Dressage returns: Horses and riders show they are revitalised after break *H&H Plus*

  • Combinations return to the ring revitalised after the competition break to succeed at new levels

    Onley Grounds EC, Warks

    A nine for an extended walk was “the icing on the cake” for Rebecca Drane, whose home-bred Dancier mare Danseuse nailed her debut at medium with a plus-72% win.

    Rebecca, a Buckinghamshire-based freelance dressage coach, used the competition break to strengthen her bond with 10-year-old “Susa”. “The lockdown gave me the time to focus on a different approach,” she explained. “Being quite sensitive and tricky, Susa really benefits from one-on-one attention. The key is not to push her too quickly – you have to work with her to build a partnership.

    “Now that we have that trust, she was the best she has ever been in the ring,” added Rebecca, who has represented Great Britain as a junior and young rider and as a senior at small tour. “It’s good to feel that the training has paid off.”

    The Hughes family was also on winning form. KK Dominant, the Kroll family’s Diamond Hit stallion, made easy work of the grand prix to produce nearly 75% under Gareth. Gareth’s wife Rebecca headed two classes, starting with a prix st georges (PSG) win on Classic Flamboyant.

    “She really is flamboyant,” said Rebecca of the 10-year-old Westpoint mare, who is co-owned with Julia Hornig. “Being so over-enthusiastic can make it hard, but she felt mega. We’ve just started playing around with some grand prix work at home; I’m so excited about her.”

    Rebecca’s inter I winner, Classic Goldstrike, has risen to a different challenge with the couple’s 12-year-old daughter Ruby.

    “Ruby has been using him for vaulting, and then he goes and knocks out a plus-70% inter I with me,” said Rebecca of the Tango gelding. “That puts him in a fairly special bracket of horses!”

    Ruby then claimed her own win at Swallowfield Equestrian, where she headed the novice 23 with her new ride – 17hh ex-event mare Dora The Explorer II.

    Hunters Equestrian, Glos

    Swanmore Dantina made a flying start to her competition career, marking her card with a novice win and a score-topping 80%. The five-year-old British-bred Dante Weltino mare then achieved 77.5% to take her first elementary.

    “She was an absolute pro,” said Sadie Smith, who co-owns “Dia” with Steve Readings. “She went up the centre line with her ears pricked and felt very secure and balanced for such a young horse.”

    Sadie bought Dia as a three-year-old, from breeder Ben St John-James. “I had planned to sell her last year, but she threw a splint so I turned her away for winter,” she explained. “It did her a world of good and she came back a different horse. She’s definitely not for sale now – I adore her.”

    Morgan Kent enjoyed bronze section wins at elementary and in his first medium with Kolstein’s Don Amigo (Freckles), Janet Stares’ 15hh Welsh x Dutch gelding. While his passion is jumping, 14-year-old Morgan has taken to dressage “quite naturally”, according to his mother, Marie.

    “I teach Morgan myself, but he also has help from Olivia Oakeley, Clare Green and his godmother, Pammy Hutton,” said Marie. “He started with Freckles at novice and has taught him all his lateral work.”

    International riders were out in force – among them Laura Tomlinson, Lara Butler and Isobel Wessels, who was back in action with Chagall.

    Lara’s Amiek C did his first PSG, finishing runner-up to an on-form Katie Bailey with Hillgrounds Wolkenhall – also making his PSG debut. Meanwhile Laura headed the inter II with Fallatijn Van Kairos and the grand prix with Rose Of Bavaria.

    Reaseheath College, Cheshire

    Ex-racehorse Tarass D’Alben is excelling in a dressage career, having come from the track via eventing and polocrosse.

    “I was just 13 when I got Albie, four years ago,” said college student Emily Entwistle of the 15.3hh French thoroughbred gelding she is taking up the British Dressage levels. “Soon afterwards, he underwent kissing spine surgery.

    “Albie has since exceeded our expectations,” added Emily, who headed both the novice 37 and elementary 59 with him at Reaseheath College.

    “I’ve had so much help from Libby Shakesby and Janet Horswill. We’ve worked hard on improving the suppleness through his spine and he feels so fit and strong.”

    Field House EC, Staffs

    After a winter working at a horseback safari lodge in South Africa, Sarah Fitton made it back to England just days before the lockdown. She used the time at home to school her seven-year-old mare Isabel Star FH, who returned from the extended break to win the elementary 45.

    “I really missed riding my own horses and couldn’t wait to get back out to a competition,” said Sarah, who trains with Jane Green and bought “Belle” as a two-year-old from Jeroen Hulsman in the Netherlands.

    For Jo Weekes, a consultant radiographer with the NHS, riding provided some much-needed escapism from the challenges of working amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

    “I decided that my lockdown training, when possible, was to teach my seven-year-old Rossetti’s Destiny flying changes,” said Jo. “They’d not been touched since his purchase three years ago, when he had a rough change both ways.

    “We went out of our comfort zone to enter an advanced medium,” added Jo. “But he only went and won the class overall. I’m so proud.”

    Pachesham EC, Surrey

    “He came in on three legs,” recalls Emma Storm of the day she found her 14hh Connemara/cob gelding White Nite (Pumpkin) severely lame with a tendon strain. “He needed a month on box rest, followed by a 28-week rehab programme, so last year was a bit of a write-off.”

    After a total of 18 months out of the arena, Pumpkin made a triumphant return with a 72.07% prelim 17 win at Pachesham EC. “We worked him throughout the lockdown, as he isn’t the type you can furlough,” added Emma, who trains with Harriet Mercer and works as a treasurer for the Lord Leconfield branch of the Pony Club.

    “He only has to look at food to put on weight, so rehab did nothing for his waistline. But we’ve slimmed him down by 52kgs since January, with help from a nutritionist and by implementing a track system for turnout.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 July 2020