Take Britain’s top elite riders, our most talented amateurs and the premier selection of dressage horses anywhere and what do you have? The Dressage Deluxe National Dressage Championships of course! Taking place from tomorrow until Sunday (15 – 18 September), the Championships are the celebration of the best in the sport of Dressage and are held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. 22 national titles from prelim to Prix St George plus the five grades of para dressage and young horse championships will be on offer over the four days with the overall British National Champion being crowned on Sunday afternoon.
The entries read like a dressage book of ‘who’s who’ so competition promises to be fierce. European Championship team gold medallists Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer, Emile Faurie and Charlotte Dujardin top the billing. Carl and Charlotte go head to head in Thursday’s Horse Health Intermediate II Championships while Emile and Laura will battle it out in the feature Dressage Deluxe Grand Prix Championship on Saturday. Laura rides Andretti H with whom she won last year’s national title while Emile brings his European Championship partner, Elemegardens Marquis.
There’s also a family feel about the entries. Three members of the Hutton family – mum Pammy, son Charlie and daughter Pippa all entered across a range of classes – including all going head to head in the Winergy Prix St George Championship. Brother and sister super duo Maria and Michael Eilberg have an amazing eight horses over 12 classes entered including Lynn Crowden’s World Champion Woodlander Farouche in the Shearwater Potential International Dressage horse championship for five year olds. There will be some sibling rivalry amongst sisters Samantha and Joanna Thurman-Baker plus husband and wife pairings Michel and Mette Assouline and Ulrick Molgaard and Henriette Andersen will be in action.
The Centaur Biomechanics Prelim Championship kicks off the four-day dressage extravaganza and is specifically for the grass roots of the sport. Thousands of competitors have been attempting to qualify for Stoneleigh but just 27 have made it through to vie for the title. Thursday also features the Martin Collins Advanced Medium Restricted and Stretch and Flex Elementary Restricted Championships.
Friday is Novice day and starts bright and early with the Dodson & Horrell Novice Open Championship with over 30 competitors while later in the day, the Dodson & Horrell Restricted Championship conclude. Also in action is the Dressage Horse International Intermediate I Championship and this would have to be one of the most hotly contested classes – any one of 20 combinations could walk away with the title. Friday also features our Para riders. Four of the five all-female squad who collected eight gold and three silver medals at the European Championships will be in action. Anne Dunham, Sophie Wells, Natasha Baker and Deb Criddle will join other top names like Sophie Christiansen, Emma Kent and Erin Orford to try and take the title in their respective Grades.
On Saturday the young horses begin their judging to become the Shearwater Potential International Dressage Horse of 2011 under the watch full eye of Dr. Wilfried Bechtolsheimer and Germany’s Peter Engel. International rider Daniel Sherriff will be the riding judge to put the young horses through their paces. The Haygain Medium Restricted champion will be found plus, riders will come forward for the Dressage Horse International Intermediate I Freestyle having qualified the day before. The highlight of the day will be the Dressage Deluxe Grand Prix Championship where not only at stake is the title but a place in Sunday’s freestyle where a good combined performance could win the coveted British Champion title.
Our final day features the Haygain Medium Open Championship where Isobel Wessels and Spencer Wilton meet again after a close battle at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships in April. The Martin Collins Advanced Medium Open Championship boasts a number of great young horses on the ladder to the top with event rider Ruth Edge a particular specialist at this level. The Stretch & Flex Elementary Open Championship brings the curtain down on the Equestrian Deluxe arena while in the next arena, the top combinations will be dancing in the Dressage Deluxe Grand Prix Freestyle Championship after which, we’ll crown our British Champion.
There’s plenty to see and do over the Championships – over 60 tradestands selling everything you could ever want and a range of entertainments including Laura Bechtolsheimer’s Masterclass, Freestyle Explained by Richard Davison and the ‘Bad Boys’ Pas de Deux from Charlie Hutton and Henry Boswell. To add to the Nationals experience, there’s Radio Nationals – just buy a headset, take a seat and listen to informative (and sometimes hilarious) commentary from our expert panel. Plus, take in the social side with a pass to the Nationals Pavilion – or treat yourself to a covered grandstand seat so you’ll be sitting just behind the judges and get their view.
Tickets are available on the gate – for full information visit www.bdchampionships.co.uk. The website will be regularly updated with scores, news and audio interviews throughout the Championships.