Summer Regional Championships: Somerford Park
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The first of 2022’s Summer Regionals got off to a fabulous start at Somerford Park, 9-10 July with scorching-hot sun and blistering competition as riders fought for those sought-after places at the LeMieux National Championships.
Sarah Higgins (pictured above) is a lady who loves a sash and she was the only rider who took two home from Somerford. She was riding Sarah Rao’s super 11-year-old Vivaldi gelding, Geniaal, and took gold championships in both the Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I and the Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges (PSG).
Geniaal (Mufasa) was originally purchased as Sarah Rao’s ride for the Asian Games 2022 but when they were postponed, she asked her trainer Sarah to give him some additional competition experience and help him become more relaxed in the arena.
“Mufasa was super,” commented Sarah. “Even though the weather was scorching hot, it didn’t take any energy or flair out of him. He’s a stunning horse and doesn’t have a weakness as a sport horse. It’s taken a bit of time to get him to relax and focus.”
Sarah was also second in the PSG with Samuel, known as Simba – a bit of a Lion King theme happening here!
Back on top
Maria Eilberg has been absent from the competition for a while as she concentrates on achieving her List one judging status. However, she has been lured back between the white boards by the lovely mare, Rihanna II.
Rihanna is low mileage after a stable injury meant she was turned out for a while and her return to work was taken on by Maria’s brother Mike who guided the powerful mare through the learning stages of flying changes. Rihanna is family-owned and as Mike has quite a string of horses to compete it was suggested that Maria take her on and it seems like a good plan as they won the Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium gold with a plus-73% score.
Rihanna has an exemplary BD record. With the exception of her debut show, she has won every class she has been entered for. Now 10 years old, the Rousseau x Hotline mare was bought by the Eilbergs as a foal.
“Even though she’s big and powerful, I get on with her really well,” said Maria. “She’s very sensitive but I like hot horses and get on with them. She’s the first mare I’ve really connected with. She’s very flexible and finds the lateral work easy. Initially she anticipated the flying change which is where Mike helped out. Now she’s very easy on the aid.”
However the pair nearly didn’t make it to Somerford. Rihanna struck out at another horse while being turned out and caught Maria in the leg 10 days before the show, resulting in a trip to A&E. “Fortunately the muscles had come round a bit by Sunday, although the wound leaked a bit. The hardest part was getting on and off!”
“She’s a real mare. She likes her one person and her routine. I was pleased with how she coped at Somerford as we didn’t have much preparation the week before. I’ll try and take her out at PSG before the Nationals.”
Nicola Adams is thoroughly enjoying the new Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I silver sections which she says rewards correct training for those who don’t necessarily have a traditionally dressage-type horse. Royal Troy, her Inter I Silver champion, is her first homebred and is by Parsons Rasputin out of a show jumping pony mare.
“I was 16 he day the was born 17 years ago,” explained Nicola who combines being a mum to two-year-old Arabella with running a livery yard. The pair were fourth at the Nationals last year in the same class and it’s Nicola’s ambition to make it onto the podium this time.
“We’ve both learned together. He’s super trainable with a great work ethic. He’s not super-flashy but very correct. He’s the boss of the yard – the first to be fed and the first to come in. The silver section is perfect for him and horses like him. I hope this will inspire other riders whose horses aren’t bred for dressage, that you can have your moment at the Nationals.”
Fairfax Saddles PSG Silver winners, Rhiannon Hinton and Quaikin Horatio (Bob) have enjoyed a lot of success together as they trained up the levels. They are the current PSG Silver Petplan Equine Winter Area Festival Champions and have won a number of Area Festival titles at different levels. Rhiannon commented on her Facebook page: “It felt a real struggle competing in his heat today. We peaked in the warm-up far too soon … then faded … lacking sparkle and ease in the test. But it would have been unethical to push for more given the conditions! So that said, I’m very happy our clear round was enough to take the podium spot.”
The Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium silver title was won by Rossendale-based Alex Ingoe-Topham who has had to plan the next few weeks carefully. She will marry her fiancé Nathan Connolly three weeks before the Nationals and they will postpone their honeymoon until afterwards.
Her ride, Louise Hetherington’s Don Frederico mare Seagry DonnaDiva, originally came to her yard, Shortclough Sporthorses, to be evented by Nathan but during lockdown Alex took over the ride.
“I think she coped better with the heat than I did,” said Alex, who had a hectic day with no more than 40 minutes between her various rides. Alex trains with Becky Moody and Matt Frost.
Hawtins Quattro didn’t quite match his personal best of 79.24% for a Medium class but his 72.94% score was good enough to secure the Top Spec Medium gold title for owner Judith Davis and rider Lucinda Elliott.
The Quasar Du Charry x Belissimo M nine-year-old has been ticking along at home and not had a lot of match practise. “He’s really special,” commented Lucinda. “He was very focussed and very powerful. He has three amazing paces and doesn’t have to put a lot of effort into his movement. His canter is exceptionally expressive. He is chestnut with a white face and legs and seems to say ‘Where is the camera?”
Kirstie Clarke and Rachel Wolfenden’s Powered By Furst Impression (Furst Kiss x Dramatic) have had an impressive number of medium wins this year and were the Top Spec Medium silver champions.
“He’s talented but not always been the easiest,” explained Kirstie who trains with Becky Moody. “He’s scared of other horses in the warm-up and in his elementary was spooked by another horse coming towards him outside the next door arena. Six months ago that would have been that but he went back in for the medium and was with me all the way.”
“He loves routine and makes it clear what he likes and doesn’t like. We’ve developed a good partnership and I hope to take him up the levels.”
Gary Mudie bought Kastello, Darren Hicks’ Equitop Elementary gold winner at the end of last year. Kastello was originally bought as a two-year-old by Darren’s husband, Spencer Wilton and then bought as a project by one of their grooms, so Darren has been familiar with the Blue Hors Zack s Krack C seven-year-old for a while.
“He’s a cool really enthusiastic horse who enjoys his life. He’s usually easy and chilled but you can make him quite jolly.”
Kastello coped well with doing two tests on the same day and was third in the medium gold. “He’s super fit and could have done a third test – he was full of energy.”
High Valley, the Equitop Elementary silver champion, combines dressage with eventing. The handsome grey 10-year-old (Dallas VDL x Carosso VDL) is owned by Jack Walker and has been ridden by Claire Dutton for the last five years.
“He’s a pretty cool horse – nothing fazes him,” commented Claire who runs a yard on the Wirral. “I usually do dressage in the winter and he events in the summer. He missed his winter regionals so Jack offered me the chance to qualify for the summer and it’s worked out really well!”
Tracy Tomlinson secured two tickets for the Nationals with a win in the Bettalife Novice gold and reserve in the elementary riding Nicky Owen’s stunning Alissa (Fursten-Look x Don Cardinale). She was the last foal bred from Nicky’s GFH Stud’s foundation mare.
Tracy has been riding her since she was backed and has given the pretty seven-year-old mare plenty of time mature and grow. “She’s been straightforward but needed time to mature. At Somerford she stepped up and just got on with it. She behaved impeccably. She has a lovely canter and a really good walk,” said Tracy.
Katie Owens has owned her The Centre Line Prelim gold winner Keystone Demelza for three years, since the dainty mare was three. “I saw her at Suzanne Lavendera’s stud when I was looking for a horse for a client and fell in love with her. I had to sell another horse first and three months later rang Suzanne to see if she was still there. I didn’t see her again but just bought her. She was unbacked and had just been in the field growing,” explained Katie. “I didn’t back her until late in her fourth year because of Covid. “She’s quite a nervous little character and my trainer Gareth Hughes has been brilliant with her. Both Peach and I are quite highly strung and he’s like a fire blanket!”
