Pocket rocket, home-breds and a musician dance to glory at Winter Dressage Championships *H&H Plus*

  • Find out more about the horses and riders who took top honours at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships and Petplan Area Festival finals on the opening day of the five-day championships...

    Professional musician Rachel Platt was “chuffed to pieces” to win the Petplan Equine medium bronze Area Festival final on Gracia Du Rhona with a mark of 68.24%.

    The saxophonist and clarinetist said: “I used to ride when I was a little girl but never had my own horse, and when my Mum passed away when I was in my 40s, I used my inheritance to buy Gracie as a four-year-old – she’s 10 now.

    “She’s actually from showjumping lines and is quite a hot, feisty little mare, but she is lovely, and so I just took up riding again and, as a big experiment, decided to see how far we could go. She’s very sensitive in a good way, but obviously that sensitivity can backfire when she’s tense. But she’s a real worker and does try her hardest for you. Obviously I’m learning, she’s learning, so we’ve had those challenges, but we are very tolerant of each other! She’s a lovely mare and very affectionate.”

    “Gracie” finds busy warm-ups “a real strain”.

    “I didn’t get a great warm-up, but I thought, ‘When we go into the test, those horses have gone and we’ll go and school our way round it.’ She gave me some lovely medium trots and a couple of really nice half-passes.”

    She added: “I really should be doing dressage to music, especially since my husband is a composer, but I haven’t yet. Maybe that’s my next experiment.”

    Sam Whyley and Tremadoc were only a fraction behind in second with 68.14%.

    ‘The foundation of everything’

    Shelley Reeve-Smith repeated her 2020 victory in the Petplan Equine PSG silver Area Festival finals on the home-bred mare Sinderella.

    “I didn’t know whether that meant it was pressure on or pressure off,” said Shelley. “For me, I felt she gave me better quality work this year – I feel she was much freer in her trot, and she just felt really good.”

    Sinderella, now 16, is by Sir Oldenburg, and her dam, Sharola Levi Star, was sired by the Reeve-Smith family’s Sharola Rainmaker, whom they bought as a yearling colt for £1,000.

    “I rode him in young rider classes and my sister Tahley evented him, back in the day, and we used him as a stallion, so he’s the foundation of everything,” Shelley explained. “I’d love a foal from Sinderella, but I don’t want to stop riding her! She’s just such a nice, reliable, solid mare who tries so hard. I love her to bits.”

    ‘He’s my pocket rocket’

    Alice Oppenheimer and the “pocket rocket” Headmore Dionysus topped the Spillers medium gold freestyle in the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships by a wide margin.

    “He’s really cool and he really deserves that today because he’s been so close so many times, that little horse, and he always just missed out,” said Alice, adding she was delighted for the horse’s owner Amanda Radford.

    “He gave me an amazing ride. He’s my little pocket rocket and he’s the type of horse that I know I can put him in the ring, take the handbrake off and he just does it. He’s really cool, he’s like a little toy to ride.

    “He’s the type of horse that I know I can really dare him in the ring. I can go full power on the extensions and he just loves it. He loves showing off. He’s only about 15.3hh when he’s lit up, but he’s a little showman.”

    The pint-sized gelding, by Dimaggio, is out of the Oppenheimer’s late great broodmare Rubinsteena. The pair rode to a Cats soundtrack, put together by Sara Green, to top the class on a score of 78.28%.

    “It just really suits him and I love riding to it,” she said. “I like riding tests like that when you come out with a big smile on your face.

    “I said to mum ‘if I don’t get 78%, I’ll be annoyed’ as it just felt so good. (t’s nice when you put a mark on a test and the judges agree.”

    Second place went to Tahley Reeve-Smith and Woodcroft Balentino on 74%, with Nicky Heale and Furstinclaire third on 72.28%.

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