Merrist Wood, Guildford, Surrey, 25 November
Featuring riders Natasha Powell-Richards, Sarah Ridd, Hannah Bown, Susie Hexton, Jessica Bird, Lisa Harrison, Kay Swabey, Teghan Cantrell, Hayley Pile, Immogen Chant, Imogen Byers, Amy Jack, Jess Gale, Zoe Harrison, Hiedi Marcus and Suzanne Holt

Natasha now has two more Cyden horses to bring on. Of the five-year-old potential international pony Brouwershaven Panamera (Pilot), owner Lara Edwards commented: “Tash loves Amigo but Pilot’s movement is something else. He’s a hot little horse in a pony body.”
Lara has also sent Tash a possible first horse to produce — 16hh, four-year-old mare Chanel by her stallion Cadans M 

PONY knowhow is standing 15-year-old Natasha Powell-Richards in good stead. She has formed a strong bond with stallion Cyden Oosting Amigo and the pair confirmed their current medium form with overall wins in both tests on 70.86% and 68.87%. Non-qualifier judge Jackie Selway commented: “Natasha’s pony was very forward and balanced and she and rode it into a nice connection. You had confidence right from the beginning that she would ride a nice test. She came in meaning business.”

Amigo will be competing in pony classes this coming season and has started changes so Natasha also hopes she may do some advanced mediums, too. Owner Lara Edwards commented: “Natasha was recommended to me by Amigo’s previous rider Clare Hole and her talent at producing her own Bernwode Britvik herself convinced me she was right for him. He’s a young stallion, not that experienced. I wanted a rider who wouldn’t let him learn bad tricks but bring him on successfully.

“I like her calm approach. I watched her when Amigo spooked at Addington. She patted him and carried on and that’s exactly what a young horse needs. They need to gain confidence from their rider.”

In the gold section, Sarah Ridd also scored a double with 69.13% and 68.22% riding Weymarsh Sabrina. The Showtime x Rubin Royal 10-year-old’s career has been dogged by allergy problems and following a bout of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and consequential lung infection this summer, Sarah decided to invest money in allervet immune therapy.

Sarah reports: “A couple of weeks after starting treatment she was a different horse but still run down from the infection so I started her on a fittening programme. Six weeks ago when I took her on a bridleway around the hilly Bramley golf course she was feeling so well she bolted with me — the first time a horse has got away from me in over 20 years. She still had her breath after three-quarters of a mile. There were only a few weeks left for winter qualification but I decided to give it a go.”

Hannah Bown has also been on “a mad dash” to qualify with her 2016 and 2017 Winter Championships partner Sandro’s Storm. They achieved a plus 67% second and third places in the Medium 63 and 71 silver sections. The Sandro’s Dance x Lanthan eight-year-old has only recently returned to work and competition after spending four months this summer recovering from an operation.

Hannah explained: “Just before Hartpury we noticed that ‘Stanley’ had a lump on his jaw. We took him to the vet but as it wasn’t troubling him we decided to go to the Winters. When he was CT scanned afterwards we discovered that he had a bone cyst in the lower jaw. We also learned that his sinuses had never formed properly as a foal and he had massive sinusitis on one side. As the bone cyst was getting bigger the vets decided they needed to operate to remove it. They weren’t able to give a prognosis on whether he would be able to come back into work because it would leave a hollow and there was the risk of fracture if the bone did not regenerate. On his last scan the hole was beginning to fill in and the vets were happy for us to crack on.

“The break from work did him the world of good and he’s much more forward since he came back. I was pleased with our scores today, but we were just after qualifying points and there’s more marks to come.”

Treasured veterans strut their stuff

Coloured pony Mummy’s Boy, who was top scorer in the bronze section Medium qualifier on 66.45% — and sixth overall — will be celebrating the beginning of his third decade in 2018.

Rider Susie Hexton says: “Paddy always get noticed. He’s got a bit a swagger about him. If he were human he’d be a ‘medallion man’ with his shirt undone and a hairy chest. It can be quite daunting being on a pony and the only coloured in the warm-up at the higher levels, but I think to myself, ‘you just wait and see what our scores are’.

“He did very well at Novice and he’s continuing to do quite well at Medium, but although Advanced Medium is well within our remit on the right day, we just have to pick our day”

“I have to work for every mark because he’s not a warmblood but he has lovely lateral movement and on a good day he can do a fantastic extended trot that’s like flying.

“He’s my horse of a lifetime. He has given me the opportunity to do so many more things with my riding than I thought I ever would. We’ve qualified for regionals at Novice, Elementary and Medium freestyle and the scariest thing I’ve ever done — gone to a Winter Championships! He’s been a massive pleasure and has so much character. He’s got an opinion about practically everything: I tell him one thing, and he replies ‘I don’t think so, I think this’. Eventually you have to come to some sort of compromise. He’s not someone you could retire easily so I have to keep him going.”

