‘I said I would love a Petplan rug but I never expected to win’: Wildcard first-timer takes surprise Area Festival title

  • A combination new to dressage, who qualified for the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships on a wildcard, ended up at the top of the leaderboard of a 46-strong prelim bronze class. Jane Hendy and the smart Welsh section D gelding Cefnbangor Rob Roy scored 71.67%, but were quite overcome to learn they had become Area Festival champions, after taking up affiliated dressage in July last year.

    “I said to my boyfriend in the lorry on the way here that I had seen on Facebook that a girl I knew had won a class and that I would love one of the Petplan rugs, as they looked really nice. But I never expected to win – I  said I’d be so pleased if I finished in the top 10,” laughed Jane, who runs a livery yard of 49 horses and also trains retired racehorses for dressage.

    This bold little Welshie – who was a breeding stallion until he was six, and has since been very successful in the show ring – rules the roost at home, however: “He is called King Kevin at home!”

    “He actually doesn’t deal with the humidity well and so he was a bit sluggish in the warm-up, but I was pleased with the test. I normally struggle with my halts but he halted nice and square and still today. He is just a super easy horse, low maintenance and just brilliant.”

    Advanced medium bronze winner Charlotte Neal joked that she was worried by how pleased she felt with her test on Walter’s Fable.

    “Normally when I feel pleased it means it hasn’t gone well, but luckily it did today,” said the 18-year-old, who is hoping to study law at university in September. “I felt his way of going and everything we have been working on in training just came together.”

    Charlotte, who trains with Patsy Bartram, took over the ride on the 17-year-old Walentino gelding from Angus Corrie-Deane after spotting him at the Sheepgate under-25 championships.

    “He just fits us perfectly,” said Charlotte. “He’s feeling well and loving life at the moment.”

    Area Festival Championships: ‘It’s amazing to be riding here with Charlotte Dujardin’

    Imogen Casely said it was “a dream come true” to win the novice bronze under-21 title riding Parvadean Estelle. The 13-year-old from Scotland, who had an eight-hour journey to Hartpury, described the victory here at her first Area Festival Championships as “surreal”.

    “It is amazing to be here, and to see Charlotte Dujardin and all the big guns riding. To ride in that same arena is really cool.”

    Imogen was the only rider in her class to break the 70% barrier, posting 70.35% with the 13-year-mare who she says is “ all about food and loves her job”.

    Welsh rider Manon Roberts took the novice silver under-21 title with Siglan Hector on 69.51%, having only recently started competing in British Dressage.

    “When I started riding him last summer he hadn’t done much, only hacking for about six years. We went to the Pony Club championships and won there so we thought we would do some BD for fun and it led us here,” said Manon, who is 16 and just started an apprenticeship with Greg Sims.

    “The test went really well; he was a little unsettled and whinnied as we were going around the edge, but he stayed with me. His cater work in particular was very nice.”

    Megan Austin bounced back from appendix surgery just four weeks ago to claim the medium silver under-21 title on Kingcarra Carrick Cruise, while Sophia Marston took the bronze equivalent riding E-Mail.

    Sophia, 16, has been riding Imogen Murray’s 13-year-old Jazz gelding E-Mail since the end of last year and have already formed a solid partnership. The pair had already finished a brilliant second in the PDS Saddles elementary freestyle championship, behind Jade Whitelaw and Late Night, and came virtually straight into the outdoor arena to contest their Petplan Equine final.

    “He was almost foot perfect and I was so pleased with how he coped with such a big atmosphere,” said Sophia, who has her GCSEs approaching this year. “He is such a character; he is a Jazz so he is always full of beans, but he is teaching me a lot. We’re working on the balance in the trot and the half=passes, keeping a nice rhythm and contact and keeping him through.”

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