Showcasing young talent at the Sheepgate BD Under-25 Championships
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Always a highlight of the year for BD Youth members, this year’s Sheepgate British Dressage Under-25 Championships (22 - 27 August 2022) once again proved no exception. Featuring premium sponsored classes, fantastic prizes and friendly atmosphere, this well-established six-day dressage extravaganza in Lincolnshire attracted competitors from far and wide and more than lived up to its well-known motto: “well worth the journey”.
Advanced Medium Championship
Sixteen-year-old Megan Field from Shipston on Stour made the three-hour journey north with her 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding Bright Time FST (Harley) - pictured above - to snatch a narrow victory over fellow competitor Megan Long and Barcelona, both posting 67%+ scores with just a fraction between them.
“We came to Sheepgate last year for our first stay-away show and did the Mediums and came third, so we wanted to try and raise our game and see if we could do better this time,” said Megan. “Harley is my first ‘proper’ dressage horse – I’m lucky to have found him through my trainer Natalie Allen who lives down the road. Initially, Natalie offered me schoolmaster lessons on him, and we formed a good partnership. When Harley’s owner was moving to America and he came up for sale, I was fortunate to buy him.
“He’s perfect and so easy to do in every way, although it took me a while to find his buttons and get used to his powerful paces. We started competing at Advanced Medium at the end of last year and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of stepping up to this level and learning to ride his powerful extended trot and canter!”
Megan, who also trains with Dan Greenwood, describes Harley as “a talented horse with many personalities; he’s a bright and bubbly person who enjoys cuddles, but he also likes his own space!”
“Harley settled really well at Sheepgate and enjoyed strutting his stuff and showing off in the arena, but I could also feel him listening to me so was delighted with our score and judges’ comments. We’re now planning to enter our first Prix St Georges next month (September) and looking forward to seeing what happens!”
Twenty-year-old Georgie Nicholls enjoyed an excellent rehearsal ahead of competing at this year’s LeMieux National Championships at Somerford, claiming an impressive one-two in this hotly contested championship with Briarwood Notorious (70.32%) and Woodcroft Kika Quina (69.73%). However, the run up to this achievement didn’t have the best of starts with a serious horsebox breakdown to contend with en route.
Georgie, who is based at Headmore Stud where she works with Alice Oppenheimer as a second rider, overcame a traumatic start to their journey north when the 7.5T horsebox they were travelling in broke down on a busy section of the M25 in rush hour.
“Our lorry suddenly started vibrating badly and we had to quickly pull over onto the hard shoulder. Luckily, the police and Highways Agency were with us in about 10 minutes. Our breakdown created quite a scene, but they were so efficient and helpful in organising everything. They closed both sides of the carriageway while we loaded the horses onto a rescue lorry - thankfully the horses are good travellers and didn’t panic.
“Once we got home, we thought about abandoning our trip, but then decided to take my 3.5T horsebox instead and set off again early the next morning, this time enjoying an uneventful journey!”
Georgie, winner of last year’s Novice and Elementary Championships, was keen to return to Sheepgate with the two seven-year-old stablemates - Katie Haigh’s smart, black 16.1hh mare Woodcroft Kika Quina (by Johnson) and her own 17.2hh British Warmblood gelding Briarwood Notorious, who she describes as “chalk and cheese”.
“We learned so much with them last year and we’ve since tweaked our routine and warm up which has made a big difference, especially for Briarwood Notorious (Silas), who can be quite hot and buzzy in the arena, and we also made the most of the arena free time which helped.
“Both horses are polar opposites in every way but I love riding and training them equally. Silas is big, chunky and has lots of natural energy, whereas Woodcroft Kika Quina [Luna] is a ‘little Miss Perfect’ who loves everyone, behaves beautifully and wants to please.
“The strange thing is that in competition, they always end up being placed close to each other, in spite of how different they are. I was really pleased with how they both tried so hard and coped well with the arenas and atmosphere at Sheepgate, as well as the overall feel they gave me in their tests.
“Now I’m excited to see what happens at Somerford with Silas who is contesting the Elementary and Medium titles and Luna in the Medium as well, so hopefully we’ll be celebrating with another bottle of prosecco!”
Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Calvert from Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire enjoyed a fantastic few days at Sheepgate, winning both the Elementary and Elementary Freestyle championships with her mother Alison’s seven-year-old gelding Woodlander Frampton (pictured above), by Woodlander Freddie M, half-brother to Woodlander Farouche.
