Priory (Optimum Event), Surrey, 3 June
Featuring riders Alice Oppenheimer, Molly Key, Diana Barley, Maria Pook, Sara-Jayne Gillgrass, Charlotte Dicker, Holly Colgate-Hardway, James Burtwell, Helen Rudkin, Danielle Murdoch, Tor Fenwick and Emma Busby

Diana Barley on Celestial Nirvana: “I was quite pleased with our first inter I — our pirouettes are really coming along. “’Harry’s’ doing Wellington Premier League with Leah and I’m entering for the Area Festivals PSG and inter I — and I’m also also putting him forward for the senior home international with myself riding”

THIS PRIORY show was rich in emerging equine talent and promising new partnerships. Headmore Dirubinio, a 17.3hh Dimaggio son, nurtured at home while gaining strength, is now at eight looking like the most exciting horse that Alice Oppenheimer has so far brought up to FEI level. His size, scope and air time give him correspondingly huge ‘stage’ presence and it was only his lack of show experience limited their PSG score to a modest 66.57%.

Marks from judge Marion Terry are well-earned. She awarded Alice near-72% for her inter I test on Woiwode x Rubinstein nine-year-old Headmore Wimoweh, saying “Alice rode a very polished inter I and the horse looked very secure in the work — just a bit more up in the carriage to work for.”
Alice confirmed: “For a horse that has not competed much at small tour, he already feels very solid at the level. If I don’t cock up, we will get clear rounds”

Alice explained: “‘Robin’ has only ever done about 10 tests. His work at home, where he feels confident, is phenomenal but he’s quite a nervous horse. I could feel that even the few people watching at Priory worried him, so I had to fanny him around a bit. He’s an amazing horse to work with. He is already able to do all the grand prix movements. He takes them in his stride; you ask and he tries. If he makes a mistake, it doesn’t throw him. I can ride piaffe, then just drop the rein and walk off, and he’s, ‘yes, whatever!’ If I can’t get 80% on this horse, I can’t get it on anything!”

Unblinged top hat and tails elegance marked Molly Key’s and Abanos x Rubinstein 11-year-old Absinth W’s arrival at BD advanced level. The rider made their 69.72% advanced 105 test look and easy and elegant, too.

Molly: “I usually have the tricky ones, so it has been brilliant that Veronica and Kevin Chomse have given me the ride on Ant who is so forgiving. We’re learning the higher level movements together and learning through my mistakes.
“I also can’t thank Damian Hallam enough. He has such a sympathetic approach to training. He is always on the side of the horse. The rider has to make sure that the horse understands what it’s being asked to do and everything — the horse’s ability, fitness and strength — has to be at a level for it to be fair for the rider to ask it that question”

Molly said: “This was my first advanced and I haven’t worn my top hat and tails since I gave up eventing. ‘Ant’ was brilliant at the Merrist winter regionals where he won advanced medium silver but he was overwhelmed by the Hartpury environment.

“His brain and enthusiasm were with me the whole way through our advanced 105. He can do all the movements for PSG well on their own, but if you ask him too many questions, one after another, he can shrink into himself. He has always found learning movements easy. He learnt three and four tempis in one lesson. But you can’t work him hard mentally — or physically as he has had back surgery — so I only school him twice a week. His temperament is wonderful; you ask him to do a canter pirouette and he does it as well as he can, so there’s no point in doing more.”

Maria Pook also stepped up a level to advanced medium riding Felicity Passmore’s So Enamoured. They attacked the advanced medium 85 with great verve. The horse has a super canter but notably Maria also produced the same high quality trot in lateral movements as on the straight. Although the changes are still green, the pair ended up winning the class overall on 68.52%%. The Spielburg x Troy eight-year-old is the first quality dressage-bred horse that Maria has taken up the levels, although she has competed the Arab horse types she is so fond of and judges in the Show ring, as far as inter I level. She commented:

“It’s funny that I get better rider marks with ‘Dino’ than I ever get with the Arabs, although it’s a lot more difficult to ride a good test on them”

Physics PhD student Sara-Jayne Gillgrass and Marchways have also just started doing advanced mediums, scoring 62.2% in the 85. She has been riding the 18-year-old thoroughbred for 10 years, since she was 15, and originally evented him. Sara, who is based with Jo Wood in Chertsey, commented: “‘Percy’ learns quickly and tries hard. When I started to focus on dressage he got better and better. He already had the lateral movements but we’ve taught him changes from scratch. I felt our score today wasn’t bad. Due to his age and his natural way of going I will inevitably get comments about suppleness so I aim to be as accurate as possible.”

