A rider from a non-horsey family is making waves in two disciplines this season.
Dannie Morgan, 25, hails from Southampton and is at the national championships riding two horses — his own Southern Cross Braemar (Barry), and the Oppenheimers’ home-bred Headmore Davina (pictured).
Dannie has been campaigning the two horses alongside his eventing commitments this season, and has been racking up scores that would make even pure dressage riders jealous.
It was six-year-old Barry, an enormous chestnut by Breitling, who kicked off his new enthusiasm for dressage.
“He’s a lovely horse, and I bought him as a five-year-old to event, but every trainer that has seen him thinks he has real potential for grand prix dressage,” said Dannie.
Alice Oppenheimer describes his second ride, Davina, as “a lovely mare, but she wouldn’t be eaten by a lion — she takes off so fast.”
“I can’t hold her when she goes, which is how Dannie ended up riding her,” Alice explains.
Dannie has no plans to give up eventing, but admits he would like to have a grand prix horse as well as a four-star event horse.
“He’s desperate to jump my grand prix horses,” jokes Alice. “I’m going to let him sit on ‘Bracks’ [Headmore Boadicia, one of Alice’s grand prix horses] to learn where the buttons are.
“I might let him jump Robin [Headmore Dirubinio]. I won’t be able to watch!” she says, covering her face.
“He does alright in the eventing dressage – he doesn’t need me for that!” Alice laughs. “I keep trying to convince him to give up eventing.”
Dannie’s first visit to the nationals was last year, when he helped Sadie Smith with her horses, and he thought it would be “quite cool” to ride at Stoneleigh.
Next year, Dannie plans to qualify for the winter championships, including the music classes. He’s already made a great start, winning a novice freestyle on more than 86% at Merrist Wood in early August.
“We force him to do music,” Alice teases.
“I’m so laid back, she has to sort my music for me,” Dannie admits. He will ride Davina to Alice’s popular Lion King music, which should suit the mare’s personality.
Dannie will go straight from the nationals today to ride three horses at home, before heading off to event at Gatcombe tomorrow morning.
“I have three six-year-olds running in the novice tomorrow. So much of eventing is the basic flatwork, so pure dressage really helps. The horses will be aimed at Osberton International in a couple of weeks.”
For a full report from the British Dressage national championships — including analysis, comment and insight — pick up a copy of Horse & Hound next Thursday, 22 September.