Pachesham, Surrey, 17 September
Featuring riders Sarah Ridd, Gary Hoult, David Rumsey, Laura Gordon, Georgia West, Krystyna Monks, Debbie Moore, Stephanie Jeffery, Debbie Deas, David Gunner and Briony Simpson.
A ‘£50,000’ driving horse reject, a Jazz-sired ‘sprinter’, a 25-year-old expelled riding school pony and an abandoned Spanish import — all competing at Pachesham — remind us that our equine is our red rosette. And also, at the height of the competition calendar, that dressage should be about making any horse healthier, happier and more beautiful.
FLAMBOYANT seven-year-old Harley Beau was partnered by Sarah Ridd to a 69.19% dressage debut win in the Novice 38 qualifier. Beau is owned by Mark Lloyd-Fox. Mark was at one time an eventer and then, after visiting Germany to improve his flatwork, fell in love with dressage and competed up to grand prix level in Canada and the northern USA. He was initially captivated by Beau, a part-Friesian reject driving horse, floating across a Suffolk field, tail over back, in 2013. Mark’s bill for £50,000 arrived some 18 months or so later…
Carl said to me: “I love him and he’s very trainable”
“After I bought Beau I backed him and turned him away in a rug for the winter with a field companion. The following spring I re-backed him and kept him at livery at a yard near Richmond Park.”
Usually the yard in Richmond is advised of any event happening in the Park and the horses would be kept indoors. When no warning was received about a marathon run, Beau ended up with ‘cheese cutter’ electric fence wire wrapped round one of his front legs. The wire cut through the tendon sheath to the tendon and the attending vet warned Mark that he had three hours to get him into surgery or risk sepsis.
Mark continued: “I managed to find transport to take him to Rossdales in Newmarket where he was operated on by senior partner Andy Bathe, who is a tendon specialist. Before starting his treatment they warned me, ‘It’s going to be expensive and there’s only a 20 per cent chance he will ever be sound — if he survives. But they didn’t say that the bill would eventually reach £50,000!
“Beau had three or four ops under general anaesthetic and spent six months in a plaster cast. It was important to ensure that as he healed the sheath slid over rather than adhered to the tendon, so his recovery also meant hand walking several times a day and two and a half years’ patience.”
Mark remembers: “I had been given advice by my eventing friends— ‘he’s unproven, don’t waste your money’ — but I’ve never had a horse like Beau: everyone falls in love with him!
“I’d visit him in his stable at Newmarket once a month to keep him company — just sitting with him reading a book — and he would put his head in my lap. He’s adorable. He’s just an extremely affectionate dope as well as a big show off”
Beau’s groom at Richmond, Lucie Pohlover, used to take a train from Surrey and a taxi to visit him in Newmarket on her days off. Mark adds: “I owe so much to Lucie. Her devotion to the horse during his rehabilitation was exceptional and he would not be where he is today without her patience, skill and professionalism. Lucie got Beau fit and working under saddle again but I knew that if his education was to progress, he needed a more advanced rider. Carl suggested one of the people he trains, Sarah Ridd.
Beau is an exciting potential competition partner for Sarah and she commented: “I adore him. He is the most trainable horse I’ve ever sat on. Today was his first ever competition and he was very well-behaved.
“I don’t think his long flat back will be an issue for him. I have only been training him since the end of June and at home he’s starting to sit and already we’ve had to change his saddle because of the muscle he’s putting on. He absorbs training like a sponge and he’s a pleasure to teach things. He’s very light to ride and sensitive to weight aids: if you concentrate on yourself, he mirrors your body language.
Mark: “In my experience, you can have as much talent as you like, but if you haven’t got the temperament, you won’t get very far”
“In his tests at Pachesham he was very onward bound, but I didn’t want to kill that forwardness, or create tension in his back by over-using the hand. He’s starting to listen to my seat and the key to his training will be not to have him coming back to me with a shortened neck but coming under.”
Mark concluded: “The biggest win for me is that the horse is alive. The second thing is that he is completely sound and, thirdly, if he’s any good, that he enjoys competing. If he doesn’t enjoy it he won’t have a public career and he will just be a pleasure horse. He has been through enough.”
