The four days of the 2013 Espayo National Championships have come to an end at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. 22 titles were awarded including an eighth National Champion crown for the maestro of dressage, Carl Hester and three riders, Spencer Wilton, Daisy Coakley and Michael Eilberg taking one-twos in their classes.
Thursday 19 September
Suregrow Advanced Medium Restricted Championship
On the eve of her 24th birthday, Beth Barnett claimed the first title of the 2013 Espayo National Dressage Championships in winning the Suregrow Advanced Medium Restricted Championship. Beth, who works as a part-time administrator to fund her horses, was drawn in the middle of the class with her own Sheepcote Delight and a score of 68.84% proved unbeatable. The pairing have been together since the mare was just 18 months old and Beth broke her in and has brought her through the ranks with the help from David and Serena Pincus, who also bred the horse.
The combination hasn’t had the best build up ahead of their Stoneleigh trip with Beth, from Hereford, having a bout of ‘flu and Sheepcote Delight suffering a few lameness issues but the duo were back on form today! A happy Beth commented; “I’m so pleased with her today! She was focused and really listening which I don’t always get – she can be quite nervous. Some of my trot work felt really nice and I got my changes which was a bonus! I came here aiming for a clean test and that’s what I got!”
Beth is part of the Sport England funded BEF Excel Talent programme which gives her access to top training and advice and she was quick to praise the scheme. “It’s definitely improved my riding and skill; if any young rider has the chance to apply and get on the programme, bite their hand off! You won’t regret it!” said Beth.
It was a really Barnett family effort today with dad acting as lorry driver, mum as psychologist and boyfriend as groom and it looked like some early birthday celebrations were in order once Sheepcote Delight was safely tucked up!
Fairfax Prix St Georges Championship
Spencer Wilton secured both first and second place in the Fairfax Prix St Georges Championship with Goodmans Supernova and Doogie respectively. The class saw thirteen of the thirty-five riders finish on scores over 70% exemplifying the high level of skill and talent on display at this year’s Championship.
“When we first entered the arena Supernova felt nervous but he knows the minute he passes the white boards he has to behave and listen. I am so delighted with the score which is a personal best for both of us. I focus a lot on the horses balance in training, the improvement has paid dividends and is why he has had such a big jump up in his results” commented Spencer.
Goodmans Supernova, who won the hot class with a score of 77.11% in a lead of 2.72%, has been in training with Spencer for three years. A recent move of yards has meant a change in training tactics that the forty year old rider contributes to his success “I moved to Headley Stud a month ago; I thought the change of environment might unsettle him as he likes his routine but he has been brilliant. The most amazing thing about the move is the access to hacking that has meant we are able to do lots of hill work, hacking and fittening which is great conditioning and has without a doubt helped us to get the fantastic result today”.
“Super by name, super by nature – ‘Neville’ is the horse of a lifetime,” said a delighted Jen Goodman, who has owned the horse since 2010. “Spencer and Neville have an amazing partnership and I’m very proud to have the ability and opportunity to bring them together.”
Jen, who clearly enjoys supporting her great friend Spencer, used to ride herself but is now concentrating on being an owner. She was on holiday in France when she first saw a video of Supernova, being ridden by Carl Hester for a dressage demonstration at Badminton Horse Trials. “I immediately thought ‘wow!’ and flew straight back to the country to see him. She subsequently bought the horse from Carl and co-owner Roly Luard, for Spencer to ride.
“I’m like a stealth bomber!” Jen laughed. “I saw the opportunity and took it. Timing is everything – it felt like the right horse for Spencer at the right time.”
Spencer, based near Upleadon in Gloucestershire,+ expressed his gratitude to both his owners and his groom “Jen Goodman has been like a fairy godmother to me and undoubtedly I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. As with all horses competing to a high level there have been some minor injuries and scrapes over the last year to which Emma (Bayliss) my groom has put in a huge amount of work in rehabilitation and has considered ever minor detail to ensure the team are fighting fit”.
