‘He always rises to the occasion’: young riders turn heads on the second day of dressage at Blenheim horse trials

  • Several young riders caught the eye during the early stages of day two (17 September) of Blenheim Horse Trials dressage action in the CCI4*-L.

    Rose Nesbitt, 24, with EG Michealangelo was the first to turn heads. This flashy bay with four white socks started extremely well, trending on 30. Although they slipped a bit towards the end in the half-pass to score fours, they still scored 31.9. This was a personal best mark at this level, and put them in the top 15.

    “He’s a horse who always rises to the occasion,” Rose said. “I was really pleased with his trot work – the shoulder-ins and the mediums; there were a couple of things in the canter that were a bit here and there, but I was generally very happy.

    “I’ve been stuck on 34 for a while, so it’s been about getting the overall quality better and the marks more consistent,” said Rose, who has been training with Marie Ryan and Laura Collett. “He has loads of presence, and judges seem to like him.”

    The horse has a spotless cross-country record, so Rose can look forward to a good day tomorrow.

    “He went very well at the under-25 championships at Bicton – it was our first four-star long and he was seventh,” she added. “He’s on form.”

    Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima just slipped ahead of Rose before the break for  “elevenses”. He was riding Feroza Nieuwmoed to score 31.5, to take 12th at this stage.

    “We’re happy but I made one big mistake on the centre line,” said Ryuzo of his Tokyo reserve horse. “He’s 12 years old but he’s still growing up.”

    Blenheim horse trials dressage: Bubby Upton continues comeback

    Bubby Upton was fourth into the arena with the chestnut Magic Roundabout IV, competing for the first time at this level. Bubby, 22, was competing at only her third event since breaking eight vertebrae and her collarbone.

    She and the Samaran-sired 11-year-old produced some excellent moments in a powerful test, but were ultimately not consistent enough to challenge the leaders. They scored 33.2 and went into the top-25. The walk was lovely and relaxed to earn eights, but the final mark was scuppered by a couple of expensive mistakes in the changes.

    “He’s a long way off where I’d like my horses to be on the flat, but we are seeing a lot of progress each time out,” said Bubby. “He’s never been in an atmosphere like that so I was pleased with how he coped.

    “He’s not my usual type of horse, and we have to be patient with him as I only got him when he was 10,” she added. “But I think a lot of him and hope that will shine through one day.”

    “I’m feeling really good, I needed my weekend at Cornbury and I felt like I was riding well there. I’ve come here with a lot of confidence.”

    Former Blenheim winner rides “jumping machine”

    The 2018 winner Bella Innes Ker, 27, was riding another CCI4*-L debutant, Highway II. She won’t be up among the leaders after the dressage phase this time, but the horse is only nine, and his score of 34.6 showed plenty of promise for the future.

    The horse looked talented, if a little inexperienced in the buzz of this arena in front of the palace. They were held back by the fours in both flying changes, but their other movements were more established and this looks like a partnership to watch for next year.

    “He’s only nine and went out and did a mostly mistake-free test, his changes just aren’t quite there yet,” said Bella. “I was tempted to do the eight and nine-year-old class but he’s fit and I’d love to get him one step closer for his qualification as he’s really exciting. His flatwork would be his weakest phase at the moment – he’s a jumping machine and we can’t wait until Saturday.

    “Having won [at Blenheim] before, I felt I had big shoes to fill driving in but this is a different type of horse. This time three years ago – I’m still dreaming about it today.”

    Yasmin Ingham, 24, still holds on to her overnight lead, riding Banzai Du Loir, on a score of 25.8. She sits just 0.3 of a penalty ahead of Piggy March and Brookfield Quality.

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