Dressage highlights: Lockdown schooling pays off and a talented home-bred wins *H&H Plus*

  • Lockdown schooling pays dividends for an energetic thoroughbred, and a spooky but talented home-bred’s prelim score improves by 10% in three weeks

    Bicton Arena, Devon

    Effervescent thoroughbred gelding Voolra is excelling at the higher levels, scoring a 70.92% inter I win with Lucy Baker to bring his post-lockdown tally to three.

    “After all those years of wishing he didn’t have so much energy, I’m now glad of it,” said Lucy. “He’s thrives on work and tries his heart out. It was a tough class with some great combinations – I’m delighted.”

    Lucy has endured a challenging few months, after being sidelined with a wear-and-tear-type back injury and losing her promising prix st georges (PSG) gelding Ifya Like to a sudden, short illness.

    “The lockdown worked in my favour, as I could stay away and do my exercises,” she explained. “Voolra has come back on great form. A bit of rest did us both the world of good.”

    Fontainebleau mare French Affair upped her prelim score by more than 10% from her first outing three weeks ago, to a winning 76.46%.

    “She has been very tricky and spooky,” said Alex Robinson-Barr of her seven-year-old home-bred. “I’ve had trouble getting her into all four corners of the arena – although she does a lovely 20 metre circle in the middle! She spent much of her first outing standing on her hindlegs and waving.”

    Alex, a curriculum area manager at Bicton College, has persevered with mock tests in an indoor school.

    “She was so spooky that at one point I even had her eyes checked,” she said. “I’m pleased that she felt so confident this time. She is very talented and is schooling nicely at home, so I just have to ride her softly and quietly and let her have a look.”

    Kings Equestrian, Herefordshire

    Wacton Billy was bought five years ago to hunt and sell on, but the 15.2hh piebald cob/Hanoverian has since found his niche in dressage according to Becky Parsonage.

    “He has an ability to sit and is quite expressive with his changes once he gets his legs sorted out,” said Becky, who trains with Richard Hayward and headed both mediums with Billy at Kings Equestrian. “We’ve been developing the quality of his paces and his lateral work, with the aim of moving up to advanced medium later this year.

    “He is quite chilled out, but we give him some oats to rev him up,” she added.

    Onley Grounds EC, Warks

    Jayne Turney headed four classes with four personal bests, stepping between 17.3hh Fred Astaire WD and 14.1hh sport pony Cruz III.

    “Fred is lovely but I’ve felt in the past that he was holding his breath and a little unsure,” she said of Lindsey Roberts’ six-year-old Fiderbach gelding, a winner in the elementary freestyle and medium 61. “With more outings under his belt, he’s feeling really relaxed, onside and rideable.

    “His music is from the Fred Astaire era, with Singin’ in the rain for the trot,” added Jayne, who was happy with an 81.34% freestyle score. “It was put together in January, by Equivisions; after such a wet winter, it made me laugh.”

    Cruz III, known as “Tom”, was previously owned by Jayne’s trainer, Charlotte Dujardin. Jayne backed him as three-year-old and he has since been competed by various pony riders, including Phoebe Peters and Jessie Kirby.

    “Charlotte gave me her share in him last year, so he’s all mine,” said Jayne, whose PSG and inter I scores with Tom were both plus-70%. “I worship him. What he lacks in size, he certainly makes up for in character.”

    Jodie Nixon took the prelim freestyle with her loaned 15-year-old part-bred Welsh section D gelding Kissemmie Supreme Jazzy King.

    “He’s having a quieter life with me now, but he has all the buttons and our relationship is developing,” she said of Jazz, who formerly evented. “This was only our second affiliated freestyle.

    “We were introduced to freestyle through Cherwell Valley Riding Club,” added Jodie. “Our soundtrack was put together by Equi-Rhythm and has a spaghetti western theme, which suits Jazz down to the ground.”

    Northallerton EC, North Yorkshire

    Charlotte Snape and Camelot III claimed a PSG and a junior team test at Northallerton EC with the 18-year-old Hanoverian gelding reportedly feeling stronger than ever.

    “I gave him an easy time during lockdown, with plenty of stretching to keep him supple,” said Charlotte, who trains with Paul Hayler and has partnered “Coco” on junior international teams. “Now we’re moving up to young riders, he is surprisingly willing – with so much energy.”

    Fairoak Grange EC, Berkshire

    “We finally faced our dressage demons,” said Karen Duran, who nailed a winning BD debut at prelim with Samazone, at Fairoak Grange EC.

    The pair had six months off after an eventing fall last year, in which Sam suffered a tear in a navicular bursa and Karen sustained her own injuries. But with a new trainer and at a new yard, they decided to give dressage a proper go.

    “Sam is 17hh and a very jolly chap, so at times we’ve struggled with our steering and brakes in the arena,” said Karen, who bought the Oldenburg gelding, a “fiery soul”, three years ago. “He’s not the bravest but we dipped our toe in. He put his faith in me and he couldn’t have tried harder.”

    An unlikely skewbald

    After a lifetime of breeding dressage horses, rider and BD List One judge Andrea Smith feels she has come up trumps with an unlikely buy – skewbald gelding Lowfoldfarm Tapestry B.

    “I spent some time looking for a ‘last’ horse, which had to be something special to fit in with my lifestyle of judging, training and being a granny,” explained Andrea, who lost her mare Mother’s Ruin two seasons ago. “I dismissed the idea last year of a neighbour’s four-year-old home-bred, but my friend and trainer Hannah Moody told me he was just my type.”

    The pair have won three novices in a week – two outright at Epworth Equestrian, South Yorkshire, and a gold section at Birtle Riding Club, Manchester.

    “He has certainly given me back the competition bug,” said Andrea. “He rides like a blood horse and the best bits are his canter and his engine. I’ve never sat on anything better.”

    Time to regroup

    Among riders gearing up for the Area Festival Championships at Hartpury was Samantha Rees, who secured three high-scoring novice wins with Holme Grove Lotus at Checkendon EC and East Soley EC, both in Berkshire.

    “We’ve gone back to novice to regroup,” said Samantha, who is making progress at elementary with the mare. “There are a few things to iron out, but we’ve had a great week in preparation for the championships.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 August 2020