Stretch & Flex Elementary Restricted Championship
Hertfordshire rider Daisy Coakley stormed to victory last year on her first visit to Stoneleigh and this year, she went one better by making it a one-two with Cleopatra II and Bing in the Stretch & Flex Elementary Restricted Championships. Also a successful event rider, Daisy (20) has made a few headlines this year with Judy Firmston-Williams’ Cleopatra II; they’ve won every class out since the Winter Championships with over 69% including a stunning 76% win to qualify for Stoneleigh at the Keysoe Regional Championship. Today was no different. A fabulous 73.23% was the only score to break the magic 70% + barrier for a convincing victory over stablemate Bing, also owned by Judy but jointly with his former rider, Amiee Witkin.
“I dreamt the dream but never imagined it would happen!” said an ecstatic Daisy. “I’m thrilled with both of them even though today wasn’t their best tests. They were both so brilliant at their Regionals it was always going to be a lot to ask to better that at the Nationals.”
Many would imagine that Daisy would arrive at the Nationals with a degree of nerves but she showed none of it. “I wasn’t nervous one bit. I thought I might be but once I’m on the horse, I’m ‘in the zone’ and as long as I’ve put the work in at home, I know they both have the potential to go well.”
Both horses will now be campaigned to qualify for the Winter Regionals at Medium level so Daisy is busily training them up the levels alongside campaigning her event horse, Ubanus II who she’s hoping to take to the Weston Park Youth Championships in October. Cleopatra II also competes here tomorrow in the Dodson & Horrell Novice Open Championships so the bookies wouldn’t be offering great odds on this talented rider doing the double.
Visualise Sportswear Preliminary Championship
21 year old Ashley Jenkins made his first visit to the Espayo Nationals a memorable one when he won the Visualise Sportswear Preliminary Championship with Lukien von Tespe with an amazing score of 74.39%. Owned by Dan Greenwood and Jamie Reynolds, ‘Luke’ was bought as a foal from the world famous Verden Sales in Germany when Dan could see his potential. Now five, Luke has matured into the perfect dressage ‘type’ and Ashley took the ride over on him a year ago when he joined the yard in Evenlode, Gloucestershire to take on producing the young horses.
It was a striking performance and Ashley, originally from Bristol, was clearly delighted; “I can’t fault him at all. He’s so reliable which gives you so much confidence in the ring. His canter is really good and today it was a highlight as normal. He held a great rhythm in the trot work too. He’s just nice to ride, simple.”
Even at a young age, Ashley already has an excellent way with young horses. He started with Jennie Loriston-Clarke at Catherston Stud where any aspiring young jockey will get a great grounding and went to Dan’s base at Northfield Farm near Evenlode in Gloucestershire a year ago where he rides six horses daily, all under the age of six. “Dan and Jamie have been so supportive of me and being able to bring Luke here has been amazing. It’s great to have such a positive team around you although they have all been giving me a hard time in the build-up. After winning my regional at Addington, they all said that we were favourites to win which piled on the pressure. But I didn’t let it get to me and I’m glad I can go back with the title!”
Horse Health Intermediate II
Former national champion Maria Eilberg added to her impressive tally of championship successes to take the Horse Health Intermediate II on her long-term partner and international grand prix hope, Woodlander Rockstar. Maria piloted ‘Rocco’, Lynne Crowden’s 11-year-old son of Rotspon, to head the class with 70.18%. Maria and the attractive breeding stallion rode a high-class test affirming their development into an exciting partnership for the future.
“He was good today and showed some quality stuff,” said a delighted Maria, from Beoley, near Redditch. “He stumbled before the ones [one-time changes] but we made the best of the recovery and he did some good work, particularly his extensions and lateral work which were strong. He hasn’t competed since Hartpury CDI in July but he’s so good at competitions that I don’t have to over-compete him.”
“For me, it’s still as exciting to win a title here,” said Maria. “If anything, you relish these moments more as you get older. When you’re younger, you can take it a bit for granted but it’s even more special to me now.”
Maria is no stranger to dressage at the highest level, having been crowned national champion in 2008, the same year she was travelling reserve for the Beijing Olympics, and a year later a European Championship team silver-medallist. The 29-year-old is putting this wealth of experience to good use in moulding the talented Rocco. Talking about her future plans for him, Maria said “We did the grand prix at Hartpury but he’s not yet ready to compete abroad at that level. We’re bringing him on to hopefully compete international grand prix next year.”
