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Day One: NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships

last updated on April 06, 2016 21:21

Day One: NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships

A busy day one of the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire produced seven worthy winners over nearly 12 hours of dressage action.

Charles Owen Advanced Medium Restricted

Oxfordshire event and dressage rider, Katie Richards (25), chalked up the first win of the Championships (pictured right).

Riding Riesenstern, Jane Rymell’s exciting 10-year-old son of Rubin Star N, Katie earned 69.91% to finish ahead of the field in the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Restricted Championship. “I’m very happy,” said Katie as ‘Rubin’ lapped up the attention from his support crew which includes mentor, friend and dressage doyenne, Delia Cunningham, who was on-hand to join the celebrations.

Rubin came to Katie as a five-year-old with an eventing career in mind. “He evented for two years to Novice level but was a bit slow across country so the decision was made to focus on dressage as he always did a good test. He’s a lovely horse to ride with a super rhythm and he always tries 100% - he’s very trainable,” said Katie who trains with Caroline Hunt, Gareth Hughes and Judy Harvey and is based with partner and event and dressage rider, Owen Cooper, at Swalcliffe Park, Banbury.

For Katie and Owen the disciplines of dressage and eventing go hand-in-glove and both riders are clearly on form as Owen took third spot aboard Don Dante, Wendy McKay’s 9-year-old Dancier stallion. They were beaten to the runner-up position by Nadine Gregory with Candover Dramatico, her 12-year-old Dimaggio-sired gelding. Nadine rode a great test for 69.08%.
“I have a couple of intermediate event horses and Owen events to 3*,” said Katie, “And we now have a nice bunch of dressage horses. We love both [disciplines] and are very busy. We’re always on the road!”

Petplan Equine Area Festival Inter I Championships

It was a dream realised and a case of fifth time lucky for Whitby’s Cara Shardlow when she took the Petplan Equine Area Festival Inter I Championship with her own British bred Detonator II. It was a slightly bittersweet victory as she beat her fried and inspiration, Natalie Widdowson and Gorgeous George who lives in nearby Scarborough but for her, the victory proved she was ‘living the dream’. The duo have been to the Winter Championships every year together since 2012.

First to go in a 18 combination strong class, Cara threw down the gauntlet score of 67.02% for the field to beat. It was a particularly nervous wait as she’d been beaten into second at the Winter Championships in 2013 by the last competitor in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Elementary Open Championships but this time, victory belonged to her.

Cara has been the proud owner of ‘Guardsman’ since she bought him as a just broken three year old from his breeder Liz Bourne in Wales. “The first time I rode him at home, he threw me and the saddle off!” recalled Cara of the tricky Demonstrator-sired gelding. But she knew he had talent and has stuck with his ways (“He’s not called Detonator for nothing!” she laughed) and it’s now paying dividends. “He’s really getting it now. We’ve learned a lot together and I guess we’ve got used to the bigger occasion.” Cara was very quick to thank her trainer, Becky Moody. “I couldn’t ask for anyone better to help with our confidence. She’s responsible for getting us to where we are,” a delighted Cara said.

She was quick to add, “Thanks must go to Natalie (Widdowson) too – she’s my inspiration. We’ve competed up the levels together and have supported each other. To be one-two with her makes the win extra special! We’ll be celebrating tonight in the lorry with a glass or two of rosé together!”

Not too much though…as she and Guardsman have the Petplan Equine Area Festival Prix St George Championship tomorrow and will be hoping to make another dream come true.

Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Restricted Music Freestyle

Cumbrian rider Marie Watson rode the winning test in the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Restricted Music Freestyle Championship, partnering Lescadeur (Lesodoro x Rotspon), an elegant six-year-old gelding. They scored 72.41% with a freestyle inspired by her late grandmother. “She was always the first person I’d ring after a competition – she was a massive inspiration to me – so I chose music from her CD collection for my freestyle.” The resulting André Rieu and Escala compilation suits the free-moving horse down to a tee.

“I feel gobsmacked!” smiled Marie who fits riding around her career in IT. “I didn’t come here with any expectations – probably a lack of confidence in our ability. I just wanted a ‘clear round’ and to have a good experience.”

“I’m so pleased with how he went in and coped with the atmosphere. At the Myerscough regionals he was a bit overwhelmed, but not here. It’s as if he’s just grown up,” said Marie who bought ‘Lester’ as a six-month-old foal from Gamblethorpe Hanoverians. “He was very ‘in your face’ and friendly, and his hind leg nearly touched his belly!”
Marie, who has brought on the talented Lester herself with the help of trainer Melanie Turner will not be heading home quite yet.

The promising combination’s work here is not yet done as they contest the KBIS Preliminary Championship on Saturday.

Spillers Medium Restricted Freestyle

It was huge celebration for Julie Beckwith this afternoon as she claimed the Spillers Medium Restricted Freestyle Championship. Piloting her own eight-year-old Walentino-sired gelding, Keystone Washington, Julie broke the 70% barrier with ease, scoring an impressive 72% to take home the title.

