Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships 23: day five
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Day five on the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships certainly didn't disappoint- as we crowned four new champions, all of which were Area Festival first-timers!
Petplan Equine Prelim Bronze Summer Area Festival Championship
Winner: Hilary Arthur and Riva Van Het Kristoffelhof, 71.485%
In a tightly contested Petplan Equine Preliminary Bronze Summer Area Festival Championship, 42 riders went head-to-head in Arena 1 to impress judges Tim Pearson, Harry Payne and Kate Hancox to win one of the final classes of the 2023 Championships.
It was Hilary Arthur and Riva Van Het Kristoffelhof who came out on top, scoring 71.485% to become the 2023 Petplan Equine Preliminary Bronze Summer Area Festival Champions at their first time at an Area Festival Championships.
Hilary, who had travelled all the way from Jersey to be here, spoke of her test “I was absolutely delighted, she was amazing, as soon as I came down the centre line at the end I knew it was an incredible test, and for me that was enough but to win as well was an absolute bonus. I wasn’t expecting to do any of this!”
“She gives me an incredible ride, I think the consistency – getting a few things right, which in the last few days my trainer has said to me focus on getting my walk, transition and canter right and that will make me feel amazing about a test.”
The duo are Area Festival first-timers, having won their Area Festival at Sparsholt College in August, Hilary talked of her first Area Festival experience “I’ve come over from Jersey for it so it’s been a bit of a mission with ferries and things like that. We came over to Sparsholt and it was the first time she’d left Jersey and done an Area Festival, but it was really good and super organised and really friendly so we were really happy.”
Talking of the mare’s first experience in this kind of environment, Hilary said she was “a little bit excitable, I was really glad we had the chance to walk the arena this morning because she was on her toes, but having that extra time meant when she came out again later she was just so much more settled.”
Having been together since just after Covid, it took Hilary a while to find the six-year-old chestnut; “all through COVID I was googling small dressage horses because I’m only 5’2, it took about a year and a half of trying to find something and she was the first horse I came and tried as soon as COVID opened up and I just loved her”
“She’s super, she enjoys the work she’s a little bit flighty but generally she’s a really good horse. She's only six to she’s still learning a lot.” On their plans for the future, Hilary has the Area Festival bug, and hopes to return to the Championships in 2024.
Juan Marin Aizpurua and Sheepcote Adios finished in second place with the smallest of margins – just 0.069% behind Hilary on 71.389%, followed in third place by John Osborne and Cruglwyd Tango who scored 70.417%.
Petplan Equine Prelim Silver Summer Area Festival Championship
Winner: Vicki Hancox and Curious George, 74.931%
It was Vicki Hancock who finished on top of the 39-strong Preliminary Silver class on the final day of the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships, scoring an impressive 74.931% with her own Curious George and winning by a margin of over 4% to take the Championship title.
Vicki was the ninth rider to go, and after a long wait for the rest of the class to finish, she spoke of today’s test and win, “I was really pleased with him, he did pretty much a clear round and that’s all you can ask for. He was a good boy, he did the Novice Silver yesterday so he’d already been around the arena and came second, so I was glad to do one better today.”
Newcomer Vicki has only been a member with British Dressage since May this year, having previously evented. Speaking of her journey so far she said “we only joined BD in May, I don’t event anymore and he does a nice test so it seemed a shame not to, the lady I have lessons with – Leonie Brown – she’s transformed him, she said I had three weeks to get my summer qualification in, and as soon as I set my mind to something we’re doing it! We went out and got our three scores and the rest is history and we’re here now.”
“I love the Area Festivals, it’s really, really good, it’s good for people like me – who’ve got one horse that just want to go out and enjoy themselves, who know they’re never going to beat the top riders like Charlotte, but still want the same Championship experience. It’s been a super weekend – we've loved every minute of it.”
The 10-year-old bay gelding has been with Vicki for five years, who talked of their partnership, “he came to me as a very naughty five-year-old, he left once and then came back and he’s never left again. A big thank you to his original owner Julie Jeffs – for trusting me to start with and for gifting him to me and letting me carry on with the success between the boards hopefully now we don’t event. He is literally my world – he's the king of the yard and I worship the ground he walks on.”
“He’s hot, but he will give you 100% - he just has his little George moments every now and again. He’s very talented and there's loads more to come.”
Vicki has lots of plans for the future, and will be aiming to return to the Championships and beyond next year; “I’d like to aim to come back here for Elementary. I’d like to have a go at music but he’s not very good inside and I might try and have a go at Regionals more for the experience. I just want to try and do the best we can and move through the levels – as long as he stays sound and happy I don’t really mind how far we get.”
The placings for second and third were hotly contested, with both riders scoring the same 70.764%. Kate Johnston finished second on her collective marks with her own Lotus Key SR, with Kate Dorney finishing in third with Myspires Reality Hits.
Petplan Equine Prelim Bronze Freestyle Summer Area Festival Championship
Winner: Lauren Cox and Purely Pandora, 71.389%
Our first freestyle class on the final day of the championships was the prelim bronze, judged by Alastair Gibbs (E), Gillian Peters (C) and Joyce Head (M), who awarded our winner Lauren Cox an impressive score of 71.389%, alongside her dancing partner Purely Pandora.
