Hickstead. West Sussex, 19 April
Featuring Sarah Millis, Sarah Ridd, Melissa Beer, Maria Collins, Amy Jack, Antonia Forster, Tereza Urbanova, Markus Bauer, Kathy Staples, Lucy Bunn, Joanna Henbrey, Sarah Hayter-Sharpe, Georgina Howard and Georgia Hyson  —  with Eve Manning and Francesca Bradley and their new young competition partners. 

GOLD SECTION riders in the Elementary and Medium qualifiers — the hottest classes of the day — gave judge Margaret Drewe the pleasure of awarding a round dozen combinations scores of over 70%. One of the combinations she picked out for comment was her 75.88% overall Medium 73 winner, Sarah Millis. Sarah rode Selene Scarsi’s beautiful and massively powerful-looking Belissimo M x Fidertanz eight-year-old, Bodleian. They also won the advanced medium 85 on a more modest 70.15% due to still green changes.

Margaret said: “Bodleian has amazing paces and is the sort of horse you would expect to see at international competitions. Today he was so extravagant in his movement that there were some balance issues, otherwise the marks would have been higher but Sarah is such a great rider that she makes the connection on big-moving horses look easy.”

Runners up Molly Key on Eastborn D and Melissa Beer and Bucephalus II were both on 72.21%, but two collective marks gave second place to the former successful and frequently reported combination. Melissa, in third, is back on board a horse who was known as “Little Boss” when they were both based at Sarah Millis’s yard. She competed him for owner Catherine Stuart up to advanced medium in 2015. Boss, by Parzival, is now 11 and was brought back into work after injury and back into competition this year by the former British Team young rider. Boss is a quite different box of tricks from Melissa’s other current competition partner, the PRE stallion Guardadamas. Commenting on the “a little long behind the saddle” Boss, she said: “We have been trying to stop him just ‘flapping’ his front leg’s and instead come through more from behind — and his medium trot on the final centreline scored 8.5!”

Mark Lloyd-Fox’s Harley Beau under Sarah Ridd scored 72.35% in the Elementary 53 with one collective placing them first, ahead of Maria Collins on Dot Taylor’s Exclusive Gem. Friesian Beau, now 8, only began his dressage training last July. Previously he was just being hacked after a lengthy hospitalisation at Rossdales following multiple operations by tendon specialist Andy Bathe. Click to read Beau’s story. Sarah commented: “Since I’ve had Beau I’ve spent a lot of time building his strength. We do hill work twice a week and now we have the lighter evenings, I will be able to take him to the Wellington treadmill again after I’ve finished the yard.”

Sarah Ridd: “Beau has a very good brain, but I struggled with him at Novice where judges like to see a longer frame. He’s built with withers higher than his croup and he likes collection. Now he’s hitting Elementary and Medium I can present him in a more sitting frame and more connected”

The heat got to Beau by his medium test so he couldn’t match his 69% best at the level. Maria Collins also said the hot, easily distracted Exclusive Gem was feeling uncharacteristically lethargic: “‘Vinnie’ is nine, very compact and weak — and he proves that small horses can take as long to mature in their bodies as big horses. I put him onto Saracen Releve after Christmas. We’ve been trying to find a feed that would put weight on him without having too much energy and within a month he started to fill out and look more mature. This year he’s accepting that he needs to be more focused on his work. I can keep him in front of my leg and ask for medium and he will take me into it, rather than hollowing and tensing in the poll.

“Paul Fielder, my trainer, is coming to give a clinic at my Kent yard next month and he’s going to polish up my walk pirouettes and get my half-passes more fluent and forward — then we’ll try some mediums.”

This report’s cover combination, see image top, epitomised the sunshiny day and spring time at Hickstead. They are Antonia Forster and Czech warmblood, Pyrities. They recorded the only plus-70% Elementary 53 silver test. “Py”, according to rider Antonia Forster, was once a horse that nobody wanted to buy and nobody wanted to ride. She said: “The fact that I couldn’t sell him was

the best thing that could have happened. Py’s adorable and working at PSG at home now. He’s got all his changes and his pirouettes are coming on. He once had the stuffiest paces ever but they’ve developed and get good marks now because he wants to work with you. He has the best mental attitude.

