Side-saddle rider and multi-talented gelding cut elegant picture at Winter Dressage Championships

  • Jade Paterson and Harry’s Hunter were a picture of elegance as they competed side-saddle in their Petplan Equine Area Festival final class at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships.

    The versatile 17.1hh gelding, known affectionately as “H”, is excelling both between the white boards and in heavyweight hunter, amateur classes and as a ladies’ ride in the show ring.

    He has competed at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) as a heavyweight hunter and side-saddle, scored ribbons at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) and this week, was competing in the elementary silver Area Festival final.

    Their appearance at Hartpury was made all the more special as it was owner Alastair Finlay’s wife, Louisa’s birthday and she flew in from work in Barcelona to watch their special horse.

    “He is just lovely, he tries really hard,” said Jade, who scored 64.31% with the 10-year-old gelding. “We had a couple of little mistakes but I think without my right leg sometimes we just have a little miscommunication.

    “We had a little canter in one of the corners, because he is waiting to see what we’re going to do and if I’m not 100% on it sometimes he just offers me what he thinks is the right answer, which is lovely because he wants to do well.

    “For an elementary silver under side-saddle and his first time being at Hartpury, he did really well. I was chuffed with him.”

    It was Alastair who first suggested Jade give side-saddle a try a little over a year ago.

    “I was riding the horse for Alastair on the flat, because he was getting a new hip, and one day in February he said, ‘Why don’t we give side-saddle ago?’ she said.

    “The next thing, Alastair had a saddle over from Ireland, then we were on and off we went. Caroline Maclean Nelson comes regularly – she really helped us get going with the showing – and we train with Penny Clark when she’s in Scotland as well.

    “Within a year, we have gone from not knowing anything to riding most of H’s dressage tests and a lot of the big showing shows side-saddle.”

    Jade is part of the area nine Side Saddle Association committee and encourages “everyone to give it a go”.

    She was the only competitor riding side-saddle at Hartpury and explained how well H has adapted to the different style of riding, as well as the specific aids she uses to ask for lateral movements.

    “He goes well on the flat anyway, so it’s a case of making sure I can ride off my seat,” said Jade.

    “The cane that I use is a replacement for my leg, rather than being used as a whip, so it’s the pressure from the cane that asks him move over, and when I turn I’ve got to make sure my seat is in the right place so he knows where we’re going.”

    Their aim for this season are return trips to HOYS and the RIHS, plus a step up to medium dressage with advanced medium on their radar for the winter.

    “And music – especially after watching all the music classes here,” said Jade. “Alastair loves his 80s music, so we will be going down that route hopefully!”

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