Tales from the H&H Festival of Dressage: the dancing Dales pony aiming for the top

  • Horse & Hound Festival of Dressage competitor Vanessa Haunch is aiming to be the first person to compete a Dales pony in a tailcoat.

    Vanessa and her eye-catching native Ridgelane Pete were competing in the Wow Saddles elementary championship at the festival, held at Sheepgate from 20 to 22 July.

    The accountant, who hails from close to Somerford in Cheshire, bought “Pete” as a just-backed four-year-old in 2012.

    “He hasn’t been the easiest,” she smiled, adding Pete has a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality.

    “He has all the talent, but can be very stubborn — I call him the Thelwell pony because of his stubbornness.

    “One day he is as sharp as a tac and the next day my 10-year-old son could cope with him.”

    Pete has his own Facebook page — The Dancing Dales — charting Pete’s journey between the white boards.

    Vanessa explained she set it up to show that you don’t need a “conventional” dressage horse to enjoy and succeed in the sport.

    “I set it up so people could see the good and the bad,” she added.

    “If you’re on a cob it might not always be easy, but if you work hard it doesn’t matter what you are sat on — as long as you get out there and try your best, it doesn’t matter.”

    The pair enjoyed some big wins in the show ring on the county circuit before Victoria decided to focus on dressage — and Pete is excelling in his new career.

    “I want him to be the first Dales pony to compete [with his rider] in a tailcoat,” she said, adding Pete is training at medium level at home.

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    The combination finished just out of the prizes and Vanessa added they were here for fun with “no pressure”.

    “This is only his sixth elementary as I decided last year that I didn’t want to ride any more,” she said, adding when it came to crunch-time she realised that she still loved riding after all.

    “Someone was really interested in Peter and it just hit me that I didn’t want someone else to ride him.”

    As well as a full-time job, Vanessa fits the horses around being a mum to her son, Cameron.

    “I wouldn’t be able to do it without the help from my mum,” she added.

    “[I also train with Harriet Woodford] who is amazing — she’s completely changed the way I ride and the way I ride him — she’s made me be very positive which makes him enjoy his work more.”

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