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Paras shine at Nirvana Spa Winter Championships

last updated on May 31, 2016 12:26

Paras shine at Nirvana Spa Winter Championships

At the end of March, the UK’s leading para riders gathered to contest their respective grades at this year’s Nirvana Spa Para Winter Championships (19 – 20 March 2016). Held at Vale View Equestrian Centre, Leicestershire, the competition was fierce as both up-and-coming riders and established combinations battled it out for the top spots in the Open and Restricted Championships.

The first to be triumphant was long-term combination Julie Frizzell and her own 19-year-old German-bred gelding, DCUK Crazy Diamond. Competing in the Grade IV Restricted championship, Julie and ‘Stan’ stormed to victory to claim the national title.

“A day to remember, Stan has given me such a special day and something I didn’t believe possible,” said an emotional Julie via her Facebook page. “British Dressage Nirvana Spa Grade IV Restricted national champion – yes I had the biggest lump in my throat as we came down the final centre line.”

22-year-old Mari Durward Akhurst claimed her second ever national title in the Nirvana Spa Grade III Restricted Championship aboard partner of four years, Sky O’Hara. Notching up a score of 66.70%, with Glesni Owen’s 17-year-old KWPN gelding, an ecstatic Mari took to her Facebook page to comment on the experience:

“Well, I still cannot believe that me and Skysie [are] Grade III Restricted champions. It’s been a long-term goal to win a national title with Sky. On cloud ten.

“Skysie was a bit uptight and very full of himself. I am so proud of him for keeping a lid on it! The first test went well and was really pleased with the more – even more delighted to find out I won the test too. Even getting a seven for our medium trot, which has never happened before!!”

Claiming the highest score of the day and Nirvana Spa rug was Leicestershire-based Vicky Nurcombe. Riding her own 21-year-old British-bred gelding, Fabrication in their first competition of 2016, Vicky scored an impressive 71.55% to top the class by almost four percent and win the Grade II Restricted Championship.

Others to bag a sash and fabulous prizes on offer from championship sponsors, Nirvana Spa on Saturday were Katherine Mannion and Sarah Cooper. Making the journey up north from Kent, Katherine and her own 17-year-old son of Catherston Liberator, Littledale Hallmark scored 62.50% to take the Grade Ia Restricted Championship, whilst Sarah claimed the Ib title with her own eight-year-old British-bred mare, Dazzling No Doubt on a mark of 69.17%.

The Open riders’ turn came on the Sunday with 28-year-old Sophie Christiansen claimed the Grade Ia Open Championship with a whopping mark of 78.77% – the highest score of the championships. Proving to be an unstoppable force, Sophie and Athene Lindebjerg, a nine-year-old Gribaldi-sired mare owned by Di Redfern, remain unbeaten since May 2015 with their scores never dipping below 70%.

It wasn’t just the championship classes that made the weekend at Vale View so special, there were also warm up classes, team tests and the crowd favourite music freestyle class.

Debuting their new freestyle, with music written by Harry Potter composer Nicholas Hooper, Sophie and Athene wowed the judges with their beautiful and elegant floorplan complimented by the ethereal music to score a humungous 86.00% to win the class and claim a personal best.

A close battle for the top spot in the Grade III Open Championship, it was Deb Criddle and LJT Akilles who reigned supreme by a single mark. Scoring an impressive 71.95%, Deb and the Lady Joseph Trust’s 16-year-old Amiral gelding, narrowly leapt above Nicky Greenhill and Gregorian Chant (71.87%) to take the title.

Another combination to make the championships their first competition of the year was 25-year-old Sophie Wells and Charlotte Hogg’s nine-year-old Fidertanz gelding, C Fatal Attraction. Contesting the Grade IV Open Championship, Sophie and C Fatal Attraction – or Jorge as he’s known at home –  toppled the competition by almost eight percent with 71.79%, enabling Sophie to keep hold of the national title for another year.

The closest call of the competition came in the Grade II Open Championship, relying on collectives to decide its fate. Both Suzanna Hext with Abira and Jane Lishman with Lordana TG attained a strong score of 67.52% with judges Joyce Head, Kim Ratcliffe and John Robinson split as to who they’d crown. However, it was 27-year-old Suzanna and the 16-year-old Don Perignon-sired gelding, owned by Charlie and Pammy Hutton, who came out on top with a collective mark of 145.5 (just 3 marks above Jane and Lordana TG). Suzanna and Abira are enjoying a successful 2016 so far, having also embarked in straight classes together for the first time in February.

