A golden double, Lottie Fry’s former assistant rider and a veteran five-star eventer all feature on the final day of the Winter Dressage Championships

  • Katie Bailey notched a second win of the week on Escomond, adding the HorseLight Medium Gold title to the previous day’s advanced medium sash at the 2024 NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships. She earned herself a comfortable victory margin on 73.15%. She had a long wait to celebrate her success as her biggest threat looked to be the final horse into the arena, GF Sezuki. Claire Abel’s Sezuan mare had already finished a narrow second in the freestyle earlier in the day, but was foiled again for the top prize, finishing as reserve champion on a score of 70.22%, despite a dazzling extended walk for eights across the board earning double marks.

    This was Escomond’s second visit to the arena on this final day, but while he was “lit up” in the advanced medium freestyle – finishing down the order in 12th – he was back in form for the medium.

    “I think he remembered the prize-giving from the same arena yesterday, he was like a different horse,” said Katie. “So this afternoon, I just kept my leg on and rode more positively, I said ‘let’s get going’, and it worked. Our trot work, half passes, and medium canter went really well. It’s amazing to win two championships, but all I tried to do mentally was ride the best tests I could.”

    Young riders to the fore in the silver sections at 2024 Winter Dressage Championships

    Isobel Lickley, 19, headed the Magic Prix St Georges Silver Winter Championship on 70%. The runner-up was Chrissie Havis aboard the skewbald Beckhouse Piano Blue, scoring 68.57%.

    Isobel, who competed on pony European teams, is aiming for young riders this season. She has been riding Katniss “on and off for the past few years”, but relinquished the ride to her mother while she had a spell training abroad last year.

    “I was in Holland for eight months as Lottie Fry’s assistant rider – it was an amazing experience,” she said. “When I came back last August I stole Katniss back from my mum, and I don’t want her stealing her back!”

    Isobel was pleased with her test overall, “nitpicking” over little mistakes in the trot work, but her changes earned a string of eights.

    “Her changes had so much more expression, which we’d been working on, so it was nice that was rewarded in the arena,” she said.

    Chrissie Havis had to settle for the reserve champion slot for the second time in one afternoon, as her ride Beckhouse Piano Blue finished just behind the Superflex Intermediate I Silver Winter champion Escade (India Durman-Mills). None of the field broached the 70% barrier, with India on 69.7%, after she broke in her extended trot, but her final halt boosted her score with two eights.

    India has done both junior and young riders on Escade, and the 19-year-old is aiming for young rider teams again this season. This was only their third inter I.

    “My mistake in the trot did push the mark down but luckily he came back to me straight away,” said India. “These sort of things happen. I’m hoping we can move up to inter II towards the end of the year.”

    Flying changes seal the deal in the final Petplan Winter Area Festival Championship

    The final Petplan Area Festival championship, the 34-strong advanced medium bronze, resulted in a win for Daisy Hills on Midtgaards Gijon. Their party piece was also the flying changes, which drew eights from the judges, for an overall 70.21%. Kizzie Lucas and Candito finished a fraction behind in second on 70.04%, conversely, an error in their second change costing them victory.

    “He has a definite talent for the changes,” said Daisy. “It’s something we work on a lot but they’re always a highlight.

    “I only started riding him six months ago and so everything has happened quite quickly – this is a dream come true,” she said. “We made our young rider debut in January and we’ve decided to go for it.”

    Daisy, 20, previously evented, competing at the Badminton Grassroots Championships in 2019, but switched fully to dressage last year.

    “I just had a love for dressage,” she explained. “It was always my favourite phase in eventing, and something I just love working hard on.”

    Also on the podium and with eventing links, the veteran Cillnabradden Evo is still going strong in his retirement as a top-flight event horse. Sally-Anne Egginton’s 18-year-old won Gatcombe’s British Open in a multi-garlanded eventing career with both Andrew Nicholson and Oliver Townend. He finished third in this class on 68.37%, ridden – as he has been since 2022 – by Poppy Burner.

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