Jeanette McGuinness is competing at the Espayo National Dressage Championships 2012 for the first-time with her eight-year-old fell pony gelding, Greenholme Duke, in the Centaur Position Perfect Prelim class. They are recent dressage converts having been competing at affiliated level for just over a year.

Wow, the national dressage championships have been awesome. Having only started dressage a year ago, and having already competed in three regionals, I’m buzzing to have been placed 12th out of 28 riders with a pure-bred fell pony at the nationals.

Duke certainly turned a few heads as we arrived and he seemed to be just as excited as I was. One of the best parts of our experience was the exercise session on Wednesday evening with the excitement of wondering which famous face I might bump into next.

Duke was quite lit up and jogged sideways throughout the 30min arena ‘walk’ before finally settling during the working in (phew!). This was also a little daunting as we were greeted by rather a lot of large horses, ranging from prelim through to grand prix. Once that was over Duke settled back into his stable for the night.

Before I knew it the time had come and I found myself back in the warm up arena dodging even more big talented horses. “Three more to go,” said the steward and the countdown was on. The atmosphere was epic and looking towards the pavilion I could see that it was getting rather full. Then my number was called and I made my way under the fancy archway of flowers and into the arena with a brave but slightly nervous Duke. Buzz went the bell and away we went.

I don’t think I took a breathe throughout the entire test, but it was incident free and we were rewarded with the biggest cheer of the day so far! I left the arena with a huge smile. We scored 66.21%.

The whole experience from beginning to end was a joy. No matter what horse you have, I would certainly recommend trying your hand at dressage as if I can get to the Nationals with a fell pony then I’m sure it isn’t out of reach for you too.


Thursday’s champions

Centaur Position Perfect Prelim champion: Daisy Coakley and Cleopatra II (72.12%)

Stretch & Flex Elementary Restricted champion: Hannah Bates and Essentially M&S (69.38%)

Suregrow Advanced Medium Restricted champion: Chloe Vell and Kaja Di Valentina (67.00%)

Horse Health Intermediate champion: Becky Moody and Caluna (68.92%)

Winergy Prix St Georges: Carl Hester and Dances with Wolves (74.34%)