NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships: Day three

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Another great day at Hartpury witnessed some great action from riders across the levels.

GFS Elementary Restricted Music Freestyle

Hertfordshire dressage rider Daisy Coakley has won a national title today at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships. 20-year-old Daisy rode Cleopatra II, a six-year-old KWPN mare by Daynao to head the GFS Elementary Restricted Music Freestyle with a score of 73.08%.

“I’m really thrilled – she was great,” smiled Daisy whose freestyle routine was choreographed to dramatic, film score music. “She was settled, she listened to me, and her bold medium canter – right towards the judge – felt amazing.”

“I started riding her last February and we first competed a couple of months later,” said Daisy. “She copes really well at shows and is so good in her mind.”

In their short time as a partnership, they’ve achieved an amazing track record notching up two summer regional championship wins, two winter regional wins, the 2012 national preliminary championship, and this victory today. Cleopatra’s owner, Judy Firmston-Williams, recognised the mare’s ability at an early age: “I bought her as a foal,” she said. “I liked her athleticism at that age. She was plain as a yearling, two and three year old, but she has an extremely good brain and is very athletic.”     

Multi-talented Daisy is also a successful event rider. With her event horse she competes at 1* level, aiming to compete at 2* and Young Riders by the end of the season.  Also, with her event horse, she won the 2012 Pony Club Open National Championship.     

Blue Chip Novice Restricted Championship

For Highpeak rider Claire Harrison it was worth the 2am start when she claimed the Blue Chip Novice Restricted Championship with Stephanie Forrest’s magical grey Royal Duchess.  It was a close competition with just over a mark separating the top three but Claire’s 67.93% was enough to take the honours. 

The Oldenburg-bred mare ‘Lily’ has been ridden by Claire for two years when she was bought by Claire’s boss Stephanie Forrest to have a try at dressage. They’ve enjoyed a great run of success together and were awarded a wild card entry for the Championship after just missing out on direct qualification at Myerscough.

Claire said, “I’m so pleased with her today.  I did the arena walk earlier and she was really flighty – we wiped out part of the arena and I wondered if that was how our test was going to go!  It must have helped though as she was great in the test.  I was worried about my serpentines but even they were good today.  I’m so chuffed with how calm she was.”

Annie Brooker was less than 0.5% behind in runners-up spot with Likotos Luke with 12 year old Vicky Povey third on 66.67%.

Claire summed up by saying; “I do a bit of everything and being honest, dressage isn’t my first choice – it’s really difficult!  But I am enjoying it.  The worst part for me is the nerves but I just throw myself into it and tell myself to get on with it!”

Petplan Equine Medium Restricted Area Festival Championship

The22 rider strong Petplan Equine Medium Restricted Area Festival Championship was probably the closest battle we’ve seen so far this week.  The eventual winner was Jersey’s Lorraine Allan with Master Rascal on 67.12% with Emily Watts and Abbey Douglas 0.15% adrift and Katrina Hall less than half a mark further adrift in third with King of the Street.

Hard-working Lorraine had qualified three horses for this class but elected to bring two; Zorba who finished just off the podium in fourth and winning partner 12 year old Master Rascal – or Mr G as he is at home due to his grumpy nature!

“Today has been truly humbling as I’ve realised just how hard my horse will try for me.  I’m also glad it didn’t rain for his test having got soaked through to the skin on my first ride!” said a delighted Lorraine.

Lorraine has owned Mr G for ten years and they now know each other well.  However it hasn’t been all plain sailing as the horse has been quite ‘tricky’ but it this was later discovered that he had kissing spines.  Lorraine explained; “the vets said an operation was our best option but gave him a 50:50 chance.  Three years on and he’s going strength to strength still.”

Blue Chip Novice Open

Essex dressage rider Claire Knowles has won a prestigious national title at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships. Claire rode Pendragon of Independence, the beguiling eight-year-old Knabstrupper stallion to head the Blue Chip Novice Open Championship with 71.38%.

“I’m thrilled. I hoped to make the top ten. I didn’t think we’d make the top three though, let alone win,” said Claire.

Claire has ridden the German-bred and owned leopard spot premium graded stallion for 18 months. He was backed as a three-year-old then used solely for breeding for several years so has started his ridden career relatively late in life. “He laps up the work and has a great work ethic,” she said, clearly delighted. “He’s also very consistent and such a good boy. It’s a testament to his character. This is the first show where he’s had to stay away and he’s coped very well.”

Claire is looking forward to the imminent arrival of a new foal. “We have a mare by Metall [sire of Carl Hester’s Olympic gold medal partner Uthopia] in foal to him.”

Claire, whose Jackpots Stud specialises in breeding and producing sports horses, said: “He’ll enjoy a holiday now, hacking and covering mares – the perfect break for him!”

Petplan Equine Novice Open

Cheshire dressage rider Gemma Abram has won a prestigious national title at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships. Riding Spitfire, her mother Sandra’s six-year-old home-bred gelding, 21-year-old Gemma saw off competition from 45 other national finalists to secure the Petplan Equine Novice Open Area Festival Championship.

During this afternoon’s second-round ride-off, the pair posted an impressive 72.10%, an increase of more than 2% on their morning’s qualifying round result.

“I can’t believe it – I’m so happy!” said a totally thrilled Gemma after their lap of honour in the Hartpury Arena. “We bred him ourselves. He was born in the stable he lives in now. It’s such a good feeling to have done what we’ve done.”

“ I started him off myself and I just love him. It gives me such a sense of achievement,” she said. Gemma and the attractive chestnut, who’s by Santana out of a Friesian x KWPN mare, share a special bond though their journey hasn’t been without incident. “As a four-year-old he could be quite difficult – he even landed me in hospital once. I can do absolutely anything with him now though.” When asked what her highlights have been, Gemma said: ‘He’s my highlight.”

Gemma, who trains with international rider Gareth Hughes, has had a busy week in more ways than one. She works for equestrian retailer Cool Equestrian and has been working on their trade stand throughout the show, being excused from duty to ride her horse.

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