Optimum Event (Priory), Frensham, Surrey, 5 February
Featuring riders Emily Taggart, Elaine Wilson, Cheryl Bezants, Sarah Ridd, Tania Dahdi, Millie Gover, Sara Bullick, Clare Leggat, Marion Spencer and Natasha Powell-Richards

TALENTED horses and riders from the world of eventing pulled in the highest scores at the Priory show. Emily Taggart partnered Solo II (BE Solo XII), featured above, to score 69.82% in the novice qualifier and a stonking 74.26%, the top mark of the day, in the elementary 53 qualifier. You could easily see the 17.1hh Landtinus (Landadel)-sired eight-year-old gelding, owned by John and Jan Bodenham, switching careers to making a big impression in the dressage world.

Emily said: “Everybody loves Solo; he’s stunning. He’s knows he’s good but he’s a bit of a diva. He has to be led into the arena at dressage competitions — and we’ve had to retire because he wouldn’t go down one long side at Oldencraig. He spooked in his novice today then had his handbrake on every time we went towards to the lorry park in the ele. Margaret Drewe (elementary judge) loved him and described him as ‘attractive and free moving’ — and he has great rhythm and cadence. He probably should be a dressage horse. He’s big to be an eventer — and I struggle to get my related distances show-jumping — but he loves his cross-country. I was gutted not to win the BE90 at the Mitsubishi (grassroots) championships last year. We came third only because I incurred penalties for being too fast cross-country.”

Elaine Wilson’s heart is in eventing but she is fortunate to have both intermediate eventer Irmani as well as Indorado-sired 17hh eight-year-old mare Ebabelou who she has successfully switched towards a dressage career. Commenting on her elementary Petplan finalist ‘Balou’s’ 72.2% best-yet medium qualifier, Elaine said: “She was rideable and I had her more through in the whole test. We are working on expression in the trot in training but I think I’ve made the mistake of trying to get that in a test which has resulted in tension. Today I asked for less, so I had a softer rhythm. We got eights for the walk pirouettes. She finds it quite easy to take weight back. Her canter pirouette work is coming on and she’s doing a few half-steps and pirouettes. She has finished her medium qualification for the summers, so after Hartpury I’ll push on to advanced medium.”

Sarah Ridd has been ticking all the right boxes to ensure that her late-maturing Showtime x Rubin Royal 10-year-old Weymarsh Sabrina gets her chance to shine this year. The combination won the gold section elementary 53 with 71.76% and then posted 67.5% for their medium qualifier. Sarah said: “I was a bit disappointed with ‘Sadie’s’ medium test. She was a bit tense and calling so I let her go behind the leg to get some relaxation; unfortunately it meant she lacked a bit of sparkle.” She added: “Carl [Hester] has helped us a lot this winter. She’s starting her changes and can do beautiful expressive half-passes at grand prix angles, but she can be tight in the neck, so we’ve worked a lot on connecting the hindleg through a supple back. I now find that I can close  her frame up and then when I put my hand forward she will go with the hand."

Sarah: "My theory is that horses like Sadie like to go wide behind because their hip flexors are tight, so tend to use their shoulders athletically but do not always step through. I’m always throwing in lateral movements throughout my sessions with her to keep the hip flexors mobilised and to quicken the hind leg"

"I’m also taking Sadie to the Equine Aqua treadmill at Tweseldown. They use higher resistance salt water, so it’s harder work. Again treadmill work helps to mobilise the hip flexors and I’m now getting the extra gears I want.”

Tania Dahdi and her own Wild Dice Bewes-sired 10-year-old, Waldon Wild Skye, won the elementary 42 with 69.53%. They produced some nice canter work in the elementary qualifier as well as some very athletic trot. Tania said: “He’s brilliant in warm-ups but lacks confidence when he’s on his own in the ring. I was chuffed that he stayed relaxed today and didn’t have a melt down with all the lorries and horses getting on and off ramps. He can be a bit wild especially if he tightens up. In the Elementary 53 [fourth on 68.67%] a lorry just drove by the A end as we were doing our final centre line. There are three transitions — canter to trot to medium and then to halt — it’s quite a big ask.”

Chiselhurst, Kent-based Tania is a part-time secondary school Maths teacher but combines that with

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