“I didn’t have any expectations at all,” exclaimed Julie. “I know it sounds cliché, but I just really enjoy him. I’ve had him since he was 15-months-old and with everything I’ve tried to do with him he always tries his hardest.”

Riding to music from Harry Potter, The Holiday and The Great British Bake Off, the Essex-based duo qualified for the Championships at Houghton Hall, coming second with an equally strong score of 73.06%.

“After the Regionals, I said to myself ‘just aim for a placing’, so it really is completely unexpected! When he first went in [to the arena at Hartpury], he was really energetic but also felt a bit hot and spooky. So although everybody said he looked great, I wasn’t sure what mark we’d get.”

The duo, which trains with Hayley Liddiard and Dan Greenwood, will also be contesting the Albion Medium Restricted Championship tomorrow.

Petplan Equine Area Festival Elementary Open

A horse which had been written off rewarded his rider’s faith by winning the Petplan Equine Area Festival Elementary Open in spectacular style, posting two 70%+ scores over the two rounds of the competition.

Dutch-bred Evaldo, by Vivaldo, was imported by his owner rider Christine Cockerton, from Bardford Saling, Essex, as a four year old. He did young horse classes but then a year later, was plagued by lameness and the vet told Christine he’d only be suitable as a companion. Christine sought a second and third opinion…and with the combined help of vets James Newton, Andre Buthe and Laura Payne, she brought him back to full fitness and they’ve never looked back. “I put it down to growing pains,” said Christine. “He was a compact 16hh when we bought him but then he grew and grew. It just took time to build his balance and strength but he’s 100% right now.”

In the first round this morning, Christine admitted to being a bit nervy but she obviously hid those nerves from the three judges to score 71.61% and head section A. A late draw in the second round gave ‘Otto’ plenty of time to recover where Christine said; “He was just lovely and both of us enjoyed it.” They posted 70.75% to nudge ahead of previous competitors Laura Hedley-Gray and Dutch who momentarily held the lead with 70.46%.

Husband Ian is Christine’s secret weapon while trainer Dan Greenwood was important too plus help with test riding from Alex Hardwick.

The duo have a second chance of a Hartpury title when they ride in the Baileys Novice Open Freestyle tomorrow afternoon.

Petplan Equine Area Festival Advanced Medium Open

The final Petplan Equine title of day one went to 20 year old Chloe Hunter partnering her own seven year old Daylight, by the Dutch sire Don Jovi. They were the only combination to break the magic 70% barrier with an impressive 73.28%, over four percent ahead of second placed Jess Bennett and JB Dukaat.

“It went really well, he was very reactive and listening – he really focussed on the job today. The simple changes and medium canter felt really good” said a pleased Chloe, who bought Don as a green five year old and has trained him herself. “He’s got a trainable temperament and is cool and confident in his stride. He loves going to competitions because he’s a bit of a show-off!”

Chloe is trained by Charlotte Dujardin who came especially to help her and Don warm up today, “I’ve had quite an intense week of lessons with Charlotte perfecting everything as best we could!” Chloe is a full time groom and has just started a new job working for Katie Bailey. Don will be heading back to Katie’s base nearby in Gloucestershire for a day off in the field before returning on Sunday to contest hot competition in the Albion Medium Open championship.

Beyond this weekend, Chloe is looking forward to an aspiring summer “I’m hoping to do my first Prix St Georges so that’s my next aim and then to get out to do some young riders tests.” For now to home and bed, having been up the past two nights foaling until the early hours, Chloe is looking forward to a well-deserved night’s sleep!

PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Open

Victors Laura Wollen and Helen Farley-Higgs’ Woodlander Buddy Holly brought the curtain down on a successful day one at Hartpury in one of the day’s most close fought battles. Just 0.06 was the winning margin for the local rider from Ledbury who posted 74.74%.

“It was a nice easy, flowing test. I was really pleased with the walk as he’s got such a massive walk.” Laura adapted her floorplan, designed by herself and complimenting bold, brave music created by Julie Geraghty at Equivisions, from the regionals especially to show off this pace after one judge was unsure of whether his walk should be marked as a 7 or a 9. Today a ‘shark-tooth’ shaped walk across the arena confirmed it as the latter.

“A typical dressage diva,” Laura confirms Buddy can be a little tricky, “we brought him out last night for the arena walk and he was so spooky but today he managed to go in there and just concentrate. He definitely knows when to put his working hat on!”

Returning for the Albion Medium Open on Sunday, Laura and the nine year old, by Burlington, who train with Peter Storr, will have tomorrow off. “I’ll just need to refresh and remind him to give even more in such a hot class! I’d love to be placed in the top half and, if I’m really greedy, I’d love a top five place as it’ll be great preparation for the summer where he’s already nearly qualified for the Medium.” Laura also hopes the pair will be able to give qualification for Advanced Medium level a go soon – “It’s just about getting the changes right - they’re huge!”

For full results - click here.

Photos from