Step Aside (Belmoredean), West Sussex, 7 January
Featuring riders Mandy Brown, Daniel Timson, Kirsty Mepham, Sam O’Dwyer, Sarah-Jane Cox and Fiona Wilson
MANDY BROWN and Keystone Rumour on their first time out since the Oldencraig Area festival in October achieved their best mark yet at advanced medium producing a 70.66% test 98.
Mandy, commenting on her Rhodeo x Weltmeyer nine-year-old, said: “She was so forward I thought, wow this is too much. But I now realise that is how I need to have her. She was a bit crooked in one of the changes on the serpentine — so I’ve got to straighten that out for the regionals because there will be three judges and I won’t get away with it.
“Her half-passes were magical. With the mirror I could both see and feel that. But she was so full of it I was asking myself what I should I do about all this power and energy, then I told myself that my trainer would say ‘just ride it and enjoy it!’ and I did. It was a lesson for me: it’s what I need and not too much. I only need to say ‘thank you’!”
Daniel Timson brought three eight-year-olds along that he is training at his Exfold Farm yard. The magnificent Elgar ended up just ahead of stable mate Bellagio in the medium 61 on scores of 70.17% and 70% respectively. Bellagio (Breitling W x Fidermark) is owned by Training the Teachers of Tomorrow chairman, Tucker Anderson. Daniel explained: “He’s 16.3hh and a big, chunky boy and not even finished developing yet and Tucker is quite petite. I’m producing him for sale, or perhaps with a year or so’s work under his belt, I may be able to make him suitable for Tucker. At the moment he needs to finish growing and get stronger over his back. He can do everything well and when he has the right muscle structure in place he will be able to work with power in a relaxed frame. I really like him. He has a fantastic attitude to work and is a joyful horse to ride. He could go far in the right hands.”
Meanwhile after waiting patiently on the truck for his advanced medium class at the end of the afternoon, Woodlander Whambamboo made his presence felt in the warm-up. The 16hh Woodlander Wesuvio x Davignon II gelding had trouble keeping his hindquarters on the ground in the chill wind, but his rider managed to hold it together enough to score a 65.41% advanced medium 92.
Daniel said: “I don’t usually make excuses for my horses, but when I put Boo back on the truck, he flooded the floor, he must have been bursting. It was very strange behaviour for him. He’s like a lovely little teddy bear. Anna Sampson, his owner, is learning on him and will be competing him herself later on.”
Mandy Crouch’s future ride Amicella won the elementary 53 qualifier on 71.03% under Kirsty Mepham, see below, while another stunning mare, Keystone Duchessa, owned and ridden by Sam O’Dwyer, won the elementary 40 silver section on 65% from judge Debbie Pateman and was placed third in the test 53 qualifier by Margaret Drewe with 65.44%.
Sam said: “This is our first BD outing since May last year. She was very well-behaved and she can do all the ele movements, but we have a problem with balance. She has such an active hindleg, see below, she can over-power herself which is why I’m riding her in a double. I don’t have much ring experience but I found my way round the tests and my mind didn’t go blank.” Sam also struggles with work-life balance. “I work as a freelance aviation industry consultant on airport projects which pays for my horses, but this year my aim is to qualify her for elementary regionals.”
Duchessa, who has ‘special’ written all over her, is now 10 and long overdue for the spotlight. The Dimaggio-sired bay mare, known as ‘Perfect Pink’ is out of Suzanne Lavandera’s broodmare Escada. Sam returned to riding as an adult after a gap of 22 years and backed Pink herself. Sam said: “She was easy and I’d never backed a horse before, but Suzanne made it clear to me, ‘you’re just the cannon fodder and I’m in control on the ground’. I never doubted either of them. I had just got to the point of riding free when Pink became lame.”
Pink and “sideways breakover” shoes
Sam said: “I was at livery with Suzanne when I first saw Pink in the field as a three-year-old. Suzanne wasn’t keen to sell her but I said, ‘She’s the only one I want’. My horse had gone lame, and so had the horse I’d had before. I think she felt a bit sorry for me so she agreed and she knew that I’d stay on the yard and train with her.
