Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships 23: day one
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Day one at the third running of the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships saw seven star quality combinations blow away the competition on a bright and breezy day at Lincolnshire host venue Arena UK.
Petplan Equine Intermediate I Bronze
Winner: Hannah Jones and Replica II, 67.108%
Hannah Jones was an emphatic first winner at the 2023 Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships, claiming the Intermediate I Bronze title with Caroline Jones’ homebred mare Replica II. The combination were rewarded 67.108% by John Robinson (E), Claire Ballantyne (C) and Jane Peberdy (M) to take the top spot ahead of a duo of Friesian horses, Gracie and Julia Catling’s Tsjebe Fan e Vesta Hoeve and Jan Woolgar’s Lobke Van Het Urnenveld presented by Nichola Harrison.
Speaking about her test today, Hannah said, “It did feel really good, she stayed with me and really stayed soft and supple. She can sometimes get a little bit rushy and then go against the bend a little bit more but today she stayed really nice in the hand and seemed to concentrate really well."
Hannah and ‘Flicka’ have qualified for no less than three classes at this year’s championships, picking up her ticket for each with well-earned wildcards: “We actually got a reasonably good mark at the Area Festival, so I knew we were sitting on a reasonable mark! Before coming here I've just been focusing on keeping her in front of the leg as she can be quite lazy, especially when it's hot, so it's nice that it's not hot today! We've only got a 20x40 at home so we managed to go and hire a long arena on the week before last just so that I had gotten movements in an arena because otherwise you forget how much space you've got!”
Hannah’s winning ride is a firm member of the family as a homebred, “she was meant to be my mum's dressage horse, but mum has since had two hip replacements and she's [Flicka] quite lazy, which when you have replacements isn’t ideal! We always do a bit of everything with them when they're babies, so she went eventing when she was young and did quite well as a five year old doing a few BE 100s. She's a proper little all-rounder, she’s even been to Pony Club camp! Not with myself, someone needed a horse last minute last year so she went there, she's had lots of people ride her and she's just really cool.” Variety is definitely a big part of the success story for this duo as Hannah concluded, “she still jumps and loves hacking too and would be a happy hacker with anyone! She doesn't school much at home, maybe twice a week.”
Hannah balances her dressage and eventing riding alongside working as a full time vet, “I work in small practice in Malvern and I've been there since I qualified - so that's my other family and I really enjoy that too.” Great time management and support at home is what keeps the wheels turning for this busy winning rider, “the horses are at home which is a massive help! My parents ran a dairy farm but are now retired, they'll do them one end of the day and are just great. But I do have to get up really early!”
Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Freestyle Bronze
Winner: Amy Foster-Smith and Kimberley SHR, 72.167%
Day one in the Indoor Arena kicked off with the first music class of the competition with the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Freestyle Bronze, as Amy Foster-Smith took the top spot on 72.167% with Kimberley SHR.
Amy, who is based in Cardiff, spoke of her experience at the Championships, “It's been a really nice, friendly atmosphere. Everybody here seems to want everyone to do well. I've met some different people chatting to different people in the stables and it's been a really nice environment. You get that championship feel, but it's not overwhelming, it's more of a nice championship feel.”
The eight-year-old bay mare hadn’t competed before when Amy bought her as a five-year-old, so the pair have worked up the levels together over the last three years, from Preliminary up to Advanced Medium. On bringing her to a Championships, Amy said “she settled in really well, the stables have all been really good.”
“She was awesome. I did a lot of arena walks. We had the arena walk yesterday, and then she went in again this morning, because she's not the best indoors, because I don't really ride indoors, we ride in the rain in Wales! But she was really good. I think the arena walk took the spookiness off so she went in there, she just gave me a really nice test.”
The pair competed at the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships last year in the Medium Silver, placing second, but this is the first time they’ve done music in the Area Festivals, “I like doing the music, especially the canter. Kim Warren put my music together for me, which was great because I wouldn't have been able to do it myself. The judges seemed to really like it as well, so that was nice.”
On choosing her music, Amy told us “it's a bit interesting really, Kim tent me over some different music because I had a different music previously and the judges weren't overly keen on it. So Kim said, she thought we needed something a bit more elegant to go with her.”
“I don't actually know what the songs are, it’s got an Irish theme, the canter music is Irish and it's got a really nice jump into it and it really suits her and lifts her up, and then the trot work has a really nice beat to it as well.”
The 29-year-old, who is a Senior Business Analyst for a Financial Services Company, has plans to progress further with Kimberley SHR, “we’re going to just keep training, she's amazing - she's only eight so she's still got a lot to do. I want to just keep her sound and happy, that's the main thing. Hopefully we'll train towards the PSG, I want to get our changes a little bit more secure, in the straight class I had a couple of mistakes in the changes, but they're really good at home, it's just getting them right when I go into the test.
