The Quest spirit dazzles at the new home of the championships
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Individual talent and team superstars enjoyed their moment in the spotlight at Arena UK 3 – 5 November at the Saracen Horse Feeds Quest Championships 2023.
The competitors and supporters' ability to have fun and look out for one another always creates an incredible atmosphere at the Quest Championships. The camaraderie and team spirit between the riders was a clear display of an inclusive and supportive environment where anyone can have a go and enjoy dressage.
My Quest Introductory Championship
The first day of the Championships saw our My Quest competitors ride down the centre line, Alice Prior and Douglas Silver Lady were crowned the My Quest Open Intro Champions, with a impressive score of 71.88%. Alice spoke to us about how her winning test rode, “it was really good, this is her first time in this sort of atmosphere, as she’s only five-years-old. She coped really well, listened and tried her hardest, so I was really pleased with the test.”
The beautiful bay mare demonstrated her talent early on in her career, with some of her highlights being her consistency, “she is so level headed, she’s really rideable in the ring and even when she gets nervous, she stays with you.” The combination only began their BD journey in February this year with the Quest series, “I’ve had her for a year, she is bred to jump and my main aim for her will be eventing, but this year I’ve just be concentrating on my dressage with a bit of jumping.”
Alice chose to compete the young mare in the Quest series to allow her to gain more experience in the show atmosphere, get in front of the judges and progress her career. Looking towards the near future Alice hopes to carry on with dressage, “we are going to continue trying prelim and then through the winter, just concentrate on our dressage and showjumping in preparation for next season.” The pair also placed fifth in the My Quest Open Preliminary Championship, with a score of 69.61%.
The training at home with “incredible” trainer Victoria Moores, has allowed Alice and Douglas Silver Lady to “establish the basics, as this is a long term goal and you want to get it right at the start, for her longevity as well as her career.” Alice who has previously has the ride on some “quirky with a capitol Q” horses, was this time looking for the perfect horse to develop with the right brain for it, “she is sharp but she wants to do good work.”
Taking the buzzing atmosphere all in her stride, the 16h Irish mare is quite a character, “she is cheeky, she’s always playful and can’t be left with anything in her stable because it gets thrown around. But she always comes out the same sort of horse every day, which is really good for her training.”
The young horses showcased the brilliant equine talent in the grassroots series, with 6-year-old Llanarth Bay Flyer ridden by Kathryn Brown coming in second place with a score of 71,08% and fellow 6-year-old Bally Angus ridden by Francesca Pearce finishing in third on a score of 69.05%.
My Quest Preliminary Championship
The young horses may have stolen the show in the Introductory class but 20-year-old Traveling David was ridden to the win by Jade Mitchell with an outstanding score of 74.23%. The veteran gelding shone in front of the judges in a strong class of 29 combinations.
Jade talked us through how the dark bay gelding felt on the day, “he was quite quiet compared to his normal self but he just was with me and the whole test was foot perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anymore, he was listening and he was just amazing.” David is not short of highlights, Jade described her favourite moments of the test, “down the centre line is always a good one with him because he is so straight. Also his transitions, thanks to my instructor, we have been practicing and his halts are also pretty good.”
Gaining their qualifying at SMP @ Golden Cross Quest Semi Final is only the surface of Jade and Davids journey, “I have been doing this journey with a now 15-week-old baby, which unfortunately for her, she has had to come on this journey too. Luckily our Semi-Finals venue was only down the road, so I have been really lucky with that .”
Jade has owned David for 11 years, “I brought him straight out of the field because no one else wanted him, he was trouble.” It has taken hard work and dedication to get to the point they are at today, “the first six months of owning him, he bucked me off everyday and I cried everyday. He had colic surgery in 2017 and had to have three meters of intestine removed, he only had a 20% chance of survival when we got there. I was very lucky that my mom and dad paid for his vets bills otherwise we both wouldn’t be here today.”
Their journey is nothing short of amazing, and a demonstration of their strong partnership, “he’s just so wonderful, everything about him. He’s got the most amazing character and amazing personality, he’s a horse of a lifetime that you’ll never ever get again.”
Choosing to compete in the Quest series after seeing it advertised on social media, Jade believes it’s “amazing that we get to as amateurs have a go and dressage is something I have always wanted to do but I was always a bit intimidated by all the fancy horses.”
