Winners impress at Vale View’s Nettex Associated Championships
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The second of the Nettex Equine Associated Championships was held at Vale View Equestrian in Leicestershire (7– 10 November) attracting big entries across the levels with opportunities for all breeds and types to show off their talents. This mammoth championships, held over four full days, featured 46 classes - from Intro to Prix St Georges level – with competitors travelling from near and far to make their mark in RoRs, Thoroughbreds, CHAPS, Veteran Horse and Veteran Rider Championships.
In spite of challenging weather conditions, riders were quick to praise the efficient organisation, fantastic facilities and friendly welcome provided by the Vale View team, as well as the sponsors who generously awarded sashes, rosettes and Nettex goodie bags to the winners.
Veteran Horse Championships
Dorset-based Natalie Hoskins posted the highest score across all five championships with her own and husband Matt’s 16-year-old Dutch-bred Wodka III (by French Buffet and picutred above) who sailed into the lead with a cracking personal best score of 74.85% in the Prelim section (15 – 19-year-olds).
Bought from international showjumper and TV commentator Andy Austin as a seven-year-old, “Tiny” enjoyed a successful career with Matt jumping up to 1.20m tracks until 2014 when a serious accident in a horsebox resulted in his hindleg going through the floor and side of the lorry causing life threatening injuries.
Luckily a passing vet stopped to help, Tiny was freed and rolled down the ramp and onto the road before calmly walking into the horse ambulance.
The 17.2hh gelding, who is described by his owners as “a lovely and very special person”, suffered extensive injuries requiring a succession of skin grafts which meant spending the following year on box rest and a further year being rehabilitated.
“Matt tried to jump him again when he was back in work in 2017, but Tiny tore a ligament in his back, so he suggested I had a sit on him. From that moment on I fell in love with him and together we got the dressage bug,” said Natalie, who trains with Natasha Rumble and Hannah Biggs.
“We’ve never been to a stay-away show before and this was our first time at a championships, but we loved it. Tiny settled into his stable like a pro and I managed to conquer my nerves with the help of a bit of Rescue Remedy.
“When I saw my score go up, I almost fainted. Both my husband and I cried – we’re very sentimental about him. Tiny has transformed me as a rider, he’s fantastic and gave me his heart.”
Twenty-year-old Amelia Ward made a winning return to Vale View, claiming the Novice (20 years and over) with her 24-year-old 13.1hh Welsh Section C gelding Tireve What’s Wanted on 71.12%.
“I’ve had ‘Freddy’ for 10 years and he was my first pony, so we know each other well,” said Amelia who is studying veterinary biosciences at Surrey University. “He’s very cheeky but I love everything about him -- he’s the pet of our family; even my father who’s scared of horses loves him!”
Amelia, who trains with “next door neighbour” Daniel Timson and Russell Cooper, had to contend with Freddy trying to buck her off in the warm up so decided to “go for it” in the test and “ride every movement for an 8” which paid off.
“I rode down the centre line grinning like a Cheshire cat – it’s an honour to ride him.”
In the Novice (15 – 19 years) it was 55-year-old business analyst Helen Griffith’s 19-year-old Galway Foxy who triumphed on a personal best score of 71.89%.
Helen, who trains with Tori Peters, bought the 14.2hh Irish cob nine years ago as a “confidence giver” after suffering an earlier life changing riding accident on a four-year-old which left her with multiple back and pelvis injuries.
“He’s an absolute star and makes me feel so safe,” said Helen, who had to negotiate the floods after the River Dewent broke its banks on the day before the competition which left their Derbyshire livery yard cut off and a 10-minute walk for Foxy through flooded roads to reach their transport parked on higher ground.
“Neither of us had ever done dressage before, but we did some My Quest competitions and enjoyed it so that gave me the confidence to try some BD affiliated competitions.
“At Vale View we just went in and tried to do our best so I was stunned to find out I’d won!”
Eighteen-year-old Harriet Brick was the proud winner of both the Advanced Medium and Prix St Georges (20 years and over) titles with her “best friend” 16.2hh Oldenburg World Dancer (by Wolkentanz II).
