Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships 2022: day one

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Fri, 07 Oct 2022 13:12

After a hugely successful inaugural year in 2021, the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championship returned to Arena UK, with an immense day one setting the scene for a week of superb dressage. 

Petplan Equine Medium Bronze Freestyle Summer Area Festival Champion 
Winner: Georgie Rockingham and September Song, 70.890% 

Georgie Rockingham and September Song made sublime work of their October freestyle efforts in the first title of the week at Arena UK, claiming the Petplan Equine Medium Bronze Freestyle Summer Area Festival Championship with the sole score over the magic 70% barrier.  

“I’m completely shocked to be honest,” Georgie (27) proclaimed after her lap of honour, “but it’s definitely the best test he’s done all year really, his lateral work felt really nice and really loose. He did anticipate my medium trot and he bucked and I was like oh my goodness, keep yourself together! But then I managed to get him back and he was really rideable after that, and he really enjoyed himself.”  

The duo have only done a handful of freestyle tests but hit all the right notes in front of judges Debbie Wardle, Cherry Elvin and Tracey Trotter, who rewarded the combination with 70.89%. “I’m really chuffed it's my first time at music I've only just really started. I've only practiced the test threetimes, which I probably shouldn’t admit, but I really really enjoyed it we will definitely have a stab at it again at perhaps another level next year!” 

The freestyle to music sections are a sure highlight of the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships and our first winner of the week started with an epic choice, “I picked Les Mis, because it’s mine and my mums favourite musical. It was quite tricky to actually get the music to match his stride because there are very few songs that fit in with the tempo of his stride pattern, so we found it quite tricky to match it, but we found three songs that suited really well so the whole thing’s Les Mis, and it just changes between his trot and his canter work and his walk.”

“I had him as an 18th birthday present,” the Derbyshire-based rider told us about her 13 year old British bred championship, “don’t listen [spoken to September Song], he was actually an accident! His dad jumped out of the field and covered a mare, and we had no idea she was even in foal and obviously he came along, completely no idea! It tied in with my 18th birthday and my parents surprised me with him. I've backed him myself and trained him myself with the help of Ruth Edge and Kate Harvey. He’s more of a pet really than anything else, so that’s the story behind him.”

A great story indeed to get a week of inspiring winners off to a flying start. Second place went to Maria Mcdiarmid with DHI Vidius, who also claimed the Petplan Equine veteran prize, whilst Jayne Chapman and Hector III completed the podium. 

Petplan Equine Medium Bronze Summer Area Festival Champion
Winner: Elizabeth Thomas and Dream-Dragon, 70.15% 

Elizabeth Thomas and Dream-Dragon rode their way to the top after a sparking performance in the Petplan Equine Dressage Arena 1. A blustery start didn’t stop the unstoppable pair from rising to the occasion and scoring a super 70.15% in the Petplan Equine Medium Bronze Summer Area Festival Championships.  

Elizabeth, our Welsh region’s rider, started her riding journey young. She said, “I’ve been riding since I was small, all my life, that’s all I know.” Elizabeth started eventing and transitioned into dressage and was hooked, she described, “I started eventing, and I never really got a good dressage school, so we needed to improve in the dressage, bit cheaper than eventing. So, we went into the dressage then from eventing. And we stuck at it, and we have had a full season on dressage this season. He’s been going from strength to strength, so everything we’ve practiced came together for a change.” 

George (Primitive Proposal x Bobet Springtime) is a 15-year-old Gelding, standing at 17hh. The pair have an unbreakable bond evident from their test today. Dream-Dragon (George) has been with Elizabeth since fouled, “he’s home bred. So, we bred him. He's special, he’s one of the favourites at home, everybody needs a George. Dream Dragon the main boy.” 

The future is bright for these two, traveling 6 hours up from Wales the pair made it one to remember being crowned the 2022 winners of their class. Elizabeth told us about their future journey together, “I think we are going to move up a level now, I think that’s the next step.”

Coming in nail-bitingly close second was our own Youth rider Poppy Burner with the Irish Sport Horse, Cillnabradden Evo scoring an impressive 70.10%! 17-year-old Poppy also won the highest-placed U21 rider in her class alongside her respectable second place. Coming in third place was Alicia Roberts & Godin Linda (Breton Woods x Walinda), a beautiful Liver Chestnut mare who together scored a notable score of 68.72%. Alicia is a BD youth rider at only 17 years old, it’s been an impressive month for these two having competed twice at the National Dressage Championships last month placing in the top ten for both. 

