Crofton Manor, Fareham, Hants, 21 March
Featuring riders Lizzie Murray, Sara-Jane Lanning, Denise Fryer, Erika Fitches, Zoe Harrison, Kate Welch, Louise Brown, Anna Kendell, Christine Smith, Alison Heywood and Rebecca Brown
CATHERSTON STUD’s Timolin’s charisma and fabulous movement gave him and his rider Lizzie Murray star billing even on a day featuring some notable partnerships. Their 74.07% in the Advanced Medium 98 placed them just ahead of seasoned campaigners Mi Amigo and Sara-Jane Lanning on 73.18% who also won the test 85 class with 71.17% to Lizzie and Timmie’s 70.44%.
The Totilas x Sion breeding stallion, only seven, was doing young horse classes last season. Lizzie commented: “He’s started to come into his own now and become got more solid in his work. He has a lot more power and push and got much stronger over this winter. He’s done all the stuff for PSG. It’s not yet secure enough to do a test, but that should happen some time this year.
Timolin is shaping up to be a serious international competition prospect for Lizzie and the first one she’s had since Springsteen who last competed in a CDI in 2011. They will be competing in both the Medium and Advanced Medium musics at next month’s Winter Championships. Lizzie added: “I also have a talented mare, Ulyssa, going to Hartpury. It’s lovely to have two seven-year-olds I’ve ridden all the way from Novice and nice now they’re starting to do more interesting things.”
Commenting on Mi Amigo’s Crofton performances, Sara-Jane Lanning said: “I was very pleased with him because he hadn’t been sat on since the Friday before. Our second test was the better of the two as we’d ‘got back into it’ by then. It was our first outing towards summer qualification and he almost wrapped it up in one go.”
Sara will be taking her Zardin Firfod x Lauries Crusador 16-year-old to Hartpury for the fourth year running to compete in the Advanced Medium, Advanced Medium freestyle and PSG. She said: “I always love Hartpury and I prefer the Winters to the summer championships. There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere going through the tunnel into the indoor arena! ‘Zoa’ doesn’t get spooky, but a little tension can creep in and as I’ve been working on getting him more in front of my leg that might make him explosive — who knows?”
Another impressive combination were 67.94% and 67.5% Advanced Medium bronze section winners Denise Fryer and Keystone Starstruck. Denise has combined bringing on the Serano Gold x Don Frederico mare with her job working shifts as an intensive care nurse at Southampton Hospital. They will also be making a return visit to Hartpury. Last year they were placed seventh in the Novice silver championship and Denise, who trains with Kate Smith, was highest placed amateur rider.
She said: “Sparkie’s seven this year and very clever. She went to the Wellington winter regionals two weeks ago and we were shocked when she won the silver section medium.” She admitted: “It’s a bit risky doing tests with flying changes before the Medium Championship at Hartpury but you have to progress and Medium isn’t the end goal. If she gives me a change, I’ll just take it and carry on. It’s almost frustrating to have to step down in our training.
“I was really pleased with her canter serpentine in the 98 because it’s a very hard movement for a seven-year-old and she has quite big changes to balance going across the school. She went in and tried so hard and the movement and changes scored 7s and 7.5s.”
Another amateur silver rider, Erika Fitches, was winner of the Medium 75 overall with 67.7% on a “feeling a bit tired” Farhillsfarm Starstruck. Erika said: “I’ve had her since she was a just-sat-on four-and-a-half year- old. She’s definitely ‘my horse’ and has been very good. She’s now nine and I’ve done all the training to get where we are now. She’s by Showmaker out of a Laurentainer mare and quite tiny, 16.1hh, but you think she’s a lot bigger when you see her move. She has got quite big paces and I could have taken her up the levels quite quickly but I preferred to wait until she was more mature.
“I have a more than full-time job as a NHS manager, but ride her five times a week, fitting it around my work schedule. If you don’t put the work in how can you expect to progress or get anywhere? We’ve started changes but I have to be careful that in the counter-canter she doesn’t go, ‘oh good, can I do a flying change?’ I train with Damian Hallam and we’ve taught her them over the winter. We are also working on collected work for more engagement for when she goes Advanced Medium. I want to go to the summer regionals at Medium and, in the next month or two, see how she is in an Advanced Medium test and decide whether to carry on or stay at home and do more training.”
Zoe Harrison from Home Farm Equestrian, near Liphook, competed two exciting horses. She won the Medium 69 overall with 70.45% riding Virtue. The Vitalis x Krack C six-year-old, bred by Hickstead director Dane Rawlins, is around 17.1hh now and counting. He’s built uphill and has very expressive foreleg and activity behind. Zoe, quite petite, must need a strong core? “Yes, probably!” Zoe continued” “But he’s not uncomfortable and because he’s so uphill when he’s in front of the leg he just takes you and you go with him. He gives you an amazing feeling.
“But because of the uphill conformation we have spent a lot of time getting him to stretch. We have lots of stretching breaks when we encourage him to stay out to the contact: if you just let go of the rein he will naturally curl under himself. We also do a lot of going forward and back within the pace and once he’s forward and pushed out and through you have to help him stay there. It’s a question of developing the strength.”
