Young talent shines at Sheepgate British Dressage Under 25 Championships
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The highlight of the year for many BD Youth members, the Sheepgate British Dressage Under 25 Championships (23 – 28 August 2021), made a welcome return to this popular Lincolnshire venue after last year’s COVID-19 enforced break.
Open to riders in the year of their 25th birthday, this six-day dressage extravaganza, which featured a slightly revised format, was well supported with premium sponsored classes, friendly atmosphere and excellent hospitality attracting competitors from around the UK.
Advanced Medium 98 Championship
Seventeen-year-old Betsy Smetham from Sevenoaks, Kent, and Gursonne (pictured above), a 10-year-old 16.1hh KWPN liver chestnut mare (by Jazz x Sandro Hit) were the clear winners impressing the judges with powerful extended trots earning them 8.5s before finishing on a score of 72.46% in the Advanced Medium Championship. They then went on to also win the FEI Junior Championship, as well as runners up in the Advanced Medium Freestyle on plus 70% scores.
“’Sonna’, who we bought through Craig Rawlins about a year ago, is my first horse after coming off ponies, so this year has been all about experience for both of us,” said Betsy, who trains with Andrew Gould. “The highlight for me was just how focussed and relaxed Sonna felt to ride – we’ve been trying to crack dealing with the bigger atmospheres this season and it all seemed to click into place this time. I was over the moon with the scores we achieved which were personal bests, especially because of the journey we’ve been on together. She tried her heart out for me and I could have asked for more.”
Betsy, who heads for the LeMieux National Championships later this month where the combination will contest the Advanced Medium Silver Championship, also paid tribute to her parents and support team.
“My parents are so supportive of me and my goals and have given up so much to get me to where I am. I truly couldn’t do any of it without them! I’m also so lucky to have the backing of my sponsors Imperial Equestrian and David Dyer Saddles with support from Bates Saddles to allow Sonna and I to perform to our best. Our support team is so much bigger than those you see on the surface and I’m so grateful for everyone who plays a role in our journey.”
Medium 75 Championship
Fifteen-year-old Lauren Geraghty and her 147cm 10-year-old chestnut gelding WS Jackson, (affectionately known as ‘Joey’) also enjoyed a successful warm up for the Nationals winning the Medium title on 70.14%.
Joey, who was bred by Lizzie and Judith Webb, is currently competing at Pony FEI level with Lauren, daughter of Julia Geraghty, who owns and runs Equivisions Dressage to Music design company, was also runner up in the Medium Silver Freestyle scoring 73%.
“Joey, who we’ve owned for two years, is an extremely talented, big moving pony,” said Lauren, who is based with her trainer Patsy Bartram near Derby and has additional lessons with Paul Fielder, plus stay-away training with Maddy Frewin. “He’s not at all sharp or spooky, a very rare find, and we feel extremely lucky to own him. Joey is very relaxed at new venues and can often be found napping at stay-away shows - the atmosphere does not affect him at all!
“We were also lucky to have Maddy Frewin competing at Sheepgate too, so she helped worked me in between competing herself and helping her cousin Millie Caldecott.
“We all parked together and enjoyed celebrating afterwards at the lorries! That’s the great thing about Sheepgate, everyone supports each other and wants you to do well, plus we all get together in the evenings. Everyone is so friendly; nothing is too much trouble and the prize-givings make it really special.“
Lauren also paid a special tribute to her mother Julia: “Mum is very supportive, and I feel very lucky. It's not always easy fitting in studying, training and competing, but Mum makes it all possible. Luckily, I get free music, plus Mum knows us so well she designs our floor plans to show off our good bits and disguises the weaker areas!
“My next goal is to achieve a plus 70% score in the Pony FEI Team Test at a Premier League show. I am close, but just need to focus a little more and iron out a few little errors. Ultimately, I want to go to the European Championships in Poland next year.”
Elementary 53 Championship
Nineteen-year-old Georgie Nicholls, who is based at Headmore Stud where she works with Alice Oppenheimer as a second rider, enjoyed an outstanding championships to remember with her two six-year-old rides, Woodcroft Kika Quina and Briarwood Notorious.
Georgie, who trains with Alice on a regular basis and occasionally Erik Theilgaard as well, claimed the Elementary title with para dressage rider Katie Haigh’s smart, black 16.1hh mare Woodcroft Kika Quina (by Johnson), winning on a score of 70.78%.