Jade has a few more things to tick off the bucket list yet after receiving her first sash and rug, “I’d like to do sidesaddle, I’ve always dreamed to do sidesaddle with him. I do showing normally, I aim to try and qualify for London International Horse Show but obviously it is quite tough.” Also wishing to continue their Quest journey, “I’d like to do the Novice next year, and I will also have a sand school at home by then as I don’t currently, all my preparation is done out hacking and in lesson, when I have been able to afford them on maternity pay. I just want to make the most of him.”
The top three all received over 70% from the judges, with Hannah Rogers and Woodendfarm Viva coming second with 72.18% and Francesca Pearce riding Waunoris Oliver Twist to third place with 71.98%.
My Quest Novice Championship
In the final prize giving of day one we crowned the My Quest Novice Champions, Hannah Rogers and Woodendfarm Viva, who topped the leaderboard with a great score of 70.65%. The pair also had success in the My Quest Prelim, finishing in second place with another impressive score of 72.18%.
Hannah reflected how her ride went on the day, “my tests went really well, I was really pleased, she did have a little spook in the Prelim coming down the centre line at the sheds. In the Novice she was absolutely amazing, she just went in there and did her job.” Some of the 11-year-olds best movements were, “her trot work, she does a lot of beautiful tort work. She has also got the most enormous canter, sometimes containing it to a small arena is difficult, but she was solid today.”
The vibrant atmosphere can be a lot to take in but Hannah states the bay mare, “has done amazingly well, considering she is a really spooky horse, she was really well behaved.” The Quest series has been the combinations first experience of British Dressage, “I started in May doing Quest, we have previously evented and I thought we should give Quest a go. It has been really fun! Everyone has been really friendly and we’ve had an amazing time doing it.”
Woodendfarm Viva is known for being a “sassy monkey” at home, Hannah tells us, “she is cheeky all the time, high spirited and will drop you at the drop of a hat when you are least expecting it, but she pulls it out when she has to.” The pairs preparation for the championships had been compromised by an accident Hannah was involved in while scurry driving at Horse of the Year show, “Alison my boss, she drives scurrying, she’s a three-time champion at HOYS, but the cart turned over. I broke a bone in my foot and damaged the ligaments, Alison has only ridden for two weeks, but has ridden for me and I have only ridden for a maximum of an hour before coming here.”
Despite recovering from the accident Hannah wanted to “just give it a go” it’s an incredible achievement to win, and looking forwards to the future Hannah tells us she wants to, “carry on with dressage and see where we get to.”
Francesca Pearce and Waunoris Oliver Twist continued their excellent form in the Novice class, coming second with an incredibly close score of 70.95% and Sharon Garner and Bannerfarm Blue taking the third spot on the podium with a score of 69.94%.
Team Quest Open Championship
Saturday saw the conclusion of the Team Quest Open Championships, with each team member riding their final test. The competition saw amazing scores across the board, as well as incredible team spirit and support.
Our title winners were Team LWD consisting of members, Hollie Jepson, Jo Hayward, Sally Gourley and Sarah Werth, alongside trainer and team captain Laura Woodcock. Laura explained to us how the team came to be, “they are all put together as pupils I have been training from two to seven years. It’s been a long time but this is their first go this year and hopefully they will all move up a level next year so we can keep coming back.”
The championships has been an exciting experience for the team, “it's our first championships and it’s been absolutely amazing, we’ve had blood sweat and tears but this is a great team of girls, and it has been the best experience ever.” Competing as a team is different to induvial competition, with the additional support from friends, “it’s been the best thing ever, it has been very motivational and enjoyable, it has made for a lot of fun.”
The team started their Quest journey in May of this year, “everyone has pulled when we have needed it, everyone has taken a turn to pull the team when it is needed, everyone has contributed well.” The championships is just the icing on the cake, “it has been very exciting but tense and nail biting the last hour, the scores were close and we were waiting for them to come in.”
Each team member improved their score from the previous day, Jo and the piebald gelding, Peter IV received 65.65% in the Intro A. While her three fellow teammates all received their highest championship scores in the Prelim 13. Hollie and Bridgehouse Tamborine receiving 71.09% from the judges, Sally and Peggy Sue achieved a 69.10% and Sarah rounded out the teams success Vivogue with a score of 68.26%.
The team is already looking forward to continuing their success and support for one another, “we hope to step up to Novice and get back in the arena with Laura so we can do it all over again!” The journey has been a great one, “we have all learnt an awful lot over the whole course of the season and we have got a lot to work on and will have to book some more lessons to build on what we have learnt.”
