Aston-le-Walls report: Double wins and exciting new prospects on show *H&H Plus*

  • Kitty King scores a double, with her 2019 European Championships ride Vendredi Biats matched by an up-and-coming star

    Aston-le-Walls (3), Northants, 16–20 July

    Kitty King reigned supreme across Saturday’s two open intermediate sections. The first of her wins came aboard her 2019 European Championships mount, Vendredi Biats, who led from start to finish in a competitive class, completing on his 22.3 dressage in open intermediate section Q.

    “He did everything I wanted quietly and easily and I was happy, especially as he can lack concentration in his first dressage tests back after a break,” explained Kitty of the 11-year-old owned by Diana Bown, Sally Eyre, Samantha Wilson and Sally Lloyd-Baker.

    “During lockdown, to help prevent my horses from getting bored, they tended to do one week of training and then had one week off in the field; it seems to have worked. There’s no set plan for ‘Froggy’ yet – he will either go to Pau CCI5* or stick to CCI4*-S classes for the rest of this season.”

    Kitty’s other win came in open intermediate section P, riding eight-year-old Cristal Fontaine, owned by Camilla and Alex Wakeley, who completed on his 24.8 dressage.

    “He made the whole event feel very easy and it was lovely to ride my horses with big smiles on their faces,” said Kitty. “Cristal Fontaine’s lockdown aim was to become more established in his flying changes so that he is ready for four-star tests. He is only eight, so to give a competitive section a run for their money at Aston was quite exciting. He will ultimately aim for Burnham Market’s eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S class at the end of this season.”

    March’s double

    Piggy March has made the most of lockdown to get to know new ride Dargun, who came to her from Emily King at the start of this season. The Dargun Syndicate’s 12-year-old topped open intermediate section D, leading from start to finish on a 22.3 dressage.

    “Lockdown has been a perfect opportunity for Dargun to strengthen up – he has doubled in size,” explained Piggy, who also said there is no firm plan for him at the moment. “He was a wonderful horse for Emily, but it’s always interesting when you take on someone else’s horse and this time has been useful to get to know him.”

    Piggy also won two sections, and her second victory came aboard Marchwood, owned by Susie Wood and the March Stud. “He’s such a cool little horse – he’s only 15.3hh on his tiptoes, but he makes up for it in character and feistiness,” said Piggy of the nine-year-old, who completed on his 25.2 dressage in intermediate section A.

    “We’ve always thought a lot of him and Susie Berry rode him while he was a youngster when she was based with me. He was sold last year, but has returned into our ownership and we will now crack on and enjoy him.”

    Marchwood’s nearest rival, 4.6 penalties away, was a horse piloted by his former rider Susie Berry – Kilcandra Capitol, a seven-year-old contesting his first intermediate. Irish rider Susie also won intermediate section B with Helen Caton’s eight-year-old Monbeg By Design, completing on their 30 dressage.

    “He finds dressage difficult – he’s not a natural mover, so he’s basically spent the past three months going back to basics with his flatwork,” explained Susie, who took over the ride from Jonty Evans following his fall in 2018.

    “Yogi Breisner came to my yard a few times to help me and we aimed to get ‘Arthur’ to let everything go and use his body – it has really helped us. He’s always mega jumping and we call him ‘Perfect Arthur’ at home. We’ll aim him for the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Burnham Market.”

    In third gear

    Yasmin Ingham, 23, had a very successful weekend, with all four of her rides finishing in the top nine across their respective intermediate sections. Her win came in intermediate section S aboard Sue Davies and Janette Chinn’s super-smart Banzai Du Loir, who finished a whopping 7.3 penalties clear of his nearest rival, completing on his 23 dressage.

    “He’s so good in every phase and doesn’t have a weakness – I often think, ‘How are you so good?,” laughed Yasmin. “He has presence, is flashy, careful, fearless and has a huge stride – I felt like I was only in third gear going around the cross-country.”

    Banzai was purchased from French rider Axel Coutte through Uptown Eventing for Yasmin to ride in May 2019.

    “He has been produced beautifully by Axel and is destined for top sport. We’ve spent lockdown mostly working on his flatwork and he has really come on – he produced his best test to date here,” said Yasmin, who hopes to take the nine-year-old to Burnham Market’s eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S, with Bramham’s CCI4*-L under-25 class on her radar for next year.

    Imogen Murray was victorious in open intermediate section C, riding the MS Team and Fran Reeve’s 12-year-old mare Roheryn Ruby.

    Frenchman Arthur Duffort topped intermediate section R with Susan Lawson’s nine-year-old Arkos Lad. The pair posted a very impressive dressage of 20.2, leading from start to finish.

    Richard Coney and his and his mother Wendy’s super-consistent 12-year-old Kananaskis claimed the sole open intermediate under-21 section, finishing on their 23.6 dressage. Richard, 21, said that his horses “are feeling the benefit from a lot of strengthening work over the lockdown”.

    Lockdown flatwork pays off

    Imogen Murray says she has been able to knuckle down with Roheryn Ruby’s flatwork during lockdown, and credits her improved dressage at Aston to this.

    “Ruby is funny in the winter. She hates indoor arenas, is a hot character and likes to live out – which she can’t do in the winter months – so it’s hard to improve her in the normal off-season,” she explained.

    “So we’ve used the past three months to work on her natural balance and worked her in a way where we weren’t afraid to push for more. We usually wouldn’t want to do that while we were competing so as not to rock the boat. But it’s paid off and it was nice for her to be able to hold her own against a lot of top horses at Aston.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 23 July 2020