Heathfield Equestrian’s yard favourite is the same age. Officially Bloxham Poncho, the three-quarter Appaloosa  is known as Harley to the friends and many admirers who cheer him on at shows.

Rider Jessica Bird, who runs Heathfield, said: “I’ve had Harley for 13 years and he’s now 19 — and priceless”

“I bought him for my husband to hack but when my flashy warmblood broke I borrowed him and evented him at Pre-Novice quite successfully. He’s also drag-hunted with the Berks and Bucks for five seasons, team chased up to intermediate and show-jumped up to Discovery until he did a suspensory.

“Now when I teach people who have lost their confidence, perhaps after a fall, they get back on him first. If I have people struggling to do something on their own horse, we wheel him out and do it on him and then they can translate that to their own horse. Two girls who have had babies have got back to riding with him and he got me riding after having two kids and he’s still the first one I sit on.

“He loves doing dressage and while he can get hammered for lack of suppleness by the judges, we also have good days when he will beat flashier types because he’s consistent.”

Four Elms Farm’s Hayley Pile competed the beautiful Biasini x Rosenkavalier eight-year-old Botero who went to the World Young Horse Championships in 2015 when he was ridden by Vicki Thompson-Winfield. Botero, now owned by Jane Manley, was out for the first time after a lengthy rehabilitation following an injury. He won the Elementary 49 qualifier with the highest score of the day, 73.83%, ahead of Molly Key and her future star Eastborn D who were on 71.83%.

Hayley reported: “Botero was incredibly well-behaved and seemed to enjoy himself. I was just practising in a show environment what we’ve been doing at home, rather than trying to be competitive. We’ve had some great sessions with Mette [Assouline] who has been coming to Four Elms every week recently. We’ve been doing a lot of stretching him down and bringing him up to get the relaxation and connection through a soft swinging back.”

With two older horses to campaign in young riders, Immogen Chant’s lovely uphill mover MSL Rumba Hit has been on the back burner. She explained “‘George’ is the first youngster I have trained myself. He’s six and I’ve had him since he was four. He’s not the most confident of horses but I can  now take him into any arena and he will go round and not spook.

“In the non-qualifier he was a bit behind my leg. I didn’t ride him as much as I should have done, expecting him to produce the goods by himself. I have to remember he’s still a young horse and needs to have his hand held.”

The pair went on to score over 70% in the test 49 qualifier and and came in second in the gold section. Immy added: “We qualified for the winter regionals at Novice in two outings and then tried to quickly qualify at Elementary in one weekend but sadly missed by one point.”

Accountant Lisa Harrison: “I’m just a hobby rider. There were a lot of nice horses in the warm-up and it was quite satisfying that we beat them.
“We’ve had a good year. We were seventh at the Prelim Merrist Winter Regionals, we were third individually in the senior team inter-regionals and won both rounds of the Petplan Area Festival and were placed in the Novice Native championships”

Lisa Harrison’s very handsome  14.2hh 12-year-old Welsh section D, Sydenham Solomon-sired Deoniaeth Ianto, headed 22 combinations in the test 44 non-qualifier with 68.4% — just ahead of Kay Swabey and her Furst Romancier x Breitling stallion Furst Class, who was on 68%.

Lisa said: “Today was his first BD Elementary so I was pleased with it. He kept his cool and did what I asked. We’ve only been working on Elementary for a couple of months and leg-yielding is still a bit of an issue, so we didn’t do as well in the 49. Another couple of weeks and he’ll get it.

“Our trainer Leanne Wall is a marvellous help to us — as is physio Debbie Winchester who keeps us ticking along. We haven’t pushed hard for collection yet but later next year we hope to go out at Medium.”

Kay Swabey is back out competing again after a break as her husband has been unwell. She was pleased with Furst Class’s performance — and pleased with the judge’s comment. Kay said: “She wrote, ‘what lovely kind hands to the contact — it’s nice to see’.

“I would have liked to have had ‘Fabio’ more in front of my leg in the indoor arena. In the warm-up he was very worried by the other horses. Because he’s a stallion he only ever gets turned out on his own and he’s not sure when other horses come a bit close to him. The anxiety makes him feel forward but when I go in to do my test he tends to breathe out and relax so I don’t always feel I have him quite leg to hand.” Kay added: “I haven’t been to Merrist for ages and I enjoyed it there. It’s so well-organised and everyone was friendly.