“She’s still gaining her confidence so there’s so much more to come. When I get it right the judges find high marks for her.”
Stacey Read also took two qualifications home with her as she and Marijn II won The Centre Line Prelim silver with the highest scores of the show and placed fourth in the Bettalifenovice class.
The five-year-old bay mare (Ferdeaux x Florencio) were sixth at the winter championships at The Centre Line Prelim silver level.
Rob Barker bought her as a three-year-old as she didn’t grow big enough for him and so Stacey purchased him. “Now she’s grown quite a lot bigger so he might be regretting it!” said Stacey who runs a dog grooming and pet services business. “She’s a lovely mare – I can’t say a bad thing about her. This was her first stay away show and she’s been very level-headed.”
Congratulations to all the competitors and their equine partners for surviving the heat and thank you to the judges and volunteers for all their hard work. A very special thank you also goes to the brilliant organising team who have worked so hard over the years to make the Somerford Park Summer Regional Championships such a great show.
Results - top three
The Centre Line Preliminary Silver
1. Stacey Read and Marijn II, 74.02%
2. Rebecca Holt and Danny Boy Dexter, 71.55%
3. Diane Blundell and Valentinos Quest 70.42%
The Centre Line Preliminary Gold
1. Katie Owens and Keystone Demelza, 73.14%
2. Jennifer Harkness and Woodcoft Milibizi, 71.95%
3. Helen Dutton and Lord Rafiki, 71.44%
BETTALIFE Novice Silver
1. Katie James and Bouvardia, 71.48%
2. Hilary Janion and Active Zeitgeist, 69.69%
3. Emily Entwhistle and Elarieta, 69.44%
BETTALIFE Novice Gold
1. Tracy Tomlinson and Alissa, 70.37%
2. Danielle Hardwick and Love Actually Wins MFS, 70.31%
3. Jessica Dunn and Lord Lenny, 70.25%
Equitop Elementary Silver
1. Claire Dutton and High Valley, 72.76%
2. Linda Barnes and Penhaligon Femme Fatale, 71.93%
3. Freya Metters and Heathersedge Just a Vision, 70.05%
Equitop Elementary Gold
1. Darren Hicks and Kastello, 69.64%
2. Tracy Tomlinson and Alissa, 68.65%
3. Helen Dutton and Farufio, 67.92%
TopSpec Medium Silver
1. Kirstie Clarke and Powered by Fürst Impressions, 71.22%
2. Lisa Garland and Athena IV, 69,64%
3. Ella Garfoot and Impulz De B, 69.05%
TopSpec Medium Gold
1. Lucinda Elliott and Hawtins Quattro, 72.84%
2. Ruby Hughes and Hilkens Showgirl, 70.41%
3. Darren Hicks and Kastello, 69.37%
Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Silver
1. Alex ingoe-Topham and Seagry DonnaDiva, 69.65%
2. Jo Weekes and Rosetti’s Destiny, 68.42%
3. Claire Ballantyne and Dvorak, 67.72%
Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Gold
1. Maria Eilberg and Rihanna II 73.07%
2. Lucca Hunt and Royal Concert, 69.82%
3. Jane Critchley and Firstino 69.25%
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Silver
1. Rhiannon Hinton and Quaikin Horatio, 66.76%
2. Christine Cockerton and Florance Christi, 64.56%
3. Lucie Bernaarova and Barchetta, 63.68%
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Gold
1. Sarah Higgins and Geniaal, 72.75%
2. Sarah Higgins and Samuel IV, 68.48%
3. Jane Green and Hacendado XVI, 68.04%
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Silver
1. Nicola Adams and Royal Troy, 65.10%
2. Gemma Pinson and Spitfire, 64.56%
3. Christine Cockerton and Florance Christi, 64.31%
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Gold
1. Sarah Higgins and Geniaal, 71.67%
2. Ruby Hughes and Extra Time P, 69.07%
3. Mark Withers and Iceblue Valentino, 68.24%
Photo © Jasmine Punter