Bought two years ago as a schoolmaster from Young Rider Imogen Chant , ‘Ginger’ is her first horse after stepping up from ponies and the combination who train with Serena Pincus has only contested five PSGs to date.
“He’s a really special horse, one of a kind and has taught me so much, “ said Imogen, who made the three-and-a-half hour journey from Ludlow. “He doesn’t feel like a 20-year-old, but we have a great support team, including my Mum, our farrier Mark Evans and physio Dee Holdsworth who all help to look after him and make sure he has everything he deserves!”
Veteran Rider Championships
Fifty-eight year old social care co-ordinator and mother of two Jo Dutton from The Wirral made her four-hour journey to Leicestershire worthwhile, winning the Prelim title with 15.1hh Irish cob Noble Top Hat on 71.77%.
Helen, who used to team chase, had a 20-year break from horses as her children were growing up and got back into horses once her sons were in their teens.
“I bought ‘Shrimpy’ from Kelly Lyons three years ago after I had a bad fall from my Hanoverian cross-country in which I broke five ribs, punctured my lung and spent a week in Aintree Hospital trauma unit, followed by three months rehab at home,” explained Helen.
“I was desperate to get back on a horse and a friend offered me Shrimpy to ride. I wasn’t a fan of cobs before, but he’s totally changed my mind -- he’s so genuine and just a bundle of fun – he’s my best friend and my little star!”
Eight-year-old Noble Top Hat who has only been affiliated for the past year, has been a consistent winner at Prelim level and will now be aimed at Novices next year.
“Winning felt like a dream and I’m still on a high,” said Jo, who trains with Steph Bradley before work and also enjoys keeping fit as a dedicated competitive runner and gym goer.
Sian Sheridan scored 66.91% to win the Advanced Medium title on her daughter’s 14-year-old KWPN gelding Ardie (by UB40) having taken over the ride last summer.
The combination has since been part of the winning Eastern team at the Inter Regionals, where they also won the individual, and were third at the Senior Home International.
“Although I’ve evented, hunted and competed in dressage before, I’d had a couple of years off riding due to a knee injury, but when my daughter got too busy with A’ levels I decided to get my boots out of the cupboard and see how we got on,” said 58-year-old Sian, who trains with John Bowen and Ali Burman.
“He’s quite sensitive, but also very responsive and willing and I feel we have a good partnership now, so I’ve no plans to hand him back!”
Freelance instructor and BHSII Linda Davis from Durham enjoyed a weekend to remember winning three Elementary titles at Vale View, including the Thoroughbred Championships with a plus70% score, as well claiming two further sashes in the RoR and Veteran Rider Championships.
Linda rode her 12-year-old 16hh bay gelding Green Warrior (by Invincible Spirit), who she fondly describes as “a 13.2hh pony on 16.2hh legs, a bit of a Jack the lad and everybody’s friend!”
“I bought Sam who had raced a couple of times on the Flat as a five-year-old originally to school and sell on, but we just clicked,” said Linda, who was also well placed in the CHAPS Elementary with her talented 15.1hh gypsy cob rescue FSH Wolfie.
“As a seven-year-old Sam fractured a navicular bone after standing on a stone while walking up our drive, so we lost a year of training and the following year he pulled a tendon in his biceps and had to have another year off!
“He’s quite high maintenance and gets bored easily, but we do lots of different things together, including cross-country schooling, fun rides and go for jumping lessons. I call them both my non-dressage, dressage horses and I’m enjoying the journey to see how far we can go!”
Working mum Amanda Smith says she’s had her “head in the clouds” ever since scoring a personal best (69.27%) to win the Novice title and coming third in the Elementary with her striking 13-year-old grey mare Mrs Brightside (by Milan.
“Lucy was gifted to me by a friend as a five-year-old and is the first Thoroughbred I’ve owned. I love their versatility, they can turn their hooves to anything,” said Amanda, who used to event before a serious accident over a cross-country fence in 2017 resulted in a fractured skull, three months in a neck brace and time off for Lucy.
“I couldn’t wait to get back on her as soon as I could; Lucy always looks after me and makes me feel safe and secure, but having a husband and young daughter, we decided it might be better to stick to dressage which I’ve always enjoyed,” said Amanda who runs Brightside Horse Transport and trains with local Equine Forces rider Sally Walker.