“I had pneumonia last year and if he takes a break from competing he gets shy and it has taken him a long time to relax again so that he can earn good marks. He gets very doubtful about it when he goes into an arena, particularly if anything goes wrong. He goes into his own little protective shell and I can’t get a full tune out of him. But at his last two competitions he’s starting to trust me and, finally, and if he has a worry about anything, he allows me to reassure him and he relaxes again and he can get 70% even with a wobble here or there.”

Little Fella’s rider Tereza said: “In the Elementary 40 he was not as off the leg as much as I would have liked but he was brilliant in his second test, although we had quite a few rider mistakes which cost us.
“The walk,” she explained, “can be difficult, because we event and he is looking forward to jumping. He jogged in the first test, so I had to focus on relaxing myself so that he chilled a bit”

Which bring us to 68.82% Elementary 53 bronze section winners, Tereza Urbanova and Little Fella on which Judge Margaret Drewe also wanted to volunteer a comment. She said: “They were an outstanding combination. The pony seemed to want to do everything his rider asked and to help her as much as possible.”

Tereza events Jenny Curtis’s 15hh Irish-bred cob under his BE name, Rocky VIII. They were Heroes of the BE90 at Munstead last month and featured in Horse & Hound magazine. Tereza admitted: “Eventing is my thing, but dressage helps me a lot with our jumping and getting him more on his hindleg and he always gets an incredible mark for his dressage phase. His best dressage eventing (unaffiliated) is a 16 and he had 22.8 at Munstead. But he’s trickier to ride than you might think. He’s so much fun, you go out and never know what is going to happen. He’s sensitive and I have to be careful not to let him be taken by surprise.”

Amy Jack said: “I almost burst into tears when I saw our score. I’ve never had one like that before. I’d love to experience those few minutes again. Harvey’s pretty special. He’s very clever. The movements aren’t the tricky bit, it’s keeping his concentration — and when it’s there, he gets high marks”

Top scorer of the day was medical doctor Amy Jack and her six-year-old Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof who won the Elementary 40 with 78.06%. Judge Sally Andrews said:

“They were the first combination to come into my class and I thought ‘Wow!’ I was giving them eights and thinking, ‘these marks could be dangerous’ but I couldn’t have given them less”

“It was an outstanding test and Amy rode it really well. He’s a stunning horse and I loved the harmony and partnership. You’ve got to reward it when you see it.”

‘Harvey’ was a little OTT in his Novice 38 warm-up class but still managed third place overall on plus-69% despite some uncalled for manoeuvres: he finds outdoor venues like Hickstead exciting. But Amy knew that Harvey had produced the goods in their Elementary and all-but got off and kissed his feet before exiting the arena.

Diana Man’s Krack C-sired future para grade IV ride Kasmir has also been feeling pretty full of himself with no turnout possible on clay through this past wet winter.  He is being produced for Diana by her trainer Markus Bauer who partnered the six-year-old to a plus-70% gold Elementary 40 win. Markus commented: “Kasmir is a happy horse and he’s never had a bad experience — you just have to stay on him when he jumps around a bit — and he’s my current record-holder for getting me off! Diana will be riding him again once it’s warmer but at the moment she’s happy to watch his progress with me.

“The plan is that I will take him up the levels and he will combine that with his para career. He competed last year at elementary and the majority of his marks have been over 70%. I get most pleasure now from training young horses, but I think this one could be a grand prix horse. Horses need that extra little spark as they climb up the levels. He gives me enthusiasm for competing again. He finds collection easy and we do half-steps in training every now and again.”

Kathy Staples “I was pleased with Fox’s Elementary 40 because it was only the second one he’s done and he’s found lateral work quite difficult. I will try to do the bronze Novice at Area Festival and crack on with qualifying him for the Elementary, too”

Kathy Staples followed up her 69.03% bronze section Novice 38 win with another win in the Elementary 40 on 68.39%. She rode Olympic Lux-sired Fox’s Castle who is eventing at Novice this season. Kathy said: “He’s 11 and I’ve had him for a couple of years.  A dressage judge once asked me why I didn’t compete him BD as well as BE, because I should, and I’ve found that I enjoy it. He hasn’t always been a horse that tries very hard show-jumping or cross-country: he does as much as he wants to and then gives up. But over the winter he’s learned to knuckle down and dig deeper and doesn’t give up on me. I think he’s finally grown up and is finding all the work easier.”

