Rio dressage watch: British riders on bullish form abroad

  • It’s been a stellar weekend for British dressage riders competing abroad, including success for Anna Ross and Alice Oppenheimer.

    Anna is on a whirlwind world tour — recently taking six flights in seven days — in order to be able to compete Jane Sewell’s mare Die Callas (picture top) on the Spanish circuit.

    The air miles paid off as the pair claimed both the grand prix and the special at Oliva Nova CDI (19-24 April), the former from first draw.

    “Normally the draw is done in world rankings order and I was the top ranked rider, so I was expecting to be near the end,” Anna told H&H. “But I’ve always said I don’t agree with that rule anyway and that it should be random, so I couldn’t complain.”

    Two judges awarded Anna and “Princess” over 71% while Finland’s Maria Colliander only thought their performance was worth 66.5% for seventh place.

    “I assumed I couldn’t win from first draw,” said Anna. “In all my years I don’t remember anyone winning an international grand prix from first draw.

    “So after the test I went to the lorry, had a glass of rose and moaned a bit. I didn’t watch the rest of the class, but the judges obviously held their line as my boyfriend Marcello rang me and told me I’d won.

    “I was so surprised that we had to really scramble to get to the prize-giving.”

    The score was just shy of 70%, the magic marker that the De Niro mare has hit in three of her last four tests.

    In the grand prix special, Anna spearheaded a British one-two-three, being closely chased by Richard and Gillian Davison on Bubblingh and Alfranco.

    Richard also contested his first grand prix — albeit HC — with his newest partner, Don Bettino, scoring 70%.

    Anna rode with more expression in the special.

    “I watched the video [of the grand prix] and decided to be more ambitious and put my foot down,” she said. “I had a bit of pilot error in one pirouette — I think I was riding for a 12 — and unbalanced her so we wobbled out, but she thankfully saved me. It’s time to have a go and take risks with her in tests now.”

    The well-travelled mare’s next stop will be at Segovia CDI, also in Spain (5-8 May).

    “Life’s insane at the moment, but it’s worth it,” added Anna. “I have to travel a lot to come home and teach too. I’m so lucky to have this horse: the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

    A repeat performance

    Alice Oppenheimer also saw the Union Flag hoisted this weekend, this time in Germany at Hagen CDI (20-24 April).

    Riding her 13-year-old home-bred Dimaggio gelding Headmore Delegate, the pair put in a safe, if slightly underwhelming, 67.6% performance in the grand prix, but went on to win the 23-strong consolation grand prix with over 71%.

    The pattern of a big improvement in the second performance is a repeat from Del’s performance in Doha, where he also won the second test.

    “I’m not sure if it’s me or him, but we don’t get the confidence in the first test and I felt I had to nurse him round,” Alice told H&H. “We made a mistake in the one-times — which was expensive as they’re doubled.

    “Hagen is a big show with a big atmosphere; it’s like going into the lion’s den.

    “Eric [Theilgaard] was out there and gave me a lesson on the Saturday and I gave myself a bit of a talking to about being braver.

    “To win in both Doha and at Hagen — albeit the consolation class — is a bit insane. It’s given me a lot of confidence.

    “I learnt a lot at this show and next time I’ll ask that bit more in the first test.”

    Continued below…

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    Fellow Brits Hayley Watson-Greaves, Laura Tomlinson and Lara Griffith were also in action.

    Alice added: “The camaraderie was incredible between the Brits. It was special hearing the anthem and the first time a show has ever raised the flag for me. My mum [Sarah] and me were welling up and Dr B gave my mum a hug.

    “Winning definitely made the journey home a lot easier and made up for the fact we had a horrid journey out and a freezing first night as the hook-up wasn’t working.”

    Alice also debuted her promising Belissimo M mare Headmore Boadicia at international grand prix, logging a green and wobbly 65.5%.

    Germany’s Kristina Bröring-Sprehe (Desperados FRH) and Swede Patrik Kittel (Deja) were both double winners at the show. Kristina posted a personal best of 82.8% in the grand prix.

    Lara Griffith rode two plus-71% tests on the fast-improving Rubin Al Asad.

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