A striking part-Appaloosa catches the judge’s eye twice, while a 22-year-old Lusitano impresses in the advanced medium for Emma Pewter
British Riding Clubs TopSpec Dressage to Music Championships, Bury Farm, Bucks, 2–4 October
A narrow defeat in the advanced medium just prevented Chantelle Oliver-Symonds and Stadmorslow Coffee N Cream from earning two champions’ titles. They took top spot in the 23-strong medium class, scoring 70.33% for their test, which was set to pop music by Shakira, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello.
“I was kicking myself when I came out of the arena as I didn’t feel like I’d given him the best ride,” said Chantelle of Kings Leaze RC. “He broke in medium trot and his quarters were leading a bit in the canter half-pass so I was really shocked to find out we had won.”
Chantelle has owned the 14-year-old Appaloosa/Welsh section D for 10 years and describes him as “one of a kind”.
“You never know what you’re going to get with him,” Chantelle said. “Some days he can be really sharp and you need to work him in for 45 minutes to get good work whereas other days he’s so relaxed and barely needs working in.”
Flitch Way RC’s Emma Pewter and Rafael, a 22-year-old Lusitano stallion, came out on top of a tight advanced medium section. Their score of 71% meant they triumphed by less than 1% from Cambridge RC’s Evelyn Little on Bindro T (70.12%) and medium champion Chantelle on Stadmorslow Coffee N Cream (70.08%).
“Rafael hadn’t done much before I got him seven years ago which is why I think he’s still so willing and supple,” said Emma, who is programme manager for equine studies at the College of West Anglia. “I would like to move up the levels so I’m going to start teaching him piaffe at the age of 22.”
The pair, who performed their test to Latin music, has enjoyed success in Masters du Cheval Ibérique competitions, winning individual and team silver at the European Dressage Championships in Paris last year.
“I really like the Spanish and Portuguese-bred horses. I’m only 5ft 2in so they suit me as they are small and compact and real powerhouses,” Emma added.
Marianne Fletcher confessed to being “completely shocked” to win the elementary class with her 10-year-old chestnut mare Hollandia.
“My friend rang me as I was driving home to tell me I’d won and I couldn’t believe it, I asked her to double check and then I messaged the organiser to see if they’d got the score right,” said Marianne who has been riding the Hanoverian for six years.
“She’s very opinionated and has never made life easy. It’s been hard work to get to this point but I know she has so much talent so I didn’t want to give up on her. To win this is a dream come true.”
The Cambridge RC pair, who performed their test to Future World Music and Alan Walker’s Faded, received a wild card into the competition after finishing third at the qualifier.
Exeter RC’s Anya Hitt and Cnoc An Noinin Clover made their five-hour journey worthwhile by posting a personal best score of 78.89% to head the 12-strong junior novice field by almost 4%.
“He was a bit spooky in his warm-up test but he loves an atmosphere and was very rideable in his proper test,” said the 17-year-old A-level student, who bought the 10-year-old Connemara gelding in January 2015. “We hit all our music markers and he really flicked his toes in the medium trot so I was thrilled with him.”
Kate Nichols and the seven-year-old An55 Cedric (Berkeley RC) finished first in the senior novice with points class after their test, which was set to tracks such as Hit The Road Jack and Goldfinger, scored 73.61%.
“He’s so inexperienced but he went into the arena with his game face on and did everything on cue,” said Kate, who has owned the Hanoverian for two years. “He was really relaxed and let me ride him so I couldn’t be prouder.
“He’d recently been backed when I got him so I’ve just been getting him fit and used to life and only started competing him last December. Due to lockdown he’s only done a handful of competitions and all I was hoping was for us to have a positive experience, I wasn’t expecting to win.”
Another seven-year-old in the ribbons was Reier Van Marije, who topped the leaderboard in the senior novice without points class with Christine Gay (Rogate RC). The Friesian gelding, who is owned by Stephanie and Colin Richardson, came from the Netherlands as a four-year-old.
“He’s so talented but the challenge is to keep him focused on his job,” said Christine, a freelance instructor from Chichester. “His medium canter is his big strength as he’s so naturally well-balanced and finds the transitions in and out easy.”
The junior prelim class was awarded to Bethy Naylor-Davis and Ms Houdini (Wey Valley RC) with 74.86%.
Chantelle Bucknell and Ballinliss Boy enjoyed a successful day, being crowned champion in the senior prelim and finishing third in the senior novice without points class. Their results were all the more remarkable given the 10-year-old Irish gelding underwent a stifle operation 18 months ago and the vets were unsure whether he would be able to be ridden again.
“When my vet saw the report from the operation which showed two bone cysts, a frayed meniscus and a lack of fluid in the joint, she said, ‘I don’t know why they woke him up,’” explained the Bath RC member, who was celebrating her birthday on the day of the competition.
Chantelle was meticulous with Ballinliss Boy’s rehab, which started with two five-minute in-hand walks a day, even making her husband clear the road from snow one day so she could lead him up and down it.
“I wanted to give him every chance of a full recovery so I was really strict and we’re very careful with what we do with him now,” she added. “The fact that he has come back and won this is amazing, I can’t believe it.”
Ref Horse & Hound; 15 October 2020