North Lincolnshire-based Natasha Adkinson took top trumps in the Grade Ib Open Championship aboard her own eight-year-old British-bred mare, Sweet Caledonia with another 70-plus score of 71.67%.

“The test went absolutely incredible, it was literally the best test I think we’ve done,” exclaimed a very happy Natasha. “You work so hard to get everything that’s right at home into the arena and today every single part just fell into place. Cally is my princess, she works so hard all the time and today I couldn’t have asked for more.”

The duo has been together for seven years, since the mare was six weeks old, and has enjoyed great success together – both nationally and internationally.

“She is my baby and we have such a strong bond, so to come this far is amazing. When I found out we’d won, the first thing I said was ‘oh I have to tell her!’

“I’m very grateful because with World Class, Sophie [Wells] and Angela [Weiss] at home, I have all the support there and I’m very lucky to have the lottery funding too – so to be able to show them that it’s being put to use and how much it’s helped me is a great feeling.”

British Dressage would like to thank Nirvana Spa for their generous sponsorship and support and the organisers at Vale View for their fantastic running of this successful event.

For full results, click here.

Restricted Championships
Nirvana Spa Grade Ia Restricted Championship
Katherine Mannion with Littledale Hallmark, 62.50%

Nirvana Spa Grade Ib Restricted Championship
Sarah Cooper with Dazzling No Doubt, 69.17%

Nirvana Spa Grade II Restricted Championship
Vicky Nurcombe with Fabrication, 71.55%

Nirvana Spa Grade III Restricted Championship
Mari Durward-Akhurst with Sky O’Hara, 66.70%

Nirvana Spa Grade IV Restricted Championship
Julie Frizzell with DCUK Crazy Diamond, 67.81%

Open Championships
Nirvana Spa Grade Ia Open Championship
Sophie Christiansen with Athene Lindebjerg, 78.77%

Nirvana Spa Grade Ib Open Championship
Natasha Adkinson with Sweet Caledonia, 71.67%

Nirvana Spa Grade II Open Championship
Suzanna Hext with Abira, 67.52%

Nirvana Spa Grade III Open Championship
Deborah Criddle with LJT Akilles, 71.95%

Nirvana Spa Grade IV Open Championship
Sophie Wells with C Fatal Attraction, 71.79%

Class 1: Grade IV test 41
Bronze: Hope Hayward with Hot Chocolate, 61.04%
Silver: Julie Frizzell with Namibian, 57.92%

Class 2: Grade III test 31
Mari Durward-Akhurst with Sky O’Hara, 66.75%

Class 4: Grade Ib test 10
Rowan Crosby with Kilmazing Tigerlily, 67.94%

Class 11: Grade IV Team test
Charlotte Cundall with The Chenko Artist, 67.26%

Class 12: Grade III Team test
Julie Blanchard with Dark Merlot, 67.37%

Class 13: Grade II Team test
Georgia Wilson with Chico 3, 67.21%

Class 14: Grade Ib Team test
Sarah Cooper with Dazzling No Doubt, 68.80%

Class 16: Grade IV Individual test
Sophie Wells with C Fatal Attraction, 69.64%

Class 17: Grade III Individual test
Izzy Palmer with Pinocchio, 67.44%

Class 18: Grade II Individual test
Natasha Baker with Cabral, 71.50%

Class 19: Grade Ib Individual test
Natasha Adkinson with Sweet Caledonia, 68.02%

Class 20: Grade Ia Individual test
Anna Dunham with LJT Lucas Normark, 73.59%

Class 21: Music Freestyle PYO
Silver: Julie Frizzell with DCUK Crazy Diamond, 70.50%
Gold: Sophie Christiansen with Athene Lindebjerg, 86.00%

Class 22: Grade IV Team test
Julie Frizzell with DCUK Crazy Diamond, 67.50%

Class 23: Grade III Team test
Krissy Hammond-Parker with Rapide, 64.87%

Class 24: Grade II Team test
Ashleigh Jones with Bongo Bong, 68.82%