“They are both complete opposites in personalities; Woodcroft Kika Quina is super laid back about life and I know that I can take her anywhere at any time and she will perform to her very best, “ said Georgie, who was competing for the second time at these championships, having previously been part of the BD Wales team with her pony Ruby five years ago. “Luna tries so hard and will make the most amazing horse for Katie one day, which is the intention. Luna is exactly the same at home and in the warm-up as she is in the ring.
“I loved every second of these championships. It was an incredibly well-run show, everyone was very friendly and all the competitors had so much fun with entertainment in between the tests and prize-givings too - we joked it was more like a holiday than a show!”
Novice 23 Championship
It was a double celebration for Georgie, who scored a rare one-two after a tense wait for the final results in the Novice Championships, with her own 17.2hh British Warmblood gelding Briarwood Notorious (pictured above) emerging the winner on a score of 73.61%, just ahead of stable mate Woodcroft Kika Quina on 73.06%.
“I don’t usually get nervous however I was eagerly awaiting my results as I knew that on the last day , both my horses had done their absolute hardest and produced some of their best tests to date and was hoping that the marks matched how the tests felt!
“Finding out that they both had won their classes was just an amazing feeling, there is so much hard work that gets put in behind the scenes and so many people involved that people watching the tests don’t see so I was relieved that we managed to do that for them too!
“I never get any pressure from the people around me, so the only pressure I get is from myself . It wasn’t so much pressure to win the next test, more determination as I really wanted the two horses to win one each!”
By Negro out of a Gribaldi mare, Georgie has owned ‘Silas’ since a four-year-old, having bought him from Julie Harris who based him with Greg Sims in Conwy, Wales. “Silas is very different in the ring as he can often get a bit nervous, especially in big atmospheres which causes him to get very hot, so we have a very personalised routine which we use to warm him up,” explained Georgie. “This includes making sure he is always accepting my aids using transitions and riding him a few hours before I warm him up so that he has already come out of his stable once before his test.
“Reading some of the judges’ comments afterwards was also a massive highlight and really inspiring. It was so comforting to hear them say how much potential each of the horses had, and that they had given us high marks for movements that they had never given out before.”
Georgie is also planning a celebration as a thank you to everyone who has helped them on their journey so far: “There are so many highs and lows with horses that we always like to celebrate the highs! It will also be a thank you to everyone that has helped me get to this point- there are too many people to name, but in particular to my mum and stepdad, Toby for continuing their ongoing support to do what I love, and also to Alice, Sarah Oppenheimer and Katie Haigh, for giving me all the opportunities to compete at shows like this on some amazing horses!
“This show definitely inspired me to train even harder, and know that anything is possible if you put enough time and work into something.
“Woodcroft Kika Quina has the Nationals coming up at Somerford Park while Briarwood Notorious will be training at home and having an easier end to the year with the intention of doing Winter Regionals next winter.”
Preliminary 19 Championship
Second to go in a huge class of 30, Hannah De Wit and her mother Dinah’s “highly trainable” eight-year-old 16hh chestnut gelding Mercury (pictured above) faced a long, nervous wait to find out if her personal best score of 72.85% would win the Prelim title.
Mercury (by Mooiman out of Sheepcote What’s New) was bought four years ago from David and Serena Pincus and is kept at the family’s home at Redmarley, near Hartpury.
“We had an incredibly long wait until the end, watching a very strong field of contenders,” said Hannah, who trains with Serena Pincus, Lucy Goodman and Maddy Frewin. “I’ve never refreshed a results page so much in all my life; winning at Sheepgate is the biggest highlight of my dressage journey so far!”
Hannah, who attends Malvern St James Girls School where she received a year 9 riding scholarship in dressage, the first scholarship in this discipline, stepped up from competing her 14.2hh pony, and took on the ride on Mercury only recently – Sheepgate’s Under 25 Championship was only their fourth competition together.
“It was a huge achievement in a championship atmosphere,” said Dinah, “Mercury is my horse and I think I may have lost him to her as he actually goes better for Hannah, who also warms me up on Mercury as she knows how he rides so it works really well!”
FEI Pick Your Own Championship Section Winner – Pony
Fourteen-year-old Beatrice Butterworth and her veteran 23-year-old German Riding Pony Carlsson proved he was far from being ready to retire, winning the Pony title on a score of 67.48%. “I’ve owned ‘Sunni’ for four years and he’s taken me from Novice level to Pony FEI and we’ve been fortunate to be selected for two Pony CDIs,” said Beatrice, who keeps him at a local DIY livery yard near their home in Bristol.