Friday 20 September
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Championship
Man of the moment, Spencer Wilton, held his command at small tour on day two of the Espayo National Dressage Championships. Today, he took the Saracen Horse Feeds intermediate I title on Doogie, the horse relegated to bridesmaid by superstar stable mate Goodman’s Supernova in Thursday’s epic prix st georges. Spencer rode a masterly test on the 10-year-old KWPN Democrat-sired gelding to score 74.21% and earn the attractive grey his deserved moment in the limelight.
“It sounds awful, but I was gutted for Doogie yesterday so I’m glad he’s had his moment to shine,” said Spencer. “This has been the best ever show. It means a lot to me. Everyone puts in so much work, effort and money so it’s great to get a result like this. I’m so glad for his owners, Mary Baker and Carol Large.”
“Doogie’s always been a good horse but until this year, he didn’t have an awful lot of fire. This year, he’s come into his own and is now really high quality,” said Spencer. “Personality-wise he’s very different to Supernova. Doogie’s fairly independent and unflappable whereas Supernova’s quite needy – the complete opposite.”
Spencer and Doogie go forward to tomorrow Saturday’s Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle which, if the inter I is anything to go by, promises to be a stonker! And it determines the winner of the Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Supreme Champion.
Dodson & Horrell Novice Open Championship
On form Daisy Coakley maintained her 100% strike rate today at the Espayo National Dressage Championships. The 20-year-old Hertfordshire rider and her mount, Cleopatra II, once again stamped their authority to notch up a second title at the show, the Dodson & Horrell Novice Open. Judy Firmston-Williams’ six-year-old daughter of Dayano, was still full of running following yesterday’s victory and powered through her test for a score 71.86% from the panel of judges.
“I’m gobsmacked today,” smiled Daisy after the prize giving, “She felt really fluent and had plenty of energy in there. The test wasn’t perfect as there was a mistake in one of the canter transitions, but the rest of it felt great – and she walks for a nine.”
Judy found Cleopatra in Hampshire as a foal and Daisy has ridden the mare since February last year. During this short time together they’ve become a forced to be reckoned with, now with four national titles under their belt. Daisy clearly enjoys working with the horse “She has a very good mind and expresses herself well,” she said. “She can be a bit grumpy in training, but then she thinks about it for a couple of days, and then gets it.”
Daisy, who trains with Judy, Ali Berman and Gareth Hughes, left school in 2012 and now rides full time, combining a successful eventing career with the dressage “I rode throughout my years at school years though – what else are lunchtimes for!” she laughed.
Dodson & Horrell Novice Restricted Championship
26-year-old Elenna Carroll stole the show in the Dodson & Horrell Novice Restricted Championship riding Gemma Appleton’s six-year-old 17.2hh gelding Moviman. Elenna and the stately chestnut, a son of former Carl Hester ride Movistar, headed the class with 72.41% to sit more than three percent ahead of their nearest rivals.
“It’s been a long journey with him. He was very sharp and difficult – just a couple of years ago he wouldn’t even let his hind feet be picked out. It’s been a real turnaround,” said Elenna. “Today his attitude was great. He was focused and not at all distracted. This time last year it would have been too much for him. I’m so happy.”
Elenna, who was born in Australia to British parents, is Gemma Appleton’s riding head girl in Minety, Wiltshire riding and competing the youngsters. “I originally came to Europe on holiday and as the industry over here is bigger, there are more opportunities, so I came back. Being at Gemma’s is great and she has such amazing horses.”
Dressage Deluxe Medium Restricted Championship
The Dressage Deluxe Medium Restricted Championship field left the judges in disagreement with some differences of opinion but Oxfordshire rider Helen Philip came out top with her own Rubens. Drawn halfway in the running order, Helen put up a score of 68.49% and so the agonising wait began with some good combinations to come but it was towards the end that the real challenges came. Hannah Bates and Essentially M&S came close with 67.62% and then the final combination, Kate Walters and Freddy looked like snatching it but their final mark of 67.62% was just adrift of Helen and ‘Ruben’.
