“If I’m honest I thought he should come home with the sash; he wows me every single day,” said Ashley Jenkins after winning the four-year-old section of the KBIS young horse finals with Nicola Mahoney’s home-bred Game On at the 2023 LeMieux National Dressage Championships.
“I love everything about him,” added Ashley. “He’s not the tallest, but then neither am I. But he fills the arena. He is my perfect horse.”
Judges Christine Prip, Erik Thielgaard and Lewis Carrier were all in complete agreement over their winner, grand prix rider Lewis having the enviable task of riding the four finalists this year.
“They were very different horses and each lovely in their own way but Game On was the clear winner, his quality shone through,” Lewis said.
Game On is a second generation home-bred for Nicola: “In theory I’ve given up breeding because it’s just too hard. I’ve just got this horse and his younger half-sister but then something like this happens and you start to think,” Nicola said. “Ironically this one is nothing like his siblings, his dam, grand dam or sire but he’s been amazing since the day he was born – it’s why he’s called Game On!”
‘We came with high expectations today’
The five-and six-year-old champions at the National Dressage Championships were a re-run of last year as both MSJ Viva Dannebrog and Iceland Girl PS, four and five-year-old winners respectively 12 months ago, took the five and six-year-olds this year. The only difference was that this year it was Amy Woodhead riding the former, after her sister Holly stood in for her last year.
Viva Dannebrog, owned and bred by Emma Blundell, is a daughter of Diva Dannebrog, ridden to grade III para World Championship silver by Natasha Baker.
“Diva Dannebrog is Don Schufro x Brentano II – good old-fashioned German bloodlines,” said Emma. “We put her to Vitalis to get a little more blood and to get the shoulder through more, and what a mare she is proving to be.
“Viva Dannebrog had her first embryo transfer foal on the ground last year, which topped our online auction,” added Emma. “We came with high expectations today, and we hoped she’d win – she’s a very special horse.
“What a beautiful mare,” was judge Christine Prip’s take on six-year-old winner Iceland Girl PS, ridden by Tom Goode for Deborah Cunningham. “She has a lovely soft canter, and the trot still needs to develop but the ingredients are all there.”
Lewis Carrier, third in the previous day’s grand prix with Diego V, was tasked with riding the top four in each class, and he was fulsome in his praise.
“I would love to take any of the 12 horses forward home with me – and I have room on my lorry,” he quipped.
“If I had to choose one it would be a very tough decision between the four and five year-old winner. I think the four-year-old Game On would just take it.”
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