Team LWD offered perfect advice for those who are thinking of giving Team Quest a go, “defiantly just go for it, enjoy yourself and don’t put too much pressure on yourself” not forgetting to set up a Whatsapp group to keep in touch and support one another! As a team you, “always know you have got back up, it makes going to an event more fun, it really does.”
It was very tight at the top of the table, with the top three teams all within less than 1% of one another. The Moor Hens came in second place with an overall total of 412.56% and Penistone Pirouettes finished in third place with an overall total of 412.00%.
Team Quest U21 Championship
The U21 team Quest Championship took place over Saturday and Sunday, with each team member competing once on each day. The Joy Riders came out on top with stellar performances from each member of the team, Megan Harrison, Beth Harrison, Kate Harrison and Becky Weston, gaining an overall score of 428.13%.
The team were, “excited and so happy” following their win, Beth who also claimed the My Quest U21 Novice Championship title, explained how the team came to be, “the three of us are sisters and we met Becky through pony club and school and we have done a lot of pony club and school teams together, we are really good friends.”
The four of them are really close, cheering each other on as part of a team, “is good fun” Becky tells us, “through school and pony club we were always on teams together, but now I have left school we don’t do the school or pony club teams together anymore, so we thought lets give it one last shot.” The Quest series offering them the opportunity to compete once again as a team.
The atmosphere at the championships has fuelled the excitement further, “it has been amazing, one of the best championships we have been to, it makes the whole event a lot more special.” The four already thinking about what is next, “we want to do it all again next year!”
Kate (10-years-old) riding Templedruid Hapsberg, scored two incredible consistently high scores of 69% in both her Team Quest U21 Prelim tests, Megan informs us that Harry, as he is known at home, is a much loved family pony, “we have had him for a very long time, me and Beth use to ride him, and now we have passed him onto Kate. He has been to quite a few championships over the years.” The 19-year-old chestnut showing his experience on the day and Kate demonstrated her partnership with Harry developed by riding him from a young age.
Beth (18) and Megan (17) both shared the ride of Garthfach Whisky Rocks, both competing in the Team Quest U21 Novice classes. Beth rode the 10-year-old gelding to the win in the Novice 30 with a score of 71.34% on day two. The 16h Welsh Cob then showcased his class ridden impressively by Megan to the win in the Novice 28 on day three, with an amazing score of 74.44%.
Becky (17) and Boleyglass Jocker received their highest score in the U21 Team Quest Intro A, where the judges awarded the pair with an impressive 72.95%. Becky introduced us to the 6-year-old grey gelding, “Rodney is named after Rodney from Only Fools on Horses, it suits him very well. I got him as a three-year-old and the plan is to produce him to event, he’s a good boy.”
The team also have high aspirations for their own futures, Beth stating she would like to be a vet, and Kate an equine vet, while Becky currently completing an apprenticeship in mechanics and Megan would like to study law.
The high-spirited Team Quest U21 championship finished with Penistone Piaffers finishing in second place with an overall score of 416.89% and WMDG Bluebirds rounding off the top three with an overall score of 416.60%.
My Quest U21 Novice Championship
On the final day of competition we saw the young talent take centre stage with the U21 championships. 18-year-old Beth Harrison and Garthfach Whisky Rocks won the Novice championship with the judges awarding the pair 69.04%.
Beth spoke to us about how it feels to compete and win at a championship, “it feels amazing, I am really proud of my horse Whisky, he was a really good boy.” The 10-year-old Welsh gelding can turn his hoof to many disciplines, “I have had him about two years and we mainly do eventing, but we do a bit of dressage in the winter.” Beth tells us both disciplines have been working hand in hand, “I have found dressage really helpful for eventing and we really enjoy it.”
The combination impressed the judges on day three, between the white boards Whiskey, “is always such a sweet lovely boy and really tried his hardest for me." His highlights were, "We struggle with our medium trot sometimes, but they are really starting to get better, so I was really pleased with that.”
Currently studying an extra A-level which alongside the three she has already achieved, will help Beth get into vet school next year. But for now plans to carry on enjoying both dressage and eventing, “I train with Tracy Garside and we have been working on a bit of everything, including looking at some harder movements like shoulder in and travers. I am just really excited to learn new things.” Next year is already looking positive for the pair, “we have qualified for the Badminton BE90 grassroots championships, so that is the main thing I am working towards.”
Beth’s whole family enjoy dressage, with her two younger sisters competing in the U21 Team Quest Championship winning team alongside her, the 16hh bay is a much loved family horse at home, “he is just the sweetest, my little sister is quite small but she can handle him because he is such a good boy.”