Despite winning their regional at Addington, Helen felt there was lots to work on before coming to their first Nationals as she was disappointed with her canter work. “I’m pleased with the canter today. The regional it was the other way round but this felt better. The test went to plan with the half pass and simple changes excellent. I know there’s still more to come from him and we only move on up from here.”
Helen found the now 11 year old in a show jumping yard as a just backed four year old and took a shine to him. His breeding is classically dressage on the side of the sire, Riccione and his dam is show jumping but when it was found that ‘he couldn’t jump a stick’ he was put up for sale. “He wasn’t the easiest youngster – stress and spooky – but he’s matured into the easiest horse. He goes out in the field every day and we do lots of hacking. I really believe that I’ve found the key to him in the supplement Cool, Calm and Collected plus having my friend Wesely Morrissey helping me at shows; she’s a rock. She knows my moods, when I need something and when to keep quiet! We’ll keep on working hard to perfect both the trot and canter and the aim is to qualify him at advanced medium for the winter regionals,” explained Helen.
KBIS Para Dressage National Championships
The Grade II riders got us underway and it was the team and double European gold medallist Natasha Baker who lead from the start to claim her third KBIS national title with Lorraine Baker and Christian Landolt’s Cabral. The combination was always the ones to beat and a score of 76.24% set a high benchmark. Erin Orford came closest with her mum and dad and Diana Barley’s Nirvana Morroko came closest with 70.76% but it was Natasha’s day.
An effervescent Natasha, from Uxbridge, said; “He was a very good pony today. I wanted a safe test after the excitement of the Europeans. He really listened; I had one good pirouette, one not so good but overall he was really settled – I had my JP back! Today was his last competition of the year so he’ll go to Christian’s for a little holiday and some hacking before we start back in January. In the meantime, I’ll be working hard on my two new girls. Dream Girl will be ready to go out internationally next year but Sooki is just five so we have lots of time. My trainer Lisa Hopkins will compete her to start and we’ll see where that takes us.”
The Grade Ia and Ib was merged to give us an overall Grade I championship as Emma Sheardown was the sole Ib representative. Emma, from near Grantham in Lincolnshire, was first to go with her 2011 European Championship double silver medallist Purdy’s Dream and their score of 73.41% threw the gauntlet down to the Grade Ia’s to try and better. Two tried but then it was the turn of our most decorated Paralympic rider Lee Pearson, from near Leek in Staffordshire who loves a challenge and having missed out on selection for the European Championships was clearly determined to make his journey back to Staffordshire a happy one. Riding Mr & Mrs D Pearson, his own and Jeanette Chinn’s Zion he used every bit of skill to coax every mark from the tall gelding. It looked a good test and it seemed an eternity until the score of 73.51% was announced and victory belonged to Lee by just 0.1%.
Lee said; “His walk rhythm was much improved on Hickstead and Hartpury. He started changing his coat last week and he’s not quite felt himself since so I gave him just 15 minutes warm up and had little expectation of any power in the test. But, he went in and was better than expected; I was really pleased with the way he went. I’m horse hunting for WEG and Rio but for now, I’ll enjoy riding him. I love coming to Stoneleigh as there’s always a great atmosphere and great support – I bought my own band of about 12 today so there was extra cheering!”
In the Grade III, one rider arrived at Stoneleigh with a point to prove. Having been part of the euphoria of London 2012, this season hasn’t been quite what Taunton’s Deb Criddle had expected. With the Lady Joseph Trust’s LJT Akilles she missed out on a Euro squad place as much of 2013 has been about reconciliation and this class was the target to show what they’ve achieved. 74.96% and a clean test brought a smile to the face of the Somerset rider and the KBIS title.
“It was all good today, said Deb. “I’m so pleased; everything just went right. It was one of those tests where you come out thinking ‘I don’t care what the judges think, I loved it’. His free walk wasn’t great but we do struggle with that – he comes back at me instead of stretching. We’ve been working so hard on his general way of going and really put the work in. There were glimpses of improvement before Hickstead but at Hartpury it was again there but not consistent so we didn’t get a trip to Denmark so Stoneleigh was our main aim. I came wanting to pull out all the stops – I certainly don’t want to be left behind for the next international championship!
