Summer Regional Championships: Sparsholt
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At Sparsholt Summer Regional Championships (16 – 18 July 2021), a dream came true for Dawn Buckley, winning her first trip to the National Championships, and Georgie Nicholls continued her dream season with another two regional titles under her belt.
Dawn Buckley has been dreaming of qualifying for the National Championships for six years. In fact, that was her brief to Adam Kemp and Matt Frost all that time ago – to find her a horse that would take her to the Nationals. It ended up involving a trip to the famous Blue Hors Stud in Denmark and a lot of hard work and dedication but her hopes were realised with a win on Dinozoff (DonSchufro x Baroncelli) - pictured above - in the Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Silver at Sparsholt and that precious Nationals ticket.
“It was a surreal experience walking round the Blue Hors Stud and I was amazed he was in my budget,” said Dawn who gave up a high-flying corporate job and moved to base herself with her regular trainer, Fiona Geir, to focus on her dream. “He’s not been the easiest horse. He’s reactive rather than sharp and when he’s concentrating he’s in his own little world which meant if something catches the corner of his eye, he can spin really fast. It’s taken quite a few years to stop him doing it.”
“He’s got such a lovely canter he found the changes easy and learnt them at six years old. He’s found the trot lateral work much more challenging and if it hadn’t been for two lessons with Adam Kemp just before the show, I was considering not going. I’m glad I did as he got sevens for his half passes.”
Georgie Nicholls who works for the Headmore Stud is winter champion at Novice Silver and Novice Freestyle Silver, partnering the Oppenheimer’s Headmore Figaro. At Sparsholt she qualified Katie Haigh’s Woodcroft Kika Quina in both the BETTALIFE Novice Silver and Equitop Elementary Silver.
‘Luna’ is by Johnson out of a Rohdiamant mare and her Elementary win was unexpected. “It was only her third attempt at Elementary and she’s only five so we didn’t expect anything, to be honest,” said Georgie. “Alice (Oppenheimer) and Katie said just go and have a nice time. Halfway through I thought the test was going really well so I put more power in. She said ‘I’ve got this’ and tried even harder.”
“The Winter Championships were the biggest thing she’s ever done. She was a little bit tense but still made the top 10 in all her classes. She’ll have a little break now before the Under 25s Championship at Sheepgate and then the Nationals.”
The eventual plan is for Luna to do para dressage with Katie when she has more experience of the world.
Georgie’s boss Alice (Oppenheimer) had the highest score of the show, securing the Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Gold title on Amanda Radford’s Headmore Dionysus (Dimaggio x Rubinstein) with 75.21%. Standing at 15.3hh, relatively small for a dressage horse these days, ‘Dillon’ is a pocket rocket. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in power and expression. He was both Advanced Medium Gold Champion and Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold Champion at the recent NAF Five Star Winter Championships.
Dillon has only done four PSG classes, so to score over 75% is outstanding and augers well for the future.
Alice was full of praise for her dancing partner. “He was mega,” she enthused. “He was awesome to ride. The balance was lovely and he has so much power he’ll be even better when I can take the handbrake off. I’ll give him a week or two off and be guided by him when I pick him back up again before the Nationals.”
Double title winner, Jezz Palmer is proving to be one of our up-and-coming dressage riders and trainers with a string of lovely young horses. 2021 is proving to be quite a year for him, not least because he will shortly marry his partner and fellow dressage rider, Lucy Pye. Congratulations to them both and well done for fitting in the wedding in time to go to the Nationals!
Jezz’s first win at Sparsholt came in the BETTALIFE Novice Gold on Richard Burge’s Kingfishers Inferno (Ted). Richard bought the five-year-old Bodyguard x Dimaggio gelding as a foal from his breeder, Linda Jones.
“He’s a very laid back character and will be a perfect amateur’s horse in the future,” commented Jezz. “On the whole I was really pleased with his test considering how little he’s done. There were a few more marks we could’ve got.”
Ted narrowly beat Jezz’s other ride, Carol Hurst and Mel Morris’s Romanno Weltino, a lovely five-year-old mare by Dante Weltino, who also picked up a qualifying ticket.
Jezz’s TopSpec Medium Gold winner, Tiny Dancer (Bluebell), is owned by him and former British team rider Anni McDonald-Hall. She is the daughter of Lucy’s ride Superstar and Anni rode her grandmother.
It was only the third time the six-year-old Uthopia mare (pictured above) had attempted Medium level. It was a sterling performance as Bluebell had to fight off stiff opposition from Ruby Hughes (Classic Bee Gee) who was only two marks behind.
In the Elementary test she got a bit hot in the walk which contributed to her 10th place but was much more settled in the Medium. “I was determined to come back and do better,” said Jezz. “She felt lovely in the test and came out really pleased with herself.”