“This weekend surpassed all my expectations; I travelled on my own and enjoyed immersing myself in the competition in spite of the pouring rain.
Lucy is the sweetest mare and tried her heart out. I’ve been won over by dressage – it’s been a real eye opener and gives you a different kind of buzz to eventing but I’m really enjoying the journey.”
Sixteen-year-old Emily Entwhistle from Cheshire made a winning return to the Associated Championships taking the Prelim title on 72.40% with her 12-year-old French-bred bay gelding Tarass D’Alben (by Policy Maker).
Last year she won the RoR Prelim and Novice titles with “Albie”, who she has owned for the past three years and enjoyed good results in Quest competitions.
Emily and her mother, Joanne, originally went looking for a 14.2hh pony but was recommended to try Albie by a friend and fell in love with the former point-to-pointer straightaway. However, when Albie failed the vet they took him on loan and discovered he had kissing spine, which was successfully operated on and after three months off work Albie made a gradual return to training and competing.
“We’re first time Thoroughbred owners and although it’s been a bit of a learning curve, Albie’s the best thing that’s happened to us,” said Joanne. “He has an amazing attitude to his job and just wants to please; he likes consistency and attention but also give so much back!”
Rachel Flynn made the long six-hour journey from Hamilton in Scotland worthwhile, winning the Novice title with 70.52% on her 12-year-old 16hh mare Splash Of Tonic.
Rachel, who works as a groom at Thornhill Stables in Ayrshire, bought former point to pointer “Maggie”, five years ago and describes her as having “a lot of character – she’s quirky but very sweet!”
“I’ve had Thoroughbreds before and their versatility appeals to me,” said Rachel, who trains with Linda Barnes and Jill Grant. “We’ve had a bit of an up and down year as she was diagnosed with minor arthritis in her hock which we had medicated so had time off and only recently came back into work.
Maggie wears a magnetic rug, has regular massages and I do stretches with her after work which is working well and she seems much more comfortable in her work now.
“When we came out of our test I wanted to cry because it felt so good, especially after the year that we’ve had – hopefully now it’s onwards and upwards for as long as she feels like she wants to do it.”
Postwoman and mother of three Kate Pearsall from Birmingham claimed top spot in the Prelim which attracted huge entries with her 12-year-old German-bred gelding Big Easy (by Ransom O’War) who scored 69.74%.
Formerly trained by Philip Hobbs, Big Easy won Cesarewitch at Newmarket in 2014 for owner Terry Warner and won more than £250,000.
“I’ve always loved Thoroughbreds so when I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to re-home a racehorse, she suggested I go and see Bigsy who had retired from racing in 2017. I took my 21-year-old niece to sit on him first as she bounces better than me, but he was good as gold and we picked him up the following week and started his schooling starting back with the basics,” said Kate, who trains with Vicky Weaver
“We did our first unafilliated Prelim in March 2018 and at the end of last year decided to affiliate – he’s only done 11 Prelims and has been an absolute dream.
“I feel honoured and grateful to own such a well-loved horse – he’s very affectionate, loving and so easy to do. I think Thoroughbreds sometimes get bad press as people think they’re scatty and have bad habits, but in my experience the majority have really nice personalities and are great fun!”
Hampshire-based freelance rider/trainer Fiona Joplin, who runs her own FJ Equestrian, won the Advanced Medium on 68.01% with Alyson Hall’s 16hh nine-year-old Medburn Singer (by Superior Premium).
The combination, who train with Andrew Harris and Alice Oppenheimer, are previous winners of the Medium and Elementary titles and were placed seventh in the Elementary Silver at the Nationals in 2017.
“He has a great attitude to work, always tries so hard and wants to please,” said Fiona, who used to ride work for Tony Balding.
Fiona also had high praise for the championships. “It was a memorable weekend in spite of the terrible weather. It started chucking it down just before we warmed up and we’d forgotten to bring our exercise sheet, but the lovely organisers kindly leant one to us – everyone I talked to agreed that the Vale View team were all so kind and helpful and made the championship really special!”
Eleven-year-old Flora Hayes from Little Downham was the youngest competitor here winning the Prelim title with 72.19% on her Welsh part-bred cob mare Haybells Cinderella.
