UK elite feature at Wellington Festival of Para of Dressage
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The Wellington event (09 – 11 June 2021) was one of three observation events for the Tokyo Paralympic Games so competition was extremely fierce with a number of former team members anxious to secure a place on the Paralympic squad.
Natasha Baker and Keystone Dawn Chorus (pictured above) have come into top form at just the right time. They won all three Grade III classes and scored a personal best as a combination in the freestyle.
The individual test was a bit of a trial as Natasha’s legs went into spasm two movements into the test. Despite all the potential for miscommunication, ‘Lottie” looked after her rider and they still finished on a score of 74%.
Natasha’s legs were better behaved on the second day and in the team test they raised their score to over 78%. They finished with a plus 80% score in the freestyle on day three which was the first time the pair had scored that high.
“Every time I take her out she gets better and better,” said Natasha. “She was on fire in the outdoor school. She’s really goey with lots of energy and power. I feel like I’m now getting in the arena what I get at home and she really lets me in. She’s my little Mary Poppins - perfect at everything.”
Lottie is owned by a combination of Natasha, her parents and Christian Landolt. The 10-year-old mare is British-bred by Dimaggio.
Erin Orford and LJT Diamond Crusador chased Natasha hard during the competition and had three good scores, with a personal best in the team test. Erin commented on social media that she feels the changes they have made in recent training are really paying off.
Blind rider Nicky Greenhill won two out of the three Grade IV tests. Nicky was riding her top horse, Betty Boo, who she’s been competing for three years. Betty is a 12-year-old by Benetton Dream who was bred by Woodlander Stud.
Nicky had to settle for second place behind Nicola Naylor and Del Piero V in the individual test as Betty uncharacteristically took exception to one of the big signs by the outdoor arena. After an arena walk the next day, she settled and was less tense and pulled up to win the team test on 71.31%.
The pair had another good score of 73.77% in the freestyle. It was the first time they had ridden their Tom Hunt-compiled programme in a competition. “We really enjoy our music but paras don’t often get the chance to do it,” said Nicky. “I can’t do a complicated floor plan as I haven’t got a lot of callers. I have to stay on the track but still be inventive with the programme.”
Nicky admits that the walk pirouettes were her bête noire and used to avoid them. During lockdown, she and her trainer Melissa Smith worked on them so now she gets good marks for them. “As I can’t watch them back on video I couldn’t get my head round them. We stripped them right back and starting training quarters-in on a circle and built it up from there. Now they are a party piece. We practise them every training session and I’ve now got the feel for them.”
Nicola Naylor worked hard during the Festival – she had two rides in each class and the selectors had asked her to bring along Amadeus to run hors concours. Her new horse Humberto is a green eight-year-old she has owned for 10 months. In the freestyle he was overawed by the flowers and judges tables but came close second to Betty Boo in the team test outside.
Del Piero, Nicola’s individual test winner, competes at PSG with Nicola and at GP with her trainer Dan Watson, in between para duties. “He’s a lovely good-natured horse with a temperament to die for,” said Nicola. “There’s nothing he can’t do. He really got his confidence at this show and made a huge improvement.”
Lee Pearson and Breezer III won the individual and freestyle classes but had to settle for second place behind Georgia Wilson and Midnight II in the team test. Lee is very enthusiastic about the 10-year-old Bacardi gelding who was a winner at the Equissage Pulse Para Winter Championships in May. After a first-day win in the individual test, Lee said he experimented with a few things which impacted on the trot in the team test.
The winning formula was restored for the freestyle where the combination scored over 76% - a personal best for them.
The Grade I combination of Sophie Christiansen and Innuendo III were unbeatable throughout the show. The 14-year-old is British-bred by Last Minute and had recent wins at the Para Winter Championships and Keysoe International.
“He was very consistent throughout the show,” said Sophie’s trainer, Anna Wilson. “It was an experiment to take him on his own as he normally travels with Stella (Die Fürstin), Sophie’s other horse. I think it paid off in terms of relaxation. We’ve introduced working him in-hand at the beginning of the warm-up and that has also helped with relaxation.”
