Superb Sheepgate u25s
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Now in its 17th year, the ever popular Sheepgate Under-25 Championships once again welcomed a stellar line up of youth talent who travelled from as far afield as Scotland, Wales and the West Country to Lincolnshire, all vying for a precious place on the podium.
Fifteen-year-old Olivia Whitelaw topped off a memorable season, winning two titles ̶ the BDSC FEI Pony Championship and Wolds Exclusive Bling Medium Championship ̶ with her own nine-year-old Dutch-bred gelding Brouwershavens Viceroy and was full of praise for these championships, which also provided live streaming from all three competition arenas.
“I’ve been coming to Sheepgate since I was seven and riding as a Fledgling ̶ it’s a great atmosphere, always friendly and supportive; even if you’re having a bad day it’s great!” said Olivia.
The partnership, which train with Andrew Fletcher and Darryl Thickitt, have survived a “roller-coaster year” and come out the other side smiling.
Olivia, who has been riding since she was just two years old and a member of BD since she was seven bought “Leo” as a six-year-old and have gone from competing at Novice level to winning FEI Pony tests in just 18 months together.
“Last year was testing as Leo was just coming into his own when he bronced in the field, slipped on landing and burst his hock capsule in five places so it blew up like a balloon,” said Olivia. “Luckily, we were referred to surgeon Ian Wright at Newmarket Equine Hospital who operated and did a brilliant job. We followed their rehab advice to the letter with eight weeks’ box rest, and three months of walking in hand but time and patience has paid off.
“Leo and I have a strong bond and I’m so proud of him. He has the biggest heart and always tries for you,” said Olivia, who also credits sports psychologist Moira Lafferty for helping her through the ups and downs and developing mental strength to remain focussed and positive during training and competing. “Leo’s a bit of an alpha male and likes to be in charge, but he’s also very kind and has taught me not only to be a better rider, but also to accept that when you’re on a journey, things are not always going to be straightforward!”
Also enjoying stepping onto the top step of the podium after a challenging year was nineteen-year-old European Young Rider team member Charlotte Dicker, who claimed the Top Spec Young Rider Championship with her 13-year-old Stedinger mare Sabatini, who she describes as “a bit of a hothead and a diva”.
“Soli’s always been a bit difficult and tricky to ride, but although it’s taken time, we’ve got a good relationship now and I’m proud of her” said Charlotte, a UKCC Level 2 coach and yard rider based with her mother Anne Dicker and grandmother Jennie Loriston Clarke at Catherston Stud in Hampshire.
Having taken the expressive but sensitive Hanoverian through the levels herself, including Junior teams in 2014 and 2015, Sabatini was gifted to Charlotte by her owner Ian McRobbie last year in recognition of their achievements.
“Before I started riding her, she’d had two foals and was turned away in a field, but I fell in love with her even though at first she tried to get me off every day!”
Charlotte, who has received a wild card for the Intermediate I at this year’s nationals, has overcome a series of highs and lows this season. Having cemented their step up to Young Riders with two high scoring wins at Keysoe CDI in March, Charlotte missed the winter championships after fracturing her spine while eventing, which resulted in a week in hospital followed by eight weeks in a back brace.
Charlotte says it was thanks to the support of her family and home team who helped her get back on and keep going. Within weeks this combination returned to form making their mark at the Hagen CDIO/CDI ‘Future Champions’ show with the highest British Young Rider team test mark (68.87%) followed by the highest scoring British rider in the team test at the Europeans in Fontainebleau (71.12% and 10th place).
“Sheepgate was a great show and although these weren’t our best tests, it gave us an opportunity to take a few more risks and try out some different things in the arena - some worked, some didn’t! Now, I’m looking forward to riding Soli at Stoneleigh as she enjoys a big atmosphere and always rises to the occasion!”
The Dengie FEI Junior title went to 16-year-old Charlotte Snape and her 16.1hh Hanoverian gelding Camelot III (by Barabas) from Beverley, Yorks, who pulled off a winning test scoring 68.38% on the second day after lying fourth (65.95%) after the first day.
