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NAF Winter Championships '17: day four

last updated on April 15, 2017 23:46

NAF Winter Championships '17: day four

The crowds were out in force today for their Bank Holiday weekend fix of dressage and day four of this year’s NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships at Hartpury in Gloucestershire most certainly did not disappoint.

KBIS Prelim Silver

“I had no control!” Young horse backer and trainer Maria Collins laughed after her prize giving with Dorothy Taylor’s eight-year-old son of Vivaldi Exclusive Gem. Despite only being together for nine months the elegant combination took an emphatic victory in the KBIS Prelim Silver after scoring 73.10% in a class where the top seven all topped the magic 70% mark.

Discussing her test Maria said, “He went a bit into himself and turned lazy because he was quite overwhelmed. He can either do that or explode but he’s a lot easier to ride the way he was today.” The sparky bay was bought as a five-year-old by his owner Dorothy  after being sourced by trainer Paul Fielder in Wales, “I was so pleased today, he’s got an immature brain and body but his confidence is growing every time out” Maria continued.

Exclusive Gem is described as being a pleasure to have on the yard whilst being quite a cheeky character. Next up for the winning duo will be the Summer Regionals at Novice Silver level, until then they will be training at home and enjoying some hacking,  smiling at her star ride Maria said “he’s just a lovely, completely normal horse”.

Completing the top three in the KBIS Prelim were Lucy Robinson with Private Dancer V and Jessica Markham with Delilah Rose. A notable rider in the top rankings was young Myles Graham who placed fifth with his pony Heavenly High Jinks, at only nine-years-old he is without doubt a star of the future.

Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold

The crowd at Hartpury was treated to a thrillingly high class Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold Championship today. The competition was hot but there could only be one winner, young Oxfordshire rider Rebecca Bell (17) with the exciting British-bred Nibeley Union Hit. The talented pair won convincingly with 74.22%.

“I’m extremely, extremely happy,” said Rebecca, “I’m really delighted!” 

Rebecca is no stranger to the big occasion having achieved huge success during her Pony career – she has three European Championship team medals to her name; a bronze, a silver and a gold – experience which paid off when the pressure was on today.

Nibeley Union Hit, a 10-year-old Nibeley Union Jack x Sandro Hit mare, is owned by Rebecca’s mum, Caroline, who’s at the show in the official capacity of Judges Liaison. The horse and her young rider’s performance meant so much that Caroline was visibly moved as the score was announced.

Bought four years ago having been found by word of mouth, Rebecca took her time developing a relationship with the sensitive horse before making their competitive debut last August. She’s sensitive, Rebecca says, with a ‘Sandro Hit’ character, yet she’s very genuine.

Petplan Equine Area Festival Novice Bronze

Lancashire rider Tayla Brooks (26) had the ride of her life to seal victory in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Novice Bronze today. Tayla and her eight-year-old Irish gelding Springwind Catwalk earned 72-plus percent in the qualifying heat then 72.04% in the second round with a clean and expressive performance.

“It’s feels amazing – a bit surreal really,” beamed Tyla after the prize-giving. “I came with no expectations. Just to come in the top 15 and get to round two was my aim.”

“He [Springwind Catwalk] felt mega today – he was really ‘on it’ in both tests.”

Tayla, who works as a Project Manager for JD Sports, primarily events but started pure dressage under the advice of trainer Paula Holden; “I did it to improve our eventing scores but I never imagined it would lead to this!”

Describing ‘Fred’ Tayla says; “He’s a really chilled out, cheeky horse and makes us laugh on the yard. He has it all – everything you’d want in a horse.”

The pair will now aim to secure Elementary qualification as well as, with their Eventing hats on, qualify for the Badminton Grass Roots championships in 2018.