In second place was Sandie Gibbs and Gomez Gold, with 71.056%, followed by Emma Hayes and Feitor Do Penedo in third place scoring 69.722%.
Petplan Equine Intermediate I Silver
Winner: Olivia Sugdon and Cortez, 67.843%
First time Area Festival competitor Olivia Sugdon topped the Petplan Equine Intermediate I Silver Summer Area Festival Championship with her own Cortez, with a score of 67.843%.
Speaking of her test today, Olivia said “the test was a real improvement on last time I was out, I just didn't have such a great run there. So I've been working quite hard over the last couple of weeks training, and I felt much better prepared for here so I was really pleased. I had a couple of mistakes unfortunately, but actually I watched the video back and I thought his way of going was much better. I was really pleased with the frame and the softness, and the mistakes were just unfortunate, it's very hard to get a clear round at this level.”
“I’ve been training with Lisa Hopkins since 2006, so we've got a really long-standing training history and she's a friend as well, I'm very lucky that I can have consistent training.”
Olivia has had the 17-year-old since being a foal, and talked of lots of time off due to issues with injuries and the chestnut gelding’s back, but she works hard to keep him fit, saying "it's just amazing that he's back, we joke amongst my friends that he's the king of comebacks!”
“He's just very unusual and quite quirky in life generally, but it's very rewarding to have them from a foal and train them up. I tried to sell him as a four-year-old and nobody would buy him! So we ended up keeping him and that's what I did.”
“This is the first time I've ever done an Area Festival , it's been really nice, people are really friendly. I think it's brilliant to have an amateur championships. It's a really good run up here and good surfaces, I've enjoyed it. It's nice to see the variety of horses as well at the Petplans and what people can achieve.
As well as being successful in the arena, Olivia also runs a children's charity called Ride High in Milton Keynes, who use horses as a critical enabler to help children who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, “we have 120 children a week come to us with 43 horses based on site, it's very rewarding. I think it's great for kids to see that I'm out there and competing."
“Teaching them to ride is amazing because it's really great for self-esteem and self-confidence. It gets them out doing exercise and fresh air. And we've got about 90% of them back into school or into other forms of education.”
In second place was Jessica Whitehead and The Amazing Spiderman, who scored 66.814%, with Samantha Louise Reeves and Geneve finishing in third place on a score of 66.226%.
Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Bronze
Winner: Nicola Naprstek and Don Cru, 66.966%
It was the first time on top of the podium for Nicola Naprstek as she topped a 39-strong class in the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Bronze Summer Area Festival Championships, with a score of 66.966%.
On her test today, Nicola told us “I was really pleased with it. He came out today, and it maybe could have been cleaner, but he tries his heart out every time”.
Nicola, who is based in North Yorkshire, competed with Don Cru in the first Summer Area Festivals held at Arena UK in 2021, finishing ninth in the Medium Silver, “It's our first year competing Advanced Medium, it was great coming through the Area Festivals. We won at Alnwick Ford and then obviously onto here, there’s been quite an atmosphere here, it was nice and it felt like a championship.”
Nicola bought Don Cru as a two year old and has brought him up through the levels, with a few breaks in between and taking a break from competing after having her son William, “he is just a joy to ride, every single day he brings a smile to your face and you're just you want to ride him. He comes out the same the whole time whether it's at home or at competition, and he just wants to please and he's a really happy, happy horse. He’s very trainable and loves his work.”
This is the combination’s first national championship win together, with Nicola describing it as “it feels amazing, it’s been a great buzz and just a great way to end the season.”
They now have their sights on competing in some more Advanced Mediums, before aiming for Prix St Georges next year. When Nicola isn’t competing, she’s a company director for her and her husband’s company, as well as doing some freelance training, keeping her very busy juggling both work and horses.
In a very close second place was Alicia Roberts and Godin Linda with 66.496%, followed by Molly Rowan Sharples and Sheepcote Suncrest scoring 65.940%.
Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Silver & Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver
Winner: Jade Whitelaw and Late Night, 69.872% and 75.112%
Making it three consecutive years' worth of wins, Jade Whitelaw returned to the top step of the Petplan podium not once, but twice on day one at the 2023 Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships.
With her own seven year old gelding Late Night, Jade first secured victory in the Advanced Medium Silver class scoring 69.872% before going on to achieve the highest score on day one in the Freestyle competition, a superb 75.112%.
“It’s been a bit of a busy day! I’ve had four tests in total and it’s been non-stop. It was very unexpected to win two of them; the horse that won is seven now but is quite new to Advanced Medium so his changes are a little bit green still, sometimes I don’t know if they’re going to come out!”
Late Night is by the KWPN stallion Gunner GS and replicates his good looks, with an enviable liver chestnut coat. The eye-catching talent was superb in his tests today to the delight of rider Jade, “he was really really good today, especially in his music. He felt really up for it and on side. He was a little excited in his outside test but managed to hold it together.”
