Merrist Wood, Surrey, 6 May
Featuring riders Amanda Radford, Daisy Douglass, Alice Oppenheimer, Georgie Brittan, Hayley Pile, Amy Maris, Florence Turner, Holly Rigden, Sara Malpass — and Caroline Sparks, Lindsey Dawes, Mia Newman, Jazmine Merrifield and Natascha Whitehead

NATURAL ENERGY, good work ethic and fitness proved their value in the soaring temperatures. And the day’s competition was set alight early on by some exceptional marks earned in the Novice 28. It was led by silver riders, 47-year-old businesswoman Amanda Radford riding Headmore Dionysus and 14-year-old Daisy Douglass in second place on her first horse Ferrara II.

Amanda’s 76.66% winning ride was on 15.3hh Dimaggio x Rubinstein bred Headmore Dionysus, see image top. She explained: “Dillon has had several months off because he had a pull when he was being a hooligan in the field in January. We’ve brought him back in to work very gradually so we missed the winter regionals. Today was intended to be just a nice experience and to get his confidence back. He was incredibly attentive in the warm-up and well-behaved around the other horses — and went into his tests and was lovely, forward and responsive. He felt great. Now we’re going to be in a bit of a scramble to get the rest of the points he needs for summer qualification.Then I will move him up to Elementary.”

Amanda, who began riding as an adult, now fits her two horses, Dillon and The Maxfactor, around her heavy-duty career. Currently she is corporate controller for a global medical technology company. She said: “It’s difficult balancing my job with riding the horses and keeping fit myself. I’m based at Headmore Stud and Alice and Sarah Oppenheimer are incredibly supportive.”

Daisy commented: “I was very proud of ‘Teddy’. He handled the heat really well and his sheet starts with a row of eights for trot.
“When we first got him he had a nice comfortable trot that he found easy but we’ve been working on getting the punch from behind and making it more forward.
“His canter is really good and he’s learning to collect it quite easily”

Both Amanda and Daisy benefited from warm-up help on the day from Alice, their trainer. Daisy scored 75.33% riding her light footed 17hh Fidertanz x Negretto six-year-old Ferrara. Daisy only moved on from competing pony Saco W at the end of last summer and stands 5ft 4in but luckily has long “dressage” legs!

The heat was a factor for riders, too, and Daisy is a Type 1 diabetic. She said: “It can be quite difficult to manage my diabetes when I’m competing and using a lot of energy, but riding helps me by keeping me fit and keeps me from thinking about it too much.”

Alice Oppenheimer had a horse to ride herself, big full sister to Dillon, Headmore Bella Ruby, and the pair earned 77.38% from novice 34 qualifier judge Clare Kershaw, then 80% in the Elementary 49 from Debbie Wardle. Ruby recently qualified at Pachesham for the Shearwater semi-finals, despite not performing at her best after her post-Winter Championships break.

Alice said: “She’s a hot buzzy mare and heat doesn’t bother her; it almost makes her more rideable. It’s a long time since I got an 80% so it’s quite exciting.”

Georgie: “We were at Merrist two weeks before and the first time indoors he was very spooky and wobbly, but this show he was focused and he felt established at the level.
“I was pleased with my sheet: we didn’t have a single six on it!”

Sara Somerset, for a long time a breeder of Hanoverians bearing the Longdean prefix was once again at the ring-side supporting her daughter Georgie Brittan. As a young rider Georgie represented Great Britain riding Paris 52 and took the very sharp Diamant L up to small tour from Elementary. Since then she has married and had a baby break.

Georgie is up for the challenge of another Diamond Hit relation, possibly one of the last Longdean prefixed horses, 16.2hh Longdean Dakota. He is by Decamerone (Diamond Hit x Sandro Hit) out of a Keystone Walentino mare. Partnering the inexperienced seven-year-old late starter (due to the baby), Georgie scored 74.99% for first place in the gold Novice 28. Georgie commented: “It was a good test. I remember thinking halfway through the trot work, ‘this is going nicely, I hope we don’t mess this up’.

Another sizzling score, 74.33%, was earned for second place in the Elementary 49 by Four Elms Farm rider Hayley Pile who also won the gold section Elementary 42 overall on 70.93%. Hayley was competing Jane Manley’s Biasini x Rosenkavalier nine-year-old Botero. Botero returned to competition after lengthy rehabilitation at the end of last year. The compact little chestnut can become tense and so stretching has been a focus of a lot of his come-back work.

Hayley said: “Recently with trainer Mette Assouline we have started to progress his schooling. He thought it would be great fun to show the judge today exactly what he has learned.

In the non-qualifier we had a few flying changes and he got a bit tight with me in the canter.

