Dressage highlights: ‘It was the test of my life’ *H&H Plus*

  • A petite but tricky gelding finally shows what he’s made of, while a Friesian show-off causes a stir

    Cockshot, Cheshire

    “I was beaming from ear to ear on the last centre line,” said Lisa Marriott, after a dramatically different grand prix performance with Valucio, which earned 74.3%. “It was the test of my life – the first ‘clear round’ we’ve ever had.”

    Lisa’s struggle with her “notoriously spooky” 11-year-old gelding has seen the pair retire from numerous tests.

    “He may be barely 16hh but he has a massive character,” explained Lisa, who shares a birthday with the fully jumping-bred “Rocket” – so named because of his “hold on for the ride” attitude. “The only reason I haven’t given up with him is because I’m more stubborn than he is. But at last he is getting a handle on it, and now that we can go past things like flowerpots I can finally ride the test.

    “Training with Isobel Wessels and Carl Hester has given me the belief in our ability that I needed,” added Lisa, who also enjoyed ringside support from her young son, Blake.

    Lisa’s win followed her novice 23 victory aboard Junos Whispering Angel. “She’s a lovely mare, just green,” said Lisa of her home-bred Sezuan daughter, one of four promising youngsters from Paris, a rescued broodmare. “I’m super-proud of her, too.”

    After a lengthy competition break through her second pregnancy and lockdown, Helen Dutton was back in business with three outright wins. Her home-bred gelding Farufio nailed his first performance in more than 18 months with a novice score that topped 74%.

    “He’s a big, gangly horse and has taken time to mature,” she said of the seven-year-old Franklyn Sugar son, a yard favourite. “We’ve had some good training sessions with Jess Dunn, who gave me a real boost to get going with him.”

    Double elementary winner Romanno Quest impressed Helen with his rideability. “He has not long been back in work, but we’ve done a lot of hacking and he feels really good for it,” she said of her 12-year-old Quando Quando gelding, who arrived at her yard last year on sales livery and stayed. “The elementary 59 is a busy test, but he did everything on the button.”

    Parwood EC, Surrey

    Finding that magic balance – “relaxed, but still goey” – has been Mikaela Soratie’s aim with her grand prix gelding Dacor. Now in his second season at the level, the 11-year-old Dancier son is producing consistent results.

    “There are always things that we can do better, but it was nice to have quite a mistake-free test,” said Finnish rider Mikaela, who was pleased with a 68.6% win.

    “Dacor is a sweet horse and still young for grand prix, so our plan is to build his confidence at the level and to improve our scores internationally.”

    Kerry Mackin’s seasoned campaigner Zatterhorn topped the inter I with 71.05%, despite having “lost” his tempi changes during the lockdown.

    “We’ve had a lot of fun hacking around the canter track at our new yard, but now it’s back to school,” laughed Kerry, who has owned the Matterhorn gelding, now 16, since he was three. “The trot work and pirouettes were super, though. I’m sure we’ll get the changes back.”

    Zatterhorn is proving a perfect schoolmaster for Kerry’s apprentice, Emilia Bishop, who rode him to 72% at elementary at Felbridge last month.

    “I must admit, I had a little tear in my eye at that,” said Kerry.

    Toni Gormley dominated at medium with Stephanie Worton’s nine-year-old Westphalian gelding Serendipitous. “‘Sonny’ is such a trier and is becoming much more consistent,” said Toni, who has worked with her trainer Nereide Goodman to improve his lateral suppleness. “The half-passes were our nemesis, but they get better and better. We’ve been playing with the changes at home, which has brought a bit of lift to the canter.

    “Nereide has made me into the competitor I am today,” added Toni, the yard manager at Winchfield House Stables in Hampshire. “She has helped us to develop a real partnership.”

    ‘Giant’ Tinkerbell proves dreamy

    Dutch-bred mare Jetti Girl produced her best novices to date to win both classes at Topthorn EC, Suffolk, with Tate Purcell.

    “I couldn’t have picked a better horse, temperament-wise,” said Tate, who backed and produced the “semi-feral” youngster shortly after her arrival in the UK three years ago. “She has been a dream.”

    Now working towards medium at home, the six-year-old warmblood continues to take everything in her ample stride. “She’s a big girl, at 17.3hh, and I’m only 5ft 3in,” said Tate, a freelance groom, who trains with Paul Fielder. “She came with the nickname Tinkerbell, which is funny, as she’s a giant.”

    Quinn returns with a treble

    “It felt good to be back,” said Fenella Quinn, who scored a hat-trick of wins at her first post-lockdown competition, at Tillyoch Equestrian, Aberdeenshire. Fenella’s 12-year-old gelding Donderstein made an impressive comeback after a year sidelined with injury, to head both advanced mediums.

    “He’s a complete gentleman at home, but a total over-achiever who gets upset with himself if he does something wrong,” she said of the conscientious United son. “The aim with him is some small tour over the winter months.”

    Ghita Fille De Zita S, a nine-year-old Dutch-bred mare bought at auction last year, then made a successful debut at prix st georges and inter I.

    “I’ve never met a mare who gives so much,” said Fenella, whose trainer Abigail Lyle is now based at her Aberdeen yard. “‘Queen G’ is very hot and certainly has her own opinions, but she loves her work.”“He was kicked off a driving team for being lazy”

    ‘He was kicked off a driving team for being lazy’

    Thought to be the only Friesian in the UK – and possibly Europe – contesting the junior FEI classes, Tsjebe Fan ’E Vesta Hoeve is turning heads. Julia Catling has handed the reins of “Jeb” to her 17-year-old daughter Gracie, who rode him to an advanced medium qualifier win at Windmill Farm, Bucks.

    “They also won the medium silver freestyle with 74% at the High Profile show at Bury Farm, Bucks, last week, and contested their first-ever junior FEI class, finishing sixth,” said Julia, who has produced Jeb from a four-year-old and is training the pair alongside Jackie Beaven as they aim for junior squad selection.

    “Jeb was kicked off a driving team in the Netherlands for being too lazy, but he’s really fun to ride and loves to show off,” added Gracie, an A-level student. “He picks things up so quickly and has such presence in the ring.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 17 September 2020