“I was so happy with the test, I am over the moon with her. I am usually the one to come out and pick on everything negative but today I just felt like she was really good. She listened to me and I was really pleased overall with the performance.” Some of the combinations highlights today were their accuracy and transitions, “it is always difficult riding freestyle tests when you have not ridden in the arena before, you don’t know what it is going to be like. I was worried about that but we managed to get the transitions perfect and I was really happy with it.”
The stunning black Cob x Sports horse was in her element impressing the judges to a compilation of Ed Sheeran and Plan B, “she is not a floaty dressage horse, so my music is not your typical freestyle music, but it suits her really well and sums up her personality and all the judges really loved it today.”
Lauren reflected on her first time at an Area Festival championship, “I have had such a good experience, everyone has been so friendly and it has such a buzz. It has been such a great day.” Despite never attending a dressage championships before 13-year-old Pandora took everything in her stride, “to come here and win today, I have got no words.”
“We qualified at Sheepgate Equestrian Centre, and we managed to win both of our classes, the prelim straight and freestyle. That was our first big win since we started our BD journey in 2021.” Dressage is new for both Lauren and Pandora, having previously competed in showing, showjumping and hunter trails, “we had never done dressage before, so this has been a big transition to get used to. I didn’t like dressage and I didn’t like flatwork.”
“She had a hock injury, nothing major but we decided to move away from jumping as I use to jump quite a lot with her.” Lauren was then drawn into the dressage world, and can confidently say she was bitten by the bug, “I tried a bit of dressage, got hooked and I just love it, which I never thought I would be saying!” and it isn’t stopping here for the pair, “the aim is to move up the levels and keep going, I want to do novice and she has clearly proven she can do it, so we need to make that jump and carry on working hard.”
In second place was Oliver Hicks and Newoak Thyme with a score of 70.741 followed in third place Jane Schindler and Porter Rockwell with a score of 70.000%.
Petplan Equine Prelim Silver Freestyle Summer Area Festival Championship
Winner: Andrea Sparkes and Kazan, 72.315%
The final class of the 2023 Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships was the Prelim Silver Freestyle, which drew this year’s fantastic competition to a close in the indoor arena. The 28th prize giving of the week saw Andrea Sparkes doing the final lap of honour with Kazan as she finished top of the class with 72.315%.
51-year-old Andrea only started dressage around 18 months ago, but has taken to it unbelievably well, having started off competing in the Saracen Horse Feeds Quest series in 2022 and going on to win the Open Novice at the Quest Championships in her first season, “Quest I thought was brilliant, I had no understanding or expectations of how it was going to be – the first test I ever did was in my jump saddle, I didn’t even have a dressage saddle! And I had to borrow a girth, but he did quite well so I thought I’d carry on.” She then went on to compete in the Petplan Equine Winter Area Festivals earlier this year, qualifying for the Winter Area Festival Championships and finishing in sixth place in the Prelim Bronze class.
On winning her first ever Petplan Equine Area Festival Championship so early in her dressage journey, Andrea said “it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve had such a good weekend, we won the Area Festival at Wellington – both the freestyle and the Prelim Silver straight, but I just thought there’s so many nice horses here we’ll just come and have a go. We did the Novice yesterday, which we got on a wildcard, and I was really pleased with him yesterday. Today we did two solid tests. He really, really loves the music and he really performed to the music today.
It’s a really nice series to do, and the standard of horses is exceptional, to win in this company – I'm really amazed because there’s lots of really nice horses here and lots of really nice riders, I’m thrilled – and I came sixth in the Prelim Silver too.”
Andrea and Kazan performed their test to a combination of Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Coldplay songs “Coldplay are my favourite band, so I have Hymn for the Weekend as my entrance music because that’s my favourite song, Equidance put it together for me, and I was really pleased with it. I think the trot music suits him really well – it's quite rhythmical and he's got quite a rhythmical trot. I felt a bit behind the music at some points but we managed to keep going and get there at the right point.”
Based in Berkshire and a member of Wellington Riding Club, Andrea has owned the 17-year-old gelding for ten years, describing him as “a horse of a lifetime, he’s really unique in his build and the way he goes, and also he has a really kind temperament. He tries his hardest all the time for me, he’s been an amazing horse to have, he’s really special.”
And Andrea is not the only part of the duo who is new to dressage, with Kazan spending his former years as an eventer, “he never used to like the dressage, he used to event with my daughter, and he did it because he knew he was jumping next. But I’ve stepped him back from jumping now because of his age, and also I’m not very brave! We started training with our trainer and he was quite spooky to begin with but she’s really helped me to get him through that. So now I feel I go into an arena like today and I’m not thinking “he’s going to spook at everything” but that I can ride him through it. He's got much more trainable over the last 18 months and as he’s got stronger and better with the movements, he’s easier to ride.”
Andrea and Kazan have no plans on stopping anytime soon, with their sights set on Elementary in the future.
The class of 18 finished with second place taken by Sammy-Jo Grantham and Jade of Craignetherty who scored 70.556%, followed by Lauren Webb and Banroc Dante in third place with 68.889%.