Petplan Equine Medium Silver Area Festival

Twenty year old Emily Hedger made her first championship experience aboard her own Dutch-bred mare, Cadalma, a memorable one with a win in the Petplan Equine Medium Silver Area Festival. Scoring a well-earned 68.23%, Emily and the ten-year-old daughter of Westpoint Ragazzoni

“I hoped for top ten but winning was just so unexpected,” exclaimed Emily. “I really just wanted her to come out and do a nice clean test, chill and have a nice experience – and she did exactly that! I was so pleased, even before I found out my score I’d already updated my Facebook with how proud I was of her.”

Based in Leicestershire with ‘West’, Emily juggles riding and commuting to Sheffield three days a week for her Accounting and Finance university course but luckily has a great support network – particularly from her trainers, eventer Emily Chandler and BD list 1 judge, Jane Peberdy.

“It’s great because I’ve got the rider perspective from Emily and the judge perspective from Jane, so it works well. Emily actually rides West once a week to help me when I’m at university. She’s a sharp and quick horse, who’s known to do quick spins – she’s never got me off yet but Emily has been known to have at least one close call with her every week!”

Together for three years, Emily and West have progressed through the levels and at the end of last year made their debut at Prix St Georges. With the Premier Leagues in their sights for 2017, the future is definitely looking bright for this twosome.

Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold

Charlotte Dujardin gave the bumper crowds enjoying an Easter Saturday at Hartpury a master class in test riding to take first and second in the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold Championship.  Her first ride was with the striking grey mare Florentina (Vivaldi x Rubels), owned by Paul and Wendy Dockley and Charlotte.   ‘Flora’ is rightly earning quite a following with the fans having won championships at Stoneleigh as a five and six year old but this was her first trip to Hartpury.

She rode her normal accurate, beautifully presented test but was sympathetic to the mare’s relative inexperience and didn’t overly push for maximum ‘flash’.  The judges rewarded the accuracy, flow and harmony with 74.25% and the lead. 

It was then on to the relatively unknown En Vouge.  Charlotte brought the son of Jazz from Sandra Biddlecombe, who owns the yard where she keeps her young horses and he’s been very lightly campaigned as he’s taken time to mature and develop.  The picture was quite different to her previous ride in that there was extreme power but quite a bit of nervous tension. What was constant was Charlotte’s clever ringcraft and ability to coax marks.  72.15% was the score – not enough to take the lead but to lie second.

Flora’s 74%+ score couldn’t be matched and the mare had a third championship title to her name. As she came out of the prize giving, co-owner Paul Dockley looked at his pride and joy and said; “She moves me to tears every time!”

Charlotte explained they spotted Flora on a video ahead of the Brightwells sale as a two year old and instantly fell in love with her – “We all did!” added Wendy.  “I knew we had to have her,” added Charlotte.  “It was a risk with a two year old as you don’t know what you’re going to end up with her but we got her and said ‘thank God’ – I really do believe in fate.”

“She was an angel to break with immense trainability and isn’t fazed by anything.  She’s a real worker and loves to perform, almost rises to the occasion and I love just how brave she can be,” enthused Charlotte.

She continued; “I put a lot of pressure on myself today so perhaps rode a bit ‘safe’ but I’m pleased with her.  I’m my own harshest critic so would say maybe I wish I’d have been braver.  I have to remind myself that she’s only seven and rides like an older horse.  You ask her any question and she always answers ‘yes, yes, yes!’; she’s just so genuine.”

On her ride on En Vogue she said; “When I came out of the arena, I was quite emotional.  It’s been quite a challenging journey with him.  When we broke him at three, he bucked a saddle clean off and when it came to teaching him changes, he just threw himself on the floor.  He’s a horse that crying out to do Grand Prix and I’m so excited for his future.  In the arena, I could feel his heart beating but he really tried.  I’ve been really careful to not put him under pressure and build confidence but only going out to small local shows and he just gets better and better.  Flora was born with the perfect attitude but him, I’m going to have to teach it.”

She ended in saying; “I’m so proud of the both today.  To be honest, to bring a baby on like these two to such a level is better than any medal – those are just a bonus!”

Full results including judges’ break down – click here

Rider interview – click here

Times and show info – click here