Seven-year-old Waterprinz stallion Vaterloo, bred by Russian owner Elena Baturina, was 71.29% gold section winner of the Novice 38 qualifier under his Spanish rider Alejandro Farina. Alex reported: “Now he’s getting used to being competed outdoors he’s relaxing more and we even managed a 7.5 and an 8 for walk.

Sarah Hayter-Sharpe and 11-year-old Lucky Turn were winners of the silver section Novice 38 on 69.68%.
Sarah first started competing her homebred AES and CHAPS graded stallion, known as Wesley, in affiliated dressage in 2016. Both Sarah and her horses are free spirits and she told Out and About that they do all their schooling out hacking. Sarah explained:
“I have no schooling facilities and live on a main road and box up to 20 minutes every day to get to decent hacking — anywhere I can safely park my horsebox.
“I can practise leg yield, transitions at telegraph poles, 10m half-circles across the width of a road — and at the lower levels at least it seems to work!”
“I’m largely self-trained. I just have Mark Ruddock two or three times a year to give me a kick up the bottom but the horses I have won’t tolerate being drilled. We like to have fun”

“We are still making mistakes because he’s quite arrogant. We had a 4.5 for a transition among our marks because he has learned walk to canter and he didn’t want to do any trot — and I have to be careful when I ask for medium that he doesn’t break pace. He doesn’t make mistakes due to lack of talent or naughtiness but because he gets excited. Once I can get him to relax and focusing on me consistently our marks will go higher.”

Two eye-catching horses in the advanced mediums deserve special mention. One is Lucy Bunn and her eight-year-old Spanish Lusitano Fumiko who won the test 85 and the other, despite being near the bottom of their Hartpury Petplan Finals class, were winners of test 91, Joanna Henbrey and DCF Jelly Bean.

Lucy has more plus-50% scores on her BD record than sixty percenters but this time they came out on top of their silver section with 69.26%. The rider dismissed past scores: “It was mainly down to me, not being able to hold my nerve”

Lucy only bought Fumiko last July. She said: “I went out with a shopping list for a new horse and he was the polar opposite. I wanted another warmblood, bigger than my last horse, and I definitely didn’t want a grey. He was owned, very briefly, by a friend and when she went on holiday she said, ‘feel free to have a pootle around on Fumiko’. Annie [Rawlins] gave me a lesson on him and we clicked. He’s short in the body but leggy and doesn’t move in a particularly Iberian way but he’s so keen to do things, he asks, ‘what do you want me to do?’ ‘What shall we do today?’ Occasionally he’s almost too smart and chucks in changes here, there and everywhere because he thinks he’s being helpful. You have to manage Iberians slightly differently from a warmblood, but they really want to try which is lovely.

“We’ve now broken through my confidence issue which was not helped by his inexperience. In our test we managed to improve our accuracy and we worked as combination and I felt it flowed. I know it wasn’t perfect: I wasn’t as brave as I could have been pushing for medium and extended trot, but my priority was to keep him calm.” Lucy added:

“I’ve had comments like, ‘must show more difference’ but when I’ve gone for it Fumiko loses balance and then you throw even more marks away. I’m playing it safe and trying to do it properly”

These horses could boost riders' dressage careers

Two horses with younger riders could give their riders a chance at the dressage big time. Eve Manning’s Define Time is a classic winning breeding combination, being by sire Dimaggio out of a Weltmeyer mare. Eve, 19, told Out and About: “I got ‘Q’ from Dan Henson through Henry Boswell. Dan bred her but she was a bit small at 16.2hh for him and I’m 5ft 2in, so I’m lucky.”