The Preliminary classes yielded high scores. Jess Ralton and Elite Dressage’s five-year-old wunderkind Newton Freezeframe, scored 74.71% to win the Mobiliser Prelim Gold title. ‘Weetabix’ (Fürst Romancier x Rubinstein) was bred at Newton Stud and is the last natural offspring of their foundation mare, Grandiosa and is the half-brother of Anna Ross’s Grand Prix ride, Newton Domino.
“I backed him when he was four and he barely did anything for his fourth year as he was all elbows and knees!” said Jess who has worked her way up from apprentice to Anna to a rider position. “We have a nice relationship and he really trusted me in the arena. He coped really well as he’s only done two shows before Sparsholt. He showed off the quality of his walk and canter.” It was also Jess’s first regional attempt and will be her first visit to the Nationals – so good luck Jess and Weetabix!
Sasha Good scored over 73% to win the Mobiliser Prelim Silver title with AJ Sport Horses’ five-year-old, L’Sierra (Glock’s Dream Boy x Flemmingh). ‘Lassie’ (pictured below) was bred at their base near Reading. Sasha has been riding her since she was four, taking on the ride when she joined the team at AJ Sport Horses.
“She’s really lovely to ride which makes it easy in the test as I can just worry about being accurate,” said Sasha. She lost her job at the beginning of the covid lockdown and decided to look for a job with horses. “Jade (Deter) and Angus (Humfrey) are just the nicest people to work for. I get lots of training and I’m so lucky to ride Lassie. We were third in the Under 21 section at the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships. She was incredible and not fazed by the arena being by the trade stands, She seems to become even more ridable in a big atmosphere. At Sparsholt she trotted round the outside of the arena once, then got her mind on her job and listened to me.“
Fiona Gierer won the Equitop Elementary Gold title on 72.18% with Lindsay Dawes’ five-year-old mare Fairoak Daydream (Jessie). Fiona has been riding for Fairoak for three years while she completed her PhD at Reading University. Lindsay bred Jessie from her Inter II mare Holme Park Silk (by Holme Grove Solomon) and she is by Keystone Diaggio.
“She’s very young and doesn’t have much experience with away shows,” commented Fiona. “We did the Novice the day before and she was quite tense. In the Elementary I had the feeling I could ride her more and she improved throughout the test. At some point I realised we were working together! She’s a special character – she can be stubborn and bolshy. You have to win her over!” Lindsey added: “She’s smart and wants to make her own mind up. She likes to work and could become a bit of a diva!”
Louise Moses works full-time in insurance so has to fit in her riding around her job. Having qualified Forever Endeavour for three classes at the Winter Championships, she will be back in the Nationals arena at Medium Silver. This is the fourth regional title the pair has won.
Louise made a weekend out of a show and was accompanied by her nine-year-old daughter. “I was delighted as he’s not as experienced as others in the class,” she said. “I’ve been working hard on my simple changes and walk pirouettes and got 7.5s and 8s for them.
Loxwood-based Louise bought ‘Fidget’ as a four-year old from a friend who bred him.
Annabella Pidgley won the Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Gold title on Dibert L, only five days after returning from her triumphant trip to the FEI Junior European Championships in Spain. There, she and Sultan Des Paluds FRH won two silver medals in the Individual and Freestyle and won the Junior Team Test.
Annabella and Dibert L, a 13-year-old by Vivaldi, have only done seven shows together but despite that she was able to pick him up a few days before the show and achieve a 71+% score.
“He behaved immaculately and really took everything in his stride,” said Annabella who has owned him for two years. “He’s a really sweet horse who tries his hardest. He’s got a lovely character and is very cuddly on the ground.”
Amy Jack and her nine-year-old gelding, Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof (Samba Hit x Diamond Hit) won the Fairfax Saddles PSG Silver, after a successful visit to the Winter Championships. There they were second in the Advanced Medium Silver and third in the Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver. In the Area Festival Championships they were third in the PSG Bronze.
“We did the arena walk and he warmed up really well. There were a few little blips in the test but I think the judges appreciated the quality of the rest of his work. It was only his sixth PSG test so there were some green mistakes,” said Amy, who trains with Amy Stovold. “The last time I was at Somerford I was in Pony Club, so I’m looking forward to going back to see all the changes. We’ll take him up before and take time to settle him in.”
Georgina Howard has owned her Inter I Silver winner Lovely Illusion (pictured above) for five years but because of injury has had little competition time with him. He was off between 2017 and 2020 with a series of unusual injuries in each of his legs.
