitive and responsive in a good way. He felt secure and with me in the test. He’s still finding his balance and gears but he’ll be awesome when the work in the warm-up starts to show in the arena.”
Sophie bought ‘Nero’ as a youngster from Oakley Farm Stud. “He’s a nice person to be around,” said Erin. “He’s very friendly and wants to please.”
Grade I Champion, Gabriella Blake has spent the winter recovering from double foot fusion surgery. Her mum Estelle had the task of keeping Connemara Strong Beau (by Spinway Blakethorn) - pictured above - in competition fitness for her.
“I’m still recovering so I wasn’t expecting to win,” said Gabriella. “Beau felt amazing. He couldn’t have gone any better and he really looked after me. This was only my second competition riding without stirrups.
“He’s very cheeky with my mum but looks after me. He seems to know who is in the saddle.”
Grade IV Champion Katie Radzik has been on the Podium Potential Pathway scheme with Showkia (Ted) for two years. Myerscough was their first venture down the centre line this year. Ted (pictured above) is now 14 and the Showmaker gelding was bred in Wales.
“He was very bouncy in the test!” recalled Katie who is based in Kent. “When he’s engaged he’s really hard to sit to. I’ve been training with Russell Guire via Zoom and going to him once a month. I have severe short term memory loss and he really gets how to work with me. He’s made such a difference to us.”
Grade III combination, Vicky Earnshaw and Prince Pepe (pictured below), were the highest-scoring Silver Champions and also took third place in the Gold Championship.
“I’ve had him two years and it took us a bit of time to get to know each other. I’ve recently moved yards and he didn’t enjoy moving home,” explained Vicky. “I tore a tendon before Christmas so couldn’t ride much. This was his first away show and first championship. He’s only eight so I couldn’t ask for anything more from him. He gained in confidence over the three days and was really rideable in the Championship test.”
Veronica Bower won the Grade I Silver title and was also Gold Reserve Champion on her debut in the Gold section. Her mare, Game Over (by Fürstenball) - pictured above - was bought on the recommendation of her daughter and trainer Tracy Ormrod. “She saw her in Holland and contacted me while I was on holiday in Crete!” explained Veronica. “I researched her sire Fürstenball and everyone said he had a very good temperament. She has a temperament to die for and a very very good walk. She loves parties and showing off.”
‘Daisy’ is stabled at Tracy’s and Veronica will shortly be moving to her Anglesey base to take up residence in an annexe at the yard, dramatically cutting down her travelling time. She is keen to be part of the Wales Home International team and to help them repeat their win of last year.
Molly Bowen-Morris, Grade V Champion, lives in Oxford and works full-time four days a week in London so couldn’t manage without the support of her trainer, Tiggy Bentley. “I’ve been training with Tiggy since I was 15 and Will (Kilbawn Lad) - pictured above - is stabled with her. It’s the first time we’ve stayed away at a competition together and he was a bit unsettled,” said Molly. “He’s definitely got a personality and we’re getting on really well at the moment. He’s an ex-eventer and I’m very grateful to his owner Amanda Bacon for letting have the ride on him.
“I was the last competitor to go and all the other horses had left the arena so he had two big spooks. However, his performance in the competition arena was more confident. His overall marks were good and we got some lovely comments from the judges.”
Fiona Maynard and Denver IX (pictured above) won the Grade IV Silver title and were third in the Gold section. Fiona started competing the Dresemann 12-year-old in August last year and the Championship was their eighth competition together. He was previously competed to Inter I by Chloe Jacques and Fiona is trained by Stephen Moore.
“He’s still getting to grips with the para tests and doesn’t see why he can’t do flying changes instead of transitions through trot and walk,” said Fiona who believes Denver is her ‘horse of a lifetime’. “He’s got the most lovely temperament and has been a really good boy at the show. He’s such a character and loves to dismantle things like the saddle rack outside his door, his name plaque and his water drinker. I’ve given him a treat ball to try and discourage him from this!”
Fiona runs a small livery and training yard at home and a sports massage business to fund her dressage addiction. She has been invited to the Addington CPEDI3* which she thinks will be great experience for Denver.
Mark Griffin (pictured below) was the highest scorer of the Bronze championships, scoring almost 70% with First Class IX in the Grade III class. He owns First Class IX with wife Lisa. Last year, Lisa won the Grade IV Bronze Championship on her and Mark was reserve champion in the Grade III.
“She was very good at Myerscough,” said Mark. “At home she can spook at fresh air but in the arena she’s very sensible. On Friday our centre line and halt were appalling but in the Championship her halt was fantastic.”
