Former pacer who’s ‘taught over 50 people to canter’ is crowned national dressage champion

  • If ever there was a feel good story, then it had to be that from the Equissage Pulse Grade I para gold championship at the 2022 LeMieux national dressage championships where Di Green rode Jo Alderton’s 22-year-old The Scout to win. Two years ago, just before the nationals, Di, who has trauma-induced MS, smashed her pelvis in a fall and then last year went through gallbladder surgery.

    “Jo very kindly let me ride Scout for therapy and to get me back into gear and here we are,” said Di, for whom this was a first national dressage championships Grade I para gold win. “He has just been amazing. He has big movement for a smaller horse, but he feels so safe.”

    The horse originally came from the travelling community and is in fact a pacer. Jo, who runs the Hereford based Ride2Achieve, bought him after he came to her for reschooling with the aim of selling him on.

    “He’s always had a good walk, which obviously is important, but he’s got the best brain,” said Jo. “He must have taught over 50 people to canter, he’s won the RDA showjumping with a blind rider – he is just the best.”

    It was a blind rider, Nicola Naylor, who won the Grade IV riding Del Piero, known at home as PP. The combination was one of the reserves for the World Dressage Championships and Nicola has a spot at next year’s Europeans as her aim. But her Somerford win didn’t come without drama.

    “I missed the buzzer to start my test and with being blind that put everything out slightly,” she explained. “I was off centre going down the centre line and it took me part of the trot work before I had time to focus on his frame and cadence, which is so important when you can’t see.”

    Nicola, who trains with and is based with Sarah Millis, has had PP for three years.

    “He had an eye injury and did very little from age seven through to 10 while he went through repeated eye surgeries,” she said. “When I went to see him I realised I’d tried him before, but turned him down because of the eye issue. This time I knew he was the right one straight away. We did our first show four weeks later and he’s hardly put a foot wrong since. He’d had plenty of training, but hadn’t competed and we’ve built on that. He’s just super with a super attitude and super talent – super everything!”

    Georgia Wilson rode Midnight II, aka Midnight The Nightmare, to win the Grade II on a mark of 74.706%, the highest of the four para classes. Since 2019 the mare has been in and out of work with monotonous regularity having taken to posting sick notes with enthusiasm.

    “Pulling shoes off along with part of the hoof wall is her favourite excuse. The trouble is she just likes messing around,” said Georgia.

    Midnight has a busy few days at Somerford as Georgia’s sister Sophie has the 13-year-old qualified for both the elementary and medium silver classes.

    “Sophie’s an eventer at heart really,” explained Georgia. “She’s always ridden as my support rider, but since she’s been competing her the mare feels stronger and Sophie gets her nice and forward; half halts have become much more important to me!”

    Georgia was pleased with her test, particularly the walk: “I got the posh walk in there today, we missed out on the posh trot in the test, but the aim is to get that at the Keysoe International in October.”

    Sophie Wells won the Grade V with her Tokyo team gold medallist Don Cara M. The 13-year-old Dutch-bred was having his first outing since scooping two silvers and a bronze at the World Championships in August.

    “He had a couple of easy weeks and then switched him back on for here,” said Sophie. “I was really pleased with today, he’s quite an anxious horse so a close environment like the arena here is not an opportunity to miss. He’s felt very relaxed and confident today, I was particularly pleased with his extended canter back to collected as that has been a weakness but I was thrilled with that today and he got eights.”

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