One of last year’s leading riders brings his tally up to 15 national titles at the 2024 Winter Dressage Championships

  • Dannie Morgan won four titles at last year’s NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships, and he’s already off to a good start in the 2024 edition, winning the Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold Winter Championship aboard Kristina Rausing’s seven-year-old mare Vive La Reinne VH (Delilah) by a comfortable margin on 75%.

    Delilah also won the elementary gold and the elementary freestyle at the 2023 Winter Dressage Championships.

    “She’s a super mare,” said Dannie, “she’s gained a lot of strength over time and she’s now so reliable in the arena – which is nice because it meant I could go in there and take some risks with the floorplan.”

    The combination did indeed take some risks, with one line going from counter-canter to medium-canter, to a simple change on the centre line.

    “She’s got a lovely walk and a super-expressive trot as well,” added Dannie. “But she’s got such a big frame, so we’re always working on strengthening and developing the self-carriage – she can go all the way.

    “She’s super laid back and unbothered, we do all the arena walks but we don’t really need to because she doesn’t care and is so easygoing.

    “Our music was made by Tony [Hobden] and his wife Kelly at Equidance and it was brilliant. I always go to them because they think outside the box. I’m lucky enough to have quite a good record with championship wins in freestyle classes and I have to say a lot of that is down to their music.”

    Dannie now holds a remarkable 15 national titles and he and Delilah will look to add another title to their collection when they contest the Horselight Medium Gold Winter Championship on Sunday (14 April).

    2024 Winter Area Festival Championships: “She brings so much happiness to us all”

    Former international showjumper Ben James won the 31-strong Petplan Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship aboard the 11-year-old mare Clapton Banks Primadonna (Diva) on 71.37%. The combination are also former winners, having won the elementary bronze at the 2023 Winter Dressage Championships.

    Adding to that, the pair also contested the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver Winter Championship earlier in the day, coming third on 70.05% – just 0.25% off the win.

    “She’s stunning, she’s been so good for me,” said James, who speaks with such obvious and infectious joy about Diva. “We’ve had a fantastic day, she brings so much happiness to us all.”

    Diva has come from somewhat unlikely beginnings to claim, what is now, two national titles. “We got her through word of mouth, we were looking for a broodmare and she was a companion to an elderly horse in the New Forest,” explains Ben.

    “We got her at nine years old, she’d done some light work as a four-year-old, but from that point on she’d be turned away in the field. She was quite energetic, but we’ve had masses of fun with her.

    “I decided to not put her in foal, the plan one day might be to get some embryos from her but at the moment things are going so well that I’m not looking to do that any time soon.

    “I definitely think she can make grand prix, the collection in the canter is so natural for her, she’s always ahead of me!”

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