The National Dressage Championships get underway tomorrow (Thursday, 12 September) at Stoneleigh Park, Warks, with many of the country’s top combinations out in force across the levels.
Leading the pack will be Olympic gold medallists Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, piloting an array of exciting horses that are definitely not to be missed.
The much-loved 15-year-old Rio medallist made his competition return in March this year after an 18 month break, and Carl has campaigned him lightly on the national circuit this summer. Carl and “Barney” booked their place to contest the Lemieux grand prix at the nationals with a Premier League win at Hartpury in July and, somewhat surprisingly, this will be the combination’s first appearance at the nationals.
They will be in action on Saturday at 2.25pm.
Gio — aka Pumpkin
Charlotte’s bouncy chestnut gelding, known as Pumpkin, is another crowd-pleaser, and he will be in action in the Cavalor inter II.
The chunky little Apache son, who is only 16hh, has shot through the levels since being purchased by Charlotte and Renee Hart at the end of 2016. He was elementary national champion in 2017 — just two years ago — and reserve advanced medium champion in 2018. He has just one inter II test on his record to date, having jumped straight up to the level after doing a single prix st georges (PSG).
Catch them in the ring at 4.50pm tomorrow (Thursday, 12 September).
Mount St John Valencia
This fiery chestnut mare made an impact at last year’s nationals ridden by Michael Eilberg, finishing second at medium and fourth at advanced medium with plus-75% scores — and only beaten by Charlotte!
Since taking over the ride on the Vivaldi daughter, Charlotte has campaigned her successfully at Somerford Park and Hartpury Premier Leagues and has only been beaten once on her at small tour level.
They will compete in the Fairfax Saddles PSG tomorrow at 12.29pm, and the Saracen Horse Feeds inter I on Friday at 2.18pm.
Hawtins San Floriana
This tall, elegant mare is another of Charlotte’s precocious rides who has swept through the levels at astonishing speed — Flo was novice winter champion just last year.
Charlotte first spotted the San Amour x Florestan mare as a four-year-old and spent months persuading her breeder, Judith Davis of the Hawtins stud, to sell her. Eventually Charlotte was able to buy her jointly with Carl — the first horse they owned together.
Don’t miss the pair contesting the Equine Construction advanced medium gold on Sunday at 11.02am.
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Carl and Charlotte will be joined at Stoneleigh by their European Championships teammate Gareth Hughes, who will pilot Sintano Van Hof Olympia in the PSG tomorrow at 5.51pm and the inter I on Friday at 4.42pm. He will also ride the upcoming Excellentie ST in the advanced medium gold on Sunday, riding at 11.20am.
Members of the European Championship silver medal-winning para team will also be in action. Mari Durward-Akhurst (grade I) and Georgia Wilson (grade II) will each attempt to defend their respective national titles from 2018. Georgia will ride her Rotterdam silver and gold medallist Midnight, entering the ring at 8.14am on Friday. Mari will pilot her 10-year-old Lebensfreude at his first nationals, riding at 8.46am on Friday.
Keep up-to-date with all of the latest news and reports from Stoneleigh via horseandhound.co.uk and read the full report in the 19 September issue of Horse & Hound