Sophie Wells and Roland Kinch’s Don Cara won the Grade V individual and team tests. “He’s a really talented horse,” said Sophie, who took over the ride from Amy Woodhead. “He gives me a lovely feel at home. I’m just working on getting it in the test when I want it. On the second day I felt a lot of rideability and he was a lot more confident.”
Sophie and Georgia (Wilson) both left Wellington to compete on their other horses at CPEDI Peelbergen in Holland. This left the way clear for Charlotte Cundall, second in both Grade V straight classes to take first and second places in the freestyle with LJT Simply Red and FJ Veyron.
Para Gold Semi-Final
Equissage Pulse Grade I individual
1. Sophie Christiansen and Innuendo II, 74.46%
2. Gabriella Blake and Strong Beau, 72.02%
3. Jamie Winduss and Day And Night, 69.76%
Equissage Pulse Grade II Individual
1. Lee Pearson and Breezer III, 74.75%
2. Georgia Wilson and Midnight II, 74.26%
3. Julie Payne and Divinity, 68.57%
Equissage Pulse Grade III Individual
1. Natasha Baker and Keystone Dawn Chorus, 74.36%
2. Erin Orford and LJT Diamond Crusador, 72.35%
3. Roberta Sheffield and Fairuza, 69.85%
Equissage Pulse Grade IV Individual
1. Nicola Naylor and Del Piero V, 69.95%
2. Nicky Greenhill and Betty Boo, 69.87%
3. Nicola Naylor and Humberto, 69.30%
Equissage Pulse Grade V Individual
1. Sophie Wells and Don Cara M, 73.09%
2. Charlotte Cundall and LJT Simply Red, 72.38%
3. Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron, 70.51%
FMBS Therapy Systems Grade IV Team
1. Nicky Greenhill and Betty Boo, 71.31%
2. Nicola Naylor and Humberto, 70.56%
3. Nicky Greenhill and King Edward I, 70.25%
FMBS Therapy Systems Grade V Team
1. Sophie Wells and Don Cara M, 74.7%
2. Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron, 71.39%
3. Charlotte Cundall and LJT Simply Red, 70.17%
FMBS Therapy Systems Grade II Team
1. Georgia Wilson and Midnight II, 75.6%
2. Lee Pearson and Breezer III, 74.47%
3. Julie Payne and Divinity, 69.23%
FMBS Therapy Systems Grade III Team
1. Natasha Baker and Keystone Dawn Chorus, 78.08%
2. Erin Orford and LJT Diamond Crusador, 74.19%
3. Roberta Sheffield and Fairuza, 70.29%
FMBS Therapy Systems Grade I Team
1. Sophie Christiansen and Innuendo II, 74.82%
2. Jamie Winduss and Day And Night, 71.20%
3. Gabriella Blake and Strong Beau, 71.16%
Equine Balance Therapy Centre Grade I Freestyle
1. Sophie Christiansen and Innuendo II, 76.91%
2. Gabriella Blake and Strong Beau, 73.20%
3. Diane Green and Miss Remexico, 66.95%
Equine Balance Therapy Centre Grade II Freestyle
1. Lee Pearson and Breezer III, 76.21%
2. Natasha Adkinson and Sweet Caledonia, 69.3%
3. Julie Payne and Divinity, 68.13%
Equine Balance Therapy Centre Grade III Freestyle
1. Natasha Baker and Keystone Dawn Chorus, 81.83%
2. Erin Orford and LJT Diamond Crusader, 76.41%
3. Amanda Shirtcliffe and Remi II, 72.08%
Equine Balance Therapy Centre Grade IV Freestyle
1. Nicky Greenhill and Betty Boo, 73.77%
2. Izzy Palmer and Je Suis Adiva, 71.55%
3. Laura Gulliver and Woodcroft Garuda K, 70.23%
Equine Balance Therapy Centre Grade V Freestyle
1. Charlotte Cundall and LJT Simply Red, 76.03%
2. Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron, 73.91%
3. Hope Hayward and Et L’Amour, 66.71%
Photo © Kevin Sparrow