B Jazzmin repaid owners Debbie and Terry Knight, and her rider Gary Hoult’s patience and dedication with 67.79% and 71.08% Advanced Medium wins and, more importantly, showed huge progress in terms of controlling her competition nerves.
Gary commented: “Her marks were good for her trot work generally — even the extended — and she got 8.5s for her half-passes. I’ve been taking her to the gallops at Parwood once a week. She didn’t have an extended canter before; just went up and down like a pogo stick. To get 8 for an extended canter today was amazing. She loves the gallops and is very fast. I wouldn’t bet anybody against her in a 60m dash.”
The Knights have owned the 16hh Rhodium x Jazz 11-year-old since she was three and experience has shown that the high maintenance mare thrives best in a home environment. Asked why she has been so patient, Deb Knight mutters the word ‘love’ and then rationalises, “She’s tricky but she is very talented and so we have tried different types of feed and relaxation treatments to help her.”
These include a Horseware vibrating rug over a photonic ‘red light’ therapy pad positioned in the area just behind the saddle. This was obtained from Catherine Edwards of ‘Naturally Animals’ and Jazzie has it on her before she is ridden. Debbie added: “Gary is so good with her. He never pressurises her, but just gives her confidence. [Trainer] Mark Ruddock said to Gary the other day, ‘you’ve just got to tell her with your body that everything is okay and stay relaxed’. Gary knows that riding her forward rather than backing off helps her to feel more secure. With Jazzie you have to find her ‘off’ button, put your leg on and ride her through it.”
The Medium 61 silver section was won on the modest score of 65.66% by long-time Training the Teachers of Tomorrow Trust (TTT) member Debbie Moore riding her attractive Spanish horse Ligero XXX.
Debbie commented: “Ligero’s always amazing at home where he focuses on his work but he finds competition environments intimidating. He can shorten his neck and drop his back; it’s disappointing and it makes him appear less supple. When we have the right connection he can do all the movements much more fluently and feels quite ‘oiled’.
“Ligero is 16 and I’ve had him since he was nine. He has always been an extremely nervous horse to the point of being totally irrational in his behaviour. But he is the most gentle soul and lovely to work with. He’s very special to me and there is a very strong bond of trust between us.
“I’ve been a TTT member virtually since it started and trained my first youngster with them up to PSG. I now work with a lot of remedial horses but as a freelance trainer I’m happy to help whether the goal is to compete or it’s just about the horse’s well-being.”
New Forest pony Furnace Bright Spark moved up to Medium in June 2017 aged 25. With his rider of the past two years Debbie Deas, ‘Shadow’ or ‘Shad’ has already achieved a plus-66% personal best at the new level. At Pachesham, a run-through before the Oldencraig Area Festival second round, Debbie was reminded that errors of course can be costly. Despite the hiccup, Shad obligingly waited while his rider sorted out the floor plan in her mind and happily continued. Debbie said: “His attitude is amazing. He has been a godsend because he’s kept me going and given me so much pleasure and fun through my ups and downs with my own pony Charm of Narnia who was finally put down in January.
“When I took him on he was doing Novice and Elementary and I intended just to hack him and do the occasional show at that level. Never in our wildest
dreams did we think Shadow would get to medium. He was 23, stiff and crooked but he has a heart of a lion and a temperament to die for. I put him in a Micklem bridle, which made some difference, but changing him to a Bombers Happy Tongue (ported) snaffle — alongside consistent schooling — has made a huge difference.
“I train him with Sharon Edwards and we’ve managed to get him straighter and more supple than he’s ever been before. It humbles me that, if they’ve got the right attitude, you can do that with any horse or pony. I’m an amateur rider, but I take my riding very seriously. I always make notes on my homework when I train with Sharon and hope when I next go that she will see a big improvement. I love making progress and the fact that Shadow can still improve at his age astounds me.”
How Shadow and his 'mum' Lisa Morton have travelled the miles together
“For five years ‘Shad’ (seen here ridden by Debbie Deas) was a lawn mower and I hacked him out myself. Then, to help earn his keep, he went to Burstow Park Riding School in Horley as a working livery. He was expelled after a few months as he had more children on the ground than could stay on.