Petplan Equine Medium Silver Summer Area Festival Champion
Winner: Alexzandra Houldcroft and Cavallina Herself, 71.22% 

Taking home the winner's spoils in the Petplan Equine Medium Silver Summer Area Festival Championships was Alexzandra Houldcroft with her eleven year old mare Cavallina Herself. After placing second last year in the Medium Bronze the pair were determined to top the podium this year Alexzandra told us, “it was really good, we went in, and it was really windy when we first started our test, and it didn’t stop to the point the boards flew down at the end of my test. But she was an absolute star, and she went in and bossed it, she's great!” 

Alexzandra brought the Cardinar-sired mare from Paul Friday six years ago, who they still train with today, “she can be a typical chestnut at times but she’s gotten so much better over the years.” The duo have competed through the levels in the Petplan Equine Area Festivals all the way from Prelim and want to step up a level again looking ahead to next year, “we will try again next year, we will try and do Regionals, I can’t decided what to do with the Area Festivals whether to step her up at the Winters to the Advanced or wait until the summers again.”  

Petplan Equine Medium Silver Freestyle and Prix St Georges Bronze Summer Area Festival Champion
Medium Silver Winner: Jade Whitelaw and Late Night, 74.67% 
PSG Bronze Winner: Jade Whitelaw with Dauphin III, 67.500% 

Jade Whitelaw is no stranger to success at the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festivals and she made a winning start to her 2022 Championships with victory in the Prix St Georges Bronze class with her own Dauphin III. Scoring 67.000% Jade took the top spot in front of Jo Weekes with Rosetti’s Destiny in second and Nichola Harrison with Jan Woolgar’s Friesian mare Lobke Van Het Urneveld in third. 

“It was the first time I’ve got the fours and threes, both lines in a test! I was really chuffed about that,” Jade spoke about her highlights for her early winning test, “I came out of the test and thought ‘that was good’ - it was probably the best PSG I’ve done but I didn’t have any expectations on the scores as his scores today have been higher than we’ve had before at PSG. Totally shocked and delighted that he won it.” 

Dauphin’s victory marks a true triumph out of adversity tale with the bay gelding recovering from a life threatening condition to make it to the top step of the podium just one year later. “It’s even more special because this time last year he was off work after Cellulitis which was life threatening, in the summer last year. I was convinced he wasn’t going to come back from it but here he is – he's got a habit of surprising us,” Jade told us.

Not settling for just the one win on day one, Jade returned to the winner’s circle for a second time – with 2021 champion Late Night claiming the Medium Silver Freestyle. Their score was an impressive 74.67%, the highest earned on the opening day of action at the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships. Natasha Gibbons followed Jade in second with the 19 year old Godington Trinidad (Godington Hannibal x Godington Tallulah) achieving a superb score of 72.22%, whilst  Samantha Wood and Lexus II, an eye-catching 12 year old piebald gelding also topped the 70% to take third. 

Late Night (Gunner KS x Vanea) is a six year old chesnut gelding bred by De Bemi Hoeve and owned by Jade. Speaking about her highlights, the talented Scottish rider continued “It was good he’s quite new to Medium so sometimes he’s quite difficult but he was good to today, he was well behaved which doesn’t always happen with him! He wasn’t in the standard Medium here, he decided to show his belly and front legs to the judgs and spin around and bolt – stuff like that! But he redeemed himself in the Medium Freestyle, I wasn’t expecting a win with him at all because he’s still quite green, so I’m just really happy – he's a very nice horse.” 

A busy but successful day in the office for Jade saw three tests between her two horses, with one more to follow on day two. When asked about how she manages a full-on schedule Jade said, “determination! It’s been non-stop but it’s been worth it, plus the journey too which is about 11 hours but split into two halves. But we’ve done it so many times to so many competitions, but we’d certainly like it to be shorter!”

Our first dual winner of the week concluded by telling us about the personalities of her two winning rides: “They’re both big characters! This one [Dauphin III] is complicated and funny, but in terms of his work he’s really genuine and he tries really hard. He’s not a big mover and he doesn’t find it particularly easy. It took years to teach him flying changes, I thought I’d never get them for a long time but now they’re his highlight. He tries so hard which is nice. The other one [Late Night] is really goofy, also quite naughty but when he’s good he’s good. He’s a nice character and it’s all meant in a nice way!” 

Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Bronze Freestyle Summer Area Festival Champion
Winner: Gracie Catling & Tsjebe Fan 'e Vesta Hoeve, 70.04%

Gracie Catling has been a rising star in the youth ranks and today hit stratospheric success with the stunning Friesian Tsjebe Fan ‘e Vesta Hoeve winning the Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Bronze Freestyle Area Festival Championships under the Arena UK Indoor lights. Their winning scores was 70.04% rewarded by Richard Baldwin, Sue Petty and Judy Hancock.

“The highlights today were definitely his trot work,” Gracie analysed her winning performance, “we took a lot of time to plan what fits best for him – we used music from the band of the blues and royals, the army style marching music really suits him. He’s quite new to the level and his canter work can be a bit hit and miss, so we planned the floorplan with walk and pirouettes intertwined together so he can do it to the best of his ability.”

Affectionately known as ‘Jeb’, at sixteen years of age the gelding also took home the Petplan highest place veteran horse ribbon. Talking about his character Gracie continued, “he’s amazing, he’s like a human in a horse! He’s got the best personality to be around, he’s so cuddly and loves being around humans more than horses. We’ve had him for twelve years so I’ve grown up with him, he was my mums horse but I stole the ride from her. We know each other inside out so I think that really helps with it comes to riding in the ring.”

“It’s been such an amazing series for me,” the Buckinghamshire-based rider has been a familiar face to the BD and Petplan teams throughout the years, and explained about her incredible journey through the ranks, “I’ve done the U21 classes right from Novice to Medium. It’s been such a nice stepping stone through the levels as I’ve got older, going all the way up to PSG. It’s always nice to have a goal if you’re not quite ready to push onto the regionals – like he isn’t - it’s a really helpful stepping stone. I’ve been really lucky to take part in so many different levels with different horses within the Petplan Equine Area Festivals.”

Balancing riding with education, Gracie is currently reading Sports Psychology at Loughborough University, but insists that it’s always horses first with three to train and compete. Talking about the next plans in the pipeline with her winning ride today she concluded, “he’s training Inter I at home so we’ll see if we can get one out of him, and then hopefully Petplan Area Festival PSG again and Advanced Medium Freestyle at the Winters!” 

Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver Summer Area Festival Champion
Winner: Antonia Brown and SJL Jackson, 66.57%

Our newest Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Prix St Georges Silver Champion Antonia Brown and SJL Jackson (Lord Leatherdale x Farah by Fiderhit) topped the podium with 66.57%. The thirteen year old gelding owned by Sara Lucas has competed with Antonia since 2019. “It was a long wait with a massive class of 35 but he did it!,” Antonia took to social media to express her delight.

They have attended various National and Winter Championships as well as High Profiles and Premier Leagues but today it all came together, “the dream machine won, I’m so happy for his wonderful owner.” Antonia also thanks her trainer Dan Greenwood, “he always encourages, pushes and says that we can do it and today we did.” 

Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver Freestyle Summer Area Festival Champion
Winner: Claire Ackerman & Woodcroft Heinrich, 71.25%

Our final champion of the day was Claire Ackerman and her seventeen year old gelding Woodcroft Heinrich. This experienced area festival combination took the win in the Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver Freestyle, which is a first for this pair, “t’s the first time we have done music for quite a while, I used to produce music for other people and I used to compete in dressage to music but I was finding that I wasn’t getting the time to ride my own music,” Claire told us.

This year they decided to make it their aim after competing at the championships together at every level Claire said, “I thought it was about time I did my own, as it’s been a couple of years and we have not done it at this level before, I was very pleased with him.”

Talking about their winning freestyle test, “we thought we wanted to do something a bit different, so we went for a disco theme. We have Amy Stuart and a bit of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ as well as ‘The Hussle’ and that suits him down to the ground and it was something I could really get into.” It was this upbeat theme that the judges loved which earned them a score of 71.25%.

Claire speaks very highly of her dancing partner who she has owned since a four year old, “we have had quite a long journey together but he is such a generous horse and we have been to the championships at every level, Prelim now to Inter I. I am so chuffed with him, he owes me nothing he’s such a brilliant horse he’s such a nice person to be with.”

It doesn’t stop there, Claire is also thinking about the future with him and the next generation, ”I love him to bits so much so that I've brought a foal which is a half-brother to him as his temperament is so good.” Going on to say, “I am hoping to do Inter II and perhaps get to Grand Prix before he hangs up his hoofs, he’s still got plenty of life left in him yet, we hope to keep going up through the levels.”