Charlotte Dujardin and her world bronze medallist Mount St John Freestyle emerged from lockdown on fine form at the Hickstead Rotterdam Grand Prix Challenge, which was streamed live this weekend (18-19 July).
It was the first run through of the grand prix test in a competitive setting for the pair since their second place behind Isabell Werth at the Amsterdam World Cup qualifier in January. Although the tests, hosted at Hickstead and Rotterdam in late June, were not officially judged, commentary was given by top international judges Stephen Clarke and Mariette Sanders-van Gansenwinkel, and viewers scored the riders using the spectator scoring app.
Charlotte and Freestyle produced what was undoubtedly the standout performance among the 40 entrants, receiving a 78.89% mark from the spectator judging app, with more than 170 dressage fans taking part in judging her much-anticipated test.
Emma Blundell’s 11-year-old Fidermark mare, who would likely have been travelling to Tokyo this month for the Olympic Games were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, received high praise from the two judges, especially for her fluent half-passes, super pirouettes and high quality passage – “it is so impressive to see this horse coming towards you in passage,” said Mariette, as Charlotte embarked on her final centre line.
“I’ve been really looking forward to today – it’s been really tough to stay in a good frame of mind without having shows and not knowing what is going to happen,” said Charlotte.
“It was great to have Freestyle out – she’s been so good at home and it’s been nice to take her out and see where we are,” the double Olympic champion told H&H. “We had a few little blips today, such as in the piaffe where she didn’t keep it quite as well as she can, but I’m really pleased with her.
“The more she goes out, the better she gets.”
Dutch riders filled the next two spots according to the spectator judging, with Ashley van Megen-Brons and San Diego earning 70.33% from the viewers, and Patrick van der Meer just behind in third on 69.25%.
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The next highest placed Brit was Nikki Barker and the impressive Spielberg stallion Durable, who stepped up to grand prix last year, and received 68.87%, just ahead of Emile Faurie riding Robinvale.
Several exciting upcoming combinations took part in the challenge, including some grand prix first-timers, such as Britain’s Katie Bailey, who was making her debut at the level with Eagle Nouvelle.
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