Tales from Somerford: the native breeds strutting their stuff at the National Dressage Championships

  • With some seriously smart horsepower on display at the Lemieux National Dressage Championships, you could be forgiven for thinking it is only for those with a huge budget and a fancy warmblood – but step forward the native breeds. In the Mobiliser prelim silver championship on Thursday (16 September), contenders included five Welsh ponies, along with a good smattering of Connemaras.  

    Highest placed of the native breeds in 10th was the Connemara gelding Rathcline Kestrel ridden by Katie Stephens-Grandy. The 10-year-old was shown in Ireland before being brought to the UK where he has won and been placed to BE100 level alongside his dressage success. 

    Welsh section B Gwithian Percival ridden by Sophia Longworth, at 12 just one year older than her pony, finishing 11th just 0.5% off a top 10 place.

    Like Rathcline Kestrel, Welsh section D Cynheidrefawr Dylan, ridden by Katherine Field, has also won in the eventing field with Ada Marson and Georgina Day, but Katherine concentrates on the dressage, while 12-year-old Emily Sheldon and Cwmhir Spark have done a bit of everything and also won at Area Festival level before heading for Somerford.

    Julia Tharratt and section D gelding Dylasau Dai Harris were not quite able to match their fifth-place finish at the level at the Winter Dressage Championships in July, but still produced a respectable performance at their first national Dressage Championships.

    Also among the native breeds at the National Dressage Championships was Cwmmeudwy Fflam Goch, a section D ridden by Katie Goodwin. Katie bought the horse as an unbacked three-year-old via an online post.

    “I saw the photo of him and thought, ‘Wow’. My sister Becky had just sold a pony so there was a spare stable and it was just a question of persuading my mum Annaly,” said Katie. “It took me two weeks to convince her that we needed a trip to Portsmouth to see him – we live in Herefordshire – and when we got there it was an instant decision for her. As for me, well I’d ‘bought’ him before we even got into the car to go and see him!”

    Katie bought him with a Horse of the Year Show ticket as the ultimate goal and it is still a target, although she has now been bitten by the dressage bug.

    “We came to the National Dressage Championships on a wild card and it’s been great fun,” said Katie. “We’ll do a bit more through the winter and some jumping. Sadly the hacking from us is too dangerous with fast roads, but luckily we can go in the River Lugg on the edge of the land and he absolutely loves that. In fact he loves it so much so that he can’t graze the field that it borders, as he goes for a swim and visits the farmers on the other side.” 

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