“I was over the moon and couldn’t quite believe I’d won because after the first day he felt a bit tired, but when we came out of the arena I was so proud of him and felt we’d both done as well as we could,” said Charlotte, who has owned “Coco” for only 18 months after buying him locally from Becky Oakley, who now also trains them.
“He’s a lovely cheeky, chirpy chap and all he wants to do is to please and he just keeps giving. This is our first international season together and it’s a different world. Coco has taught me how to ride and taken me to PSG level which I never expected or dreamed of.
“Before I got him, I was an intro rider on a 13.2hh all-rounder pony, but Coco, who has an amazing temperament and puts up with my mistakes has been incredibly patient with me. He makes me smile every time I ride him, even when things don’t go to plan!”
The Equetech Prelim title went to Anna Roberts and Jeanette Macwhinnie’s eye-catching Welsh Section C Landsbury Indianna Jones on 72.36% who has also qualified for the Ridden M&M Championships at Olympia.
Jade Struthers and EV Amore Mia, a 15.3hh six-year-old coloured mare owned and bred by Lindsay Moffatt, made the long journey south from the Scottish Borders to claim the hotly contested Laura Woodcock Dressage Novice Championship on 76.8%, 4.5% clear of second place former Petplan Equine High Achiever Award winner Charlotte Elizabeth Barber and her Dutch-bred gelding CE Floisou on 72.37%.
Twenty-five-year-old Jade and “Maria” (by Amour G) were also third on 69.54% in the 30-strong Tucker Building Services Elementary Championships which was won by Essex event rider Albert Padfield and his Dutch-bred gelding A on 70.23%. Jade has had the ride on “Maria”, who had previously only done a few unaffiliated showing and working hunter classes, for the past 18 months. This combination, trained by Jill Grant, has already clocked up an impressive number of wins and placings, including Novice Gold and Novice Gold Freestyle at both the Scottish Championships and winter regionals at Morris EC, before going on to be runners-up in the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Gold Freestyle at this year’s NAF Five Star Winter Championships.
“Maria is a real pleasure to look after and train, a real goodie two shoes and a bit of a teacher’s pet,” says Jade, who runs her own training yard in Kelso.”She’s got a real aptitude for dressage, a willingness to learn and is as much as a perfectionist as I am, I call her ‘Little Miss Perfect’!”
This was Jade and Maria’s second visit to Sheepgate Under-25s Championships; last year this combination was fourth in the Novice Championships. “I noticed a big difference and improvement in Maria’s confidence and maturity when we returned this year,” says Jade. “She felt a bit nervous in the warm up, but as soon as we trotted round the arena waiting for the bell, I felt her change as if to say: ‘I know what I’m here for, let’s get on with it!”
Fifteen-year-old Junior rider Jessica Sanderson from York and her 15-year-old grey Dutch mare Wanour S, who represented Britain at Hickstead this year, won the KBIS Insurance Services Ltd Advanced Medium Championship on 70.48%.
Sophia Marston and Solitaire II won the Sheepgate Challenge (Prelim and Novice) and also scored the highest percentage in a freestyle class (77.22) winning a cash prize from The Studio at Sheepgate, while the highest percentage in a non-music class (80.68%) went to Emily Collings riding Chiddock Hour Glass who went home with a stunning pair of Konigs Boots.
The Elementary Sheepgate Challenge was won by Chloe Peat and Cremmdalla Crem scoring 72.50% and 68.97% over two days of competition.
The Welsh Draig Berig won the Prelim team title, the Welsh Draig Ciwt won the Novice team title, and the elementary team title went to Team Eastern 2.
A huge well done to all the prize winners – and everyone who took part!
This championship continues to attract record entries proving not only that the future of dressage is looking bright, but also that Sheepgate’s well known signature message: “Well Worth The Journey” is stronger than ever.