“Frankie is a very a special character and a family favourite. He has great trainability with just the right amount of sass,” said Charlotte. “In the stable, he is very much like a Labrador and just wants cuddles and to rest his head on your shoulder to be scratched. He’s very easy to have around in the yard and to travel, although he has a definite aversion to water and really didn’t like to have to walk past the pond at Sheepgate!
“I was really pleased with ‘Frankie’s' focus throughout the week,” said Charlotte, who with her mother who also trains them, found the 16hh dark bay previously owned by judge and coach Guy Reynolds after seeing him advertised for sale with Lucie Turner.
“He tried his heart out, stayed with me in all his tests and really let me ride him. It was a hot week and on the last day, Frankie felt a little tired, so I kept to a very short warm up. He is hot and sensitive so keeping him on side is very important.
“We decided to enter the freestyle as a last-minute decision and as Frankie doesn’t have his own music yet, we used my own horse’s music which is an upbeat mix of Dua Lipa, Alan Walker, Harry Styles and Rihanna, which we had in the lorry.
“I was thrilled with our score of 70.58% and the judge complimented his lateral work, with the comment, ‘creative floorplan and music which really suited’.
“Mum and I celebrated in the evening with some mocktails at the presentation. We love it at Sheepgate, there’s a great atmosphere and everyone is so friendly.
“My family is so supportive, especially my mum and dad, who make everything possible, I couldn’t do it without them!”
Sheepgate debutantes Hannah Macmillan and her smart eight-year-old grey Irish-bred gelding Brookeborough Lad claimed top spot with 70.90% in a 30-strong competitive class, which saw the top three combinations all finish on + 70% scores.
“As a first timer, we had a great experience at Sheepgate with the lovely and helpful staff and amazingly organisation throughout the week.
“’Malochy’ didn’t put a foot wrong and listened to me every step; I was really pleased with his medium trot as due to his big movement, he sometimes struggles with maintaining it across the diagonal and the balance through the transitions, but we actually got an 8 for them, along with his medium canter.
“I was overwhelmed that all the judges scored me over 70% with some lovely comments, including “amazing partnership”, “super-expressive” and “positively ridden test”.
Nineteen-year-old Hannah from Leicestershire bought “Malochy” as a rising five-year-old three years ago and describes their special close relationship as “unbreakable”. “He has the best personality ever, and such a clever brain; you only need to show or tell him a few times and he will continue to please and try his absolute best. That’s what I love about him, he is a 100% trier.”
Earlier this month the combination won a Summer Area Festival Elementary Bronze with 68+% and Elementary FSM with just under 73% qualifying for a Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships for the third year in a row.
“It hasn’t been all plain sailing and we have had ups and downs,” said Hannah, who trains with Lili Brooksby, Steph Croxford and Patsy Bartram. “When I bought him, he was quite challenging to ride as he was extremely ‘green’, and I couldn’t even canter him in our arena. However, as lockdown hit, I did a lot of his training by myself watching our videos back, reading tests sheets and videos online and this soon got better.
“My mum, dad and family aren’t from a horsey background, but are really supportive, with mum being chief lorry driver, photographer and square halt checker!”
Fourteen-year-old Freya Percival from Nottinghamshire took top honours in this hotly contested championship with her 15.1hh part-bred warmblood bay gelding, Houwdoe (Gizmo) - pictured above - taking an early lead.
With 30 competitors entered, and the eventual top three placings all scoring +70%, Freya had an anxious wait. “Being sixth in with 24 riders to follow who were equally as competitive as me was nerve-wracking and I couldn’t believe we held onto the lead,” said Freya, who trains with mum Greta, as well as Sophie Wells and Emma Jablonski.
“I was extremely impressed with us winning the semi-final the previous day with our personal best score of 74.89%. However, in the final test the next day, it was raining heavily and I felt Gizmo just dropped a little flair. However, he gave me absolutely everything he had and we still got a fabulous score of 70.69% with the judge describing him as ‘as a free moving pony with a harmonious partnership and a pleasure to judge’.”
Freya, who started riding at the age of four, has owned Houwdoe for 18 months having found him locally as a “very green eight-year-old” that had been backed and gelded at four and a half before being turned away. “He has stallion traits and required a lot of boundary work (and still does), however his best quality is his showmanship and exemplary work ethic; he can do anything you ask, is a pleasure to take away to shows, and makes me smile every time I ride him, especially going down the centre line.”
Freya describes herself as “very much Gizmo’s person”. “He looks for me all the time and ignores everybody else and is wholly focused on me when riding him. I have produced Gizmo all by myself, and we keep him at the local Sherwood Forest trekking centre, where we don’t have an arena, so initially we used competitions as a schooling exercise.”