Zoe also works on her own fitness: “I’m going to a Pilates instructor once a week who uses a Reformer machine and that’s really good for core work. And I also see a physio who can treat me if I get a bit sore. I don’t want to get on horses and make them crooked.”
Louise Brown’s 64.54% and 65.13% scores on Gran V won the Medium gold classes. He is by a horse Louise used to ride called B Grandeur out of a Voltaire
mare and was the sire’s only offspring before he was cut. Louise explained: “The family in Cumbria who owned ‘Robbie’ breed and compete showjumpers. Basically he was stood in a field without a job. They wanted me to have him but I have two other horses, Soul Sister and Odini, and I didn’t need a third! So they asked me to sell him for them. He arrived with me last June as a six-year-old unable to canter on the right leg, but when I took him to show Gareth Hughes he encouraged to keep him for myself. Robbie’s learned everything very quickly and is very rideable and cool about everything.
“He didn’t go as well this time as he did when we were last at Crofton as I didn’t give him long enough working in and he was a bit fresh and cocky. He was much more rideable in the second test, but he still managed to show the judge that he knows how to do a flying change! I can’t wait to get him out at Advanced Medium because he will be so much better and he loves his changes.”
Valeur R-sired Biscuits Brown was given a quiet winter by rider Kate Welch. She explained: “I purposely gave him time off as he had a busy 2017. I picked him up after Christmas but probably left it a bit too late to get his brain and body in gear for the regionals in February, and it was reflected in our results. Nearer match fitness at Crofton, they won the silver section Elementaries on 72.09% and 67.85%.
Kate continued: “I used the regionals experience as a boot up the backside to come out with a firmer plan for the summer and went back to basics and bared all our faults with my trainer Nicky Cross. We have also worked with a Chichester-based physio called Sam Daplyn who identified a lot of weaknesses in the connection and engagement. ‘Jacob’ wasn’t using his core at all and relying on flouncing around too much — and as you move up the levels that’s just going to be so apparent.
“Sam started me lungeing Jacob wearing resistance bands. One goes under
the belly and the other around his quarters [see commercial version called Equiband]. It helps develop ‘proprioception’ so that the horse becomes more aware of what different parts of its body are doing. When you use the bands you can see that the horse finds it hard work. Jacob looked like he’d got four flat tyres at first, so I don’t use them for very long. We’ve been using them for about 10 weeks and at Crofton I felt we reaped the benefit. I only use the bands once a week as I like to give Jacob variety in his work but Sam is recommending that I use them a bit more now.
“My plan is to re-establish our work at Elementary before looking at Mediums in a month or so. I’m sorely tempted to event him which is what I bred him for but he seems to have a flair for dressage. I’ve now bought another horse to event and the dressage experience has helped me both produce the eventer and in training my livery clients at Salthorse Stud.”
Mother and daughter shared ride Mannin Bay, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred-Connemara cross, was competed by the senior partner Christine Smith at Crofton where they were bronze winners of the Elementary 40 on 67.25%. Christine said: “I didn’t think it was as good as the judge did, but ‘Finn’s’ medium canter and trot are really coming on and he was working through his back and attentive. I also managed some decent centrelines which I’ve struggled to do well in the past.
“My daughter Harriet started riding him four or five years ago and he evented really well. He’s went to the Mitsubishi Motors Cup at BE90 and BE100 in consecutive years. I prefer to keep four feet on the ground and he’s my horse really, bought when he was four to do dressage. I tend to get competition nerves because I don’t compete enough so when my daughter has finished her A levels and embarks on her gap year plans I’ll get my horse back and I hope to compete more.”
Novice freestyle Winter Championships qualified Anne Kendell and Friesian mare Yana were making their Elementary debut. Anne, who shares ownership of Yana with with Stef and Colin Richardson, said: “She was such a good girl but I don’t think I breathed during either of our tests. I couldn’t be more proud of her and was pleased with 65.8% and 62.67% for our first attempts. We’ve always had problems with the trot to canter transition, and walk to canter has been really hard, so our tests weren’t perfect but she did everything as well or even better than she’s been doing at home. I feel incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to go to Hartpury. Yana has realised dreams I didn’t even know I had!”
Isle of Wight-based Alison Heywood and Mersley B’elanna scored 70% to win the Novice 38 silver section. Alison said: “That was our best result at Novice for a while. She’s not built for dressage and is quite down hill, so it’s a constant battle to get her to take more weight behind. I was pleased with the mark. She can be hot-headed but she was obedient, accurate and quite correct all through it.”
Handsome grey Irish Draught, Wickhams Double Blue won the Novice 38 bronze on 66.29% under Rebecca Brown. The pair will be going to he South-East Unaffiliated Championships in May at Hickstead. Rebecca said: “He’s eight and with hard work he’s changed from being an almost portly adolescent to now looking more mature with muscle in the right places. He’s also got a lot of natural presence which helps. I’ve shown him in the past but he came down on the road with one of my friends in 2016 and it took six months of rehab and a long time for him to recover. He’s fine now and there are no ill-effects — if anything the break did him a lot of good.
Rebecca: “He has some famous Irish Draught names in his pedigree, one of which was a PSG horse. I hope in time to tap into that part of his gene pool!
© Celia Cadwallader, 28 March 2018