Deb and LJT Akilles have also qualified for Sunday’s Suregrow Advanced Medium Open Championship and she’s clearly looking forward to it; “I’m so excited about Sunday – it was an honour to qualify and my goal is a simple one, I just don’t want to be last!”
Sophie Wells has dominated the Grade IV competition over the years but this time looked more wide open when she entered Dr Deborah Annesley Williams’s Forever Himself who’s relatively new to Sophie. Her other two horses are ‘otherwise engaged’ in classes here at Stoneleigh so it was down to ‘David’ to help Sophie secure another KBIS title and coveted rug.
He didn’t disappoint. 73.61% gave them victory by over six percent over Vanessa Knight with Balistro 4.
A happy, if not slightly relieved Sophie, from Papplewick in Nottinghamshire, commented; “It’s David’s first Nationals so I’m really pleased. I took him to Hickstead which was his first major competition and he freaked out a little bit in the area. Coming here, I fully expected him to do the same. Got here last night and I only had time to do 15 minutes with him in the area so he’s coped really, really well . I hoped we’d score about 70% so to come out with 73% is great. To be up there with the other guys on their team horses is great and I know he’s capable now of getting the scores. He’s different to other horses I ride, which is great for my riding and good to show people I can ride different types. We’ll go out now and do some PSG and Inter I competitions to build on today.”
Saturday 21 September
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle Championship and Supreme Champion
Broadway’s Peter Storr and Fabioso rode a crowd-and-judge-pleasing routine to win a hard-fought Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle at the Espayo National Championships. Peter and Susan Singer’s 11-year-old ‘pocket rocket’ son of Flammengold qualified in eighth place in yesterday’s intermediate I, leaping into pole position this afternoon with their high-class performance to a compilation of tracks by Greek pop star, Yanni.
“To be honest, I was really disappointed with my mark yesterday but equally, Spencer, Michael, Zoe and the like are so good, I wasn’t sure they could be beaten but here we are!” said Peter. “I was really pleased with his pirouettes and there was some lovely trot work today. This will be his last inter test as it’s grand prix all the way now. To what extent that is, I’m not sure as I’m nearing my decision to focus on judging internationally which means I can’t compete. I’ll still do national of course though! I’m keen to get more judging experience and I’ve set myself a goal of becoming an O level judge so that’s going to need work. I’m so glad for his owner, Susan, as she didn’t have the best morning (her other horse Belmondino went lame in his grand prix test) and she’s so supportive so I’m thrilled I could win her a title.”
It was, however, the consistency of second-placed Zoe Sleigh and her athletic ride, Fantastic Light, that was rewarded with the title of Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Supreme Champion – the accolade for the highest overall percentage over the two classes. The pair was second to Spencer Wilton and Doogie yesterday, a position they maintained this afternoon with their emotive freestyle.
A delighted Zoe, from Sinton Green, Worcester said; “He’s just a little superstar! I couldn’t ask any more of him; to be second in both classes was amazing. I hadn’t really even thought about the supreme title so was surprised when they came to me with a rug! We’ve played with his floorplan a bit which has helped but today was the first time I’d ridden it properly! Abigail Todd did my music – I sent her my floor plan and she did the music to suit him.
“I’ve had ‘Fanta’ from a 4 year old, when I was just 15. I saw him and fell in love at first sight! We’ve come up through the grades and it’s now onto grand prix. We’ll play it by ear with where and how as there’s no rush and he’s better lightly competed.”
Nathalie Grand Prix Championship
Carl Hester may have a solitary ride at this year’s Nationals but he made every inch count with Jenny Appleton’s Fine Time 13 in the Nathalie Grand Prix. ‘Bruno’ has had to spend much of the season in the limelight of Carl’s other rides, Dances with Wolves and Uthopia but today he stepped up to the plate to help his rider to his 64th title at the Nationals and few would bet against his name going on the National Championship trophy for an eighth time, equalling Jennie Loriston-Clarke.
After a typical exuberant Hester lap of honour which included several rodeo impressions, a beaming Carl, from Newent, said; “He’s hilarious. He was hot in there today but his personality has really developed but he’s still cool enough to do the job. His canter is big and he has an over active hind leg; you get this huge surge of power and you think to yourself ‘I must not move’! When we get in full balance, the higher scores will come. I’m so glad I could bring him here so he has his own chance to shine and many of Gemma’s family have come up from Jersey to watch him. I love riding him!”