So far, this combination has achieved eighth place in the My Quest National Championship and was Trailblazers Introductory Champion in 2021, as well as Trailblazers Preliminary and Novice Reserve Champion this year. “We’re also looking forward to the My Quest U21 regional final for the North and East at Preliminary and Novice level, after which we’ll sadly be looking to find a new home for Gizmo as I am now 5ft 8ins and have grown out of him terribly quickly.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to achieve what we have done in such a short space of time, but I know he will continue to successfully go up the levels with the right rider so I’m now looking for my next lifetime horse.”
Fresh from representing Britain in the team at the Pony European Championships in Strzegom, Poland, 16-year-old Lauren Geraghty and her 11-year-old chestnut gelding WS Jackson, (affectionately known as ‘Joey’) were clear winners of the FEI Pony Team competition test on a score of 69.29%.
Lauren, daughter of Julia Geraghty, who owns and runs Equivisions Dressage to Music design company, describes Joey, who was bred by Lizzie and Judith Webb by their own Welsh section B stallion Chiskin Jaguar, as her “horse of a lifetime”.
“Having had a little holiday after returning from Poland, Lauren sat on Joey the day before we travelled to Sheepgate and we were really pleased with how well he felt, his energy and the test,” explained Julia. “They had a small mistake in the rein back, an extra step, and also one simple change wasn’t as straight as usual, as these are usually a highlight. However, Joey’s way of going and harmony is always lovely as he is so relaxed.”
Lauren, who has been competing at Sheepgate since the age of nine, was full of praise for her “one in a million pony“, who will be looking for a new best friend and five star home after the nationals and Keysoe CDI. “Joey is super easy and Mister Reliable, he always has a smile on his face,” said Lauren, who is based with her trainer Patsy Bartram near Derby, which she describes as “just the nicest yard, where we feel like family and everyone is so supportive”, with additional training from Paul Fielder and Maddy Frewin.
“I feel very lucky to have been given such great opportunities. Every show really is just a pleasure, he is just the nicest pony to be around and makes us smile every day.”
Julia also paid tribute, describing Joey as a “pony of a lifetime”. “It’s totally heart breaking to sell him, so we really want him to stay in the UK. He is priceless and everyone loves him, as he’s very special. If I won the Lottery, I wouldn’t sell him ever! “We will be looking for another Joey, but bigger. Whatever comes next has some very big shoes to fill!”
Sixteen-year-old Sophia Marston claimed top slot on a winning score of 69.14% with 13-year-old Dutch-bred gelding E-mail (by Jazz), owned by Imogen Murray and Seonaidh
O’Neill. This talented combination is on fire having already won the Petplan Equine Area Festival Medium Bronze and reserve Elementary Freestyle Silver titles at E-mail’s first ever Winter Championships at Hartpury in April.
“They have been the most amazing owners,” said Sophia, who won the Junior Team Test and Medium title at the Home International and has also been selected for the BD Foundation Academy. “When my own horse got injured in the field, they offered me the ride on E-mail which is a fabulous opportunity. They have been so supportive and said, ‘just go and enjoy him and see how far you get’. We don’t have an arena or anything posh, but they know that we love him and would do anything to make him happy!”
Sophia describes “Emu” as “a real gentleman, who is kind, fun to ride and makes me smile”.
“He's a strong, compact horse and very athletic, full of bubbles, has endless energy and loves life. Emu always tries his best but sometimes he can have a brain of a fish finger!
“We had a bad experience in the Junior individuals at the Home International where we had to retire in the test, and we were on target to win the junior title overall. E-mail got frightened by the judge’s bell and lost his confidence so we decided to go to Sheepgate so he could have some fun and enjoy a bit of a boost, which certainly paid off.
“Sheepgate is the highlight of my year; it’s so friendly and there’s such a positive feeling between all the riders. Not only is the presentation special, the horses love the atmosphere and we all love the pancakes!
Sophia, who now heads to the Nationals with E-mail for the first time in September to contest the Medium Silver Championship, also has a sponsorship deal with Howdens Equine Insurance. This helps towards supporting her training with Michael Eilberg where she also works part-time, as well as lessons with Sarah Cheetham, owner of Flying Changes.
“Flying Changes also made me some beautiful tails for my first Prix St Georges test saying ‘let us make you feel on top of the world, so you ride like it!’, which is exactly what I do feel like that when I wear them. Looking ahead, I’m determined to give all I can, so next year we’re aiming to do as many Premier League shows as we can and hopefully be considered for some CDIs at Junior level.
“I’m so grateful for my incredible support team of family, friends, sponsors and owners that have been by my side and supported me through everything to allow me to achieve my goals, thank you!”
