Winter Regional Championships: Wellington Riding
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At last a Regional Championship that wasn’t blasted by wind and rain! With over 310 class entries over the four days (26 February - 01 March 2022), it was a busy show and the standard of competition was very high.
Local rider Jezz Palmer was the only competitor to take home two regional titles. He won the HorseLight Medium Gold on King IV and the Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold on Tiny Dancer (pictured above) with a great score of 74.61%.
Tiny Dancer is owned by Jezz with former British team rider Anni McDonald-Hall and the Uthopia x T-Movie Star mare will be seven this year. “Once I’ve found a horse’s music I usually use it for all levels and just tweak it but it wasn’t working for Bluebell,” explained Jezz. “I borrowed a programme from Georgie Day and just watched her video lots of times. I hadn’t actually ridden through it before the test!” (Probably best not to try this unless you have nerves of steel and can keep your head in the arena!)
Stallion King IV (Governor x Johnson) is owned by Jezz and Richard Burge and won the medium gold title with a 73%+ score. King was novice gold freestyle champion at the Winter Championships in 2020 and reserve champion at elementary at the National Championships in 2021.
“Normally he can feel a bit insecure and lose confidence,” explained Jezz. “We’ve been training with Matt Frost and he’s kicked us into gear. He felt better than he’s ever felt before in a test. He’s not been out for a long time and he’s changed shape and got more expression in the trot. He never spooks and just gets on with his job. I’m really excited for him in the future.”
Jezz also qualified Steph and Alison Taylor’s WGS Inanda for the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold.
Michael Eilberg enjoyed a successful show with his two horses, MSJ Dante IV and Figlio. Dante won the Magic Prix St Georges and was reserve regional champion in the Superflex Inter I and Figlio qualified in the PSG.
“I was pleased with Dante’s development and maturity as we did the same competition last year and he got nervous and upset,” said Michael whose family owns the nine-year-old by Dante Weltino with Nicky Hannon. “He’s got plenty of talent but can be quite a hothead so needs to mature in his mind.”
It was Lucinda Elliott and Hawtins Stud’s Hawtins Soave who beat Michael in the inter I. Lucinda and ‘Pip’ both debuted at inter I last year. “We both had a lot to learn,” acknowledged Lucinda. “We decided to do the winters to give her more experience at indoor shows. She felt a lot more confident than last year. She felt strong and really took me round the test.
Twelve-year-old Violet Hawkins discovered dressage in 2020 when she started training with Jayne Turney and has made a great start with a KBIS Preliminary Silver win on DZL Royal Sunrise (Paddy). “She spent lockdown watching Charlotte Dujardin videos,” recalled her mother, Alex. “We initially bought Paddy for her to grow into and for her to do some lateral work. He knows what he has to do and we thought he would help her to translate that to her other pony.”
Paddy is a 14.1hh Welsh part-bred (by Domingos Golden Surprise), bred by Darcas Lever and previously competed by Mollie Whitham. “Jayne came to Wellington and worked Violet in and his test was rhythmical and accurate,” said Alex. “The bigger the occasion, the more Violet rises to it.”
Jess Ralton, who rides for Anna Ross, rode Caroline Squires’ Viva Venezuela to his first big win of the KBIS Preliminary Gold title. ‘Tarmac’ has been backed and produced by Jess and it will be a first visit to the Winter Championships for both of them. Tarmac was purchased as a two-year-old and grew up as part of the Newton Stud ‘gang’. “He’s a delightful little horse who loves a show,” said Jess. “It’s lovely for him to have his moment in the spotlight.”
Steffie Bryant has also owned her Ampere mare, Atlantic II, since a two-year-old and her Prestige Italia Novice Silver regional championship win will take her and Steffie to the Winter Championships for the first time. “She’s super quirky and nearly had me off in the warm-up,” said Steffie, who hails from Australia. “It’s her first big show and she gave me some super moments. Once she’s in the competition arena, her mind is on her job.”
Steffie works full-time in the fitness industry and trains with Gareth Hughes and Rob Barker.
Fancy That (by Franziskus), Prestige Italia Novice Gold winner, is another horse bought as a two-year-old and produced by her rider, Caroline Hunt. “She’s a pleasure to train and always gives her best,” commented Caroline. “This was only our third show together – she qualified in two outings. She tried really hard in the test. I could’ve made it a bit more dynamic but played it safe and gave her a really good experience.”
According to 14-year-old Rachael Hetherington’s mum Sarah, she doesn’t suffer from nerves. Her cool stood her in good stead to win the Baileys Novice Freestyle Silver title with Reset Sir Lancelot at their first regionals. Lancelot is a 13.2hh 17-year-old Welsh section C and has been owned by Rachael for over four years.
“Rachael has grown up with ‘Wheelie’ and started with Quest, then Area Festivals and now regionals. He’s very reliable and never lets her down,” said Sarah. “Rachael is very good at freestyling in the test if she needs to. The programme of Olly Murs and Billie Eilish tracks was put together by Equidance and really suits him.”
