Priory (Optimum Event), Surrey, 3 June
Featuring riders Alice Oppenheimer, Molly Key, Diana Barley, Maria Pook, Sara-Jayne Gillgrass, Charlotte Dicker, Holly Colgate-Hardway, James Burtwell, Helen Rudkin, Danielle Murdoch, Tor Fenwick and Emma Busby

THIS PRIORY show was rich in emerging equine talent and promising new partnerships. Headmore Dirubinio, a 17.3hh Dimaggio son, nurtured at home while gaining strength, is now at eight looking like the most exciting horse that Alice Oppenheimer has so far brought up to FEI level. His size, scope and air time give him correspondingly huge ‘stage’ presence and it was only his lack of show experience limited their PSG score to a modest 66.57%.

Alice explained: “‘Robin’ has only ever done about 10 tests. His work at home, where he feels confident, is phenomenal but he’s quite a nervous horse. I could feel that even the few people watching at Priory worried him, so I had to fanny him around a bit. He’s an amazing horse to work with. He is already able to do all the grand prix movements. He takes them in his stride; you ask and he tries. If he makes a mistake, it doesn’t throw him. I can ride piaffe, then just drop the rein and walk off, and he’s, ‘yes, whatever!’ If I can’t get 80% on this horse, I can’t get it on anything!”

Unblinged top hat and tails elegance marked Molly Key’s and Abanos x Rubinstein 11-year-old Absinth W’s arrival at BD advanced level. The rider made their 69.72% advanced 105 test look and easy and elegant, too.

Molly said: “This was my first advanced and I haven’t worn my top hat and tails since I gave up eventing. ‘Ant’ was brilliant at the Merrist winter regionals where he won advanced medium silver but he was overwhelmed by the Hartpury environment.

“His brain and enthusiasm were with me the whole way through our advanced 105. He can do all the movements for PSG well on their own, but if you ask him too many questions, one after another, he can shrink into himself. He has always found learning movements easy. He learnt three and four tempis in one lesson. But you can’t work him hard mentally — or physically as he has had back surgery — so I only school him twice a week. His temperament is wonderful; you ask him to do a canter pirouette and he does it as well as he can, so there’s no point in doing more.”

Maria Pook also stepped up a level to advanced medium riding Felicity Passmore’s So Enamoured. They attacked the advanced medium 85 with great verve. The horse has a super canter but notably Maria also produced the same high quality trot in lateral movements as on the straight. Although the changes are still green, the pair ended up winning the class overall on 68.52%%. The Spielburg x Troy eight-year-old is the first quality dressage-bred horse that Maria has taken up the levels, although she has competed the Arab horse types she is so fond of and judges in the Show ring, as far as inter I level. She commented:

“It’s funny that I get better rider marks with ‘Dino’ than I ever get with the Arabs, although it’s a lot more difficult to ride a good test on them”

Physics PhD student Sara-Jayne Gillgrass and Marchways have also just started doing advanced mediums, scoring 62.2% in the 85. She has been riding the 18-year-old thoroughbred for 10 years, since she was 15, and originally evented him. Sara, who is based with Jo Wood in Chertsey, commented: “‘Percy’ learns quickly and tries hard. When I started to focus on dressage he got better and better. He already had the lateral movements but we’ve taught him changes from scratch. I felt our score today wasn’t bad. Due to his age and his natural way of going I will inevitably get comments about suppleness so I aim to be as accurate as possible.”

A third generation rider in a family to represent Great Britain at European Championships,

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