Nikki Crisp and the ever-popular mare Pasoa got the class underway and their score of 70.47% lead for the first half of the competition which concluded with a final Stoneleigh appearance for crowd pleasers Steph Croxford and Mr President. When she finished, she hopped off, ran her stirrups up and presented him to the crowd who were as emotional as his rider.
Carl and the Florestan I sired stallion entered the arena to much expectation as the crowd always anticipate a great show. The maestro was on song and gave a great display, clearly demonstrating that the combination are growing in confidence together and a mark of 72.89% was enough to go into pole position. Next in was Lara Griffith, stable jockey for the Bechtolsheimers, who’s taken over the reins on Andretti H to make her grand prix debut this season. You could count the number of tests at this level they’ve done one two hands but already they’re here and there were no signs of nerves. She got ever mark possible out of ‘Andy’ and 70.72% wasn’t quite enough to topple Carl but it did give them the runners up spot.
Dressage Deluxe Medium Open Championship
Fresh from the European Championships in Herning, Denmark, team bronze medallist Michael Eilberg today headed one of the strongest classes at the Espayo National Dressage Championships – the Dressage Deluxe Medium Open.
Michael (from Beoley near Redditch) rode Allison Reddy’s 10-year-old son of Fuerst Heinrich to score 71.73% for victory in the in the same championship he was runner-up in 12 months ago. The impressive bay gelding, who’s out of a Lord Sinclair mare, continued his consistent championship record having been placed second at the same level at the winter championships back in April.
“I’m really pleased today – it was a fairly fault free test,” said Michael. “I was drawn early to go so had to go for the best I could get out of him and it came off really well. He’s much more established than last year. When we came here then he was quite green, but it’s so great to see how capable he now is at this level.”
Sunday 22 September
Espayo Grand Prix Freestyle Championship and National Champion
It was a sense of déjà vu at Stoneleigh today as we all watched the maestro of dressage Carl Hester canter around in the Esapyo colours of burgundy and gold having claimed the Grand Prix Freestyle and National Dressage Champion titles 12 months on from the exact same sight last year. In the beautiful light of the setting sun, Carl gave a perfect lap of honour display with Jenny Green’s stunning liver chestnut stallion Fine Time 13 as he bronked his way around much to everyone’s amusement.
It was Carl’s day once again and no one would begrudge him his 65th and 66th titles, plus becoming National Champion for an eighth time, equalling the record of the doyenne of dressage, Jennie Loriston Clarke. “I’ll just have to do it one more time!” jibed Carl.
It was a lively display of freestyle entertainment in the Espayo arena from start to finish and British Nations Cup rider Daniel Watson and Susie Farnon’s Fideramber and when then put up a 70.73%, we knew it would be a good competition. Judy Harvey and Fitzcerraldo, owned by Richard Heley stole into the lead with 72.05% before the break but her lead was short-lived as Emile Faurie with Julie Bradley’s Topolino squeaked ahead with 72.28%. Michael Eilberg and Marakov were their powerful selves with a beautiful display – their canter to piaffe line impressed many and 73.98% was enough for the lead. It wasn’t long before the crowd say a change again when Lara Griffith came in with Andretti H and they danced to the familiar reggae beat which has claimed Laura Tomlinson two national titles. The combination are still so new in the competition arena but they know each other inside out and today was all about fun. Lara rode with a smile from ear to ear throughout which the judges clearly loved for 74.03%. Then in came Carl. He’d declared his intention to ride to his 2011 European Championship score with the Florestan I sired ‘Bruno’ which won Carl an individual silver medal so he considers it lucky. A whopping 76.65% put them into the lead with one to go. It was all down to Anders Dahl with Fiona Bigwood’s Wie Atlantico De Ymas. Their experience shone all the way but a final mark of 74.40% wasn’t enough to take Carl’s crown, but did give them second in a hugely competitive class.
