Dressage rider Carl Hester revealed an exciting new hope for the British team in 10-year-old Escapado, when the pair dominated the three-week Spanish Sunshine Tour in phenomenal fashion.

Carl, the reigning national small tour champion with his own and Rowena Luard’s Escapado, made the trip to Dehesa Montenmideo, a renowned training ground for both show jumpers and dressage horses, with the aim of introducing the Oldenburg gelding to grand prix level. They returned as tour champions.

In the first week, they won the intermediaire II with 70% and shared victory in the horse’s first ever grand prix test with Spanish team bronze medal-winning combination Juan Antonio Jiminez and Guizo.

The following weekend, Carl and Escapado, who was bought from Michel and Mette Assouline as a five-year-old, ceded the grand prix to the experienced Spanish pair, but from then on, only premier position would do. The combination also won their debut appearance in the grand prix special.

Last Sunday, despite high winds that caused the show jumping final to be abandoned, the pair made their freestyle debut in a sandstorm.Victory took their final tally to seven wins from eight classes, and confirmed their status as champions of the 2003 Sunshine Tour.

” I went to Spain to develop my partnership with Escapado,” said Carl.” He is so talented, both physically and mentally, although he has a lot of Thoroughbred blood and can be nervous and ‘hot’. It was thrilling tofeel him grow in confidence and for him to manage his nerves, even in the freak conditions of the final day.”

Three of the judges who awarded the British combination scores of more than 70 % will be officiating at the European Championships in August.

” My plan is to continue to do some smaller internationals and keep consolidating what we have achieved.,” said Carl. ” Escapado is a tremendously exciting prospect, and my aim is the European Championships, but I can only take him slowly. He has so much more to come, I will be careful not to get myself – or him! – over excited.”

Carl also claimed the small tour championship with Sarah Timpson’s Balzflug gelding Celestial King, a ride he took on at the end of last season.

How other British riders got on

Angie Rutherford was placed eighth, ninth and 10th in the intermediaire I, intermediaire I Kur and prix st georges respectively with Nibbit B. She was also eighth in the grand prix and 10th in the grand prix kur with Kartouche.

Polly Hodges and Santas were sixth in the PSG, 10th in the Int I and sixth in the Int I Kur. Polly was also placed fourth in the PSG and third in the Int 1 riding Kreol.