New names join illustrious list of national title holders at Winter Dressage Championships *H&H Plus*

  • Two riders take their first national titles, plus a ‘bridesmaid’ steps up to the top spot. Find out what the newly crowned Winter Championship PSG gold, prelim gold and Area Festival medium silver winners had to say about their tests...

    This was the first time that a prelim gold winter championship class has been staged, and it was sponsored by KBIS. It was a first national title for Jessica Williams, who scored 71.95 with Sir Leonardo on the opening day of the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships (28 June – 2 July). The scores at the top of the competitive class were tight – second-placed Jenny Lovel (Lanuvio) managed 71.61%, with Julia Walker third with Strategy only a fraction behind on 71.15%.

    “He was given to me two and a half years ago by his owner, who was giving up horses,” said Essex-based Jessica. “She had bought his dam in-foal with him. He was a nine-year-old stallion and I had him gelded.

    “He’s done absolutely nothing – this is our first big competition. I just wanted to get round, so to win is quite amazing. I’m dead chuffed – all I wanted was a sash!”

    The Starnberg 11-year-old is, Jessica said, “very quirky”.

    “But absolutely lovely now he’s missing a few bits! He’s very loving and kind, but quite unsure of himself and not very brave. He got a little bit withdrawn in the canter in his test, but the trotwork was good.”

    ‘I’ve been waiting a long time for a national title’

    It was also Lizzie Bulmer’s first national title. The Harpenden-based rider took the Petplan Equine medium silver area festival championship on Duke Of Light with a score of 69.75% over Lucy Lloyd and Glensensaw Sweet Girl (69.22%).

    “I’m totally overwhelmed,” Lizzie admitted. “This is his first time at a championship – he’s been so difficult that we have never tried to qualify for anything before.”

    Lizzie bought the now-13-year-old (De Niro/Wolkentanz) from Brightwells when he was three.

    “He’s had various issues, from saddle-fitting problems to gastric ulcers, and has been wild at competitions,” said Lizzie. “But he’s gradually started to grow up. Lockdown was very good for him, because it gave us time away from competing to train and consolidate. He’s come out this season as a different horse. I am so grateful to my trainer, Carol Bennett, for all her help.

    “He’s been very full of himself in the stable here and it was hard to get his plaits in, but I was very pleased with his test. He coped well and didn’t look at anything.”

    Duke Of Light is competing at advanced medium level and Lizzie hopes to do a PSG with him before the end of the season.

    “Although he’s not big, around 15.2hh, he is substantial and it has taken time for him to strengthen up and be able to take weight behind. Now he’s becoming more rideable, his whole frame is looking very nice,” she said.

    Lizzie is a former event rider who rode on the British team at the junior European Championships in 1990. She had also done pony dressage, but turned to eventing full-time before gradually switching back to the sport more than a decade ago.

    “I’ve been waiting a long time for a national title – I was third at Windsor in the junior national eventing championships with the final showjump down, so this has been a long time coming,” she said with visible emotion.

    ‘I was always the bridesmaid’

    Andrew Gould’s victory in the Magic PSG gold winter championship certainly wasn’t his first national title.

    “But I haven’t won that many – I was always the bridesmaid!” he joked. “When Carl [Hester] was really doing it, I was always second to him. Probably six or seven, but it’s been a while – I had a big gap where I didn’t do the winter championships for a long time. It’s lovely to win and really nice for the owner, who’s super-proud of the horse. It’s great for our team at home as well, who have been working hard with him. This win has come at the right time – he’s been on form. He won the regionals, won at premier leagues this year, and it’s nice to come here and win again, which doesn’t always happen.”

    Riding Tatiana Skillman’s 10-year-old Zhivago stallion Genie 1, Andrew scored 70.44% – the only plus-70% mark in the class.

    “We’ve had him for 18 months now,” said Andrew. “He’s probably the easiest horse I’ve ever had from a character point of view. He is a stallion and the plan is that he will cover at some point, but his trainability is brilliant. He hasn’t let me down once. He just wants to work, he’s got energy, he wants to please – he’s just a pleasure.

    “The test was a really good clear round. I felt that I lost areas of self-carriage, but quality-wise I can trust him, so I can ride him forward in the changes, I can take a gamble in the pirouettes, and the extended trots are super – he really takes me to them. Still arenas I can improve, though. He isn’t fazed by atmosphere; he actually comes to himself when there’s more atmosphere. Some stallions are like that, but some go the other way and shut down on you. He completely comes out of himself in a nice way.

    “He did qualify for the inter here as well, and that is a better test for him in some ways. However, he’s got the CDI here at Hartpury next week, so we thought it might be too much to spend four days here, go home for three days and then come back again.
    “I think towards the end of the year he will take steps towards doing his first grand prix.”

    Nathalie Kayel took second and third spots with DHI Cleverboy (69.78%) and Woodcroft St Emillion (69.47%).

    Read more reports from Hartpury…