‘She’s my number one’: Stunning mare dances to a convincing small tour title at Winter Dressage Championships

  • Sadie Smith and her nine-year-old Dante Weltino mare Swanmore Dantina left the opposition in their wake as they won the Superflex Intermediate I Gold Winter Championship at the 2024 NAF Winter Dressage Championships – following up on their success in the Magic Prix St Georges (PSG) last year.

    The combination scored 75% to finish just under 5% ahead of Jezz Palmer and Emily Ivins’ nine-year-old stallion Ketcher B – who won the PSG on the opening day (10 April) of this year’s Winter Dressage Championships.

    It was a harmonious and fluent ride from Sadie, with the judge at C, Nick Burton, awarding them 80.29% and several nines for the combination’s canter work and the collective mark for general impression.

    “I was really pleased with my test, she felt confident in there and fresh,” said Sadie. “I haven’t done many shows through the winter because I wanted to work on the training and getting her stronger, and today I felt that really helped – everything has come on a lot.”

    “She’s always got her ears forward, she has a beautiful frame, and she’s found the step up to inter I relatively easy and to be honest I think it suits her more because she has such looseness in the trot and I can show that off more – I love her to bits, she’s my number one.”

    A former rider for Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, Sadie has produced “Dia” through the levels after buying her as a three-year-old but admits she didn’t expect to be here with her.

    “I had been planning to sell her because at the time I had another horse who was at a higher level and she was going to fund that one, but for whatever reason she’s ended up staying with me and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Charlotte always winds me up because she’s like ‘Oh you just wanted to get rid of her, but I said no’ – so she was right again!”

    Sadie has now set up by herself and says she’s enjoying the experience: “It’s nice being my own boss, but I do miss having the security blanket of Carl and Charlotte there. But it’s good because you have to find your own way at some point, and I’m really lucky that I have a nice string of horses now – Carl still owns one and some of the others belong to Charlotte’s main owner – so I’m still quite heavily involved which is nice because I can pick up the phone and ask for help if I need it.

    “It’s a tough sport and everyone’s trying hard to do their best, and when you have days like this it helps you to keep going.”

    Sadie and Dia will be looking to make it back-to-back titles when they contest the Superflex Intermediate I Freestyle Gold Winter Championship later today (13 April).

    2024 Winter Dressage Championships: “She is a bit of a Disney princess”

    Advanced eventer Katie Warner won the last class of the day – the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver Championship – aboard the seven-year-old mare Active Nuvolari on 73.79%.

    The combination’s Disney-themed music impressed the judges with the judge at H, Andrea Smith giving them 77.22% for their artistic mark. “It suits her because she has such an expressive face, and such long legs, she really is a bit of a Disney princess,” said Katie.

    “I was so pleased with her today, we haven’t run through our freestyle in competition before and she’s never been to a big show like this, but she was with me the whole way through – I’m so proud of her. I’m 21 weeks pregnant today, so this was the baby’s first nationals, so it’s very exciting.”

    Katie credits her coach and “best friend” Charlotte Smithwhite with holding her hand and encouraging her: “She gave me the belief that I can really come here and do it.”

    A-level student Sophia Marston and her 12-year-old mare Solitaire II won the hotly contested Petplan Advanced Medium Silver Area Festival Championship with 68.76%.

    “Most of the test was brilliant,” said Sophia, “I got on her and she just felt insanely good. The highlight was probably the trot, she’s still green to the level but she’s starting to gain confidence in her changes as well.”

    Sophia has owned Solitaire since she was a yearling, and the combination started their respective dressage careers together – and it’s been a rocky road to get to where they are now.

    “Last year she had an accident in the field and fractured her P1 [proximal phalanx] but she’s back up and running now and strong as ever, so whatever happens in the future is a bonus – there’s no pressure with her because I’m already so proud of what she’s achieved.”

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