Chester Hall Events (Speedgate), Kent, 12-14 August
Featuring riders, Claire Allmett, Sarah Williams, Claire Lewis, Alison Turner, Zoe Golding, Hayley Bates, Avery Maude, Shirley Babb, Alycia Port, Philip Gover, Corrie Fautley, Georgie Kneller, Laura Greenwood, Megan Oakey and Karen Oki

A PERSONAL BEST 68.29% Prix St Georges made Claire Allmett and Soloyst (pictured above) the highest scoring small tour combination at the Chester Hall Events Area Festival. It was one of many personal bests achieved by riders in classes that were scrutinised by a panel of three judges. Mark Ruddock at C commented: “I have never seen this combination before, but they were a pleasure to judge. Although there could have been a bit more power it was fault free and it looked happy, easy and fluent.”

Claire Lewis and Dragonswick Czardas (seen here with judge Mark Ruddock) scored 67.32% to win the silver section PSG before their less successful Inter I. Claire has produced her 16-year-old Van Deyk x Schwadroneur Trakehner since he was five. He also has a successful career as a top side-saddle horse and won all three of his classes at the National Side-Saddle Championships the week before.
Claire put some of the blame for her higher level disappointment down to a fraught week, having to find sheets to prove her eligibilty to BD. But watch this space — Claire says their side-saddle PSG debut under BD rules will take place before the end of the year…!

Claire has had her Blue Hors Hertug-sired gelding, known as ‘Max’ since he was three and backed him herself. She said: “We’ve taken our own pace. We have learned and done everything together: all his faults are mine. He has a forgiving nature which has allowed us to improve.”

Max and Claire are still on a learning journey. After time off in 2016 recovering from a wear and tear injury, Max was called upon to be field companion to Claire’s youngster. It led to a massive life style change for 15-year-old Max as he now lives out 24/7. Claire commented: “It’s proved to be the best thing ever for him. It keeps him mobile and his tendency to put on weight when stabled is regulated.”

The life style change continues into Max’s training which often takes place while hacking the headlands on the farm in Staplehurst where Claire keeps her horses. She said: “It takes a little bit of confidence as a rider but it’s made me focus on creating the feeling of connection, straightness and a correct way of going that I used only to be able to achieve in an arena. I think that Max has benefited from not being always worked on artificial surfaces and it has strengthened him no end.”

Downe, Kent-based rider and trainer Sarah Williams — now also a list 2 judge — was the sole rider in the Silver Inter I, scoring 64.47% and 66.67% respectively with Felia and Bohigas W. Sarah has had Felia since she was a two-year-old

but the strapping 16-year-old Breitling mare Bohigas W, known as ‘Chloe’, was formerly a schoolmistress and for a number of years was competed at international level by a British junior. Sarah scored 68% at Chloe’s comfort level PSG at the Bury Farm regionals.

On 1 April this year Sarah Williams came off a horse that reared with her while she was riding on the buckle out of the arena.
The horse fell on her and she suffered five fractures in her lower back and four fractures in her pelvis.
She attributes her remarkable recovery to exceptional core strength that she has developed over years as a ballet dancer, gymnast and fitness instructor

Chloe came to Sarah 18 months ago from her friend Georgina Howard. Sarah explained: “I’ve had to ‘remodel’ her to the way of going and responsiveness that I like. She used to be a tank because she didn’t feel confident and her default mechanism was to grab the bit and run off. She doesn’t do that now. She’s very powerful and when I sharpen her up she can be very active but I over-did that a bit and in the tempis she thought I wanted an extension. When we came round the corner, she said ‘here we go, mum’ and it took me a while to get her back, so we had a mistake in the threes and then she put in an extra one or something in the twos.

“I think we could have done with a longer warm-up but we went in early as there had been some withdrawals. I will take Felia and Bohigas to different second round Petplans so that I can focus on each of them better.”

The achievement of reaching PSG level in dressage should be celebrated. Tessa Seed and her handsome 12-year-old showjump-bred Titan have only three PSGs to their names. They made an elegant picture and went home with a 63.64% result — and more homework.

The Advanced Medium classes were a challenge for a lot of riders. One difficulty was the flying changes, which are ‘green’ at this level with a lot horses. However, the silver section class was won on 68.68% by Ipswich-based Alison Turner riding Anna Soroko’s Rockwell mare, Rockissima. “Poppy”, now 16, is an old hand at the art. She was at one time the advanced competition partner of her boss at Hubbards Hall Farm livery stables, Mike Hallows. Alison said: “Our test flowed nicely and smoothly and she stayed enough in front of my leg — and she’s very good at flying changes.

“I started riding her when I went to work for Mike seven years ago — not very well at first. Poppy knew how to do everything, so I’ve learnt how to do everything on her. I’m now learning one and two-tempis and starting to learn piaffe, although the energy it requires is hard for her.”

Many problems in the advanced medium classes were down to the riders’ lack of preparation and quite a few combinations lost their way with the tricky Advanced Medium 91 test floor plan. (Before the second round take another another look at the Out and About Dressage test analysis, A test for the grown-ups.)

