Keystone Dawn Chorus: the ‘practically perfect’ mare who is a Tokyo medal hope *H&H Plus*

  • This “practically perfect” mare could become one of Britain’s biggest medal hopes at this year’s Tokyo Paralympics, finds Polly Bryan

    Need to know

    Keystone Dawn Chorus
    Age: 10
    Breeding: Dimaggio x Escudo
    Studbook: British Hanoverian
    Breeder: Suzanne Lavandera
    Rider: Natasha Baker
    Owner: Natasha Baker, Philip Baker, Christian Landolt, Joanna Jensen
    Greatest achievements: novice silver reserve champion at National Dressage Championships 2019; triple gr III victory at Keysoe CPEDI3* 2019; gr III champion at Para Winter Championships 2020; triple gr III victory at Keysoe CPEDI3* 2020.

    Rider Natasha Baker

    “‘LOTTIE’ is like my little Mary Poppins, as she is practically perfect in every way. She is very sweet, both to ride and in the stable. She is food-obsessed and will do anything for the munchies, and she has such a kind, generous personality – she loves to work and is willing. She will go into any arena or atmosphere and she wants to perform and work with me.

    “I don’t have the use of my legs when I ride, but Lottie is a forward-thinking horse and she adapted to my riding quickly. It was helpful that in the weeks before I first went to see Lottie, in 2019, her former owner Beth Bainbridge tried to use her voice as much as she could while riding her, and her legs as little as possible. It helped make it an easy transition for Lottie.

    “We have only been able to do a handful of shows together, so from a competition perspective I am still getting to know her. But achieving as much as we have so far, especially in able-bodied dressage, has been beyond my expectations. There is a lot of pressure on me in para dressage, which is why we initially went down the able-bodied route in 2019. It was fun and Lottie loves to go into a long arena and to canter, which we don’t do in my para grade.

    “I have also been able to take her hacking, and I balled my eyes out the first time we cantered through a field because I have never had a horse I’ve trusted as much as her. I feel as though anything is possible with Lottie, because we trust each other so much.”

    Trainer Lisa Hopkins

    “NATASHA and Lottie are such a good match. Lottie has a good work ethic and wants to help Natasha. She also has a big engine and is naturally self-propelled and powerful, but kind with it. It feels as though she has found her role in life as a para horse.

    “Lottie’s strengths are all the things that are important in para dressage. She is naturally uphill and in front of the leg with good rhythm. I find her lovely to ride as well, and I work on keeping her responsive for Natasha.

    “The movements in Natasha’s grade [grade III] are equivalent to novice/elementary but the frame and harmony are so important, and the judges are quite demanding. The precision and attention to detail that is required to do well in para dressage pays off in able-bodied dressage, too. The public don’t often get the chance to see our top paras in action, and I think many people don’t appreciate how good they actually are.

    “Lottie’s good temperament means I don’t feel nervous watching Natasha on her, and it makes us more relaxed about travelling with her, even without much mileage. She isn’t a horse who needs to have seen everything; she processes things well and never says no.”

    Judge Sarah Leitch

    “THIS is a super mare, who has the ability to be world-class. Natasha clearly loves her and they have developed a good partnership in quite a short space of time. Para riders cannot ride with strength, so instead they have to be able to ride with balance and harmony in order to create a true relationship with their horses.

    “Natasha is a real professional who is good at taking marks off judges because she is so accurate. She is a great athlete, too.

    She’s so determined to do as well as she can, and with this mare she will hopefully achieve great things.

    “Natasha and Lottie have now had a winter of training on top of their results at Keysoe CPEDI last autumn, where I judged them, and that will put them in a good place ahead of selection for the Tokyo Paralympics.”

    This feature is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (22 April, 2021)

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