Polly Bryan hears more about the expressive Trakehner gelding who has become one of Britain’s very best grand prix horses
Rider Sonnar Murray-Brown
“The first time I rode ‘Erly’ was in Germany, as a raw six-year-old. I tried a few, but I loved the feeling he gave me, and the fact there was so much more in there to discover. I remember asking him for a flying change, and he leapt in the air and gave me this huge change – I loved it. He has always given me a really fun feeling; he loves to work and is such a trier.
“He has surpassed all expectations and become a horse of a lifetime – we have learnt the ropes together. I always had a feeling he could do grand prix one day, but there’s a difference between being a grand prix horse and being a really good grand prix horse. He still lacks confidence sometimes, but it is so fun to train a horse who just keeps getting better and better. The fact that he is capable of really high scores makes the hard work worthwhile.
“One of our career highlights has to be winning our first international grand prix at Le Mans in February 2020, after I had had a year off [after breaking a leg]. I just couldn’t believe it happened. My aim is a place on a championship team. It’s always been my dream to ride for my country, and the horse deserves it – he’s good enough.”
Groom Jo McGregor
“Erly is very sweet and a real gentleman, but he definitely has a cheeky, more playful side to him. I hack him out around the woods when Sonnar can’t, and although he isn’t spooky, he can get very excited and his cheeky side comes out, especially in winter when he’s fit and fresh. We usually take him out on his own, as other horses tend to wind him up.
“He’s a horse who is always happy to see you, and he really comes into his own at shows, where he loves all the attention. He’s a good eater, and eats just as well away as he does at home. He particularly loves mashes, and he likes to kick them all round the stable.
“It was so nice to see Erly and Sonnar do their grand prix freestyle at the National Grand Prix Championships at Hartpury before Christmas. We had been looking forward to them doing it for so long and it was lovely to see it all come together, especially as they have worked so hard and really deserve their success.”
Judge Isobel Wessels
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw Erlentanz several years ago. I was walking along the bank at Hartpury, and he was doing an advanced medium in the far arena. I just couldn’t stop looking at this lovely horse, and I said to the person I was with that he would be a top horse one day. How magical to have watched him grow and develop and now to be judging him at grand prix level.
“I saw him perform at Aachen with Charlotte Dujardin in 2019 when Sonnar was off injured; he is not a big horse but in that huge arena he just looked phenomenal. He is so powerful, expressive and always has a lovely expression on his face – he looks like a totally happy athlete, which is lovely to judge.
“What is also lovely is that he has maintained his enthusiasm and charm through the levels, and he has also held on to his super extended walk, which is a real banker. I just think he and Sonnar are a gorgeous partnership – definitely team contenders.”
This feature is also available to read in the Thursday 25 March issue of Horse & Hound magazine
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