The Bronze Advanced Medium class was, however, a triumph for Zoe Golding who scored 67.82% riding her San Remo eight-year-old Enzo SR. Enzo loves flying changes — and at their first Area Festival attempt, at Pachesham in June, Enzo entertainingly peppered them everywhere. This time judge Mark Ruddock commented:

 “Zoe was the only rider in the class who set the horse up properly so that it knew what it was going to be asked to do. She prepared for the movements and gave her horse a chance”

He added: “There were a lot of happy horses in the class who weren’t being yanked and pulled together, but there needs to be a half-way house with more horses ridden in collected balance.”

Zoe, pictured, said: “Enzo hadn’t even done Prelim when I got him two years ago. In training after Pachesham, I’ve made him wait in the changes; just riding one then halting him. He’s the same with the medium trot; I have to insist he waits for my aids.

“He’s very sharp and he’s not built to sit. He gained some muscle behind the saddle with all the work we put in over last winter. I collected him to do the higher level movements, then let him stretch and that way he has become stronger and is gradually finding it easier to maintain better self-carriage.” Zoe has now qualified for three levels for the Petplan second round: Elementary with Ballingowan Stoneyman, and Medium and Advanced Medium with Enzo.

Berkshire-based Hayley Bates, has come back to competition this season with her own Fidertanz x Externstein nine-year-old First Kirche at medium after nearly a year’s break. They won the Elementary Restricted at the Addington summer regionals in 2015. At Speedgate, Hayley and ‘Cherry’ produced their best score to date at the level, 69.41%, to win their Silver Medium 73 class. Hayley works as a groom for Rowan Lewis in the yard where Spencer Wilton is based. She said: “I get to spy on a lot of good training but although I’ve ridden young horses and advanced horses in my job, I’ve never produced one or had my own competition horse before. Cherry and I are learning together as we go.”

“She added: “Cherry is a great big mare, 17.1hh, and doesn’t like bending through the ribcage. She’s very expressive and a lot of people say how fantastic she looks, but the difficulty is keeping her focused and on-side. I have to pick my moments to make corrections in the warm-up. If I offend her she takes that attitude into the ring. She’s very green at this level and we’ve been stuck on the mid-60%s due to lack of suppleness and rider error. Rowan was very helpful in the run-up to the show; she got me to bring Cherry over and gave me lessons every night.”

Medium Bronze was won by Lisa Pilbeam, riding Kate O’Mara’s Surprise-sired mare Swanky who has a showjumping as well as a dressage career. They ended up with their 67.4% score being comfortably ahead of the field. Lisa, however, commented: “It didn’t feel like the best test she’s done for me, but it was accurate. We went to Hickstead the day before to practise and while it felt better there we had a similar mark.”

Shirley Mabb (seen with judge Marion Hollands) bought Sorrentino D as a two-year-old colt from Garry Williams and Verity Boys.
She said: “I backed him myself at three with the help of my groom and he’s now six. I didn’t do much last year because we had saddle-fitting problems, so work was very stop-start, but we’ve caught up very quickly this season.
“I travel a lot for my job but I’m fortunate that my husband Phil will help with night duties on the yard when I’m away”

A horse that looks made for the advanced level work, Sir Donnerhall x Laurentino six-year-old Sorrentino D, produced the 69.26% winning score in the Elementary Silver for his Essex-based owner and rider Shirley Mabb. It could have been even higher without the mistake in the canter. She explained: “I came down the long side in medium and completely over-cooked a half-halt so we went disunited and did a stride of trot before managing to put it back together again.”

The horse was obviously on his toes. Shirley who has a full-time job as a deputy chief financial officer for a company in London. She explained: “‘Max’ has not been out a lot and finds it terribly exciting. I have my horses at home so the only time he sees other horses milling around is at my trainer Paul Hayler’s place or when I get to a show. I had to retire him from the Novice Regionals at Bury Farm last Monday because all the flowers were waving at us, so we had a melt down in the arena.

“There are days when he will let me ride him on a long rein for 10 minutes in the warm-up; then I have days when I cling on for 10 minutes — after which he settles. He was very tricky in the warm-up today and I wasn’t happy with what I had when I walked over to the arena, but then he said, ‘yes, I can do this’.”

Eventer Alycia Port also has a busy London-based job as an equine underwriter for XL Catlin, who sponsor her. She won the Elementary 43 bronze warm-up class on 70% riding Keep Spirits Up who is being aimed at a dressage career. The was bred by her mother Sue Port out of a Louella Inschallah mare and is by Jumbo son Free Spirit. In the Bronze Area Festival Elementary 53 they were obliged to yield first place with their 70.69% to family ‘super horse’, Deutz and his dressage partner, Philip Gover who scored 71.13%.

Judge Margaret Drewe, pictured with Philip below, said: “It wouldn’t have surprised me if the places had been reversed. Philip’s horse is quite athletic for his size, he’s supple and willing and they looked a super partnership.”