“I had Pink vetted from nose to tail, but when we put shoes on her she didn’t seem quite right on the turn but it wasn’t until later that her problem was diagnosed as a collateral ligament injury. When she came back into work Suzanne recommended wonderful farrier, David Nicholls, who fitted Pink with Performance Leverage Reduction (PLR) shoes. From the minute he put them on her she was sound, if not quite happy on the turns, but that got better and better. She’s now completely sound.”
Sam describes Pink’s shoes as, “quite wide for support and basically convex, with less metal at the sides”. The effect is to reduce sideways resistance when the horse is turning, so that strain that would otherwise be transmitted to the collateral ligament of the coffin joints in the feet is reduced. Originally PLR shoes were made in hardened aluminium but, says Sam, Pink is now shod with a steel version: “She looks and feels good in them and David is a brilliant bare foot trimmer so her balance behind is always spot on, too. When she went lame I was heartbroken. I knew that I would never get another horse like her. She had two years off so her education didn’t start until she was six but Suzanne always said to me, ‘one day you’re going to realise that buying her was the best thing you ever did’.”
“I pushed ‘Humphrey’ too hard”
Reflecting on her approach to competing and training her homebred Trakehner (Trocadero x Hohenstein) 17.2hh seven-year-old, Castletown Fearless, Sarah-Jane Cox commented: “He got two plus-69% wins in the novice gold section today, but he’s a 75% horse when he’s at home.”
S-J, who has competed Comanche Passoa at advanced medium and PSG at regional level and advanced medium at Nationals, has high expectations of young ‘Humphrey’, but he had some issues at novice summer regionals. She explained: “I pushed Humphrey too hard; put too much pressure on him and we came last. He had another crisis of confidence in the elementaries at Oldencraig Area Festival. Humphrey’s highly saleable because he’s safe and beautiful, but when I took him to Suzanne Lavandera, she said that if I sold him I’d be sorry that I hadn’t persevered.
“Humphrey’s the first horse I’ve had that’s sensitive. He’s very talented and that makes it worse. You forget he’s a baby and will only be seven in June”
“I think Humphrey’s been telling me he couldn’t cope. We had put him in a double because he gets tense in the neck when he’s nervous, which he can’t do in a double. Now we’ve put him back into a snaffle, taken the pressure off and only work him three days a week. He’s getting there but he’s still not going out like he does at home but once you’ve taught him something it’s there for life.” S-J is aiming for more competition mileage but lowering the bar: “I will aim Humphrey at gold novice summer regionals again and at the Hickstead Dressage Masters Championships at elementary — and as soon as Hickstead’s open I’m going to take him to every show.”
Fiona Wilson competed Whitehawk Majestic (Vechta x Apache) to win the novice 22 silver section with 69.48% on her first visit to Belmoredean from her Chichester base. ‘Maggie’ will be six this summer and was only bought in October. Fiona was on the British Silver Medal winning team in 1986 along with Anne Loriston Clarke and Nicky Barratt. She trained with Olympic rider Sarah Whitmore and rode her stallion Troy in the team.
Fiona, now a BHSI and freelance instructor, has a passion for coloured horses which she indulged when her promising Roquefort-sired competition horse, 17.Ihh Roque Hugo Boss, needed more time off after breaking a rib somehow in September 2014.
She said: “I hope to bring Hugo back into work in July. While he was off I got fast-tracked on to the List 3 judge panel, but I found it very frustrating judging without riding, so I decided to look for a five-year-old. Maggie’s only 16.1hh but had become too big for her 5ft/7st owner. She’s already won a prelim and qualified for the novice freestyle at regionals. While you may need to get young horses out, you don’t necessarily want to take them out every week, and without pressure to qualify — just testing the waters. But I’ve decided I will do the freestyle winter regionals, as it will be good experience for her, and in the summer I will do the Petplan and then regionals the following winter.
“We’re right on the South Downs so I am spending a lot of time hacking her, and I haven’t even got a dressage saddle for her yet because she keeps changing shape. She was quite nervous of the other horses in the warm-up today and it was very windy and cold, so I was thrilled with her. I definitely won’t sell her when Hugo comes back into work. I got him as a yearling and he’s very long-legged and has always been a bit clumsy. He’s so powerful that a year off won’t have done him any harm at all.”
© Celia Cadwallader 2016