The gold title was won by Lucy Amy and Millenium Falcon, a five-year-old son of Morricone who was bought at six months old. “He’s the easiest youngster I’ve ever had and takes everything in his stride. I wasn’t expecting anything at Wellington as he’s just a baby,” commented Lucy who used a Disney film programme. “His canter is lush – it’s like riding a rocking horse.” The pair will also be in the straight novice gold at Hartpury after coming second in that class. Lucy’s score of 76.94% was the highest of the Championships.
Lucy was originally a Jersey girl, as was Amy Schiessl, winner of the Equi-Trek Elementary Gold. Both are now forging successful careers on the mainland. Amy was riding Tasha Byfield’s Insanity (Johnson x Scandic), who fortunately does not live up to his name!
The nine-year-old has been with Amy for nine months and this was his first regional championships. “He felt nice and fluid in the test,” said Amy. “He’s got a fantastic canter and got 8s for his simple changes, medium trots and medium canters.”
Sophia Marston won the PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Silver with her 10-year-old mare, Solitaire II, who she bought as a yearling. “We’ve grown up together,” she commented. “I’ve got my whole family behind me – my grandma Catherine Foley and mum Claire Marston are my bankers, drivers and trainers. It was our first time at Wellington – she was a bit “OMG” when she saw the flowers but was amazing once her music started. Tom Hunt did my programme and the music is very dramatic.”
Sophia is in her final GCSE year and would love to make horses her career.
Dannie Morgan is someone who has made an excellent career out of working with horses, with 20 regional titles under his belt. He qualified Nicky Callam’s High Hoes Razzle Dazzle at elementary gold and won the PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Gold title.
‘Razz’ is out of Nicky’s mare Liza Minnelli and is the third of her foals to win a Wellington regional title with Dannie. (The other two being Florizel and Estelle.)
“He felt a little bit lacking in match practice,” commented Dannie. “He’s 18hh so we’ve not rushed him. We went to the regionals not expecting anything and he rose to the occasion. For a big horse he’s very sensitive which makes my life easier. He has very good reactions so isn’t hard work.”
Evelina Shrieve took the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver title with Insist TC, known as Terry. Evelina bought the Apache nine-year-old in May 2021 and the pair were reserve champions at novice silver at Keysoe Summer Regional.
Evelina is based at Diane Thurman-Baker’s Turville Valley Stud and joined full-time last year after finishing a psychology degree. “He’s very bold so nothing fazes him. I didn’t think we would even get placed as he’s so inexperienced and it was only his second regionals. His medium trots are his party piece – he loves doing them.”
Danielle Balsdon bought her Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver winner, Lord Lennox, as a green five-year-old and has been training him with the help of Adam Kemp and Karen Lisk. “It was a long day. We had to hire a lorry and do the journey in one day. We got stuck on the M4 for an hour and he arrived in a bit of a mood,” said Danielle who is based in Exeter. “I kept everything nice and calm and rode the horse I had on the day. He pulled out a nice clean test.”
Chris Hammond has been riding his HorseLight Medium Silver winner, Cassandra Sulley’s Jersey Boy (pictured above) for three years. “We’ve done the regionals at every level and last year qualified for the National Championships at medium. It was his first big stay away show and he was very hot,” said Chris who took Jersey to Keysoe High Profile for more experience. “We’ve never been to Wellington before and got stuck in M25 traffic so only had 30 minutes warm-up. I wasn’t 100% happy with the rein back but overall was very happy with his test.”
Jessica McConkey and Wilson Stensvang won the Equitex Advanced Medium Silver title with a great score of 74.64%. “He hasn’t done many shows but he was confident and rideable,” commented Jessica who trains with Paul Fielder. It will be Wilson’s first time at the Winter Championships.
Grand prix rider and trainer Lisa Hopkins won the Equitex Advanced Medium Gold on Christian Landolt’s Liss La Belle (by Lissaro). The 11-year-old mare won both novice gold classes at the 2017 Winter Championships with Christian.
“She came for a couple of months’ training, stayed during Covid and then Christian offered me the ride,” explained Lisa. The pair were in the top 10 at medium and advanced medium at the National Championships. “She did a super test, just missing the last change when she was distracted by a photographer. She always has a lovely frame and outline and three super paces.”
Claudia Davis has a busy year ahead as she juggles riding Fergus RT, her 12-year-old gelding by Uphill with her A levels. They’ve started on a positive note by taking the Equitex Advanced Medium Silver title with a lively James Bond/Michael Bublé music programme. “He was really hot in the test and got a bit strong but it was a real education for me to know how to deal with that,” commented Claudia.
Fergus was bought from Claudia’s trainer, Daniel Sherriff, who trained him to small tour. Claudia and Fergus, who compete in Young Riders, have been selected onto the 2022 U21 International Pathway squad.