Deutz is indeed athletic.
The nine-year-old Dutch horse by Vleut is drag-hunted through the winter by Philip’s son Freddie Gover who also events him and rides him in hunt relay competitions

Philip took Deutz to the Nationals at Prelim in 2015. He commented: “Deutz goes very sweetly in warm-ups but I’ve been trying to get a bit more spark into him. He’s a bit of a quirky character. When he gets into the arena he gets spooky and tends to back off. That’s just him. He’s the same cross-country, for the first few fences he slows right down and looks at everything.”

Avery Maude won the Area Festival U18 Elementary and Medium riding Wonderboy on 69.61% and 66.67% scores

Philip continued: “Today was Deutz’s best mark at the level. You have to work hard on him, but his medium trots were better and the walk was less laboured. We focus mostly on our daughter Millie so I don’t often have lessons — I’m too old to be told my position is all wrong — so mostly my wife Elaine just nags me.”

Abi left (with Joey and Lily): “Our aim is that Joey will eventually do FEI classes.
“Lily is going to get used to him this year and next year she will hopefully do all the BYRDS stuff, but there’s no pressure.
“At the moment Lily and I have great fun competing, training and hacking — two horsey girls together!

Lily Hill’s WS Jackson, ridden by Abi Jacobs, won the Novice Silver on the highest mark achieved in the Area Festival classes, 72.08%. Abi said: “Lily is 12, and ‘Joey’ is her new pony. I’m her nanny and I am producing him for her. All three judges said, ‘what a lovely partnership’: that’s a comment I love to get because I think it means you’re working in harmony.”

Lily’s 14.1hh pony is by Welsh stallion Chiskin Jaguar out of a His Highness x Donnerhall mare and was bred by the Westcote Stud. Abi added: “Joey is six and only backed in December. He is the most awesome dude and such a happy little chap and he rides bigger than my 16.2hh mare.” Their visit to Speedgate was not without incident. Abi explained: “A lady was out of control in the lorry park and barged into both my horses and Joey broke free. That was a heart-stopping moment. He just trotted around with everyone saying, ‘wow, look at that trot’ when I just needed help catching him!

“In his test Joey listened to my every aid and was a joy to ride. He’s still a bit wobbly because he’s young, but he trusted me and said, ‘okay, anything you want’”

Corrie Fautley with 17.1hh six-year-old Caliboy V Bareelhof Z scored  their first win with a 73.97% Novice 22 warm-up before producing 69.58% for second place in the Silver Novice. “He is a showjump-bred Belgian warmblood and although initially my daughter Danni Fautley was intending to event him we think his strengths are showjumping and dressage. It was nice to get such a good percentage in his first class. I train with Andrew Gould and he’s been telling me that I needed to get him more up in the poll to improve our marks and that was reflected in all my sheets. He can be quite strong, but he listened to my aids and responded, so the accuracy was good.”

Georgie Kneller riding 15.1hh 10-year-old Irish Sports Horse Carnsdale Kingsmaster won both the Novice bronze and the Prelim bronze classes on 70.28% and 69.93% respectively. “It’s been a good weekend,” said Georgie who is a groom at Cedars Equestrian livery stables in Marden, Kent. “It helped that we’ve been here on two days and fortunately he likes to show off by being good. I’ve had him two years and we’ve mostly done riding club competitions but I affiliated him last autumn.”

“We are playing with the Novice tests and he’s learned some of the Elementary movements.
“It’s helpful to have  leg-yield and shoulder-in to call on when he’s a bit spooky and just before we started our test I had a massive spook when a crow landed on the fence and then flapped up and squawked in his face”

“Everyone who sees Anitime loves him,” said his proud mum and 70.28%% Silver Prelim winner, 6ft Laura Greenwood. “I’m very lucky to have found him. He’s seven and 18hh. I got him last Autumn and I’m going to take my time with him. He’s still very babyish. He’s by Parco out of an Animo mare, bred to showjump, and I heard about him from my trainer Alison Short. This is only his sixth or seventh test and he’s tended to go tense and into himself, but he was fairly forward this time. We discovered he had ulcers a month ago and treatment has helped him to be more chilled.”

U18 Prelim winner on 69.86% Megan Oakey and her charismatic traditional gypsy cob Kimico Coco Cabana have also been taking their time. Originally produced by Sarah Williams, Megan fell in love with him three years ago when she was 13.

She said: “A four-year-old stallion was a lot to take on. When I went to try Coco he was so powerful and out of my league that I spent three months with him at Sarah’s yard learning to ride him.

“He’s very short-coupled and last year we had issues with him getting tense and uptight and going disunited in the canter. It cost us a top three placing in the Traditional Gypsy Cob Championships, so we decided to ensure that we had all the basics correct before moving up the levels. Today all I wanted was a nice relaxed test and that he enjoyed himself: not asking for too much — just doing everything correctly.”

The Prelim 15 warm-up class was won on 73.2% by Karrina Oki and Voltaire-sired Ghandi TCS. Karrina has owned the six-year-old since he came over from Holland just backed at four. She spent some time training him with Oldencraig advanced rider Lucy Wells, before taking him home to Canterbury. She now trains with Joe Bright.

© Celia Cadwallader, 19 August 2017

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