Young Rider Championship
Twenty-year-old BD Ambassador Harry Corkett (pictured above), who has been competing at these championships every year (apart from during Covid restrictions) since he was 12, rose to the challenge of riding 12 tests on four horses at Sheepgate.
Riding his own 16.2hh nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding Destino H (by Destano), Harry enjoyed his biggest win to date at his first attempt at Prix St Georges level winning the Young Rider Championship with a score of 66.13%. Harry celebrated his milestone win with proud mum and supportive groom Paula over a bottle of prosecco.
“This was our first ever run through of the PSG test and with some green errors we still achieved 66+% with all three judges having us on pretty much the same score for the win,” said Harry, who trains with Darren Matthia at Court Farm Stud where he has been based for the past 18 months. “Even though we had some errors in the four-time changes, I was happy with the test with Hugo scoring 7s and 8s for his trot work and pirouettes.
“Hugo, who was previously competed up to Elementary level by Darren’s partner Mark Forrest, is a lovely, positive and energetic person who always wants to please. He is a talented horse with a fantastic aptitude to learn new things which he picks up quickly.
“When I first rode him, I found him a bit tricky as I’d never ridden a professionally produced competition horse, but we rose to the challenge together and it’s been an amazing journey.”
Harry, who trained in Holland and specialises in groundwork clinics, is now launching his own business as a freelance rider and coach based in Buckinghamshire. He is looking forward to his future with Hugo, including aiming at Small Tour and international Young Rider classes, with the aim of competing at Grand Prix.
Twenty-three-year-old Grand Prix rider Ruth Hole, who is based at Manor Farm Stud near Newmarket, where she combines her dressage career with eventing and producing young horses, enjoyed a double celebration at Sheepgate.
Riding 11-year-old Fidalgo Classic (by Fidertanz) for owners Vanessa and Ella Garfoot, who also bred him, Ruth impressed judge Steph Cooper scoring 66.62% to win the Intermediate I title.
“Alfie, who has been with me for nearly two years, was the first horse I ever had in for training so has been with me for the whole journey from Elementary to Small Tour level.
I’m so grateful to his owners for the opportunity to train and compete this special boy.
“During our time together, he has won Premier Leagues at Advanced Medium and now that he’s stopped finding the world quite so scary, is improving every outing at PSG/Inter I level.
“Having done several tests over two days, Alfie felt a little on the tired side in the Inter I Championship, although he still dug deep, something which would have been hard to believe he could do a year ago!
“His test highlights were his changes which I had been playing with throughout the classes at Sheepgate. In some tests I had them too strung out, while in others I had them too collected but I felt in the Inter I, I got them just right and was rewarded with lovely marks and comments.
“However, our right canter pirouette was not exactly our finest - Alfie appeared to totally ignore me asking him to collect coming into the change so was totally surprised when I asked him to pirouette meaning it was much bigger than planned!”
Ruth describes Alfie as “the comedian of the yard”: He’s hilarious and spends his life trying to get into trouble. He’s definitely one that you have to be in the right ‘mood’ to deal with his sense of humour!”.
Alfie no longer events, but still enjoys jumping at home: “Fitting everything in my diary is a bit challenging, but I make sure I jump all of the horses, from four-year-olds to the GP horses because it’s just so good for them. It encourages them to open up and use their body, think about where their legs are and realise a dressage arena is much less scary than a course of jumps!”
U25 Grand Prix
Just hours prior winning the Inter I, Ruth Hole and her 13-year-old dark bay KWPN Dutch gelding Easy VZ (by Rhodium) claimed the Grand Prix title scoring 66.41%. “Easy is my heart horse and one in a million. I’ve ridden him for the past four years having trained him from Elementary up to Grand Prix. He is a dream horse - Easy by name, easy by nature and perfect in every way!” said Ruth who has trained with Jill Day since she was just seven years old.
“He can be a plod for a novice having their first canter, a schoolmaster for my students to learn on, a very talented GP horse for me, and a BE Novice event horse on the side!
He's my first horse that I have trained and competed at Grand Prix, and we have learnt everything together.
“I was pleased with his effort levels in our test. Normally, Easy gets a bit lazy in the test, especially in the pi/pa work, however he really tried for me all the way, which was a huge breakthrough. We did have a mistake in the twos, which was disappointing as his changes are normally his highlight, but that’s the way it goes sometimes!”
Ruth, who has up to 15 horses in training at Manor Farm Stud, believes cross training has benefited both Alfie and Easy. “Like me, they can easily get bored in the arena, so we like to keep it fun. I am very lucky to have a canter track at home, as well as a course of show jumps, so I regularly mix the work up and practise their piaffe and passage in between canter work and jumping!