Sara Gallop ‘adores’ her Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold winner, Rock That Tango (by Rockefeller) - pictured above. “He’s not the easiest,” explained Sara. “He was very sensitive and nervous when I got him but now I get him and he gets me. I had to find a way forward for him to relax. He has issues with indoor arenas but I couldn’t believe how much more relaxed and with me he was.”
It will be his first time at the Winter Championships and Sara plans to take him to High Profile and Premier League shows this year to build his confidence.
Congratulations to all the competitors and good luck those heading to Hartpury. Well done to Wellington for putting on a great show.
Results: top three
KBIS Preliminary Gold
1. Jess Ralton and Viva Venezuela, 72.06%
2. Kirsty Imm and Dancini T, 71.89%
3. Verity Perry and Bianchi, 69.94%
KBIS Preliminary Silver
1. Violet Hawkins and DZL Royal Sunrise, 71.60%
2. Susannah Mann and Dream I Dream 1, 71.20%
3. Gemma Phipps and Smooth Beginning, 70.17%
Prestige Italia Novice Gold
1. Caroline Hunt and Fancy That, 72.90%
2. Lucy Amy and Millenium Falcon, 71.46%
3. Jemima Jennings and Wilhelmine, 69.56%
Prestige Italia Novice Silver
1. Steffie Bryant and Atlantic II, 71.29%
2. Jennifer Philcox and Joie De Vie, 70.98%
3. Nicola Morris and Headmore Bugatti, 70.92%
Baileys Novice Freestyle Gold
1. Lucy Amy and Milllenium Falcon, 76.94%
2. Teghan Cantrell-Bennett and Divine Providence, 73.33%
3. Alex Baker and Mancini Hazelhope, 73.24%
Baileys Novice Freestyle Silver
1. Rachael Hetherington and Reset Sir Lancelot, 70.00%
2. Andrea Kirby and Headmore Dramatica, 69.35%
3. Kelly Jewel and Avalon II, 69.07%
Equi-Trek Elementary Gold
1. Amy Schiessl and Insanity, 74.79%
2. Claire Abel and GF Sezuki, 71.30%
3. Dannie Morgan and High Hoes Razzle Dazzle, 71.20%
Equi-Trek Elementary Silver
1. Evelina Shrieve and Insist TC, 71.77%
2. Georgina Day and Princess Floriana, 71.30%
3. Sacha Hamilton and Netsutteriets Nero, 70.67%
PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Gold
1. Dannie Morgan and High Hoes Razzle Dazzle, 72.24%
2. Claire Abel and GF Sezuki, 71.79%
3. Dannie Morgan and Lord Optimism, 71.09%
PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Silver
1. Sophia Marston and Solitaire II, 73.34%
2. Steffie Bryant and Atlantic II, 70.57%
3. Jess Ralton and Newton Freezeframe, 70.38%
HorseLight Medium Gold
1. Jezz Palmer and King IV, 73.46%
2. Davy Harvey and Diamond Blue, 72.56%
3. Angus Corrie-Deane and Don Darius II, 69.41%
HorseLight Medium Silver
1. Chris Hammond and Jersey Boy, 70.63%
2. Lynn Wicks and Pauldarys Tiger Two Sox, 68.51%
3. Henrietta Windsor-Phillips and Rianne, 67.56%
Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold
1. Jezz Palmer and Tiny Dancer, 74.61%
2. Jane Morris and Silverstar Z, 74.50%
3. Claire Abel and GF Sezuki, 73.38%
Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver
1. Danielle Balsdon and Lord Lennox, 72.61%
2. Megan Turner and Plains Timeless, 71.27%
3. Danielle Rhodes and Tiger Tim, 70.72%
Equitex Advanced Medium Gold
1. Lisa Hopkins and Liss La Belle, 72.41%
2. Michael Eilberg and Distinction MSJ, 72.10%
3. Davy Harvey and Diamond Blue, 69.95%
Equitex Advanced Medium Silver
1. Jessica McConkey and Wilson Stensvang, 74.64%
2. Christiane Oakley and Keystone Walente, 68.15%
3. Melissa Richardson and Gravgaards Sir Dundee, 67.41%
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold
1. Sara Gallop and Rock That Tango, 74.22%
2. Jezz Palmer and WGS Inanda, 73.55%
3. Jane Morris and Silverstar Z, 72.22%
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver
1. Claudia Davis and Fergus RT, 72.72%
2. Gracie Catling and Dalyhill Rocker, 68.72%
3. Felicity Iles and So Enamoured, 67.38%
Magic Prix St Georges Gold
1. Michael Eilberg and MSJ Dante VX, 73.43%
2. Michael Eilberg and Figlio, 72.79%
3. Katie Bailey and Hilgrounds Wolkenhall, 72.64%
Superflex Intermediate I Gold
1. Lucinda Elliott and Hawtins Soave, 70.83%
2. Michael Eilberg and MSJ Dante VX, 70.49%
3. Calum Whitworth and Hawtins Barolo, 68.28%
Photo © Lottie-Elizabeth Photography