Dressage highlights: Impressive treble for Millis *H&H Plus*

  • Exciting younger horses create a stir across the levels

    Keysoe, Beds

    Lockdown training has paid off for Sarah Millis, whose “orange pocket rocket” Impressive VDC scored a prix st georges (PSG) double on his first attempt at the level.

    “He went well in the six-year-old classes last year, but I’ve had that bit of extra time to build on his strengths,” said Sarah of the Charmeur gelding she bought as a youngster from Equine Elite, who scored more than 74% on the second day. “He’s an intelligent horse and enjoys his work.”

    Sarah’s novice 39 winner, Kodora SRV, was another Equine Elite auction buy. “As soon as I sat on Dora, I thought, ‘I love this’,” said Sarah of Kate Moisson’s five-year-old mare. “She has such lovely natural balance, with a willing attitude and a big engine. And she was super-bold, for her first show.”

    Lucy Howard took the novice 23 outright with Wind Chimes, the five-year-old Wild Child daughter she has produced with the help of Maureen Chamberlain and Eliza Stoddart.

    “We started affiliated competition last autumn and she has quickly racked up some decent scores,” said Lucy of the petite mare, who stands 15hh. “We are forming a great partnership.”

    The show’s highest score went to Luis Vilhena and his four-year-old stallion Loves Black STH I, who headed the prelim 17 with 79.66%. The precocious youngster, nicknamed Malegro, also claimed the novice 37, before scoring a gold section win in his first-ever elementary test, on day two, with Jane Littlejohn.

    “His confidence was amazing,” said Luis. “He used to be really sharp and stallion-like, but as soon as he was backed he started giving me more. I’ve had interest, but I won’t be selling him.”

    Vale View EC, Leics

    A double win fuelled Louise Davison’s optimism about the future of her home-bred gelding Freddie Mercury. One of the first offspring in Louise’s small-scale breeding programme, which has since expanded, Freddie will be aimed at small tour this season.

    “He’ll hopefully be my next grand prix horse,” said Louise of the consistent 10-year-old, who headed both the advanced medium 98 qualifier and advanced 101. “He has taken a long time to grow into his frame, but he’s really solid and always presents such a nice picture. He’s a real favourite.”

    Hannah MacMillan enjoyed her sixth novice win with Bolheim’s Bart since lockdown lifted – and a fourth score of more than 73% at the level. After teaming up with Bart five years ago, the MacMillan family tracked down the gelding’s breeders in the Netherlands.

    “We went over to Stal Bolheim last year and found his very first owner,” said Hannah, 17, who trains with Lili Brooksby-Dalby, Izzy Laurence and Shona Rudkin. “We’ve learned so much about Bart from them and they’re over the moon with his progress.”

    “Everyone loves Bart,” added Hannah’s mother, Karen. “He and Hannah have such a special bond.”

    Myerscough College, Lancs

    A disastrous start in dressage failed to deter Holly Hudson, 13, who rode her eight-year-old gelding Gunna Be Victorious to a prelim win on her affiliated debut at Myerscough College.

    “He galloped out of the arena at their first unaffiliated show, but this time they took top spot in the bronze section,” said proud mother Kirsty, who has watched the partnership develop since Holly teamed up with 14.2hh “Victor” nearly two years ago. “Holly grasped the opportunity during lockdown to focus on building a bond with him. We were so nervous the night before the show, but this win is all down to her hard work.”

    West Wilts EC, Wilts

    “It was well-deserved,” said judge Shena Kozuba-Kozubska of the 83.75% she awarded Victoria Leabeater and Quickstar I in the novice 28 at West Wilts EC.

    “There were some lovely horses and some decent riding, but this pair stood out,” said Shena, who gave them a 10 for a foot-perfect final centre line and halt. “The horse really used himself behind. He looked as though he thoroughly enjoyed it, which made a refreshing change.”

    Victoria started riding “Bee” for new owner Catherine Steel shortly before lockdown. She described the 10-year-old Andretti Z gelding as “a joy to work with”.

    “Bee has a real aptitude for dressage and thrives on praise,” said Victoria, who recently completed a master’s at Hartpury University, studying performance analysis. “He was excited to be back at a show, but as soon as he entered the arena he was a consummate professional.”

    Witham Villa RC, Leics

    In a productive day, India Rose Durman-Mills notched up six winning tests. India, 16, rode her own six-year-old Irish Sport Horse Killinure Hero at novice and in his first elementary. She then qualified seven-year-old KWPN mare Issey Magic WH for the medium silver regionals, and won both advanced mediums with Verity Saul’s Jazz gelding Escade.

    “I’ve been training India for a long time and couldn’t be prouder,” said Verity of her niece, who scored 79.87% in the advanced medium 98. “She has never competed at that level, nor with Escade, but she has learned so much from him.”

    The Croft EC, Berks

    Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) gelding Pitingo II bounced back to form, winning an advanced medium qualifier and freestyle with owner Sara Malpass. Sara bought “Pingo”, now 12, as a recently imported six-year-old and produced him from prelim.

    “He is now much more established in his work at the higher levels,” said Sarah, who hopes to return to PSG after Pingo’s comeback from a suspensory ligament injury last year. “I included a couple of risks in the freestyle, including a canter half-pass zig-zag, and he did it perfectly.”

    Pachesham EC, Surrey

    The dramatic transformation of Dutch harness horse Eyecatcher A continues to reap dividends. The 11-year-old gelding headed the bronze prelim 15 qualifier section at Pachesham EC despite being sidelined for most of lockdown with a field injury that developed into a tendon sheath infection.

    “He’s an interesting character who keeps us on our toes,” said his owner, Laura Edwards, of 17hh “Frankie”. “Re-educating him for dressage has been a challenge, as he was being driven until he was six.

    “Our trainer, Sarah Sjoholm-Patience, has spent a lot of time working on my position and effectiveness, as well as helping Frankie to relax through his neck and over his back,” added Laura. “He has decided that he is an absolute Valegro.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 6 August 2020