“He was brilliant again today,” said a delighted Carl. “He was a bit flat to start with in the warm up but then spotted Nikki Crisp’s Pasoa who is a mare and he’s madly fallen in love with her. That certainly perked him up! He went brilliantly to Uti’s music but he’s a bit slower than him so I had to shave bits of the arena to keep to the music! Charlotte said I should have done my line of one-times again as I fluffed the first ones but I certainly don’t remember that one! Must be a sign of age! I’m so happy for his owners Paul and Jenny Green. Paul hasn’t been well recently and couldn’t make the trip from Jersey to watch him but hopefully the win will cheer him. Racing is his passion really, it’s Gemma (Appleton, his daughter) who is the dressage person. We’ll talk about his future but I’d be sorry to lose him – he’s a great addition to the yard.”
Shearwater Potential International Dressage Horse Championship
Always a highlight for the knowledgeable Stoneleigh crowd on a Sunday is the final judging of the Shearwater Potential International Dressage Horse Championship and this year it was interesting as there was no clear favourite so the title was anyone’s for the taking from the 13 who came forward from Saturday’s preliminary judging.
In the four year olds, the judges Peter Holler and Hans Christian Mattieson made their champion Emma Woolley from Appleby in Cumbria with the impressive Dutch-bred Eldorado (Special D x Damiro) owned by Jane Woolley. The horse was first yesterday in the preliminary judging with a score of 7.68 and the judges kept him up top. Second also was a horse of Emma’s but with trainer Hannah Esberger in the plate as she could only ride one today, Jan Bennett’s Don Fulcher (Daddy Cool x Abraham).
The five year olds didn’t quite go to Saturday’s pattern when Dan Greenwood (Evenlode, Gloucestershire) was awarded first with his own and Jamie Reynolds’s Romanno Stromboli (Sir Donnerhall x Fabriano) having been down in fourth after the first judging round. Second spot went to Saturday’s winner, Sam Geddes’ Dior III ridden by Tom Goode, who’s based with Emilie Faurie, the only horse to score over 8.
The four then came forward for the final judging for the championship. In addition to the opinions of Peter and Hans Christian, our ride judge Erik Theilgaard then entered the mix with his take on the horse’s paces, way of going and feel. It was a very different selection of horses – different shapes, variations of pace and manner which made for interesting viewing. All four gave Erik a safe ride but he was clearly suited to the two winning horses and seemed ‘at home’. Romanno Stromboli showed great variation in the paces and great poise whereas Eldorado was, at a year younger, more ‘raw’ and exuberant. Don Fulcher was a picture of composure and clearly has endless potential; the judges describing him as ‘functional’. Dior III is a powerful ‘pocket rocket’ at just 16.1hh but what he lacks in size, he more than makes up with exuberant paces which Erik seemed to enjoy; ‘He’s just like a rubber ball!” he said. The three judges then went into a huddle while the crowd waited with anticipation. The when the commentator announced Dan Greenwood and Romanno Stromboli, there was a great cheer from the crowd and the biggest smile of the championships on Dan’s face.
A clearly delighted and proud Dan commented; “He was great today. He came into the final in fourth so we knew there was making up to do. As it was his second time in the arena he was more relaxed and then he can show himself better. And that’s basically how we manage him at home. He can lack confidence but given the chance, he grows into it.”
Dan explained a bit more about his background and how he got his name; “He was conceived in Germany but his dam was bought by Jenny Gilchrist so effectively he’s British-bred . We’ve had a few foals from her and when she rings to say she’s got a good one, she means it! And he’s a good example. He’s so straight forward and has been easy from the very start. Alan Davies, Carl Hester’s travelling groom raised him until he was three and then he came to us to start his career. We named him Ollie to start around the time it was time to find a show name; we were on a cruise in the Mediterranean near Sicily and happened to go to Stromboli. Being volcanic, it’s big and black so we had our name!”
Four busy days for Dan and his team ended with just reward; “I’m so pleased he’s done it after coming so close as a four year old last year. He’s a big horse so we’ll see how he develops over the winter before making a decision on what to do. Six year old classes are an option or maybe we just into straight tests. It’s been a great Nationals for us; we bought this horse and the chestnut which won the prelim championship on Thursday as foals and now they’ve both won titles as five year olds – I’m a proud daddy today!”
