Rain and showers were the order of the day at Hartpury Arena for day two of the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships but five winners shone through.
Albion Medium Restricted Championship
It’s not often someone takes up dressage and 11 months later is winning their first Championship title – but then not everyone is Louise Bell. A chance feature on discipline swapping with Horse & Hound introduced her to dressage and her now trainer Michael Eilberg. She’s embraced her new hobby and is completely hooked. Today, she rode her own W Get Smart to take the Albion Medium Restricted Championship in convincing style with a score of 69.46%.
A delighted Louise, based near Banbury, said; “This is all so new to me but I’ve fallen in love with dressage! He won his regional and we had a trial run at Solihull the other day in the coldest conditions I’ve ever experienced where he went brilliantly so I was hopeful but I’m still such novice at this!”
It was an dawn start for the duo with an early draw – and they even managed to get Michael here to help; he’s not know for a love of early mornings! Louise laughed; “Michael told me this morning to relax and enjoy it, don’t take it too seriously, there will be many more Championships – I thought, at my age, there’s not time to do this all again!
“I’m so grateful to the Eilbergs, they inspire me every time I go there. The make learning fun and I feel like part of the family! Watson is ready to go to Advanced Medium now – Michael wouldn’t let me until he was truly established so hopefully this proves we’re ready!” she added.
Sam Dewar was second with Parsons Resume on 67.84% while yesterday’s Spillers Champions Hayley Colwell and Zidanne were third with 67.39%.
Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Restricted Area Festival Championship
It was a case of two year déjà vu for Devon rider Lucy Baker when she piloted Shirley Tibb’s Llancloudy Phantom Menace to victory in the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Restricted Area Festival Championship, almost two years to the day since they took the Medium title here at Hartpury.
The 21-strong class was a competitive one and the three hour drive up from Devon clearly didn’t take anything out of the horse as she gave her all to produce a score of 69.85%. “I had a good feeling throughout,” said Lucy. “She’s so reliable and rarely lets anyone down. This is certainly the highlight of my year!”
The striking grey mare known as ‘Millie’ is testament to her Irish Draft breeding, she’s by the prolific stallion Roma Diamond Skip, and can turn her hand to any equestrian activity. Shirley hunts her in the winter as well as most riding club activities and Lucy takes over part-time to turn her into a smart dressage horse. “She has to be one of the luckiest horses alive. She has the perfect life of hunting, hacking in beautiful countryside and showing off in dressage!” exclaimed Lucy.
Lucy would love to dedicate more time to top level training and lessons to progress the mare up to Prix St Georges. “Both Shirley and I have small schools at home and I simply don’t have as many lessons as I’d like; we just make the most of what we have. Matt Frost and Tessa Thorne have helped us in the past. I’ve taught her flying changes but now we need some help to progress this to a line of one and two times! Maybe we’ll win the Petplan Equine prize for the highest percentage!” said Lucy.
Beth Barnett was second on her own Sheepcote Delight with a score of 67.35% but the judges just couldn’t separate the third placed riders. Izzy Laurence and Ballebo and Susie Cullen on Wind Dance had to share the spoils on 66.76%.
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Open Music Freestyle
Herefordshire dressage rider Lucy Pincus (17) with her father David’s Don Calisto, a home-bred seven-year-old gelding by Don Schufro, posted a whopping 76.57% to take the Baileys Horse Feeds Open Music Freestyle ahead of 17 other national finalists.
“I’m really pleased. He was more powerful in this test and he’s generally more expressive now,” said Lucy. “He’s good in a show environment however he did nearly buck me off in the arena walk!” she laughed.
Lucy is clearly fond of the horse she has known since the day he was born. “I chose him when he was a foal. I was only ten years old and I liked him purely for his character – he was so friendly – and he’s developed into a really good horse.”
“We’ll build him up through the levels, maybe do juniors, but he’s a great long-term prospect.”
Petplan Equine Elementary Restricted Area Festival Championship
Devon dressage rider Alison Luscombe and Sienna Sunset, her elegant 11-year-old German mare, posted 68.10% to lead one of the semi-finals, securing their place in the nail-biting second-round. Once again, in this 30-horse ride-off, the pair’s performance was awarded a winning score – 69.66% – to take the coveted Petplan Equine Elementary Restricted Area Festival Championship title.
“I’m so pleased with her,” said Alison, obviously delighted. “She’s been quite tricky, she’s sharp and she’s had issues, so this is a culmination of a lot of hard work. It’s a great feeling.”
“I felt that our first test was actually better. During our warm-up for the second the heavens opened and as a result she didn’t feel quite so together,” said Alison. But the quality of the performance was still enough to earn top spot on the leader board.”
Alison has owned Sienna, who’s sired by Sunny Boy, for three years. “I had her on loan when I found I was expecting a baby. I didn’t want to pay someone else to do her while I was pregnant and I also didn’t want to lose her, so we bought her.” she said.
“My husband Graham has been a great help. He even built another arena for me as our previous one was right alongside our noisy neighbours’ fence line which made it so spooky to ride in. Fortunately we have a construction business so Graham was able to do the work himself.”
Alison works for the business doing the accounts and payroll. This allows her the time to train and produce her horse, as well as look after her now three-year-old pony-mad daughter.
“I don’t have a full-time trainer as such,” said Alison. “I have some help from a friend and occasional lessons with Tessa Thorne. Also, Lucy Baker [who won the Advanced Medium Restricted Area Festival Championship earlier today] who lives close by helps sometimes. She comes to cast an eye over us.”
“I’m just delighted with Sienna I’d love to progress to medium level this year.”
Equitop Myoplast Elementary Open Championship
It was another day and another win for leading event and dressage rider Ruth Edge riding Lindsay Middleton’s charming eight-year-old KWPN gelding Rock Me Amadeus. A score of 72.40%gave a decisive victory in the Equitop Myoplast Elementary Open, perhaps one of the hottest classes of whole five-day show.
“He was awesome today. He loved it so much yesterday and knew what he was in for today. He was brilliant,” said Ruth. “The test flows, but there are a lot of transitions which show if the horses are not secure and confident enough. As Amadeus has a lovely balance and outline, he’s easy to present in a good frame and I’m able to ride him accurately. He’s a really lovely horse to work with and always wants to do his best.”
“He’s good fun, straightforward, and the more he does, the better,” she added.
Ruth, who is originally from Cumbria but has now set up a base in Derbyshire with her husband Peter, has to be one of the hardest working riders on the circuit, combining pure dressage – ‘her hobby’ – with her day job of a top flight eventing career. Her record at this show is outstanding though, and most years she seems to take home a clutch of titles.
2013 is no different, and she and Amadeus could add to their double still as they go on to Sunday’s Albion Medium Open Championship – a class which promises another super-strong line up.
The two riders to join Ruth in the prize giving both hail from Scotland – second-placed Jo Hamilton riding Corchapin (71.67%) and Hannah Guild with Corianta (71.15%) in third.