Dressage highlights: A PSG comeback for one rider, while a Welsh pony impresses *H&H Plus*

  • A grand prix rider returns to the higher levels for the first time in five years, and a Welsh pony impresses his fan base

    Sparsholt College EC, Hants

    “It’s exciting to be back in tails,” said Olivia Oakeley, who headed the prix st georges (PSG) qualifier with Rock Diva. Olivia, a team member at five European championships as a junior and young rider, was competing in her first PSG for five years.

    “‘Rocky’ is the most trainable horse I’ve sat on,” she said of the seven-year-old Rock Forever daughter, who was bred by Katarzyna Koch in Germany and bought at two. “She’s sassy but such a trier; she felt pretty much like a horse who has been doing it all her life. While her pirouettes are still a work in progress, her tempi changes are a highlight.”

    Olivia has been using the facilities at her new base, Allington Equine in Hampshire, to introduce some variety to Rocky’s training.

    “Cantering around the fields and doing plenty of hill work has made a huge difference to her, both mentally and physically,” she explained. “I school her just two or three times a week, so I think I’ll stick with that routine.”

    Jezz Palmer is making the most of the quieter, post-Covid-19 show atmosphere to introduce young horses to the scene. He beat a sizeable novice 23 field with Romanno Weltino, the big, bold four-year-old mare he rides for Caroline Hurst and Mel Morris, before taking the novice 37 qualifier with Tiny Dancer.

    “I co-own Tiny Dancer with Anni MacDonald-Hall, who bred her, and my partner Lucy Pye owns and rides her mum – Superstar III,” said Jezz of the Uthopia five-year-old. “The mares are similar, being a bit sharp, but I’ve never had a better feeling from a horse at its first show.”

    Leigh-Louise Haynes and Felton Ragalok scored a satisfying prelim qualifier win on their third outing together. “I was impressed by how forward he was and up into the bridle,” said Leigh-Louise, who took on the 11-year old British warmblood gelding in January, to help out a friend who had broken a leg, and ended up buying him. “He is a bit quirky and he has his own agenda, but our trainer, Anna Jesty, feels he could go a long way.”

    Richmond EC, N Yorks

    After a tough few months, a novice 23 win with her KWPN/thoroughbred gelding Gibside Jacob proved a tonic for Samantha Eke.

    “My father passed away suddenly in May, and I lost my job as an equine nursing assistant because of the Covid-19 situation,” explained Samantha. “Jacob has been my rock throughout. He just gives and gives to me.”

    Jacob, nicknamed “Sicknote” after a run of small injuries, returned to winning form prior to the lockdown. “Our trainer, Samantha Brown, has helped bring out his potential,” said Samantha, whose dream is to ride Jacob in tails. “I’ve been having a lesson a week to try to push him and ask more, and he has answered all the questions.We now call him ‘The Lord’, as he likes everything to be just the way His Royal Highness would wish.”

    Katherine Tullie, who farms in the Scottish Borders, dominated at elementary with Joie À Vie. The Everdale mare improved her elementary 53 qualifier score by 13% from the previous week, taking the class with 73.52%.

    “We now warm up long and low, like a warm-down, as she can be tense and stressy,” said Katherine, who chose “Ginger”, now six, as a three-year-old from the 15 horses she viewed on an overseas buying trip.

    “She had a month off this spring during lambing and grew an inch. We’ll hack her through some tests this year so everything is a nice experience for her.”

    Fairoak Grange EC, Berks

    Welsh section C pony Twyford Salamander proved his versatility with an advanced win in the pick-your-own class at Fairoak Grange EC. The 14.1hh gelding, who is something of an Instagram celebrity with 59,000 followers, had taken part in a beach photoshoot with equestrian product company LeMieux earlier in the week.

    “I was thrilled with his improved way of going,” said Nicola Byam-Cook, who had wanted a “small and manageable” dressage prospect she could keep at home and compete while raising her family.

    “We continued training online during lockdown with Nicky Barrett and the results are shining through,” she added.

    Allens Hill, Worcs

    Irish Sport Horse Spring Tide is finally settling into his niche, with elementary success at Allens Hill. The 16.1hh skewbald was originally bought as a yearling, as a stallion prospect, and then aimed at eventing. His owner Boo Riley now feels that dressage could be his forte.

    “I’ve been training with Leonie Brown, who thinks he is really rather nice,” said Boo, a freelance rider. “I was doing dressage on a wing and a prayer, like most event riders, but Leonie has helped me to truly connect him from back to front – rather than just creating a pretty picture.

    “The fact that the direction he needs to go in isn’t the one I’d intended is what makes it such a fun journey.”

    Hunters Equestrian, Glos

    “Amazing paces and a brain to die for” are just some of the qualities that Henriette Andersen admires in Zackery II, a PSG qualifier winner at Hunters Equestrian with 77.11%.

    The nine-year-old Blue Hors Zack gelding has burst back onto the scene after 18 months on the back-burner. “He’s hot, but in a perfect way, and the quality of his work and paces are outstanding,” commented Henriette. “He’s desperate to try to understand what you want him to do and he is such a friend in the ring. He tries his absolute hardest,” she added.“I never thought we’d beat them”

    Kings Equestrian, Herefordshire

    Working on the basics has paid off for Sarah Jorgensen and her Danish warmblood Sandro IIII, who scored a personal best of 76.03% to win the medium 61 at Kings Equestrian.

    “One issue was that he was sometimes a little high in the neck, but after the competition break he seems more correct,” said Sarah, who moved here with Sandro (Blue Hors Soprano x Windeck) from Denmark to study a master’s in veterinary physiotherapy at Hartpury University.

    “We’ve been training with Kate Cowell and have also done a lot of hacking and hill work, so he feels symmetrical and supple.

    “Sandro is a good buddy in the ring,” she added of the 15-year-old gelding. “The other competitors were riding really well, so I never thought we’d beat them. I kept checking our scores over and over, thinking, ‘That can’t be right!’”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 July 2020