They say it’s good luck when a black cat crosses your path.
The superstition may never before have applied to a horse and rider coming up the final centre line of a prix st georges test at the regionals, but it proved to be true for one combination last week.
Nikki Lawton told H&H that the cat entered at R — at what looked to be a smart working trot — near the end of Ryan Todd and Woodcroft Dancing Queen’s PSG gold test at the British Dressage north and east summer regionals on Friday (23 July).
But Nikki and her husband Chris’s 16-year-old mare batted not an eyelid, and went on to take third place in the competitive class, with a score of 67.76%.
“My heart was in my mouth,” Nikki said.
“We and all the spectators saw the cat at R, about to enter the arena, and I thought ‘What’s that cat going to do, and what’s Dancer going to do!’”
Nikki said the mare, who won the British Hanoverian Horse Society supreme championship in 2011 and has had a successful dressage career since, is hot, and not easy to ride.
“But on Friday, she was really on side with him,” she said. “We’d not had a good start to the day as we were held in traffic on the M62, but we got there and her test was going so well, and we were starting to think it was going to be good.
“There was only the last long diagonal in extended canter, and the centre line to go.”
Nikki said Dancer gets rather enthusiastic about her extended canters, and she knows the test.
“She set off at a rate of knots across the diagonal as always, and fortunately, the cat didn’t come in till she’d just passed it,” she said. “Then as she trotted up the centre line, it crossed her path. Ryan was thinking ‘oh my god’, and I was thinking it would be a literal catastrophe, but Dancer was so focused, and the test finished really well, she didn’t even spook.”
Dancer and Ryan went on to place fifth in the inter I class, so Nikki said the cat must have been a lucky omen.
“It shot off after her test and disappeared but strangely enough, when Ryan was warming up for the inter I, the cat was on the warm-up fence and that time, Dancer had a real tantrum at it!” she said. “It was a good job she was so much on side during the test, she’s a lovely mare.”
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