The combination scored thirds on plus-68% and plus-67% in their novice gold classes. Eve continued: “I’ve had her just over a year. She’s compact and already strong behind for a five-year-old. She was looking a bit weak over the winter but since I’ve been putting more work into her she put on muscle and is looking good. I’m going to take it slowly with her because I’m in it for the long game.”

Eve impressively took the reins of Steff Parkinson’s Half Moon Bonarda for the first time at the Merrist Wood winter regionals in 2017, competing in the gold section advanced medium — so she definitely has something about her, as well. She is trained by Andrew Gould who she worked for until the opportunity of a yard at Chelwood Gate Equestrian Centre, [near Ashdown Forest, East Sussex] came up earlier this year. She added:  “Andrew’s been amazing in supporting me and he does clinics at Chelwood once a month and my livery yard is already full.”

Francesca Bradley, who works for Irish International rider Dane Rawlins, is another name to look out for. She won the inter I on schoolmaster Baldovino with 69.95% later in the day, but earlier she competed her future horse, Silbermond x Florencia six-year-old Senator I. They scored 68.23% for second place in the gold section Novice 38 qualifier.

Francesca said: “‘Sidney’s’ 17.2hh and very compact and short in the back. At the moment I’m working on his attitude away from home. He needs to learn to do as he’s told in the arena. I have a submission issue — in the non-qualifier that meant we only scored 62%. He gets into his special trot and can jump around and tell you what he wants to do and he can be explosive. But he’s a lovely horse and in his second test he knuckled down and worked better.

“I’m hoping to do the British Young Dressage Horse classes with him at Hickstead and the Hickstead regionals as well. Then I plan to play around with training and getting submission at Novice before asking for anything else. He did some eles last year but he’s grown up a bit and realised his strength, so he’s testing the water.”

Jelly Bean joined the Deen City Farm riding school just over from Ireland six years ago and when Joanna decided a couple of years back that he had something about him she started training him to compete. Joanna summed: “He’s a pretty laid-back character but he tries very hard”

The day’s 68.21% Advanced Medium 91 winner Jelly Bean had been unimpressed by Hartpury and, according to rider Deen City Farm’s Joanna Henbrey, spent every opportunity to catch up on his shut-eye. “Perhaps the journey to Gloucestershire took it out of him,” she suggested? “He was competing in the Petplan silver advanced medium and that’s a strong class. He was too tired for me to do anything with him. I could create the power but he was unable to support it.”

Small Tour classes produced two notable results. Georgina Howard won the silver sections PSG and Inter I overall on 65.39% and 66.84% riding Capri. Georgina works hard as a mature amateur rider and takes her competitive career seriously. She said sadly:  “I didn’t qualify for the winters; none of my regionals went as planned and it was thoroughly disappointing not to be at Hartpury this year. But you just have to pick yourself up and start again.

“Capri has come a long way and I’m learning every day. My knowledge is improving and I’m understanding what’s going on much more than before and I have all the tools to sort problems out so I’m much more confident in where I’m going with the horses. That’s down to my trainers Sarah Williams and Michael Eilberg. They’ve educated me hugely. I’m very excited about my young horse Howard’s Power. I think he’s going to be awesome. All the effort I put into my riding is so that I can be as good as I can be for him. He’s over 18hh and just coming seven, but his training will be a few years behind his age because I’m an amateur.”

It was lovely to see Licotus nine-year-old Royal Sunlight able to go in a longer and much more relaxed frame for Georgia Hyson. Georgia, who rides for Fujairah Royal Stables, won the gold section PSG on 65.26%. She explained: “Sunny will collect for you all day long, but riding him forward has always been an issue for me. He could passage and extend, but a nice working or collected trot he found difficult. I’ve found not schooling him in spurs has helped although I have to put them on for tests or he can back off in the arena and the transition from the warm-up to the test arena has always been a difficult time for him.”

The combination came fourth at Hartpury in the advanced medium freestyle with 70.06%. Georgia continued: “I’ve had problems getting clean halts. At the Winters in his first test we went backwards down the centreline. In his second he actually relaxed enough to halt properly instead of reversing or stepping sideways, and I said to myself, ‘hurrah, we’re finally getting somewhere’.”

© Celia Cadwallader, 28 April 2018

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