The judges at Hartpury were treated to top-class dressage as the riders competed for the title of 2020 British national champion – with Charlotte claiming the top two places on the podium
Charlotte Dujardin produced two outstanding performances on Emma Blundell’s Mount St John Freestyle at the LeMieux National Grand Prix Championships this week, to take the title of British national champion for 2020.
Charlotte, who last won this title in 2015 on Barolo, kicked off her campaign in style with a plus-83% grand prix test on the 11-year-old Fidermark mare, on Monday evening (21 December). A day later, she pulled off a stunning freestyle to earn 90.2% – the combination’s highest score to date and Charlotte’s first plus-90% score since Valegro. A total of 173.24 across her two tests was enough to secure the national champion title.
Their test was wonderful to watch, with highlights coming thick and fast, set to a Frozen inspired soundtrack by Tom Hunt. Had there been an audience at this behind-closed-doors event, Freestyle’s huge extensions and 19 punchy one-time changes up the centre line would surely have drawn gasps. Their performance was not totally flawless however, with the powerful mare losing a touch of balance at times.
“I watched my grand prix test back from yesterday and I thought I had ridden it slightly on the safe side,” Charlotte told H&H. “So today I wanted to up it and go for a bit more.
However, Charlotte admitted that she was short on match practice: “I haven’t ridden that freestyle since Amsterdam CDIW at the start of this year [where they scored 89.5%]. Because I had just done Pumpkin’s music I actually started in the wrong place for Freestyle’s so I was behind the music, and the whole time I was trying to catch up. That’ll teach me for not practising it,” she said.
Charlotte lands reserve national champion too
Charlotte was also runner-up in both tests and the overall competition riding her own and Renai Hart’s nine-year-old Apache gelding Gio, known at home as Pumpkin. They received 79.1% for their grand prix and followed it up with a massive personal best of 88.05% in the freestyle, at what was only Pumpkin’s third official competition at grand prix level, and the second time he has ever performed a grand prix freestyle.
The compact 16hh gelding had held his breath slightly in the somewhat eerie atmosphere of the grand prix, but looked more relaxed in his freestyle, set to Valegro’s old music. His half-passes and collected work are real highlights, with his bouncy passage looking as though it could go on forever.
“He was like a different horse to ride today,” said Charlotte. “He was phenomenal. He is always looking at something, but he has a heart of gold and he tries so hard. He’s only nine years old, so to go in there and deliver tests like that – I’m over the moon.”
Carl Hester completed the podium, finishing third in both tests with the Charlotte Dujardin-owned En Vogue. Carl took over the reins earlier this year and has spent 2020 getting to know the hot 11-year-old Jazz son. Here, they posted their best scores to date: 77.1% in the grand prix and 86.47% in the freestyle. It was the first time Carl has ridden a grand prix freestyle on this horse, and he used Uthopia’s programme from the 2011 Europeans.
“En Vogue is an absolute powerhouse; he has medals written all over him. When I’m riding him, it all feels like 10s in my head and horses don’t feel like that very often,” Carl, whose idea this show was, told H&H.
“It’s a godsend that we had something to cheer up the mood this close to Christmas. It’s the first show we have had this year with a good bit of pressure. Thank you to Lemieux, British Dressage and Hartpury,” he said.
Sonnar Murray-Brown moved up a place after finishing fifth in the grand prix, to take freestyle fourth and fourth in the overall championship riding Erlentanz. The pair absolutely smashed their personal best to score a whopping 83.57%. The 13-year-old Latimer gelding, who competed very successfully under Charlotte Dujardin in 2019 while Sonnar recovered from a broken leg, was on top form here, performing every movement to a very high standard.
Laura Tomlinson was another whose horse was making their grand prix freestyle debut here. Laura and the 10-year-old Rose Of Bavaria finished fourth in the grand prix with over 75%, and followed it up with a fabulous freestyle – their first together – which scored just a fraction under 80%.
Don’t miss 31 December issue of H&H for a full report from the LeMieux National Grand Prix Championships, plus an exclusive column from Carl Hester.
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