‘Give him another 12 months and he’s going to be pretty special’: Gareth Hughes gets British team off to a strong start at the European Dressage Championships

  • Gareth Hughes has got the British team off to a great start at the European Dressage Championships grand prix competition in Hagen, Germany.

    Riding his own and Judy Firmston-Williams’ 11-year-old, Sintano van Hof Olympia, Gareth scored 74.39%, which puts them in second place at the moment, just behind Germany’s Dorothee Schneider and Faustus, who scored 74.98%.

    “This competition has been a massive unknown for Sintano, as he only started grand prix this year, and at the start of 2021, I didn’t even have him in mind for something like this,” Gareth explained. “Last night I must have woken up about 20 times and I was mentally doing either a right half pass or I was doing a transition, because when he gets nervous, he goes into himself and he sucks back, and he’s a very big-moving horse, and unless you can get your leg on and ride forward, he sort of waves in the air a little bit. But he was nervous – I sort of held his hand through it and I couldn’t really ride him, but yet he’s just done a mistake-free test – I could feel him wiggling all over and it’s like riding a horse with no bones! But he stayed with me and he did it, and I was over the moon with him.”

    Despite being Britain’s alternate rider in Tokyo, Sintano is still quite inexperienced at this level. Yet his pirouettes were among the highlights and Gareth pinpointed the final centre line passage too.

    “The last centre line was one of the first passages he pulled me into, and so I could actually start to ride – as soon as you can ride him, he has so much scope,” said Gareth. “But you know, he’s young, he’s immature and I’d much rather a horse go in there and do that and try to be mistake-free than them sort of coming back and the rider having to kick and shove. So give him another 12 months and he’s going to be pretty special.

    “With these inexperienced horses, because they haven’t had many tests under their belts, it’s all about giving them security in the set-up, so I worked out exactly how I was going to ride each movement, how I was going to ride each stride, and I went through it with Carl [Hester] in the warm-up and it came off.”

    Sintano, who is by Sandro Hit, was placed in the top spot by two judges, and Gareth explained that once the Oldenburg gelding gains more confidence, he will be one to watch.

    “Sintano hasn’t really been able to compete, because we’ve had the build up to Tokyo stuff, and actually, this is his third ever competitive international grand prix,” explained Gareth. “He’s never seen an atmosphere like this either – he’s been to a show in Belgium and to a show at Wellington in the UK – he’s never seen a spectator stand or anything like this and so that’s what I loved about him today – he cantered in, halted and walked. He tried really, really hard. Now he’s just got to gain a bit of confidence and if I can get to the point I can kick him in a nice way, it’ll be perfect.”

    After the first rotation of riders in the European Dressage Championships grand prix, Germany sit just ahead of Great Britain, with The Netherlands in third, after Adelinde Cornelissen and the inexperienced Governor-Str scored. 72.48&.

    The next rider for the British team will be Lottie Fry, who will be in action later today riding the 12-year-old stallion Everdale, at 2.59pm (1.59pm BST). Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin will ride the grand prix tomorrow (Wednesday 8 September).

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