“I love taking these two boys out because they know their jobs now. Competing these two is like a holiday compared to flying round on young horses. Easy still events and I’ve been itching to take him out all summer, but the ground has just been too hard. Hopefully, he will get a few runs in by the end of the season and I’m aiming him for 2* next year!”
Ruth also paid tribute to Jill Day’s support throughout her career. “Jill has been amazing to put up with me and always been incredibly supportive of me on my journey. She has given me huge amounts of confidence, time to deal with the not-so-easy horses and taught me the skills to get the very best out of each one, which is something that I will always be grateful for.
“Both Alfie and Easy have both been a pleasure to train. Of course, there are always ups and downs with every horse throughout their journey to Grand Prix, whether it’s one change which is harder than the other, or keeping the engagement in certain work. The main thing is to not panic when you come across a hurdle because 99% of the time, you just need to find another way to explain it to the horse or think outside the box. For example, I have had to teach piaffe to both horses very differently because the way I taught Easy just didn’t seem to click with Alfie. That’s the fun of it!”
Results: top three
Advanced Medium Championship - Sponsored by Tucker M&E Building Services
1. Megan Field and Bright Time FST, 67.50%
2. Megan Long and Barcelona, 67.32%
3. Evelina Shrieve and Insist TC, 67.11%
Medium Championship - Sponsored by Wolds Exclusive Bling
1. Georgie Nicholls and Briarwood Notorious, 70.32%
2. Georgie Nicholls and Woodcroft Kika Quina, 69.73%
3. Evelina Shrieve & Insist TC, 69.59%
Elementary Championship - Sponsored by Animalife Vetro Collection - Feel The Difference and The Worshipful Saddlers Company
1. Charlotte Calvert and Frampton, 69.25%
2. Ivana Murphy and Nero Sunset, 68.12%
3. Charlotte Spicer and Drimnagh Samuel, 67.85%
Novice Championship - Sponsored by by Testt Eventphysio and The Worshipful Company of Saddlers
1. Hannah Macmillan and Brookeborough Lad, 70.90%
2. Jemima Brown and WFS Top Red, 70.28%
3. Ellie Roberts and Lyon HK, 70.07%
Preliminary Championship - Sponsored by Protexin Equine Premium
1. Freya Percival and Houwdoe, 70.69%
2. Abigail Hird and Dark Storm, 70.49%
3. Inola Smith and Upsalls Lorna, 70.35%
Pony Championship - Sponsored by Baillie Haylage
1. Lauren Geraghty and WS Jackson, 69.29%
2. Fleur Pocock and Brouwershavens Jasper, 65.76%
3. Jess Dyson & Oosting Amigo, 64.19%
Junior Championship - Sponsored by Dengie Feeds
1. Sophia Marston and E-mail, 69.14%
2. Megan Field and Bright Time FST, 65.96%
3. Marie-Ayesha Barilits-Gupta and Rob Roy, 65.86%
Young Rider Championship - Sponsored by TopSpec
1. Harry Corkett and Destino H, 66.13%
2. Ellie Roberts and Zante, 63.53%
Intermediate I Championship - Sponsored by KBIS British Equestrian Insurance
1. Ruth Hole and Fidalgo Classic, 66.62%
2. Eliza Ireson and Calva La Cornilliere, 62.99%
Under 25 Grand Prix Winner - Sponsored by Sheepgate Tack & Togs
1. Ruth Hole and Easy VZ, 66.41%
Under 25 GP Championship - Sponsored by Sheepgate Equestrian
1. Ruth Hole and Easy VZ, 66.41%
Team Championships sponsored by Sheepgate Equestrian
Prelim Team Championship
1. North & East Neumünster
Amy Wray, Elizabeth Britton, Eve Corrigan, Francesca Baker Re
2. North & West Dark Legend
Melissa Hargreaves, Rosie Bevins, Annabelle Howe
3. Scotland Heather
Elise Cunningham, Claire Phillips, Kate Miller
Novice Team Championship
1. South & East Dover
Dakota Sladden, Ellie Seddon, Amy Tate, Jemima Brown
2. North & East London
Amy Tate, Meghan Waring, Charlotte Lawson
3. North & East Salzburg
Hannah MacMillan, Grace Smith, Ivy Hanson
Elementary Team Championship
1. North & West Everdale
Olivia Rimmer, Charlotte Calvert, Fleur Pocock
2. South & East Arundel
Dakota Sladden, Isabelle Lane, Jersey Garrett
3. North & East Amsterdam
Catherine Chalkly, Olivia Brown, Lily Crisp
Photo © Hoof Prints