“I do everything for Sunni myself with the help of my Mum who also trains me and we have had a lot of help with him from Rebecca Bell who introduced us to him. He is a very happy pony, loves a lot of fuss and at Sheepgate he proved he had almost too much energy so is definitely not ready to retire yet!
“I was so happy to win the Pony section with him as the last time I competed him at Sheepgate three years ago, we were at Novice and he was quite naughty!
“Sheepgate is a fantastic venue and I really appreciated the lovely rosettes and prizes - although it was a five-hour drive, it was totally worth it!”
FEI Pick Your Own Championship Section Winner – Children on Horses
Twelve-year-old Millie Caldecott from Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, and her 11-year-old bay British Sports Pony gelding Beaurepaire Frodo made their mark in the Children on Horses section to win on a score of 69.73%.
Millie’s family have owned ‘Freddie’ for the past two years, having been previously owned by her cousin Maddy Frewin, who also trains this combination together with Jackie Bevan.
“Freddie, who is kept at home with our young horse, Cleo, is super cheeky and full of character,” said Millie’s mum Maria. “They make a great partnership, and we are looking forward to seeing it grow.”
Millie, who has been riding since she was just one year old, says she has always loved dressage and dreams of following in her cousin’s [Maddy Frewin] footsteps and “going international”.
“I was so pleased to get such a good score as it was our first attempt at an FEI CoH test. We were thrilled with the score, and we all celebrated under the gazebo that night.”
FEI Pick Your Own Championship Section Winner – Young Rider
Seventeen-year-old Claudia Davis travelled to Sheepgate from Essex, with her own 11-year-old 18hh Dutch Warmblood Fergus RT (pictured above) to claim the Young Rider section title on a score of 69.04%, as well as the overall Freestyle to music class with their highest ever score of 77.80%, taking home a fabulous prize package from Equivisions.
“We have only been competing at Young Rider level since the end of May and had only competed three times together before Sheepgate,” said Claudia, who has ridden since she was three years old. “Apart from winning the YR section, we also won the Freestyle to music class overall. I was especially happy with this score sheet as the judge commented that we both seemed to be enjoying ourselves and we really did!
“We took home some amazing prizes, including a leather headcollar from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, as well as Dengie and TopSpec vouchers and beautiful rosettes too.”
Fergus was bought over from Holland as a five-year-old by Claudia’s trainer Dan Sherriff, where the gelding remained until May 2020 when she took over the ride after purchasing him.
“I have been riding Fergus, who we also call The BFG, since a month before we bought him and still keep him at Dan’s yard in Hertfordshire. I have trained with Dan since I was 14 and have stabled at his yard since my pony career in 2018/19.
“Fergus is the sweetest horse with the kindest nature I’ve ever experienced, and he loves cuddles, while also being very careful of others due to his size. He loves people and especially likes to get involved in chats and will stand around forever when I’m talking to someone. This is what I fell in love with before I even rode him.
“Sheepgate is my favourite show of the year, and this year was particularly special as it was my first one out of ponies.”
FEI Pick Your Own Championship Section Winner – Grand Prix
Twenty-four-year-old Lewis Carrier and his own 16.2hh 13-year-old bay gelding Diego V (by Spielberg) made their mark in their last competitive warm up ahead of their third Europeans in Hagen winning the Grand Prix section on a score of 68.91%, as well as heading the line up in the FEI Inter II with 72.76%.
“Diego came originally from the Netherlands and my then trainer, Diana Fisher, from Woolcroft Equine Services and wife of Team GB saddler Mark Fisher, was tipped by Carl Hester that he was for sale in a yard in the UK,” said Lewis who has trained Diego since a four-year-old and keeps him at his yard in Norfolk.
“Diego is a very confident horse and a high-pressure competition atmosphere suits him very much. What makes Diego special is that we have been together from such a young age, and we have come through so much together, I would not be where I am today without him.”
Lewis, who has his BDCC level 2 and is a trainee judge, previously worked as a rider at Eilberg Dressage and then Elite Dressage since the age of 16, set up his own yard at his family’s home in Denver, Norfolk two years ago. He is a member of World Class Podium Potential Pathway and also trains with Nikki Barker and Paul Fielder.