New riders measure up for the Measures

New riders have been recruited by Shaun and Eva Measures for their homebred stable of competition horses, formerly competed by Leah Beckett. Holly Colgate-Hardaway, 24, has quickly moved their Belissimo M x Furst Heinrich mare Belushka up to elementary. Priory marked their third and highest score at the level, 71.87%, making them overall winners of the test 59 qualifier.

Holly rode a plus-65% advanced 102 on Rimskij Korsakov (to requalify for PSG) then a 61.44% PSG. She said: “I’m going to ride Rimskij just for fun and to get experience at riding the higher level movements. I used to ride him a few years ago but I was too busy with work so I gave up the ride.“I got my tailcoat back out that I used to ride him in and blinged it up with pink trim and sparkly buttons”

Holly commented: “She felt really good in the warm-up but was a little tired in the canter in the test, but she kept going.” Eva Measures said: “Holly will also ride Renoir and we said if she would like to have a bit of fun she can compete Rimskij. Basically Rimskij has retired but she used to ride him years ago. He enjoys Holly’s style and is always very jolly when she rides him which we enjoy watching.”

Tor Fenwick has acquired the ride on Russki, last year’s Small Tour Champion with Leah. Eva added: “Tor will be doing small tour with him this summer and they will continue to work towards grand prix.”

The Measures, Shaun and Eva, are unusual in that their interest is both in breeding and then subsequently retaining the offspring and investing in training for them up the levels through their competition careers. Eva, who travels extensively for her job, commented: “Competing our own homebred horses means both Shaun and I have to work very hard, but its worthwhile.

Tor: “This is my first show on Russki and I’m really chuffed with him. I had no idea how he would be in a test and I’m thrilled that he kept going and that he trusted me.“He felt awesome. We had our little blips, obviously, but that was more about establishing our relationship.“The boss man (Shaun) briefed me that I mustn’t let Russki get away with switching off, but to lay down the ground rules now that he does as he’s told straightaway and we can build from that.“When he dropped me in the pirouette I booted him, and he went, ‘oops, okay’ and he came straight back to me. He felt lovely otherwise — forward, nice in the rein and uphill — fab.”

“We started basically with one horse, a grey mare called Sea Mist that was given to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards when the regiment was stationed in Germany. Shaun was a farrier with the Blues and Royals and posted to the Sandhurst Academy. Sea Mist was originally intended as a parade horse but she didn’t like the music and after she had scattered the Edinburgh tattoo, they decided she was best used as an ‘officer’s riding horse’ and that’s how we came across her.

“We were going to have Sea Mist on loan for a couple of years and 17 years later she was still with us and died at the age of 32. That’s how our breeding started. We covered her with Rubinstein and she took on the last straw of semen and that became Rimskij who was approved as a breeding stallion on performance by the Oldenburg Verband. We have been using him for breeding ever since.”

She continued: “What we’ve come to realise is that different horses require different riders and different personalities. Gareth Bulley, who is based near Farnham, is first and foremost a show jumper, but he caught my eye when I saw him doing unaffiliated dressage at Priory. He doesn’t sit like a show jumper when he’s doing dressage. I asked him if he would take on starting Rimskij’s four-year-old entire son, Rusakov, who is out of a Furst Heinrich dam.

“We knew we had to find a rider who was really brave and didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and wasn’t going to be fazed by him. Gareth is really chilled and treats the stallion as a normal horse. He started by long-reining him in the lanes near his yard for a month — not many would do that! When Rusakov had been broken for about six weeks we took him to Charlotte Dujardin for some training and he’s also had a lesson recently with Florian Bacher.”

A third generation rider in a family to represent Great Britain at European Championships,

Jennie Loriston-Clarke’s grand-daughter Charlotte Dicker, 18, has all the opportunities and pressures of flying the Catherston flag for her generation and for her country.

