Oldencraig, Surrey, 26 January
Featuring riders Alejandro Farina, Annie Ho, Luke Baber-Davies, Francesca Bradley, Annie Rawlins, Tania Dahdi, Jackie Elkins, Emma Roche, Megan Austin, Mark Powell and Gema Lovett-Milne

RIDERS looking forward regionals, nationals and internationals included some professionals new to the southern dressage circuit. Alejandro Farina who rides for Russian owner Elena Baturina will be an interesting one to follow. He found approval from all three of his judges who included Mary-Anne Horn who was at C for his 69.54% winning medium 76 qualifier with Fürst Fugger eight-year-old Fiorella.

Alejandro Farina, originally from Spain, came to England after six years in the Netherlands where he worked for over four of them for Bert Rutten, before going freelance as a trainer and rider up to small tour level.
Elena Baturina breeds horses in Russia but is currently living in the UK so those that are being produced for competition are based at a yard near Basingstoke.
Alex, who is training with Spencer Wilton, explained: “I will be getting youngsters from Russia every year and we will compete them to the highest level we can. The ones we think are really good we will keep and the others will be sold”

Mary-Anne commented: “It is a lovely partnership and the test was nicely presented. He rode with empathy and harmony and I think he got the best out of the mare although there are still some green bits.”

Alex, frank in his analysis of Fiorella’s performance, agreed: “We had some tension today, especially in our first test. She has quite a big walk and I’m working on her ability to collect it consistently for the pirouettes. I am happy with her canter but at the moment her trot remains a weak point: I either get ground cover in the medium or expression and she needs to be more supple in the lateral work.”

Alex was also tactful in his riding of Waterprinz-sired Vaterloo who won the gold section indoor novice with 70%, but he had difficulty maintaining the same quality in the way of going in the 38 qualifier. He commented: “Vaterloo was tired in his second test but he was a good boy and he can be quite naughty. He’s a stallion and makes mistakes because he thinks for himself too much. Although he is seven this is only his second competition. He can do higher level movements but we are taking him out to give him a nice time now and hope to qualify him at both novice and elementary for the summer regionals.

Eventer Annie Ho, who competed in affiliated dressage for the first time earlier this month, scored 67.93% to win the elementary 45 gold section with her 2014 Asian Games eventing partner Baxo. Annie, who now produces horses for

the HK para team, competed para team horses, former show-jumper Jockey Club Cathegus W and new Hong Kong purchase Sarago Raphael. They were placed first and second respectively on plus-70% scores in the novice 38 qualifier.

Annie said: “Raph is the latest addition to the Hong Kong para dressage stable and came over from Holland only two or three months ago. We’ve only got three riders in our para squad. They ride in grades 1 and 3 and the horses will compete at both levels. I train the horses for dressage and get them used to being ridden with the two long sticks that our para riders use.

Baxo is owned by Annie’s private sponsor, Michael Lee. Annie, 34, added: I am quite keen to qualify him for regionals and when I do eventually stop eventing I plan to do dressage and I keep pushing Nick Burton, Hong Kong’s dressage performance coach, to buy me a dressage horse!”

How BHS qualifications put Annie's feet on a path of Olympic opportunities

ANNIE HO, who is now based in Thursley, Surrey, grew up in the UK and passed her Pony Club ‘A’ test while a member of the Wimbledon Pony Club. She explained: “I went on to do all my BHS stages and got my intermediate teaching then took an Equine Degree course at Hartpury.

Annie rides Baxo for her private sponsor Michael Lee.Her big boss for Hong Kong equestrian competition is former British Dressage chief executive Amanda Bond. Amanda has employed top guns Corinne Bracken and Nick Burton as HK performance trainers

“My family come from Hong Kong and I decided to use my qualifications and go out there to teach at Tuen Mun, one of the four public riding schools run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

“I was there at the time of the Beijing Olympics and, working as one of the stable managers at the Olympic stables, I met Samantha Albert who was competing in the eventing for Jamaica. Those Olympics were the turning point for me when I decided that competing was what I wanted to do in my career.”

“I then had a job at the Beas River Country Club retraining race horses. All the horses who come out of racing in Hong Kong go there for retraining to be found new jobs. I saw that one, called Super Combed, had potential as an eventer and I bought him and brought him back with me to England where I became a working pupil with Samantha Albert who is based in Newbury.”

Baxo is currently reflecting on his possible future as a para horse

Riding Super Combed Annie was individual gold medallist in the 2013 Asian Eventing Championships, but it was Undulette, “my first proper eventer” — bought for her to compete like Baxo by Michael Lee — who started her involvement with para riders.

Annie continued: “I did my first international classes on Undulette and she had taken me to my first Asian Games in 2010. When she finished her eventing career she proved to be suitable as a para horse and I helped Natasha Tse, our most experienced para with her when she went to the London Olympics. I also helped Natasha at Rio 2016.”

Although at 34, Annie thinks her future might lie in dressage, for the moment she is looking ahead to what would be the peak of her eventing career, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She adds realistically: “The Hong Kong Jockey Club has a pool of potential horses, but so far I have yet to ride in a 3* event. Our immediate goal is success at the 2018 Asian Games.”

Luke Baber-Davies and nine-year-old former Caretino-sired show-jumper Caleo scored 69.21% for an easy victory in the PSG, on what the rider says is only his fourth test at the level. Luke commented: “He is still gaining strength but he tries so hard — sometimes over-tries. I really have to ride the tempis now because we’ve been teaching him twos and ones he would like to show those off.”