“Now he’s back and feels really fab and is teaching me loads,” said Georgina who trains with Michael Eilberg. “He came from Denmark and he’s an angel. I was pleased with the test but we just messed up both lines of changes as he’s been training the one-tempis.”
“I’m really delighted that BD are running silver sections at Inter I and PSG. We did our first Inter II at Hartpury Premier League and I’m hoping to do more. Training with Michael has made a massive difference – it’s been a game-changer. It’s all going in the right direction with ‘light bulb’ moments that are coming through in my riding.”
Daniel Sherriff has kept his Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Gold winner I’m Bayford Hall Incognito (Glock’s Voice x Ferro) pretty much under wraps in the past, and only started competing him at Advanced Medium level a year ago. ‘Inca’ was bred by Claire Hester and bought from Carl Hester when he was just backed.
“Carl said ‘I think he’ll be the best horse you’ve ever had, if you can crack him’,” recalled Dan. “He’s not been the easiest but he’s never nasty. He’s a worker but tends to overdo it. He’s very reactive so I get him round the outside of the arena quickly [at the start of the test] so he can have a moment to take a breath. Then he calms down.”
“He’s a strong, powerful horse and now he’s getting the balance for the collected work. He showed a lot of ability for piaffe and passage even as a young horse worked in hand. Because of the collected work, he’s now finding the extended paces easier as he’s not down on his shoulders and can open up.”
“In his first season as an eight-year-old, he’s exceeded all my expectations. He coped with high winds at Hickstead Premier League, inflatable Santas at Keysoe and blistering heat at Sparsholt.”
Inca is definitely one to watch for the future and good luck to Dan on his Grand Prix journey.
Mobiliser Preliminary Silver
1. Sasha Good and L’Sierra, 73.16%
2. Georgie Peacock and Ico, 71.89%
3. Virginie De Senneville and Eastwood V, 71.43%
Mobiliser Preliminary Gold
1. Jess Ralton and Newton Freezeframe, 74.71%
2. Kerry Mackin and Milano III, 74.25%
3. Nicola Morris and Headmore Bugatti, 74.31%
BETTALIFE Novice Silver
1. Georgie Nicholls and Woodcroft Kika Quina, 71.72%
2. Sacha Hamilton and Netstutteriets Nero, 71.11%
3. Lucyanna Westaway and Keystone Rocketman, 70.67%
BETTALIFE Novice Gold
1. Jezz Palmer and Kingfishers Inferno, 73.21%
2. Jezz Palmer and Romanno Weltino, 73.14%
3. Alex Baker and BKS Fürst Encore, 70.78%
Equitop Elementary Silver
1. Georgie Nicholls and Woodcroft Kika Quina, 73.17%
2. Kathy Staples and Foxs Castle, 72.7%
3. Sacha Hamilton and Netstutteriets Nero, 72.55%
Equitop Elementary Gold
1. Fiona Gierer and Fairoak Daydream, 72.18%
2. Ruby Hughes and Hilkens Showgirl, 71.45%
3. Alex Baker and BKS Fürst Encore, 70.93%
TopSpec Medium Silver
1. Louise Moses and Forever Endeavour, 71.03%
2. Sissel Hansen and Southern Cross Brunei, 70.94%
3. Gracie Catling and Tsjebe Fan ‘e Vesta Hoeve, 70.9%
TopSpec Medium Gold
1. Jezz Palmer and Tiny Dancer, 72.7%
2. Ruby Hughes and Classic Bee Gee, 72.53%
3. Dannie Morgan and Breit Fantastic, 71.84%
Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Silver
1. Dawn Buckley and Dinozoff, 67.89%
2. Lauren Russell and Fantastic Khan, 64.12%
3. Lesley Hughes and Firmino, 63.9%
Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Gold
1. Annabella Pidgley and Dibert L, 71.53%
2. Dannie Morgan and Loxleys Optimism, 70.39%
3. Nicola Buchanan and St Giles Bon Bon, 70.17%
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Silver
1. Amy Jack and Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof, 67.01%
2. Georgina Howard and Lovely Illusion, 66.93%
3. Kathryn Marsh and Sapphire Ramall, 65.87%
Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Gold
1. Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Dionysus, 75.21%
2. Dylan Deutrom and San Marco, 72.10%
3. Nicola Buchanan and St Giles Bon Bon, 71.22%
Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Silver
1. Georgina Howard and Lovely Illusion, 66.97%
2. Kathryn Marsh and Sapphire Ramall, 66.88%
3. Nicola Bell and Don Caledonia, 58.11%
Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Gold
1. Daniel Sherriff and I’m Bayford Hall Incognito, 71.57%
2. Molly Key and Absinth W, 68.9%
3. Debbie Poynter and Keystone For Real, 68.15%
Photo © Kevin Sparrow