Flora, who has been riding since she was just three years old, has owned 11-year-old “Fern” for the past 18 months, but has already made her mark winning the Prelim title at Sheepgate’s Under-25 Championship and qualifying for both Prelim and Novice at the Winter Championships at Hartpury next year.
“She’s very reliable, workmanlike and consistent, but not really cuddly,” said Flora who trains with Helen Babington Smith. “I call her my ‘wonder pony’ because she knows her job and once you tell her what to do, she just gets on and does it so easily.”
Flora also paid tribute to her mother’s 25-year-old schoolmaster Monet, formerly ridden internationally by Michael Eilberg, who is stabled next door to Fern at home and who Flora occasionally “has a sit on” to get a feel for some of the more advanced work “so I can then help teach them to Fern!”
Jaz Armitage beat off stiff competition in the Novice to win with 70.63% on her seven-year-old home-bred mare Shiraz who is by drum horse stallion Jubilee Ted out of a Thoroughbred mare at her family’s Digeddi Stud in Hay on Wye.
“I used to do Pony Club eventing but preferred dressage,” said Jaz, who trains with mum Sue-Zi and Helena Charlesworth.
“I’ve been riding Shiraz for about 18 months now and she’s progressed very quickly. She was originally for sale, but I fell in love with her. She always tries to please and works with you all the way.
“I didn’t know what to expect from the weekend as it was our first time staying away at a competition and the longest journey we’ve made, but she took everything in her stride, settled in well and nothing seemed to phase her. I was so proud of scoring our personal best at Novice – it was a huge class with many lovely horses, but I decided to just enjoy it and it paid off and all came together on the day – I couldn’t have wished for more from her and would love to come back again for the Elementary next year!”
Jo Freeman and Chalk II 63.46%
Stephanie Newman and Roman II 67.87%
Jaz Armistead and Shiraz II 70.63%
Flora Hayes and Haybells Cinderella 72.19%
Rebecca Fowler and Maria II 73.80%
Fiona Jopling and Medburn Singer 68.01%
Julie Frizzell and Namibian 67.42%
Linda Davis and Green Warrior 68.1%
Rachel Flynn and Splash of Tonic 70.52%
Kate Pearsall and Big Easy 69.74%
Michelle Honess and Polar Fox 66.41%
Fiona Jopling and Medburn Singer 66.78%
Julie Frizzell and Namibian 66.84%
Linda Davis and Green Warrior 70.15%
Amanda Smith and Mrs Brightside 69.27%
Emily Entwistle and Tarass D’Alben 72.40%
Emma Louise Coverdale and Harley Quinn 69.89%
Veteran Horses Championship
PSG (20+ years)
Harriet Brick and World Dancer 64.28%
PSG (15 - 19 years)
Stephanie Bradley and Tavano 58.95%
Advanced Medium (15 – 19 years)
Stephanie Bradley and Tavano 60%
Advanced Medium (20+ years)
Harriet Brick and World Dancer 66.73%
Medium (20+ years)
Blythe Senior and No Limit D 66.14%
Medium (15 – 19 years)
Judi Foster and Leyla 67.8
Elementary (20+ years)
Molly Briddon and Coednewydd Charles 67.76 %
Elementary (15 - 19 years)
Zoe Golding and Ballingowan Stoneyman 70.69%
Novice (20+ years)
Amelia Ward and Tireve What's Wanted 71.12 %
Novice (15 -19 years)
Helen Griffith and Galway Foxy 71.98%
Prelim (20+ years)
Danielle Waller and Just Believe 68.97%
Prelim (15 -19 years)
Natalie Hoskins and Wodka III 74.83%
Catherine Dakin and Just William XIX 68.04%
Intro (15 – 19 years)
Michelle Honess and Polar Fox 66.30%
Veteran Riders Championship
Sian Sheridan and Ardie 66.91%
Sian Sheridan and Ardie 69.12%
Linda Davis and Green Warrior 69.04%
Sal Tucker and Daytona II 69.27%
Jo Dutton and Noble Top hat 71.77%
Camilla Haw and Lynwood Coe 70.54%
Photo © Action Replay Photography