THE growing strength of British dressage shone at Keysoe International CDI in Bedfordshire as established stars and new faces proved they are pushing the sporting bar ever higher. British-bred horses swept the board across the small and big tour senior classes, headed with a spectacular double by Lara Butler and Kristjan across the grand prix (71.26%) and special (72.96%).
The pair were riding the crest of a wave of success, following their two top-10 placings and team podium finish at Aachen CDIO5* last month.
“He’s 16 years old, but he really doesn’t feel it,” said Lara. “He’s like a fine wine – ageing well.”
The London International Horse Show is next on the cards for the Bechtolsheimers’ Polarion home-bred.
“He had a bit of downtime after Aachen and I picked him up about a week ago and he’s just raring to go,” Lara added. “That’s the nice thing with the older ones, I don’t have to train the movements, it’s just about keeping them soft, supple and happy. He loves to work – his mind needs to be active, always active, and he has an amazing attitude.”
The duo were the only pair to break the 70% barrier in the grand prix, with second to eighth place all within 1%. Fiona Bigwood and Fame claimed the grand prix runner-up spot on 68.96% while Gareth Hughes and KK Dominant took second place in the special on 70.3%.
Hayley Watson-Greaves and her own evergreen Rubins Nite, 17, delighted fans on their first international competition in more than two years, dancing to victory on 74.16% in the grand prix freestyle to their popular magical soundtrack.
“I retired this music about four years ago,” said Hayley, who was making her international return after the pandemic and the birth of her daughter in April. “But I love that music so much that I wanted to ride to it again. I had a smile on my face all the way round and he did too.”
Kate Cowell and Samba Dancer upgraded their grand prix third to take second in the freestyle. The pair’s joyful performance to a Scottish medley earned them a new international personal best of 73.7%.
Alexander Harrison and Diamond Hill were among the stand-out performances of the week, claiming third in the freestyle on 72.85%.
“I changed the way I’m riding in the ring a little bit,” explained 24-year-old Alexander. “I feel all season like I’ve been chasing him to go for the marks and qualify for things. Now it’s the end of the season, I’ve tried a new way of riding – a bit longer, a bit softer, make it feel easy – and he ended up trying a bit more, so I was really chuffed with him.”
Ireland’s Abi Lyle was the highest-placed non-Brit across the big tour classes on her international debut at this level, finishing fourth in the special aboard Farrell (66.64%).
Lewis Carrier and Diego V enjoyed a double in the under-25 grand prix and freestyle, scoring 70.87% and 72.1% respectively, while Robyn Allana Mcdonald Smith and Francesco 77 topped the under-25 inter II.
Keysoe CDI: small tour
LUCINDA ELLIOTT blazed onto the senior international scene, franking her name as one to watch with a brace of wins and a second place in the small tour classes aboard the “horse of her career”.
Lucinda and Hawtins Duchessa opened their international account with a plus-73% prix st georges (PSG) win, which they followed up with second in the inter I (72.47%) and victory in the inter I freestyle with a huge 77.38%.
The 26-year-old rider is known for her skill as a young horse producer. This season she has shown the breadth of her talents, making her mark among the advanced levels.
“She’s definitely my horse of my career so far, and will be one of the best ones for a long time,” said Lucinda, crediting owner-breeder Judith Davis of Hawtins Stud and trainer Serena Pincus for making the journey possible.
“She’s very bold, nothing really fazes her and she’s very keen to take things on,” added Lucinda, explaining what it is that makes the 10-year-old Decamerone daughter so good.
Second place in the PSG went to Gareth Hughes on the nine-year-old Happiness, a horse to watch for the future.
“He’s had a very quiet year as we’ve been so busy with the Olympics and then Europeans, so this guy had to take a bit of a backseat,” said Gareth. “He’s quite inexperienced, but each test gets better – he keeps showing more and more potential.”
Sarah Rogers and Viva Lotta continued the Bechtolsheimer team’s success, topping Saturday’s inter I on a score of 72.71%. The 10-year-old mare was bred by the Bechtolsheimers and is owned by Laura Tomlinson and her mother Ursula.
“I just find the more I’m getting her out, the more I’m really starting to be able to show off what she can do,” said Sarah. “She can do all the movements, she just needs to take confidence. That’s something we’re building on show by show.”
Para dressage classes at Keysoe CDI
TOKYO medal-winners Georgia Wilson and Sakura celebrated their first show post-Games with three victories in the grade II CPEDI3* classes.
Fellow Tokyo Paralympian Michael Murphy showed the depth to his horsepower, sweeping the grade I board with Dark Diamond. The Irishman explained he has been “working quietly away at home” with the 10-year-old Don Crusador son over the last year.
“He is a dream to ride,” said Michael. “He has this incredible walk where you just feel like you’re floating. He has everything to be a top para horse.”
Erin Orford, non-travelling British reserve, was among the others to bag triple victory, with new individual and freestyle international personal bests as
a partnership with LJT Diamond Crusador.
Ponies and juniors
BRITISH pony team pair Gracie Morgan and Ella’s international competition journey together ended where it all began, capping a stellar three-year partnership with a full house in the pony classes at Keysoe CDI.
“I did my first ever international here two years ago, so to then win here on my last ever international on her just felt amazing,” said Gracie, 15. “We’ve had such a journey together. She’s brought me from a novice rider all the way up to the European Championships.”
Junior European double silver medal-winners Annabella Pidgley and Sultan Des Paluds FRH added a Keysoe hat-trick to their achievements. Anna Dalrymple and Vagabond De Massa also enjoyed a treble, in the young rider classes.
- This exclusive report will also be available in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 14 October
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