Julia Godden was crowned Grade IV Champion with Penny Garton’s handsome Garties Mr D’Arcy (pictured above), a black heavyweight cob Penny bought from Ireland. “My own horse was injured in 2018 and I couldn’t afford another. Penny had wanted D’Arcy to go showing and asked me to help out as he was very unbalanced and couldn’t canter,” explained Julia. “However he has decided he likes dressage better so I asked Penny if we could do some para competitions.
“He’s a very big horse and it takes him a long time to learn something but once he’s got it, he’s fantastic.” Penny and D’Arcy recently won the Beacons Area Festival Prelim Silver title. “I believe that judges are rewarding horses that are trained correctly. I say big horses can dance too. Each time we compete, he’s getting better.”
Fifteen-year-old Lacey O’Hara (pictured above) started training with Olympian Sophie Wells two years ago. Despite being nervous at her first championship show, she pulled it off to win the Grade II title with Miss Lottie, a 13.2hh black show pony mare.
“Lottie is cheeky but very loving and looks after Lacey,” said mum Nicola. “Lacey loved doing the Championship and definitely wants to do more. She’s just got a new bigger pony, for the future.”
Elan Williams was also riding a pony, WSH Something Borrowed (pictured above), to win the Grade I title and come third in the Grade I Silver competition. “She’s an alpha mare and can be a bit of a dressage diva but in the championship test I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Elan who has been selected for the CPEDI1* at Addington.
Elan and her mum Cerys make the almost four-hour round trip three times a week to Anglesey to ride ‘Trinny’ at the home of her owner, Sarah Jones Williams.
Helen Geddes has owned her Grade V winner, Her Ladyship (pictured above), a part-bred traditional cob, since she was six months old. It was their championship debut as the pair only started para competition at the end of last year.
“She’s very cute but also very sassy and opinionated,” said Helen who works full-time in sales. “She lives up to her name. I was shocked but thrilled to win and will definitely aim for the summer Nationals now.”
The Equissage Pulse Para Winter Championships ran alongside a festival of para dressage giving competitors at all levels the opportunity to compete in a championship atmosphere. Congratulations to all who competed and thanks to the Myerscough team for another excellently run event.
1. Gabriella Blake and Strong Beau, 71.85%
2. Veronica Bower and Gam Over, 69.46%
3. Susannah Wade and Zaire, 69.46%
1. Sir Lee Pearson and Breezer III, 72.79%
2. Georgia Wilson and Faside Got the Love, 67.89%
3. Georgia Wilson and Sakura, 67.55%
1. Erin Orford and Dragon’s Fire, 70.54%
2. Jane Cummings and Rhonderfull Dorrells, 67.7%
3. Vicky Earnshaw and Prince Pepe, 68.57%
1. Katie Radzik and Showkia, 70.65%
2. Sara Bates and Tango VI, 69.92%
3. Fiona Maynard and Denver IX, 67.68%
1. Sophie Wells and Don Cara M, 73.21%
2. Charlotte Cundall and F J Veyron, 71.35%
3. Sophie Wells and LJT Egebjerggaards Samoa, 67.4%
1. Veronica Bower and Game Over, 68.76%
2. Victoria Smith and Tramontana Firenze, 68.08%
3. Elan Williams and WSH Something Borrowed, 65.58%
1. Vicky Earnshaw and Prince Pepe, 69.47%
2. Jessica Pritchard and Ted, 66.73%
3. Danielle Smith-Turner and Barravalley Breeze, 66.53%
1. Fiona Maynard and Denver IX, 69.37%
2. Fiona Maynard and Bedazzle, 65.07%
3. Isabelle Benfield and Cookies And Cream, 62.07%
1. Molly Bowen-Morris and Kilbawn Lad, 67.00%
2. Sarah Oram and Tamrik Captain Jack Sparrow, 63.59%
3. Helen Geddes and Her Ladyship, 62.62%
1. Elan Williams and WSH Something Borrowed, 67.19%
2. Elan Williams and Brandini, 65.73%
1. Lacey Ohara and Miss Lottie, 60.20%
2. Lacey Ohara and Lyndhurst Soldier, 58.04%
1. Mark Griffin and First Class IX, 69.54%
2. Jessica Pritchard and Ted, 66.02%
3. Danielle Smith-Turner and Barravalley Breeze, 63.70%
1. Julia Godden and Garties Mr D’Arcy, 67.52%
2. Isabella Benfield and Cookies And Cream, 67.52%
3. Emma Saul and Quadriga III CH, 62.25%
1. Helen Geddes and Her Ladyship, 66.98%
2. Molly Bowen-Morris and Kilbawn Lad, 64.37%
3. Sarah Oram and Tamrik Captain Jack Sparrow, 64.37%
Photos © Kevin Sparrow