The Aberdeen-based rider has an impeccable record at these Championships, making it well worth the 11 hour journey from home to Arena UK. “It’s been really lovely, the atmosphere is great but isn’t too much pressure – it's such a great opportunity! I’ve also had my older Advanced horse here and it’s just so nice to have a show that suits them, it’s such good fun.”
Jade was yet another winner on day one that represents the vast majority of the BD membership balancing horses alongside busy careers, and working hard to make every ride count! “I ride my three horses in the evenings and weekends, and just try to fit it all in! It’s busy and full on, but it’s always fun and days like this these make it worth it,” the Process Engineer concluded on how she makes riding work around her work in the oil and gas industry.
Lily Payne was a worthy runner up in the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver Area Festival Championship, scoring 72.889% with Lynne Crowden’s stallion Woodlander Wavavoom (Weltregent H x Longchamp); whilst Emma Woolliscroft and Just Magic BH completed the podium with 71.834%.
In the Advanced Medium Silver it was Ella Garfoot to take the second spot with her own Apache sired Impulz De B (68.803%), with Emma Woolliscroft earning her second third placing of the day, with Just Magic BH delivering once again for 67.820%.
Petplan Equine Intermediate I Freestyle Bronze
Winner: Gracie Catling and Tsjebe Fan e Vesta Hoeve, 73.542%
Buckinghamshire’s Gracie Catling was another former winner to step up in level and take home another iconic sash and rug, claiming the win in the Petplan Equine Intermediate I Freestyle Bronze with Julia Catling’s outstanding Friesian Tsjebe Fan e Vesta Hoeve. The combination were unanimous winners, with Claire Senior (E), Pam Bushell (C) and Fiona Lace (M) rewarding 73.542% for their enjoyable freestyle performance.
The Loughborough University student was thrilled with ‘Jeb’s’ performance in the Arena UK spotlight: “I was really pleased – it was mistake free which is unusual for Jeb as he likes to throw in something somewhere! I did the straight Inter I this morning...he was a little full of himself and we had a mistake but we still finished second which I was really happy with. I came back really wanting a clear round in the freestyle knowing that’s what could win it for him, and we got it, I’m so delighted with him.”
The powerful black gelding has enormous arena presence and a great rhythmic way of going which Gracie has cleverly matched to his music choices, “we’ve got Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for his trot, it really suits him, it’s really jolly. His walk and canter music is the Band of the Blues & Royals, so is very army marching which also suits and enhances him. It’s taken a while to find something that really does that! We got an 8.5 for music today so I was really pleased with that.”
“It’s really fun when it works in your favour,” the dedicated young rider added about riding an expressive Friesian horse with bags of scope, “sometimes it can be a bit much and he doesn’t know where to put all the power with his legs everywhere! But it feels amazing, especially in a prizegiving...he can be a little uncontrollable but it’s so much fun.”
In second place was Claire Ackerman and Woodcroft Heinrich who scored 69.000%, with Jade Whitelaw and Dauphin III scoring 68.584% to finish third.
Petplan Equine Intermediate I Freestyle Silver
Winner: Jessica Whitehead and The Amazing Spider Man, 69.208%
Jessica Whitehead was a jubilant winner in the final class on the opening day of action at the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships; on board her own 16 year old Hanoverian The Amazing Spiderman, the Kent based rider earned 69.208% to make the Intermediate I Freestyle Silver title their own.
“I’ve only ridden it five times! Kim Ratcliffe has helped me with the floorplan and Tony from Equidance did the music for us. I really love it, Equidance have done it so well with the lyrics too – it makes you breathe and sing along to it, which makes it so much more fun,” Jessica explained about her music performance which is made up of a compilation of One Republic songs. “It was his second test of the day so he was a little more tired but I was really pleased with him, he’s a really good boy.”
Speaking about how to create a winning floorplan she continued: “For me I was really tactical in how I chose to ride the movements – his changes are amazing and definitely a highlight! I chose to put them on a difficult line but he finds them really easy, I wanted to show them off to the best of our ability. His extended trot is another highlight so I put there where the judges can see it really clearly, he’s just amazing and I really enjoy riding him.”
Having also achieved second position in the earlier Intermediate I Silver class too, it was a busy but worthwhile day for the 21 year old who described how it feels to win at these championships, “I’m totally buzzing, I’ve got a nice four and a half drive home to Kent but it’s so worth it!” Jessica’s preparation has also been a something of a challenge, as the multi-talented rider has been managing horses alongside taking on a new business - recently picking up the reins of equestrian fashion retailers Imperial Equestrian; “I’ve barely been able to train him so for him to come out and pull that out the bag is just amazing. He’s my horse of a lifetime and I’ll never find another like him.”
Julia Walker and Rodhea finished in second place with 67.875%, followed by Lauren Lavender and Fantastic Khan finishing in third place scoring 65.167%.
Photos © Kevin Sparrow