Future stars you need to keep your eye on kick off the 2024 Winter Dressage Championships in style

  • The 2024 NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships have kicked off in style with two young stars winning the early classes while spectators were also treated to several nail-biting finishes.

    Jezz Palmer and the six-year-old gelding Toddington Debut (Glock’s Toto Jr x Zack) who is owned by Martin Price won the Bailey’s Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold Championship on 75.37%.

    “He’s a big, big horse, so he’s needed a bit more time” said Jezz, who rode to a Lion King-inspired soundtrack created by Equidance, which has become something of a good luck charm.

    “The music won me the same title two years ago, it’s brilliant. It’s easy to follow, it has brilliant power and the crescendos are amazing.”

    The combination just saw off last-to-go Lucy Amy and her six-year-old gelding Morrico M who finished just 0.1% behind in second, despite being placed first by the judges at H and B.

    “He’s an exciting horse who will hopefully make grand prix,” said Lucy. “He finds all the lateral movements very easy, when he gets strong enough to take himself he’ll have so much more to give.”

    Jezz – who has 12 rides across the championships – also placed third aboard Imogen Byers’ Hawtins Fiorucci II. “I’d describe her as an amateur’s dream,” added Jezz. “She’s perfect and that’s the best she’s ever gone.”

    2024 Winter Dressage Championships: “She has no weaknesses”

    Robyn Walker and St Giles Flamborghini (Franklin x Fürst Romancier) won the stacked Horsehage Preliminary Gold Winter Championship on 72.93%.

    The five-year-old mare – who has only been competing since October 2023 – was bred by Dinah Ashley-Cooper, the Countess of Shaftesbury, and is a full sister to St Giles Flamboyant, who contested the Magic Prix St Georges (PSG) Gold under Nicola Buchanan and was one of our ones to watch in the build-up to the championships.

    “I’m delighted, especially to be doing it with Robyn, she’s such a talented rider and I’m so happy to have found her,” said Dinah.

    “It was her first time being stabled somewhere other than home and we were so happy because she went straight into that stable and settled straight away.”

    Flamorghini got eights for her working canter and trot but it was her walk that Robyn was most pleased with: “She’s been struggling with her walk and we’ve been doing online lessons with Hubertus Graf Zedtwitz and he’s been incredible, and has played a big part in improving it.

    “She doesn’t really have any weaknesses now. She knows how special she is but she’s incredibly kind and trusting, she loves attention, and people – she’s one in a million.”

    Looking ahead, both Robyn and Dinah have high hopes for Flamborghini but are keen to keep her work varied.

    “She loves hacking and jumping – which she thinks is the best thing ever,” said Robyn. “We’ll continue to get her out and about this year and have some fun.”

    “He’s incredible, I love him to pieces”

    Amy Hose – who trains with Jezz – won the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver Winter Championship on her own eight-year-old gelding Enrique, a remarkable o.oo1% ahead of second place Hannah Luesley and EDH Franklin Rose. In total, there was less than 1% separating the top seven places.

    “He’d done one day of competing when I got him as a six-year-old so he was quite a late starter,” said Amy. “But he’s incredible, I love him to pieces. I was so lucky, my godfather bought him for me, otherwise, I’d never be able to have a horse like him.”

    Carrie Passmore won the first Area Festival Championship of the day, claiming the medium silver on her home-bred 14.2hh pony Star Gazer – who also has two half-siblings competing at the championships later in the week – on 68.57%.

    “We’ve had him his entire life, he’s by Jennie Loriston-Clarke’s Littledale Bright Star out of a Dutch-cross broodmare who we had,” said Carrie.

    “He was originally an event pony but he ties up showjumping so we swapped him to dressage and he hasn’t tied up since. He loves dressage – he finds everything quite easy, so it can be quite a challenge to keep him engaged.”

    With one championship now in the bag, Carrie has high hopes for the rest of the year: “He’s got changes down to two times so I’d like to try and get him out at PSG and then find a pony rider to take him on because he’s well capable of doing FEI pony classes.”

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