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Day five: NAF Five Star Winter Championships

last updated on April 11, 2016 10:15

Day five: NAF Five Star Winter Championships

Five worthy champions were crowned on the final day of the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships to bring the curtain down on five amazing days of top sporting action with over 750 tests being completed.

In a class filled with quality combinations – the top five all broke the 70% barrier – it was 30-year-old Stephanie Sweet who reigned supreme in the Shadow Horse Elementary Restricted Championship.

Aboard Sarah Banwell’s six-year-old Don Havidoff gelding, Dolle Jung (pictured right), Stephanie scored 73.80% to claim their first national title; the pair were second to Lucinda Elliott and Mount St John Best of All – who placed fourth today (70.67%) – in the Dodson & Horrell Novice Restricted at the LeMieux National Championships last September.

“It feels amazing! It’s a dream come true, I’m very emotional,” exclaimed Stephanie. “I wasn’t confident today because we came second at the Regionals and I knew there was a couple of really great horses in this class, so I didn’t feel much pressure.

“The test flowed so well and I was really, really pleased with his canter work but you can never be too sure. Once I saw my score and noticed I was still ahead after gaining the lead so early, I couldn’t believe it.”

An equine sports therapist and freelance rider, Stephanie has competed Dolle Jung for the just 12 months and has already enjoyed success in both young horse and straight classes.

“I’ve always said he’s a one in a million horse,” said Stephanie. “He’s perfect and he doesn’t realise how good he is, he’s such a gentleman. He loves his work.

The duo has already qualified for the Summer Regional Championships at both Elementary and Medium but they’re also looking to aim for the Shearwater Young Dressage Horse Championships in the six-year-old section later this year.

Nupafeed Advanced Medium Open Freestyle

Almost two years to the day, Hannah Biggs and her bright hope for the future, Don Caledonian, collected a title at the Winters. In 2014 it was at Medium level, today it was a level up when they won the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Open Freestyle. The class is always a competitive one and a highlight of the final day; this year’s entry list didn’t disappoint.

Hannah and ‘Archie’ were announced to the crowd and then gave the sign for their music to begin. Whoosh! Tinie Tempah echoed from the speakers to everyone’s surprise; the judges visibly sitting to attention. Entry, halt salute, walk pirouette and onwards. Not your average start! More ‘choons’ bellowed out while Hannah and Archie performed a faultless but highly technical floor plan which the judges couldn’t ignore, even if the music may not have been their personal choice! 75.83% was the score which couldn’t be matched.

Don Schufro sired Archie was bred in Scotland by Caledonian Sports Horses and Hannah bought him direct from a video. His breeder, Reay Campbell, still follows the liver chestnut’s exploits closely.

“I’m never one to be boring,” said Hannah. “I like to wake the judges! When we were looking for music for him with Tom Hunt, I wasn’t sure what to have; I didn’t set out to be so different but modern and funky just really suited him and his personality. We then developed a floorplan to use his strengths and it’s really paid off.”

The win was extra special for Hannah as her top ride and ‘super star stallion’ Weltzin won the title in 2008 on his way up the ladder to Grand Prix and is now retired. “If he (Archie) does half as well, I’ll be very happy. He has all the promise, he’s getting better physically and technically it’s all there. We’ll move up to Small Tour soon and aim for some Premier Leagues and see how it goes,” Hannah commented.

Plus, it was a slightly early present as Hannah will celebrate her thirty-something birthday on Wednesday. It’ll be a champagne celebration for her, and bananas for Archie, which are his favourite treat.

Petplan Equine Area Festival Advanced Medium Restricted Championship

West Yorkshire rider Lindsay Hancock (32), on her championship debut, chalked up victory with Barachiel, her impressive nine-year-old son of Gribaldi, in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Advanced Medium Championship with their stylish performance earning 68.38%.

“It feels amazing!” smiled Lindsay. “During the test, I was too focused on what I needed to do to realise how well he went. Then when I watched it on the iPad, I thought ‘it’s good!’ This is ‘Bacchus’s’ first national championship but he copes really well. I didn’t even do the arena walk with him as he takes things so much in his stride.”

Lindsay bought Bacchus as a ten-month-old and has brought him on herself with the support of her trainers Stephen Clarke and Jennie Loriston-Clarke. “Jennie was judging so she couldn’t help me warm up, but she helped me this morning. She ‘jazzed us up’ as she likes to call it!” laughed Lindsay.

Petplan Equine Area Festival Preliminary Championship

Newcomers to the British Dressage Championship scene, Charlotte Bateman (25) and Shirley Rixon’s Flores L, make a spectacular debut winning the penultimate championship class of the day. Out of 53 starters in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Preliminary Championship they took the top spot after the second round with a triumphant score of 73.03%.

Third to go in the final round, Charlotte had a long, nervous wait to ensure she held on to her lead. “I thought I did a good test but I didn’t expect such an amazing score, I’m absolutely thrilled!” Having been brought over to this country eighteen months ago from the Netherlands, the Beau-sired six-year-old Flores, has only been lightly competed, “it’s his first big show so we did the arena walk and he’s just been really quiet all day. He’s the most nervous horse you’ll ever meet!”

“I’ve been riding him about a year now,” said a beaming Charlotte, “I’m very lucky that his owner Shirley has allowed me to ride such a lovely horse.” Based near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, Charlotte works as a freelance rider for owner Shirley Rixon – who has had a particularly fruitful championships with her horse Penhaligon’s Jupiter also winning the Blue Chip Novice
Open class with Jayne Turney.

Charlotte looks forward to a promising future ahead for her and the ‘sweet-natured’ bay, “I hope to qualify him for Novice Regionals this summer.” Having proven a cemented partnership at Hartpury they look sure to do so.

Albion Medium Open Championship

Newmarket rider Nikki Crisp heralded the arrival of her next top star in the final competition of this year’s Winter Championships. Riding her own and Vivienne Gleave’s impressive Speilberg son Durable, Nikki took the top honour in the Albion Medium Open Championship. She rode a test which was full of expression and activity on the eight year old for an impressive score of 75.77%, 2.5% ahead of long time leaders Amy Woodhead and Hawtins Delacato. And it was unanimous from the three judges who all placed the duo to win.

“He’s just such an amazing horse; he just gives and gives. The test wasn’t fault free as one simple change wasn’t great and there were a few transitions that could have been better but what a horse! He’s so elastic and rhythmical which the judges love but his power is amazing. His size means we have to work on his balance but other than that, he’s so easy. You only need to tell him something once and he’s so light and responsive to ride, I don’t even use spurs at home.”

Nikki uses pole and cavaletti work at home to help with ‘Danny’. He’s been kept entire but will focus on his competition career before stud duties although Nikki does have a three year old colt at home by him which she’s excited by.

He certainly wowed the crowds who’d stayed to the very end with an athletic display in the prize giving where his full 17.2hh frame powered around the arena with paces that have to be destined for Grand Prix…watch this space and remember the name Durable as he and Nikki are ones to follow. Look out Tokyo 2020.

Photos - 

For full results - click here