“We discovered that he had a bad back and after that had been treated I found another rider, Suzanne Ruby, the same age as him then, 13. She took his education back to the beginning and they learnt together until they were both 18. During their time together they competed very successfully in unaffiliated dressage, show-jumping and one day events.
“When Suzanne moved away her trainer Joanna Curties took over the ride and affiliated him for dressage for the first time aged 19 and they went to the Novice Petplan Finals at the Winter Championships in 2013.
“In 2014 an Oldencraig advanced rider Sian Kendall took over the reins and they did the BYRDS and Seniors Southern Region team competitions. Shadow was then borrowed by Kathryn Menzies (who now works for Sarah Millis) to gain Elementary experience before taking up a BD apprenticeship at Catherston Stud.
More winners from the day
David Rumsey and his own eight-year-old Fifty Cent x Pilot 17.2hh Finetime were back in action competing for the first time since the Hickstead summer regionals. While Advanced Medium is now their fighting weight, David is taking advantage of the rulebook to qualify ‘Muddy’ first at medium and they scored 74.48% and 69.84% in their test 69 and 76 classes.
David commented: “We’ve been practising his changes on the tracks round the orchards in Kent near my yard. It allows them to be forward, open and relaxed. I’ve always had hot horses to ride but Muddy is a very chilled character, so I’ve had to adjust my riding style. I’ve been used to giving small aids for a big reaction but Muddy is becoming more reactive and all the hacking and cantering fittening work has helped.
“I went to Carl [Hester’s] last week and we practised his two tempis, he can do four, and Carl had us working on suppleness which I felt came through in the tests today, especially his first one. He still gets a bit tired by his second tests but I was pleased with the feeling he gave me — he was lovely — forward and soft.”
Top marks in the day’s Elementary 53 qualifier and Elementary 40 were scored by Georgia West riding Revue and Stephanie Jeffery riding Fay’s Choice. Georgia, who trains with Sarah Williams, and with Leanne Wall at her clinics, commented: “We’ve been working on straightness because Revue finds it very easy to bring her quarters in rather than work through her back. We had our best score to date in the qualifier, 69.55%, because I’ve gained control of her outside shoulder in the leg yields.
“We’ve also been working on the gears. Revue (right) has a massive medium trot and medium canter, but coming back into working and collected paces has been the difficulty. She can go croup high and end up on her forehand. We’ve been building up to medium on a circle to ensure that she doesn’t take over and almost bringing her back to an more collected pace.”
Stephanie shares the ride on Fay’s Choice with her daughter Susannah who show-jumps her. Stephanie said: “He’s a great little horse but quirky and gets very sharp and tricky in the winter, but he’s very rewarding. Considering he was show-jumping three weeks ago and this our first time out for ages, I was very pleased with the consistency and we had some lovely marks and scored 68.7% in the non-qualifier and 67.5 in the qualifier. They’re our first winter points and I would like to do the regionals at Merrist Wood next February.”
Former Merrist Wood lecturer David Gunner competed successfully in the day’s Novices with Wonham Two Socks, taking the silver section test 23 overall on 70.41%. David shares Chalkpit Stables yard in Brockham with eventer Briony Simpson. David explained: “Briony bought Two Socks as a five-year-old to go eventing but he ended up being too big and gangly for her. I did some flatwork on him and we clicked and we’ve been doing dressage ever since. I stopped riding for a few years, but when Two Socks came along I got back into it.”
Briony and Direct Goldleaf, ‘Albie’, were the top-scoring Prelim combo producing 69%and 72.7% tests. Briony has a ‘thing’ about the ‘Direct’ prefix which belongs to Jocelyn Riley of Equestrian Direct, the riding surfaces company.
Briony said: “When I saw Direct Goldleaf advertised the prefix sparked my interest: I really like the types she imports. He’s by TB sire Dock Leaf and is nine now but seems to have spent some time in the wilderness since she brought him over as a youngster. I’ve had a couple of quiet couple of years myself. I was very excited finally to break the 70% barrier with Albie. He’s been going very well in training but I haven’t been quite able to get the marks in a test. He’s workmanlike and very compact and with the dressage training he is starting to become more supple and consistent.”
© Celia Cadwallader, 22 September 2017