Keysoe CDI3* dressage report: ‘It’s one of the best grand prix tests I’ve done’ *H&H Plus*

  • Lockdown training pays off for Charlotte Dujardin, young guns shine and Natasha Baker comes out on top

    Keysoe CDI 3* and CPEDI, Beds, 4–11 October

    Top riders demonstrated the value of lockdown training with a number of exciting personal best scores in both para and able-bodied classes at Keysoe’s international dressage show.

    Charlotte Dujardin and Emma and Jill Blundell’s Mount St John Freestyle both looked pleased to be back in the arena. Their professional, harmonious and flowing performance in the grand prix was rewarded with a personal best of 83.19% and five 10s. Freestyle still had her game face on the next day to go even better in the grand prix special to win with over 84% and earning seven 10s.

    After the grand prix, a visibly thrilled Charlotte said: “It’s one of the best grand prix tests I’ve ever done. In the past, she’s always been a bit ring-shy in the piaffe and doesn’t really show what she can do.”

    During lockdown, Carl Hester organised some training shows with five-star judges, which Charlotte found useful, and the feedback they gave has resulted in picking up extra marks.

    “I felt really emotional at the end of the test,” she said. “Every piaffe stayed quick and energetic. She felt easy to ride. I think doing the smaller shows has helped her to get confident in the arena.”

    Charlotte also took second place in the grand prix with her own and Renai Hart’s Gio (Pumpkin) who, at the age of nine, was doing his third grand prix and his first one indoors.

    “He got a little bit tight, but was still mistake-free,” she commented. “He’s so much fun to ride and very different to Freestyle. He’s little, nippy and twisty. He almost tries too hard.”

    Despite technical difficulties with the music, Charlotte and Pumpkin put in a punchy, powerful performance in the freestyle to win with 83.36%, ahead of Lara Butler and Rubin Al Asad on 77.46.

    “He’s like a Ferrari”

    Classic Briolinca, ridden by Gareth Hughes, also proved her worth as a contender, nudging in front of Carl Hester riding Charlotte’s En Vogue in the grand prix and grand prix special. Briolinca’s tests were soft and harmonious, and Carl demonstrated that he is getting the measure of managing Vogue’s athleticism and power.

    Lara Butler and her own and Anne Hutton’s Amiek C (by Ampère) were runaway winners in the prix st georges (PSG) and inter I, with 75.24% and 76.71% respectively, before bagging the inter I freestyle on the last day. Both performances were calm and assured, despite Amiek’s low competition mileage. Lara bought the 10-year-old seven years ago and this year he has stepped up with a win and second place at small tour at the Hagen CDI in September.

    “I was pleased with his fluency and how he was able to keep up the power throughout the PSG test,” said Lara. “His exuberant flying changes are a highlight. It’s like sitting on a Ferrari, with the engine rumbling underneath you.”

    After her inter I win, Lara said: “He keeps surprising me – and yesterday, we were able to improve on some things. It’s only his third inter I test, so what more can you ask for?”

    Bowing out in style

    In the youth classes, Irish rider Martha Jobling-Purser finished her last pony classes in style, winning all three on her pony Europeans ride, Valido’s Starlight. Martha was wearing a jacket badge that had belonged to her great-aunt Juliet Jobling-Purser, who was a member of the Irish eventing team at the Mexico Olympics.

    “He felt fit and super-lively for 16,” said Martha who has now passed on the ride to a new lease home, although eventually he will return to her to retire.

    Travelling all the way from Denmark was worthwhile for young rider Laura Jarlkvist Rasmussen and Aatoftens Dornier. She spent two weeks with trainer Kenneth Dyrby before the show, which must have contributed to her clean slate in all three young rider classes.

    Para gold medallists on top form

    In the para international classes, Paralympic gold medallists Natasha Baker, Sophie Christiansen and Sophie Wells had a good show, each winning all three of their classes.

    Natasha and Keystone Dawn Chorus repeated last year’s performance where they also won all their grade III classes.

    “On the first day, we were both a bit ring rusty, as this was our first show since Covid,” commented Natasha. “We made some big mistakes and all our halts were horrendous! We got some fours but fortunately some eights as well. I was frustrated with myself, so I gave myself a kick up the butt and the second day’s test was a completely different outcome. She felt awesome and was really pushing uphill from behind.”

    A super score of 77.75% in the grade III freestyle was the highest of the para classes and an emotional win for Natasha, because she used the music on which she won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics on the much-missed Cabral (JP).

    “Riding the programme brought back some amazing memories,” she added.

    Sophie Wells won all three of her grade V classes with Roland Kinch’s 11-year-old Don Jovi gelding, Don Cara M, at his first international show. Sophie took over the ride from Amy Woodhead in January and along with her other ride, C Fatal Attraction, will be aiming at 2021’s Tokyo Olympics.

    “He’s not spooky, but can be anxious. He was quite hot on the first and third day – it’s a learning curve for him as it’s his first three-day show,” said Sophie. “He’s very sensitive, so I’m on top form all the time which is great for my riding.”

    Ten straight wins before Keysoe

    Grade II para rider Jemima Green scored over 74% to win the freestyle on her own Elrite (Echo), their best result to date. Elrite was originally bought with an eventing career in mind, but Jemima lost the use of her legs in a serious car accident. However, over the past two years she has successfully made the change to para dressage and admits to being hooked now.

    With the help of trainer Marcia Cundy and Jemima’s daughter, Virginia, who exercises and competes Elrite in able-bodied competitions for Jemima, the pair have had a successful season with 10 straight wins before coming to Keysoe.

    “I was very much a cross-country girl but when I started riding again, it was almost impossible to ride a straight line,” said Jemima. “The more I do, the better it gets as the muscle memory comes back.

    “Echo loves it – she didn’t really like the galloping and mud of eventing. She likes being the centre of attention,” added Jemima.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 15 October 2020

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