“Between the two tests he did some fantastic work in the warm-up. I got him just where I wanted him: he was really expressive and felt fabulous. I hoped I could keep the relaxed and rideable canter in the qualifier and I had what I thought was particularly good 20m circle and give and retake. At one time he would have gone croup high but that happens less and less. And I can feel that he’s enjoying himself and it’s great to know that he’s having as much fun, as I am.”

Solid achievements
Amy Maris returned to competition with her beautiful, elegant United x Negro 17hh eight-year-old mare Frouwke. They won the silver section Elementary 42 on 68.9%.

Amy, who had a difficult winter with her cystic fibrosis, said: “Warming up ‘Flora’ I was breathing in hot air which makes my lungs contract, so they became over-dry. That made me more out of breath than usual and I was drinking a ton of water just to stay hydrated.

“But I really enjoyed my test. In the first half I had a lot of energy but by the second half it had gone, so I focused on getting her round safely and hopefully, accurately, but I could have asked for more in the medium.

Flora does have her spooky moments, but she’s lovely and doesn’t try to make things too difficult for me. She was saying, ‘okay, I’ll keep going just tell me when you want more’.”

Amy, in the midst of exams for her Equine Business Management degree, is hoping to qualify Flora for both Novice and Elementary regionals. She trains with Elstead-based Melissa Smith who keeps her mare progressing up the levels when she’s not able to ride.

The bronze section winner of the Elementary 42, and fifth combination overall in the class scoring 67.5%, was Emma de Silva and her Indoctro-sired 23-year-old Moreno Utopia. Emma has trained with TTT “graduate” Hinda Inglis since she was very young but Skippy was found at a later and more difficult time in her life.

“At the grand old age of 23”, Emma told Out and About, ‘Skippy’ was declared Novice Veteran Champion at Vale View in 2017 and they and also came third in the Veteran Elementary championships

She said: “I was living in Cambridgeshire and I found this little chap needing a rider and I was in desperate need of a horse. I sat on him and we instantly clicked and ever since then we’ve gone from strength to strength.

“He had done show jumping until his owner had decided he’d had enough, but he’s not yet ready to give up a career. I was allowed to have him on loan and he came to live with me in Surrey and I’ve had him for three years. He’s 16hh but he has the biggest stride and is like riding a 17hh. I love him to bits but he’s very cheeky and if he can get out of things he will. He learns tests very easily and anticipates, ‘uh huh, I know what’s coming up and I going to do it — now!’”

Another valued older horse, 22-year-old Herby, won the silver section Novice 34 qualifier with 68.57% under small animal veterinary nurse Holly Rigden. She said: “I’ve had Herby 11 years. He’s done everything with me — cross-country, pleasure rides and show jumping — although he’s always been rubbish at show jumping because he knows the fences fall down!

“I’m careful with him now because I don’t want him to break. I was pleased with his test and it’s the first time he’s been out for a while. He had colic surgery about seven years ago and last August he had a prolapse and colicked again. That made me realised how much he means to me and how good he is. He’s so well-behaved and I contrast that with friends whose horses are often difficult. Herby’s quite talented and he doesn’t look his age — and it’s nice when he does so well.”

Louie Towle’s Welsh section B, Pitttybeck Principal Boy, won the bronze section Novice 34 qualifier with 68.09% under Home Park groom Mia Newman.
Mia said: “This show was the first time I’ve ridden affiliated and it was only my second test on ‘Seven’.
“He’s 10 and been there and done everything so I find he’s teaching me quite a lot. My own horse is quite green and doesn’t necessarily give you what you ask for, so Seven keeps me well-schooled.
“He’s quite sharp and he can evade the contact sometimes by going over-bent, so we’re working on better consistency in the hand”

Bronze section Novice 28 winner on 67.91%, Florence Turner, rode her own Indorado-sired 12-year-old former show jumper Braeburn V. The pair were also placed second in their section in the Novice qualifier on 67.38%. Florence said: I have had ‘Beau’ for a year and have just got to grips with dressage together and I hadn’t affiliated before, but he was doing nice tests, I’ll give it a go. I saw that there were the Area Festivals that I could qualify for. We now we have enough scores and will probably go to Pachesham.”

The pair have competed affiliated only four times and Flo’s goal, the magic 70%, has already been achieved. Florence, 24, is a human physio and works at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead. She said: “Horses are my hobby and my away-from-work time. I have been having lessons with Melissa Beer and doing some pole work sessions with Tania Grantham as well. Pole work has helped Beau a lot. They’ve made him more confident and opened him out. It has made him more athletic and improved his dressage without him realising it — he just thinks it’s fun — and it’s got him stronger.”

Sara Malpass who works as a freelance rider and teacher, scored plus-68% for third and second places in the silver Novices with her own “very green” 17hh eight-year-old Keystone DiCaprio. She explained: “He’s has the temperament of an angel, but we have had to overcome a lot of issues with him. He used to rear and stand bolt upright — but he was rearing because he was in pain!