The Chailey Stud, East Sussex-based rider has found that he has to travel out of the region during the winter months to find higher level qualifiers for his top horses but he plans to take the two Dimaggio sons, Keystone Drummer Boy [Dexter] and Keystone Disaronno to Merrist Wood for the advanced medium and PSG winter regionals. With Alice Oppenheimer riding another super Dimaggio, Headmore Dirubinio, they should be exciting classes to watch.

While Luke is hoping to ride Dexter in his first UK internationals this summer, Francesca Bradley, head girl at Dane Rawlins Bolney Park Farm, competing in the same class on Baldovino, already has tickets for Le Mans. She will be travelling with Dane, who is her trainer as well as her boss, and taking ‘Ernie’ with her.

Francesca said: “Ernie is a sweetheart and was with me all through my three-year degree course at Hartpury and I competed him Diepenbeek, Belgium, in international young riders last year. He’s the horse that is going to give me my first experience at big tour but I also have an exciting Weltmeyer x Florestan six-year old who I hope will be my future top horse.”

The Elementary 57 features only one medium trot, usually a highlight for Kent-based rider Tania Dahdi and Waldon Wild Skye. Competing in the gold section, they scored a little below their best on 68.75%. The 15.2hh gelding 11-year-old by Wild Dyce Bewes can be affected by tension in reaction to distractions off-stage. Tania commented: “He has stonking medium trots and it was unlucky that someone made a noise in the car park as we were just turning on to the diagonal so he freaked out and I didn’t get a medium until we hit X but he produced super 8 and 7.5 leg yields.

Tania also competes Virginia Rider’s ex-racehorses and rides horses for dealer MJL Equestrian, near Dartford

“I’m planning to do both elementary and medium, tests and music, at the regionals and we’ll be going to Wellington. He was so chilled there at the last winter regionals that we achieved fifth in the silver ele freestyle and tenth in the test.

The silver section Elementary 57 was won by Jackie Elkins and 12-year-old Will-I-Am with 68.21%. She said: “That’s six months’ of me trying to ride into a more relaxed contact and keep that through the movements. You can’t move up the levels unless you’ve got the horse through. It’s no good being told to ‘relax’; you also need to understand that doesn’t mean throw everything away: you need to be able to tap into useful tension.

“It was interesting that, although we haven’t been out for a while, we got far fewer ‘tight in the neck’ or ‘tight in the jaw’ comments. I was thrilled to get such a good mark from Mary-Anne a judge you know says it how it is. I feel able to celebrate tonight with a nice bottle of wine.”

Jackie Elkins wryly terms herself as
‘one of those people who loves riding in the dark, in the rain, after a full day’s work’

Fortunately as Borough Inspector for Epsom and Ewell Police shifts can work in her favour: “If I’m working late shifts that fits in quite well, and I can do Will in the morning. Will is amazing and he’s never put a foot wrong and bearing in mind there are occasions when neither of us is sure what we’re doing, he doesn’t take advantage and he’s always pleased to see me whatever time I turn up.”

Armitano, an 11-year-old by Armitage and a former show-jumper, was bought by Emma Roche’s client Maruska Vittek as schoolmaster for for herself and eventually for her daughters

Armitano’s first outing scores, a winning 71.04% and 69.67% third in the novices, left competitive rider Emma Roche feeling slightly puzzled: “I felt he did a far better qualifier,” she explained. His medium trots were good and he kept balance and rhythm while he was tense, jogging and unbalanced in the walk but there was only a difference of one mark between the movements.

“Anne Greenaway wrote a lovely comment on his test 23 sheet, ‘What a lovely and very talented horse. Just needs more strength behind to take weight back to lighten the shoulders to show his ability to the full’.”

Megan Austin, who rode Longhalves Renoir on his dressage debut at Oldencraig achieved a 64.79% bronze second place in the Novice 23. The five-year-old Welsh B breeding stallion has a very important date later this month when his talent will be showcased by Sam Holland at the Addington Stallion show.

His breeder Jo Filmer said: “Megan is only 13 but as keen as mustard. She helps keep him exercised at home and has regular lessons with Debby Lush. She is a very talented young rider, sits beautifully and has lovely hands.”  Renoir is a son of Lemonshill Falcon, 2018 overall Sports Pony Stallion champion. Falcon also sired Pippa Drew’s filly foal Hammerwood Flamingo, the supreme youngstock champion.

“Mark Powell explained: “Soulman and I have done whatever my two daughters have driven me to do, including some low level eventing.
“If you can’t beat them join them! My daughter Laura is chief instructor at Mount Mascal Riding School in Bexley and my daughter Lizzie hacks and organises our diary”

At the other end of the size spectrum, competing in the prelims, was 18hh part-Shire Pattens Soulman ridden by Sevenoaks Riding Club member Mark Powell. They won the test 19 silver section with 65.41% looking a happy partnership.

Mark commented: “He can be a big lump to get together, but he’s like a Rolls Royce — as safe as houses, very comfy, and attracts attention wherever we go.”

Soulman by Oldenburg sire Duplikat was bred by Douglas Hill, a master of the Essex Farmers Hunt, and was found on Canvey Island. Mark said: “It was Firework night and I rode him in a dimly-lit school with bangs, whistles and flashes everywhere. He was such a good boy I said, ‘that’ll do for me’.”

Gema Lovett-Milne  and 17.1hh strawberry roan Kalooki competing in the bronze section headed the Prelim 17 class overall on 68.39%. Gema, herself a BHS and UKCC2 qualified trainer, trains with Sandra Devulder and is aiming for this year’s Area Festival competitions.

© Celia Cadwallader, 3 February 2018

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