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LeMieux National Dressage Championships: DAY ONE

last updated on September 19, 2016 13:54

LeMieux National Dressage Championships: DAY ONE

The LeMieux National Championships got underway today at Stoneleigh Park. The morning mist cleared, revealing a sunny September day at the Warwickshire venue and a perfect start to this showcase of the national elite.

Worcestershire-based dressage rider Katie Bailey got the Championships off to a super start with a stylish victory in the Equine Construction Advanced Medium Championship.  The 28-year-old rode an assured test on Bocelli IV, Leslie Forlee’s nine-year-old son of Riccione to score 69.71%.

Katie was thrilled with her horse: “I felt I could really ride him,” she said, clearly delighted. “We had a few rider errors but he felt good, in between my leg and hand. He’s a lovely horse, so solid with no weaknesses and is very consistent to ride. Being at a show he just gets better too as it gives him that extra lift and presence.

“The half passes were good today and the extended trot would have been good if he hadn’t had a little skip at the beginning. The first flying changes were a bit croup high but they got better. Overall the feeling was good though.”

Katie, who worked as a groom and stable rider for Carl Hester and now runs her own livery and training yard near Broadway in Worcester, attained the ride on Bocelli at the end of last year. She now has her sights set on PSG with this talented horse.

BackinAction Preliminary Silver Championship

Allison Croft was surprised and delighted to find herself at the top of the leaderboard in the BackinAction Preliminary Championship with her own five-year-old gelding, Tantoni Dallaglio.

“I can’t stop shaking; it’s unbelievable,” said Allison, who only took up dressage 12 months ago after suffering an accident while show jumping. “I’m so glad I made the switch; I’m having such a brilliant time.”

A score of 74.58% left Allison and the British-bred son of Danone II more than one percent ahead of the rest of the field.

“He’s so laid back; he’s got an old head on young shoulders,” continued Allison, who is based in Derbyshire with her trainer, Tim Heappey. “He only started competing in March and Tim has been riding him in five-year-old Young Horse classes and doing very well. It’s my first nationals and I was thrilled to just get here, let alone win.”

Allison works for a care home company in operational management but has designs on climbing the dressage ladder. “I’d love to keep going up the levels and see how far we can get,” she said.

Childéric Saddles Elementary Silver Championship

In a hard-fought Childéric Saddles Elementary Silver Championship, 25-year-old Charlie Sawyer and the giant 17.3hh Contrendro son, Chico Too, secured top spot with a score of 73.13%.

The first seven combinations all broke the 70% barrier, but Charlie and the 12-year-old gelding got the nod with an expressive, accurate performance that earned them top marks across the board. This is a first national title for the Dorset-based rider, who trains with Carl Hester and is also a UKCC Accredited British Dressage Coach.

“I’m absolutely over the moon,” smiled Charlie following the prize-giving. “I came here to be happy with a top ten finish so to achieve this is amazing!” Their win is all the more remarkable as ‘Chico’, who is owned by Charlie’s mum, Sarah, was forced to undergo a two and a half year rehabilitation following kissing spine and arthritis of the facet joints. Before the diagnosis, Charlie knew something wasn’t right as “he always gives 100% - he’s never idle”. His rehabilitation is ongoing but Charlie said: “We’re getting there. He seems very happy and is loving what he’s doing.”

“Days like this make you realise why we do it. It’s not always easy as there are so many ups and downs with horses but even on bad days I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Behind every great rider there’s a great team, and this is oh-so-true for Charlie as he’s quick to credit his family for all their support. Whilst mum Sarah is here at Stoneleigh, his dad and his girlfriend Alex, who travels here tomorrow, are at home looking after the horses. “Alex and Dad know how we do things on the yard so I don’t have to worry about a thing,” he said.

Monarch Equestrian Inter II Gold Championship

Last year they won the Inter I freestyle, at this year’s LeMieux National Championships Becky Moody and nine-year-old Carinsio (by Painted Black) went one better to claim the Monarch Equestrian Inter II Gold Championship title. The gelding, owned by Anne and Patrick Moody and Julie Lockey, won convincingly with 73.66% ahead of Gareth Hughes on new ride, Don Carissimo, who scored 72.11%.

Becky has had the horse since he was three and has progressed easily up the levels, dominating the small tour classes in 2015. This was only their fifth go at Inter II, having won at three Premier Leagues over the summer but this result gave them a new personal best by 2%. “I was really pleased with how the horse went and there were a lot of super combinations in the class so I’m feeling good!”

This polished combination showed lots of great work in their test, “I was really pleased with the canter pirouettes. It was a nice safe clear round though there’s still lots of room for improvement. He needs to get a little stronger and his passage needs to be a little sharper but overall it was a good solid test.”

Jack, as he’s known at home, can be a character, “he’s a really funny horse, when I’m doing things – trotting, cantering and keeping busy – he’s absolutely brilliant, he’s not spooky and it doesn’t faze him. The hardest thing is when you’re walking and he’s got time to think about what’s around him. So I was pleased that we actually did walk!”

Next year will see the combination aim to step up to the next level once again, “I would like to think that training the horse to Grand Prix has always been our goal with him. I have brilliant support from my trainer David Hunt and he is a big believer that you should always be aiming for that, so he was ready for the step up to Inter II because of the training we’d been putting in along the way. He’s stepped up really easily. Next year he’s going to go proper Grand Prix and I’d like to do some internationals with him then.”

Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Gold Championship

Fresh from Rio, Olympic Gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin added another title to her ever-growing collection, the Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Gold Championship.

Aboard Carl Hester and Ann Cory’s eight-year-old British-bred Diamond Hit gelding, Hawtins Delicato, the 31-year-old stormed to victory in a mega hot class, jam-packed with top riders and talented horses on a fabulous score of 75.66% - the exact same score achieved by the duo at Hartpury Premier League in the horse’s first ever PSG.

“I’m so thrilled!” announced an exhilarated Charlotte after an eventful lap of honour (Michael Eilberg’s Sacoeur decided he would rather be first instead of third and overtook the winners). “I’ve only competed him three times as Amy Woodhead usually rides him, so for me to come here and get that score and that test out of him was just amazing.”

“There’s something about the Nationals.” She continued. “All my horses are different here and he was really lit up today. It’s the atmosphere, the flags and everything being so close, plus it’s rare that you get the crowd clapping in the middle of your test [from the second arena]. He’s not experienced a lot, so I was really pleased with him.”

Not content with just the win, Charlotte’s second ride of the Championship class, Mount St John’s seven-year-old Fidermark-sired mare Mount St John Freestyle, collected second place with an equally impressive score of 74.53%. A couple of mistakes in the changes meant that she just missed out of the top spot, however showing such quality in just her second PSG test proves that she’s definitely one to watch for the future.

“She is just amazing, it was such a shame we had mistakes in the changes – which is crazy because she’s usually so strong in those and we’ve been working hard on the canter zig-zag. It’s probably my fault actually because I relaxed once we had finished the hard stuff! But she has a heart of gold and always tries her hardest; she’s such an exciting prospect for the future.”

For full results, click here.