Suregrow Advanced Medium Open Championship
Many people’s idea of a perfect Sunday morning is coffee, croissants and a good read of the Sunday papers, but not for the hundreds who arrived early at Stoneleigh this morning. For them, it was to watch a ginger horse; not any ginger horse – but the one and only Woodlander Farouche (Furst Heinrich x Dimaggio), dubbed the ‘supermodel ‘of dressage.
There was an air of anticipation as the chestnut beauty, masterfully ridden by Michael Eilberg, limbered up for her 8.27 slot in the Suregrow Advanced Medium Open Championship and she didn’t disappoint. Now seven, and in her first year of ‘grown up’ competition, her performance was spellbinding and displayed all the qualities that earned the title of FEI World Young Horse Champion both as a five and six-year-old. They scored 79.05% despite an incorrect canter strike off and a change that was late behind to win the title by almost eight percent.
“She always feels unbelievable,” said Michael. “She’s on fire and felt edgy in the collecting ring so I aimed to ride a nice test without boiling over. The half passes and fluidity were great. We had the couple of mistakes but everything she does is such good quality. Through a test, what a normal horse would be running on, she’s a mark above. Her base mark is 80%.”
“In the canter she was hanging to the exit – she can be a bit trickier in canter right – which caused the error in the canter on, but the mistake in the change was my fault. Her canter ‘tigers’ away, and her front can get away from the hind legs – I needed to keep her more together.”
Aside from these blips, the test oozed quality, with expressive changes and extensions that would be sensational for a grand prix even. “My best mate Anthony, who’s not horsy, came today,” said Michael. “He said to Louise [Bell] ‘is that normal?’ when watching Farouche’s extensions!”
“She’s been hot but then horses can get wound up here. It’s very wide with a lot to see whereas at other shows the main arena is normally more enclosed. It’s all good for her though. When she’s hot like that it makes me think that training grand prix is going to be easier. Her brain is very cute and when excited she wants to show off what she’s learnt.”
Michael also filled second spot with his medium open winner from yesterday – Fuerst Sinclair – Alison Reddy’s 10-year-old son of Fuerst Heinrich. The pair scored 71.95%.
“I was really pleased with him. He’s very talented but was a bit green at this level. When I came back from Herning [in Denmark for the Europeans] he’d forgotten how to do flying changes! When I did a demo at Burghley Horse Trials with him I put a few in to remind him!” smiled Michael.
“He went through a great test today. The canter serpentine is not easy for him as he’s such a big horse but it was better today. He’s quite a hot horse and at the regionals I surprised him with the aid for the changes. This time, I just rode the canter and asked him for the change with my weight aid.”
Stretch & Flex Elementary Open Championship
The Stretch & Flex Elementary Open Championship was full of classy combinations but there could only be one winner, and that was Jo Hamilton with her own and Lady Hope’s Corchapin. Jo rode the elegant six-year-old son of Negro for a score of 72.31% to edge ahead of close runners-up, Becky Moody and Carinsio on 72.13%.
“I knew Becky was the one to beat with that score – plus she’s such a technician,” said Jo, obviously delighted with her horse. “Corchapin was great today; as consistent as I’ve ever known him. It was the best test at elementary he’s ever done – just one of those days when everything went right.”
Jo and Corchapin (stable name Colin) have a very good championship record together. “I really wanted him to win today having won the novice here last year and coming second in this class. I certainly didn’t want to do worse than that.”
Jo, from Kirknewton in West Lothian, trains with Carl Hester for whom she worked for five years after leaving school. “I haven’t been able to see Carl for six months since the Winter Championships. I’ve just been relying on feedback from my test sheets and watching the mirrors at home so I must have more faith in myself!
“Colin is a ‘busy’ person so I compete him at least once a month to keep his competition head on,” said Jo, describing his active show schedule. “And I do all my own grooming at shows – I like it that way – if something goes wrong, you’ve only got yourself to blame! For me, it’s part of the mental preparation.”
I’m so grateful to Carl for his support and belief in me; he offered me Colin sight unseen as he knew that he’d suit me. I’m sure he could have sold him for more elsewhere. I love the Negro-sired horses as they have such a great temperament – look at Valegro. I’ve just bought another one from Carl so that’s exciting for the future – I pick him up on my way home today!”