“Diego’s ability to collect and extend through the passage - medium trot – passage transitions is really promising for the future when he will hopefully compete in the Grand Prix Special test at senior level. The judges commented on his promising ability for the future at Grand Prix.
“My Inter II and U25 Grand Prix results are a great confidence boost going into the European Championships in Hagen, Germany where we will hopefully be celebrating a lot more.”
FEI Pick Your Own Championship Section Winner – Intermediate I
Twenty-year-old Emma Bond and her own 19-year-old Oldenburg gelding Lime Walk (Limes x Ex Libris) were on top form scoring a personal best to win the Intermediate I on a score of 65.81%.
Emma, who trained with Julie Fry and also more recently enjoyed help from Steph Cooper, bought Lime Walk in 2014 to start her Junior career after he was imported as a three-year old from Germany by Sara Gatt.
“We were thrilled to win the Inter I championship; ‘Alfie’s’ party trick is always his tempi changes and were also really happy to score a new PB of nearly 66% in the Inter II.
“We have represented Britain at Junior and Young Rider level for a number of years, and our highlights together include being selected for the BEF Podium Potential Pathway Programme as well as first reserve for the Junior European Team,” said Emma, a List 4 judge, final year law student and professional equestrian photographer who lives in York and runs her own yard at home. “Alfie broke his leg in 2017 after a field accident, which could have been a career ending injury, but remarkably he bounced back within weeks and went on to be the leading British Junior combination at Hickstead CDI in 2018.
“Alfie loves a crowd and is the king of the yard at home, he especially loves big shows and applause at the end of his test!”
Emma has been riding ever since she can remember: “My christening present was a Shetland Pony, and I have been riding ever since and have represented GB at Pony, Junior and Young Rider level since the age of 12.
“At our prizegiving at Sheepgate, we were kindly awarded a lovely leather headcollar by the Worshipful Company of Master Saddlers and vouchers from TopSpec, and are very grateful for their support for Young Riders at these championships.
“No sooner had we got the horsebox home than I had to turn around and go back for two days of judging at Sheepgate - the Sheepgate team always put on a fantastic show and we can’t wait to come again!”
Advanced Medium 98 Championship - Sponsored by Tucker M&E Building Services
1. Betsy Smetham & Gursonne, 72.46%
2. Eliza Ireson & Calva La Cornmilliere, 67.76%
3. Lewis Carrier Jaguar XI, 66.32%
Medium 75 Championships - Sponsored by Wolds Exclusive Bling & Worshipful Company of Saddlers
1. Lauren Geraghty & WS Jackson, 70.14%
2. Lewis Carrier & Jaguar XI, 68.11%
3. Megan Field & Beight a Time FST, 67.57%
Elementary 53 Under 25s Championships - Sponsored by Catago Equestrian - UK
1. Georgina Nicholls & Woodcroft Kika Quina, 70.78%
2. Rowena Mottershead & Spirit XIV, 69.71%
3. Jessica Finney & FHS What A Little Miss, 69.22%
Novice 23 Under 25s Championships - Sponsored by Uvex Equestrian & Zebra Products
1. Georgina Nicholls & Briarwood Notorious, 73.61%
2. Georgina Nicholls & Woodcroft Kika Quina, 73.06%
3. Rowena Mottershead & Spirit XIV, 68.68%
Prelim 19 Under 25s Championship - Sponsored by Protexin Equine Premium & Worshipful Company of Saddlers
1. Hannah De Wit & Mercury, 72.85%
2. Clare Ackroyd & Derw Tigers Eye, 70.63%
3. Marissa Boon & Sempersweet Melody, 69.31%
FEI Pick Your Own Championship - Sponsored by TopSpec
1. Betsy Smetham & Gursonne, 70.68%
2. Millie Caldecott & Beaurepaire Frodo, 69.73%
3. Claudia Davis & Fergus RT, 69.04%
FEI Pick Your Own Championship Section Winners - Sponsored by Worshipful Company of Saddlers
Pony: Beatrice Butterworth & Carlsson, 67.48%
Junior: Betsy Smetham & Gursonne, 70.68%
Children on Horses: Millie Caldecott & Beaurepaire Frodo, 69.73%
Young Rider: Claudia Davis & Fergus RT, 69.04%
Under 25 Grand Prix: Lewis Carrier & Diego V, 68.91%
Intermediate I: Emma Bond & Lime Walk, 65.81%
Photo © Hoof Prints Photos