Crofton Manor, Fareham, 6 January
Featuring riders Karen Shepherd, Lucy May, Ailsa Gunn, Georgina Marks, Lucy Pye, Alexis Ross, Kate Oppenheimer and Laura Taylor
PEPPERWOOD PARK’S Karen Shepherd was at Crofton rehearsing her nine-year-old Lusitano breeding stallion Esmerilhao Sernadin for his first High Profile show the following weekend. Although the partnership is only six months’ old, Karen has clocked up advanced medium scores around the 70% mark in just a handful of outings. At Crofton the pair scored 69.48% for their Advanced Medium 91.
But the rider has her sights sent on the big time. She explained: “I want ‘Merlin’ to compete internationally so I can’t spend all year fannying about! I will put him in a big atmosphere at Addington — and see how he handles a sleep-over. If I can retain his focus and the advanced medium goes to plan I’ll ride a confidence-giving PSG and be delighted if we get a clear round.
“He’s settled into his new lifestyle at Pepperwood Park and already he’s much calmer and less stalliony in warm-ups at shows. He doesn’t puff himself up and scream at everyone now.”
She added: “Over-the-back-and-through can be an issue with Iberian imports so I’ve been doing loads and loads of stretching and lateral work with him. He can still shorten sometimes in a test but the contact is getting better and better. Now he’s using his back properly, the hind leg is really coming through in the flying changes and they’re becoming bigger and more expressive.”
The majority of the winners at Crofton’s efficiently-run and visitor-friendly show were people who combine dressage training and competing with busy full-time jobs. Eye-catching Bashful Suitor, is a first horse project for Lucy May who has a day job as engineering works access planner for Network Rail. They won the bronze section advanced medium 91 with 66.15%.
Lucy said: “We haven’t competed anywhere since July and as our arena at home is flooded ‘Sterling’ has had hardly any preparation. He always gives me 110 per cent but he felt like he was ‘buzzing’.” Sterling who, she says, looks like a small warmblood is the result of breeding a gypsy cob mare to TB sire Blushing Groom. Lucy has trained him since he was four and he’s now 13. She added: “He’s never been ridden by anyone but me and he’s my first horse so we’ve learned together with the help of some really good people on the ground. I’m currently training with Sara-Jane Lanning.”
Despite flying changes not called for in the medium the combination of Ailsa Gunn and Force Ten Gale impressed test 75 class judge Debbie Pateman, who said, “They would have got considerably higher than 70% without them!”
Ailsa said: “‘Haylay’ did two flying changes: one from the counter-canter and the other as we did our extended across the diagonal. It’s her new party trick so she decided to show everybody what she could do. She felt lovely round most of the test but obviously there was tension in some of the canter.”
Ailsa’s eight-year-old by Hemingway was bred by her friend Diane Patterson out of a TB mare, called Jolly Gale. Ailsa, who works as a housing association property manager, said: “I’ve had Haylay since she was a yearling but I decided I wanted to buy her when I saw her in the field as a six-month-old foal. What I saw was fantastic and I decided, ‘I want that!’ I was going to show jump her but when she injured herself and couldn’t jump I took the opportunity to do some flatwork with Denise Hallion and dressage turned out to be her forte, so we carried on down that route.”
Georgina Marks won the Medium 61 with 66.55% riding her ex-eventer Bruiser Bill. She said: “We’re usually in the mid-60%s but we could have got more today if I hadn’t made a mistake. I thought, ‘this medium trot is going well’ and asked for too much and basically Bill ‘fell over’. The judge gave us a four. Our highlight mark was 7.5 for the canter half-pass. Bill’s canter and walk are nice but the trot has to develop. I need him to take weight back while remaining supple but he’s a typical TB, a little croup high, and neck set on a little low and I did breed him to event. He’s by Bello Caraterre, a son of Derby-winner Generous, out of a mare by Azfal.”
The hills around the beautiful Meon valley where Georgina lives offer wonderful off-road riding. She added, “I train with Kate Smith but do most of my schooling while I’m hacking — lateral work, transitions, the lot. I’ve got just one area of flat grass to work on that I protect in the winter.
“I haven’t got the time any more to put in all the work required preparing for the three disciplines of eventing. Bill and his brother live out most of the year and, if they don’t get exercised one day, it’s not the end of the world.” Georgina also keeps her 16-year-old niece Alexa Marks’ eventer “ticking over” for her — “so I get my dose of eventing that way”.