Charlotte came with three horses to compete at Priory: the first, a big Woodlander Wavavoom x Rubin Royal four-year-old Wayfarer who has qualified for the Shearwater young horse semis with an 86% score. He is currently being produced at Catherston for owners Nigel and (future rider) Immy Jones. Charlotte also rode Romanov x Dolany six-year-old Billingbear Rex, owned by Astrid Redshaw and potentially for sale, who scored 71.6% in the short arena novice non-qualifier. Her third and final ride of the day was her future competition partner Obsessions’ Quickstep, ‘Queenie’, pictured below. The pair competed successfully at the Winter Championships with top 10 placings at both novice and elementary silver. At Priory they were winners of the mediums on 72.06% and 72.87%.

“Queenie [Quaterback x Del Piero] is owned by Helena and Mat Carroll and has been secured as a ride for me,” said Charlotte. “She hasn’t been competed since the Winters. We gave her an easy time after Hartpury and have been slowly bringing her back to fitness. We haven’t rushed to qualify her because we want to take the time with such a talented horse. She has three incredible paces and the brain to go with it — and she’s such a trier.”

Another “trier” Tor Fenwick’s own horse, Zjengis Khan x Flemmingh six-year-old Gucci III, has not impressed young horse judges. He nevertheless pulled off a 64.68% elementary 59. “Joey” is 17.3hh, so has a big frame to fill and manoeuvre. Tor is convinced he has a big future ahead of him: “‘No’ is not in his vocabulary. It’s literally a matter of time with him. His brain is already at PSG and he can take as long as he likes.”

Tor’s top tip: “All of a sudden Joey will lift his head and say, ‘I’m ready’, and everyone will ask where he’s come from!”

Emma Busby found herself placed second on 65% in the gold section elementary 43 on her debut outing with her seven-year-old, 17.1hh Lord Leatherdale x Ronaldo mare, Famathika.
“I would never have thought of taking her out without Andrew Gould’s help over the past year. I bought her on a whim while I was in Holland with a friend. When she came home she was a bit bigger than I thought and I discovered she was very noise sensitive and particularly frightened of birds. She would lose the plot and spook and because she’s so big it felt rather dramatic.
“She was impeccably behaved to day: travelling, warming up and competing — and in a venue new to her. I’m still stunned how good she was in her test. It was just a pity that I had difficulty getting the left lead canters.”
“Andrew has given me no end of advice and help and qualified her for the Winter championships for the novice freestyle, but she was ready for a rest so I took her home”


James Burtwell, as usual came with a full lorry. The seven-year-old Lissaro x Floresco-bred Lady Liberty was his highest scoring partner, producing 77.14% and 73.26% novices to finish her owner Jules Walker’s novice qualification with a slam dunk. He commented: “I find her easier to ride at medium, but it’s nice for horses to go back down a level. Thankfully, she doesn’t take long to warm-up because she only had seven minutes!”

Danielle Murdoch is finding Valdez x Ulft seven-year-old Finland a challenge. He is the talented but nervous successor to her famous ‘Snoopy’ [Windemer]. ‘Woody’ has had a slow start to his career having been given plenty of time last year to recover from a strain. They have notched up some good marks in their first few novices this season and at Priory won the silver Novice 27 with 69.46% before retiring in the qualifier.

“I was very lucky in the past that Snoopy was unflappable,” explained Danielle. “Finland is a very willing, obedient horse, but genuinely nervous, and it’s my job to give him confidence in me in show environments. Unfortunately, I’m a bit ring rusty myself and my mind went blank after some spooks, so I decided to cut my losses.”

She added: “Woody’s led a cosseted life at home and finds other horses coming towards him in warm-ups intimidating. I have to get him out more so I’m planning to take him around to friends’ schools and do venue hires.”

Haflinger Arne, 11, has proved just the cheeky pony [or Alpine horse] that Helen Rudkin and her family were after. She said: “We wanted something with a bit of character but we do need to keep him entertained. I share him with my daughter. She does jumping and quite a bit of Trec on him and I do dressage. He never knows coming out of the trailer what he’s going to do.”

Helen and Arne won the bronze section novice 39 qualifier on 64.23% with one of their lower marks at the level. She commented: “It’s the hardest novice we have done and we don’t have a 20 x 60m school at home to practise and we’ve tried simple changes only once before, so we were pleased he did so well.”

© Celia Cadwallader, 11 June 2017

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