Charlotte Dujardin, a former driving horse and a partnership on the ascent: trio of champions crowned at Hartpury *H&H Plus*

  • Find out more about the multiple championship-winning retrained driving horse, the exciting six-year-old that finished second to Charlotte Dujardin and the horse that has taken his rider from her first ever British Dressage show to winning an inter I title...

    Gill Peckham and her former driving horse, Hero (Huroos), claimed their second national title when taking the Petplan Equine elementary bronze area festival championship at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships at Hartpury (29 June) with a mark of 69.22%.

    Gill, who will be 60 in a couple of weeks’ time, said: “He’s KWPN, but from the driving side, so he’s half-Hackney. I bought him three years ago – he had been driven for a couple of years, but hadn’t been ridden under saddle. I had no plans to get a youngster or something I had to train, but I had been trying to find a dressage horse with no success, and my trainer and friend Katharine Lewis had had a lot of success with driving horses. She suggested we got me a driving horse, and that we’d retrain it. He’s an absolute superstar – the best horse I’ve had by a long way. I wanted a horse that an amateur could ride, but with a bit of flash, and he’s got a lot more flash than I was expecting!”

    Hero took to dressage straightaway, and in the first year of their partnership, he and Gill won the prelim title at the winter championships, and qualified for the novice final last year.

    “He was wild in the arena walk and very lively today, but once I was in the arena – apart from whinnying a bit – he was really good,” said Gill.

    She continued: “He’s got a huge personality and is opinionated. If I’m a bit slow to get him in from the field, he stands at the gate and broncs. He’s very grumpy in the stable and pulls faces, but when you’re riding him and it really matters, he’s absolutely brilliant and always on your side.”

    Gill admits that she hasn’t competed beyond this level before, but is keen to see how far she and Heros can go: “I retired a year ago, and it is lovely to have a horse to go out and do things with. I want to go as far as I can – that will be limited by me, not by him.”

    Charlotte Tuckwell gained a first national championship title when she and DHI Alligator – who is owned by Charlotte’s boss, Nathalie Kayal – took the Petplan Equine inter 1 bronze area festival final with 69.65%.

    Charlotte and the 16-year-old had finished third in their class yesterday with a couple of mistakes, and she admitted to feeling a little nervous ahead of their test today.

    “We’re not that established at inter 1, so it was a very nice surprise to win,” she said. “Normally his pirouettes are his weak point, but today he stayed with me during them, rather than getting tense. He was just on form and so much more confident – and today I remembered to count my three-time changes!”

    Charlotte, 22, who is Nathalie’s work rider and head girl, took over the ride on DHI Alligator five years ago at novice level.

    “He’s done everything for me – he’s taken me from my first BD competition to inter 1 at the national championships,” she said. “He’s quite sensitive and sharp, but such a character, and I feel like we’re really starting to develop a partnership.

    “We’ve done quite a few premier league shows this year, which has helped get us both confident enough to compete at a championship show without getting really nervous. He’s just a dream to work with. This is only our second nationals, so to win a title is amazing.”

    The Prestige Italia novice gold winter championship was one of the hottest classes of the week, featuring some very exciting young horses. It was duly won by Charlotte Dujardin on Times Kismet with an impressive 79.01% score, but Sadie Smith was pleased to finish second on Swanmore Dantina with 76.98%.

    “She was so good. I didn’t even do the arena walk. It’s the first nationals I’ve done with her, so I was really chuffed – we’re getting closer to Charlotte,” said Sadie, who bought the six-year-old Dante Weltino x Charatin mare from breeder Ben St John-James as a three-year-old.

    “I actually produced her to sell originally, but the older she’s got the better she’s got and she’s got the most amazing trainable attitude, and I just love that about her. Every show she goes to, she’s the same. She never spooks, never does anything [wrong], she’s just a really talented, lovely horse. I really enjoy competing her so I thought, ‘you can stay’.

    “Her canter was really good today because she’s got a really balanced, uphill canter, and she always makes a nice picture. She’s very open in the frame. It’s nice to have a horse where you can go in and feel like you can actually just ride the test rather than worrying.

    “I work for Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin – Carl loves her and he was really pleased with my test today, so for me, that means more than anything; that I’m on the right tracks.”

    Read more reports from Hartpury…