Career rider and trainer Lucy Pye was riding Jersey resident Alison De Zille’s elegant Woodcroft Diddy Cool (by Daddy Cool). They won the gold section Novice 39 on just shy of 71% and followed up with a 70% Elementary 53.
As well as being pretty enough to be a ‘girl’, the only lightly competed nine-year-old is sensible, too! Lucy said: “Diddy’s lovely to take out but he has personality and character. He’s very goey and loves learning new things. He’d only done a couple of eles as a six-year-old, but leg yield is something I use quite a lot in training with him for suppleness, and he travels sideways quite nicely. They were a highlight of his second test and he scored eights for both canter-trot-canters on the long side in the Novice. They really show off his straightness and ability to sit and he’s very obedient. He also got good marks for walk. He’s quite short-coupled and has a good over-track but is also showing the ability close it which augurs well for later on. His medium trots are getting better but at the moment he can go a little wide behind because he needs more strength.
“Diddy has only been with us a few months. Alison, who lives in Jersey, brought him over here so that she would be able to compete him more and take him up the levels.”
Winter weekends-only rider Alexis Ross, left and top, took the silver section of the Elementary 53 with 69.41% riding Jane Pocock’s nine-year-old mare Quartz — known at home as “Bea”. Alexis and Bea were ninth in the Prelim Winter Championships in 2017. Alexis said: “I’m desperate to go back to Hartpury because she would have been second if I hadn’t missed out a circle! I have to put that demon to rest. We’ve qualified for the winter regionals for four classes, tests and freestyles at Novice and Elementary, so we’re going to be busy.”
The combination scored 74% for second place overall in the Novice 39. Alexis commented: “Bea’s established at Novice but has only done a handful of Elementaries and she’s certainly still green in the movements. We had a couple of mistakes so I know she’s got a 70% test in her and there’s lots to work on. Two of her halts were pretty poor as she tends to come up wide behind. It’s a problem we’re trying to correct: getting her to sit on her bottom more with her shoulders up. We been practising halting between poles and with a reminder touch with a whip from the ground. In fact in her first test she did get an eight for a halt, so there is progress!
“She did a lovely medium trot on the final centreline in test 53 — it’s her highlight so I went for it, why not? But, of course, it’s then difficult for us to land in a good halt afterwards!”
Kate Oppenheimer‘s Elementary debut on 15.1hh SOS Sealpoint exceeded all her expectations with bronze section-winning performances scoring 68.1% and 65%. Kate said: “I just wanted to get over 62% so we can do the Petplans. ‘Moosey’ tried really hard in her first test and everything happened as I wanted. In the qualifier, she was a bit taken aback because I was asking her for leg yield in a test situation for the first time. I had to ask a few times before she realised that it was definitely what I wanted.”
Kate, a small animal vet, is lucky enough to able to take advantage of some flexitime to ride and to have her sister Alice Oppenheimer to help her with training: “We have been working a lot on lightening the forehand and it’s starting to happen, and although we can’t get it all the time in a test, it is getting better.
“I love riding her and trust her implicity cross-country. She can pretty much jump from anywhere and, I believe, would jump anything I pointed her at. We just missed out on qualifying for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup, BE90 grassroots championship at Badminton last year, so our aim for 2018 is to get to the Elementary Petplan second round and to get to Badminton.”The silver and 75.38% overall Novice 39 winners were Laura Taylor and Cavalier Breeze. Laura said: “Breeze is a horse I event, not a ‘real’ dressage horse, as you can see when you compare her to true quality dressage horses but she is a very smart eventer and can ‘do’ a good dressage.”
Commenting on her score, the highest of the day, she said: “I felt the test that I rode had far fewer mistakes than usual and Breeze got quite a lot of eights and 7.5s — but then eight is just ‘good’ and a seven ‘fairly good’. I do think there are a lot more ‘fairly good’ tests, so there should be more good scores. I think our judge was marking nicely rather than being mean and just giving 6.5s and 7s for something good like most of them. [Judge Linda Waller’s scores ranged up from plus-61%.]
“I do find it odd that some judges don’t seem to use a range of marks when everybody goes so differently. I think they find it hard to be generous!”
“I was doubly pleased with Breeze because she’s a person who needs to be outdoors to keep her happy mentally and for the past two weeks she hasn’t been going out because we’ve had horrendous winds and so much rain. I was glad she wasn’t too full of herself.”
© Celia Cadwallader, 12 January 2018