Ruby Walker and 7-year-old Moylough Cruz placed second with a great score of 68.15% with third place Sofia Mirza riding the 13-year-old Lamboro Action Man closely behind on a score of 67.73%.
My Quest U21 Introductory Championship
Theo Charnley and the lovely RSPCA George took the top spot in the U21 Introductory Championship with a great score of 71.59%. Theo talked us through the emotions of winning, “it feels really good because George is a rescue and he is only six-years-old.” George has an incredible story, his mother was rescued from the side of the road while in foal, meaning George was born in RSPCA care, “he is doing really well for his age.”
The charming piebald gelding has a strong partnership with Theo, who tells us what he enjoys most about riding George, “he improves every time he goes out and he learns from his mistakes.” Already looking ahead to the future, “I am planning to do Area Festivals and Trailblazers next year.”
Theo and George gained their Championship qualification at the Quest Semi-Final held at Vale View Equestrian, the experience has been one to remember for the pair, “I have liked making new friends and getting to know people, while spending time with George.” The two started their BD journey in February 2022 and what an incredible achievement it is to win at your first championships, their partnership is only continuing to grow, “he is really compatible, we work together really well. Sometimes we have arguments but most of the time we are really good together.”
Theo is looking forward to the opportunity to compete at the Area Festivals, “I am looking forward to it, but I’m going to be competing against adults so it will be a bit more challenging.”
Lily Barraball rode the lovely 17-year-old Stockham Jeremy Fisher, to a score of 69.78% awarding them second place. Lucas Patrick Smyth and Yealand Mamzelle finished third with the pair receiving a score of 68.76%.
My Quest U21 Preliminary Championship
The U21 Preliminary class was highly contested with 30 combinations heading down the centre line and the top four being covered by less than 1%. Sasha Holmes and Cooley Rambler were crowned champions with the leading score of 70.57%.
Sasha explains to us how it feels to win the title, “amazing, I’m just so proud of him, he was really good.” She described the stand out moments of their test, “the centre lines are his highlight, he’s so straight and accurate with them. He was perfect the whole way.” The 16-year-old grey gelding is, “really gentle, sometimes he can be cheeky but that’s what makes him really special.”
It is the combinations first time at the championships, Sasha reflected on her experience with Quest, “it’s been very good, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been a lot of fun to work towards the championships, getting scores for the Semi-Finals and then coming here and winning.” An amazing performance on the day put them in the lead early on, with another two and a half hours to wait for the final results to come in, “I didn't think I would win but it has been really good.”
Sasha enjoys showjumping outside of dressage, and chose to take part in the Quest series after seeing photos and videos online, “it looked like a fun thing to do.” Training with Jane Green she has been working on keeping Cooley Rambler forward as, “he can be quite lazy.” In the future Sasha tells us, “I would like to get stronger at Novice and see where we go from there.”
Cydney Gilbert and Quel Surprise came in second place with a very impressive score of 70.38% and Theo Charnley achieved another great result with RSPCA George, finishing third with a score of 69.67%.
The busy three days competing were not only thing to enjoy, the competitors were involved in stable decorating competitions, where The Loud Bandits won ‘Best Dressed Team Stable’ for their incredible Scottish themed stables. Celia Child-Villiers won ‘Best Dressed Individual Stable’ as she made an incredible effort highlighting her wonderful retrained racehorse she had brought to the championships.
More fun was to be had with team Lil Blingers awarded for ‘Best Team Selfie” with beautiful pink outfits, personalised jackets and of course bling! The ‘Induvial Selfie Award’ went to Jessica O'Neill Williams, while The ‘Team Spirit Award’ was given to Fillies on Top, who were an example of amazing sportsmanship, they were a huge support to those around them and went above and beyond to cheer on other teams and riders, celebrating everyone's achievements, big or small.
The Saracen Horse Feeds Quest series is an incredible chance for those who are new to dressage, starting out with a new partnership or would like to compete as part of a team, to enjoy, learn and succeed in dressage. Quest is incredible starting point for those new to affiliated competition, with a friendly atmosphere and the chance to compete against those with similar experiences and have fun!
Congratulations to all of this years competitors, we would also like to say a huge thank you to our judges. Stewards and volunteers who helped the event run seamlessly, the organisers and staff and Arena UK for the warm welcome and for hosting an incredible event for our Questers. Also a special thank you for the continuous support from our wonderful sponsor Saracen Horse Feeds.
© Kevin Sparrow