“I was having trouble remembering my second test and someone I didn’t know whose daughter had just finished her test offered to read for me. Thank you!”

“Thank you Katrina Cantrell.” Seen here with daughter Teghan and pony favourite, Plasnewydd Artie, fourth on plus 67% in the silver section test 49

The Novice gold qualifier win went to Imogen Byers who scored 72.3% on Hercules, a five-year-old she bred herself by Foundation out of a Royal Diamond mare. She said: “The joy of breeding is that you have to make the most of what you’ve got, but Hercules, one of my first foals, always had ‘look at me’ stamped all over him.

Imogen Byers: “I like to spend a lot of time walking my horses: at the beginning and end and during a session.
“I walk them head up, head down, on a circle, on a long rein — I practise going across the school in extended walk and picking it up.
“You can earn a lot of marks for walk. It’s very easy to practise and you don’t wear your horse out”

“He was backed and produced by Ashley Jenkins, who is stable jockey for Dan Greenwood. He won the Badminton Young Horse championship as a four-year-old. He came home to me this April and has had to adjust to being in my small private yard. He has three solid paces but I like to spend a lot of time walking my horses. See right…

Amy Jack, also riding a five-year-old, came second overall in both Novices riding Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof who is by Samba Hit II out of a Diamond Hit mare. It was the horse’s first competition for eight months as he has been recovering from injury and going through a growth spurt.

Amy is now based at Naomi Vance-Webb’s yard in Rusper and trains there with Amy Stovold. She said: “I was thrilled with ‘Harvey’. He warmed up beautifully and even though he was a little tense in the arena, the judges liked how elastic he was. His balance needed to be better in places [but see give and retake below], but that was partly my fault because my test riding is rusty and I didn’t help him as much as I could have done — I also haven’t practised in a short arena.”

Above, Amy Jack: “The day was a very positive experience and now we’re going out again ‘Harvey’ will settle and relax more.
Although we got 14 points with this one outing, I wasn’t expecting to qualify for the winter regionals.
“We are just going to crack on now with the summer Novice qualification and then move up to Elementary”

Furstin Firefly, a petite Furstenball mare that Jess Gale is producing, is destined to be the future junior ride of Tori Thompson-Bland’s daughter Immy, now 12. Jess scored 69.42% for gold second place in the qualifier after a gold win on 70.89% in the test 27. She said: “This is ‘Fly’s’ first season competing and, although she looked at things in her first couple of outings, she didn’t do anything and qualified for the Novice regionals. Shows are just about building her experience but recently she’s upped her game and is quite enjoying competing and showing off. She’s quite supple for a compact horse and the small arenas work to her advantage.”

Another Furstenball, Hawtins Fiorella, was out for the first time since her four-year-old Young Horse career with the stud’s rider Bryony Goodwin. Fiorella is now six and owned by Hiedi Marcus, who explained: “When she left Hawtins and came home to me she had a few colicky episodes and I suspected ulcers. We spent a year trying to get to grip with those — trying all the conventional medical treatments — but it got to the point where she became quite emaciated and I was advised to consider euthanasia.

“That was an horrific idea and I made a commitment to her that I would try my best to find a solution. I tried everything that might be described as conventional, everything holistic, everything a bit ‘out there’ but nothing worked. I was fastidious about scoping her to monitor her reactions so I knew what was and wasn’t working.

“Then a friend of mine, Debby Lush, suggested Thrivefeed. It’s additive and filler free and contains only food ingredients. At the moment, in the winter, she is getting through a £25 bag a week, but you don’t need to feed any vitamin supplements or expensive drugs which didn’t work for her anyway. I was quite emotional at Merrist because we have been through so much. I feel very bonded to her and I like to think she is with me.”

Zoe Harrison (née Leishman) competed a Totilas son, Tarantino IV, to score 70.35% for second gold place in the Novice 27.  Now six, Tarantino was bred by Charlotte Nash out of her Werther’s Wels mare Madonna — so has top grand prix credentials on both sides of the family.
Zoe commented: “He had been beautifully produced by Sally and Alex Hardwick who owned him for three years. We got him in April and he is now part-owned by my mother Mandy Towle. He’s nice and short-coupled so built for collection and has an amazing balanced canter that you can collect and push on. His trot will come when he is more mature.”

Suzanne Holts’s Sussex Lusitanos-bred Generoso, orphaned and nursed by a Shire, has grown into a bonny lad and scored nearly 69% in the Novice 27.

Suzanne said: “This is only his second BD outing. He’s six and been going through a teenage phase, so I was pleased with his attitude. I decided not to do the second test: he had done all that I had asked of him.”

© Celia Cadwallader, 2 December 2017

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