“In his early training, unfortunately, no-one thought when he was naughty that he might be in pain, but he had OCD (osteochondritis dissecans) in both stifles and in the neck.”

 “I’ve had him two and a half years and he’s had surgery to sort out his physical problems. Since then I’ve used the water treadmill at Wellington to help him gain strength and use himself correctly. I’m now at the point where I can ask more from him, but I don’t overwork him. I ride him four times a week at most, three times in the school and only for 20 minutes. He’s a quick learner so he doesn’t need more.”

Commenting on his tests, Sara said: “I was pleased that he maintained a nice rhythm, although we had a couple of issues in his first test as he broke canter and gave a flying change. This time I managed to get him back, keep him calm and carry on, instead of problems multiplying and him getting tense.”

Sarah Royce-Hoare’s homebred by Showmaker, Such A Jarma, also has history. Under trainer Caroline Sparks “PJ” won the gold section Medium 63 on 72.75%. This was followed by a 67.9% Test 71 qualifier.

Caroline said: “PJ came to me 18 months ago and is 10 now, and still Sarah’s ‘Number One Son’, but he had quite a difficult start in life. He had surgery four years ago for an ‘entrapment’ type colic [when a fatty lump cuts off the blood supply to the intestine] and we’ve had to manage him very carefully and it makes it very difficult to keep condition on him

“PJ can now get spasmodic colic which tends to be precipitated by extreme changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure: you can almost use him as a barometer!”

Caroline continued: “I took over the ride on PJ in October because Sarah was pregnant and it has enabled me to bring his training on. When they first came to me, Sarah’s goal was to win two Novices, which she did quite quickly, and now she’s raised her sights to competing wearing a tailcoat!”

“I’ve qualified him for the summer regionals at Medium but Sarah will ride him, although in the gold section. She only got back on PJ this last week after the baby. She has been doing her Pilates but I believe that to be riding fit, you have to ride as well and she needs to crack on. She has a lot to take on board as she’s never ridden half-passes before but she’s very keen, works hard and is competitive.”

Medium silver section wins on 67.75% and 65% went to Lindsey Dawes of Fairoak Grange, riding her Trakehner mare Bluewood Tamsin. Lindsey said: “Tamsin is a lovely person and a delight but she has had a string of injuries, so getting to this point has taken longer than it might have done. Every time she’s restarted, she’s been crazy excited and lost marks. The hot day worked in our favour because she has so much energy and such a good engine. Other horses might struggle — but not her!

Lindsey’s own riding career has been interrupted by breaking her back — twice within two years. She said: “The second time a vertebrae impinged on my spinal cord and I could have ended up paralysed. I was very lucky that there was a professional nurse at the show that day and she stopped me moving about in my pain.”

Jimbo Furry Foot performs for fans!
Natascha said: “We’re very proud of Jimbo. We went to Hartpury three weeks ago for the Prelim Petplan Finals and were 16th out of 40 — and in the silver section!
“He’s just stepped up to Novice and today we got nearly 64% in the qualifier which isn’t bad considering that I didn’t ride it as accurately as I might have done.
“We don’t know Jimbo’s breeding, but whatever it is, it seems to have worked. In my training with Rob Waine we’re working on lengthening and that is improving everything and he’s now getting a bit of elevation when I collect him.
“My husband technically owns him. I bought him when he was 11 months as his birthday present! My husband is a Police officer who spends all day in London and Jimbo was intended as his fun horse.
“You can do anything with him. The day before Hartpury they hacked to the pub in Sherlock Row for a pint and the chef always comes out with a carrot for him. He’s a magnet and wherever we go, people flock to him”

When she sustained her back injury Lindsey had reached Inter II with another Trakehner mare, Holme Park Silk. She said: “Silk was a super dressage horse and in Tamsin I found the same collection of qualities: a big heart, clever brain, good work ethic and she’s sensitive, forward and really light off the aids. The downside to Trakehners is that they can get tense and make a lot of mistakes.”

Although the Prelim classes earlier in the day were mostly populated by ponies, they were both won overall by Jazmine Merrifield riding her Irish Sports Horse Togher Tourist. Jazmine said: “Toggie is only 16.1hh but he has big movement that he likes to show off which can make short arena tests quite difficult, but  they’re good practice.

“He’s a long horse and some days he gets so excited to do his job he anticipates. Today he was listening to everything I asked him to do and I managed to keep everything together — he stayed balanced and he carried himself. He was amazing, especially in the heat. I was so proud of him.”

Jazmine has ridden in both the Junior and Seniors with Elstead Riding Club, but she added: “I train with Tracey May who trained with the TTT, [click to read TTT feature] and she’s got me more into dressage. I would love to get up to Elementary, but Toggie’s an older horse and had a bit of wear and tear, so we are slowly strengthening him up.”

© Celia Cadwallader, 13 May 2018

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