Making a discipline switch from showing to dressage two years ago has paid dividends for Hampshire-based Deanne Courtnadge, who rode her own bay gelding The Ace Of Spades (Ace) to victory in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Novice Bronze final at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships.

“I was not expecting a win,” said a delighted Deanne, who scored 69.65 per cent with the 14-year-old. “This is my first time here and I’ve only had Ace for 18 months. I had competed in the show ring for the majority of my life before I got him.”

Deanne’s dressage journey began when her trainer, Di Peacock, recommended she tried a horse she wanted to sell. That horse happened to be Ace.

“I have ridden show ponies and have also had some success breeding under the Sandydean prefix,” continued Deanne. “I showed at county level and have seen some homebreds compete at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). Many are still out on the circuit.

“About eight years ago, I had a break from riding, and Ace has been the first horse I’ve had since that gap, and was also the one who got me into dressage.”

The pair won their first round of winter qualifiers before standing second in the following round, subsequently booking their Hartpury place.

“While he can be quite particular and thrives off routine, he is so easy to do and really has taught me everything,” she said of the 16.1hh, who has also qualified for the elementary finals.

“Our winning test went a lot better than I had expected and we made no errors,” she added. “He has an amazing medium trot and an excellent canter, which he showed off today.

“As soon as I’ve mastered the sitting trot, we will have a go at some mediums — I have to have an itinerary to follow during a test, so freestyles aren’t for me yet!”

For a full report from the British Dressage Winter Championships and Area Festival final – as well as news, views and expert comment – don’t miss Thursday’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (19 April 2018)