Learning curves and pheasant dodging: Charlotte Dujardin does the double at Wellington *H&H Plus*

  • Charlotte Dujardin scored comfortable wins in both the Wellington Riding grand prix special and freestyle classes, at the inaugural Wellington CDI3* in Hampshire.

    The reigning Olympic champion put a costly spook from yesterday’s grand prix behind her – calling it a “learning curve” – to claim freestyle glory with 88.35% on Mount St John Freestyle. The pair finished clear of the competition by more than 10%.

    Riding to her delightful Frozen-inspired music, which has still only had minimal outings since she first debuted it in July 2019, Charlotte pulled in plenty of big marks from the five top-level international judges at this Olympic observation trial. Even a pheasant invading the arena and crossing their path in the middle of their tempi-changes didn’t prevent the pair from producing a line of 19 exquisite changes.

    It still wasn’t a clear round, with the 12-year-old Fidermark mare breaking in the first extended trot, but Charlotte was rational about the mistakes.

    “It’s better for that to happen here than at a championship,” she reasoned.  “I don’t ride the freestyle often; I did practise it before coming here but it wasn’t quite how I wanted it, so today was almost a schooling round. We made some mistakes, so we will go away and work on it. By the time we hopefully get to a championship, it will be polished.

    “But thank god we have pheasants and guinea fowl and chickens always in the arena at home – it meant when I saw the pheasant here I knew it wouldn’t bother Freestyle. I knew she’d just run it down,” she laughed.

    Gareth Hughes finished second with an impressive 77.08%, ahead of Louise Bell and Into The Blue in third. Gareth was riding the compact Diamond Hit stallion KK Dominant, who looked to be thoroughly enjoying his first run for many months. The pair got toes tapping with their funky pop routine, while pulling in plenty of eights across the board.

    Gareth also finished second in the special earlier, raising lots of eyebrows as he consolidated his newest grand prix talent. He and the 12-year-old Sandro Hit son Sintano Van Hof Olympia impressed with a clean and expressive round to score 75.23% and slot into second behind Charlotte and Gio. The pair got off to a rocky start as the hot gelding became unsettled in his first halt and the live scoreboard launched with a trending mark of 48%. But strong scores throughout the rest of the test, including nines for the pirouettes, boosted them up the leaderboard.

    ‘Pumpkin pie stole the show’

    Meanwhile, Charlotte Dujardin’s rising star Gio – aka Pumpkin – was performing his very first international special, having run through the test just once in the pouring rain at a practice show last summer. Once again he showed off his huge potential, scoring 81.43% for an easy win to follow yesterday’s grand prix victory.

    “Pumpkin pie stole the show,” exclaimed a delighted Charlotte. “He needs a bit more help than Freestyle and yesterday I slightly overrode him, so today I tried to do a bit less. I just wanted a clear round and he did that. It wasn’t perfect, but with horses we can’t be perfect all the time.”

    Emile Faurie also impressed for 75.19%and third with his 2018 World Equestrian Games ride Dono Di Maggio, who is now owned by Greek rider Theodora Livanos. Emile and the imposing 14-year-old Dimaggio son make a great combination and they pulled off a very smart special, featuring seamless piaffe-passage transitions and expressive passage.

    ‘I had no warning’

    After producing a personal best in yesterday’s grand prix with En Vogue, Carl Hester had a troubled round in the special. The tall Jazz gelding is immensely talented, but hot, and still relatively inexperienced. He broke to canter in the first extended trot, and spooked hard at a banner outside the arena during the second piaffe. High marks for the excellent work they produced in between the blips – particularly the pirouettes – earned them a final score of 73.6%, placing them fourth.

    “Yesterday he was fantastic and felt amazing; today he felt even better actually but I don’t what he saw [in the piaffe],” Carl told H&H. “I had no warning – we came round the corner and he suddenly stopped but he was genuine to come round and do it again. His general way of going and his confidence in the piaffe and passage was really good and he is getting easier to ride, so we are making big strides forward in that respect.

    “It was a disappointing mistake, so we will re-route to somewhere like Compiègne or Le Mans now, to get in another score,” he added.

    Sonnar Murray-Brown improved on yesterday’s slightly disappointing grand prix with Erlentanz to score 74.45% for fifth, while Fiona Bigwood and Hawtin’s Delicato filled sixth.

    In today’s under-25 grand prix, Alex Harrison came out on top with Diamond Hill, scoring 71.07% to relegate Ellie McCarthy and her exciting new ride GB Londero Von Worrenberg into second by less 0.2%.

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