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Horse & Hound Festival of Dressage: victory over the nerves secures early wins

Hollie Pilling made a strong start to her Horse & Hound Festival of Dressage campaign with wins in both novice classes.

Today (Friday, 20 July) was the warm-up day of the festival, held at Sheepgate in Lincolnshire, with the championship classes held over Saturday and Sunday.

Cambridgeshire-based Hollie and her gelding Impulse (pictured, top) were default winners in the novice 24, scoring 66.52%, before bettering their mark by almost four percent to win the 14-strong novice 23 on 70.21%.

“I’ve never competed here before and my mare is quite green, so it was nice to have a good round,” said Hollie, who bought “Charlie” two years ago.

“I had lost my confidence [before I bought him] and we have just gone from strength to strength and really built my confidence back up.”

As well as riding, Hollie also runs a consultancy business for Cloud FM and is mum to five-year-old Emilia.

“It’s nice to prove that you can do it all — be a mum, have a full-time job, compete and have fun,” she added.

Twelve-year-old Megan Field and her 13hh pony Roseview Phoenix proved size is no obstacle, claiming first place in prelim 12 and second in prelim 17.

“He can be a bit cheeky sometimes, but he is really good fun — he loves jumping as well,” said Megan, adding he is a “nice person to be around”.

The pair, who are contesting the prelim championship, are members of the Warwickshire Hunt branch of the Pony Club and recently qualified for the intermediate dressage championships.

Julia Bullock and Plain Sailing were victorious in prelim 17, on their first attempt at a long arena test.

Tessa Nelson and her special homebred Blinkbonny Wild Child (“Twiggy”) topped intro C on a score of 69.13%.

“She’s amazing,” said Tessa, who works for Royal Mail. “She’s like a sponge in that she just wants to learn.

“The surfaces here are amazing to ride on — it is like riding on a magic carpet.”

The four-year-old mare is out of a 14.2hh working hunter pony, previously ridden by Tessa’s daughter, and by the coloured warmblood stallion Armour G.

“When she was born, she had one ear up and one down — luckily it straightened out,” she added.

From day one we thought she was quite special — I just want to enjoy her. I rang the lady who helps me straight after our tests and said, ‘Lesley, she feels amazing’, and to then find out she had won on a decent score [was wonderful].”

Bert Sheffield was delighted with the performance of her nine-year-old mare Wonky, who first and second place in intro A and C respectively.

“This is the first time I have done a competition on her outside, so it was really good experience for her,” said the Canadian para rider.

The championship tests are run over two days at Sheepgate Equestrian Centre in Lincolnshire.

Competitors rode their first test on Saturday (21 July) and their second on Sunday (22 July). The winners are decided on a combination of percentages from both tests, with a host of prizes, including a Catago FIR-tech healing rug worth £200 for winners and rosettes to tenth place.

Don’t miss the latest news and updates on the H&H Festival of Dressage on the Horse & Hound website and social media channels, plus a full report in the 26 July issue of the magazine.

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