‘I woke up in agony’: talented rider battles rare condition to take grand prix victory *H&H Plus*

  • A young rider recovered from a rare condition to take grand prix victory at the Keysoe High Profile Show over the weekend (3-6 December), while international prospects excelled at the Bedfordshire venue

    It has been a tough year for everybody, but 2020 has thrown extra challenges at British-based Greek rider Theodora Livanos. The 19-year-old was diagnosed with osteomyelitis in her leg in February, undergoing major surgery and months of rehab. But a win in the grand prix here riding the 13-year-old British Hanoverian gelding Robinvale (pictured) ensured that she finished the year on a bright note.

    “I had a great test considering we haven’t been out very much this season. We were a bit ring-rusty, but only had a few little blips,” said Theodora, who posted 70.8%, more than 5% higher than on her return to the arena at Keysoe CDI in October.

    “Back in February, I woke up one day in agony. I thought it would be something muscular, so when I got the diagnosis it was a shock as osteomyelitis is rare. I had surgery to remove the infected bone and it has been a long recovery process, with a lot of physio to regain my strength.”

    While she was off games, Theordora’s trainer, Emile Faurie, temporarily took over the ride on her horses, including Dono Di Maggio, his bronze medal-winning ride at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, who was since sold to Theodora. For now, she will focus on Robinvale, whom she had qualified for the 2020 World Cup final, with the 2021 World Cup final and the Olympics her main goals for next year.

    Kate Cowell finished just 0.7% behind Theodora to take grand prix second with Samba Dancer, and went one better the following day to top the freestyle on 74.63%.

    “We nailed everything in the grand prix, but we just had a couple of accidental one-time changes in between the pirouettes,” said Kate. “But he felt lovely and hot to ride. Usually he comes out more tired on the second day, but this time he came out for the freestyle even hotter, which is so exciting as I want to do internationals with him – that’s my ultimate dream.

    “It was our first bash doing that freestyle and to get that score was amazing. We came out of the test and he went broncing around the warm-up arena. But it’s lovely that he is enjoying life so much,” she added of the 14-year-old Samba Hit II son, whose next outing will be the National Grand Prix Championships at Hartpury later this month.

    Also gunning for a foreign international debut together next year are Nathalie Kayal and DHI Cleverboy, who topped Saturday’s prix st georges (PSG) with 73.11%. It rounded off what has been a successful year despite the odds for the 13-year-old Sandreo son, who was reserve inter I national champion at the Winter Dressage Championships in August.

    “I hope to do international small tour with him next year – he is ready to excel,” said Nathalie, who has owned the gelding since he was four. “He has always been better in the inter I than in the PSG, which is a bit of a nemesis test for him. But this is a great end to the season. He is scoring consistently above 70% at small tour and I hope it will be enough to be considered for some internationals.

    “Riding him at this level is such a privilege. He makes me feel like a princess – the way he carries himself makes you want to mirror that as a rider.”

    Hat-trick for Bailey

    Katie Bailey enjoyed a super show, landing a trio of wins with her two rides. Aboard Hillgrounds Wolkenhall, she took victories at PSG and inter I with plus-70% scores, and has her sights set on campaigning the Wolkenderry nine-year-old internationally.

    “‘Harry’ is working towards grand prix, and has some of the movements already,” said Katie. “He doesn’t have a weakness, but I’m working on building strength so he can hold his balance, particularly in the changes.”

    Katie also went on to win at advanced medium on just her second outing with the seven-year-old Don Frederic mare River Rise Isabella, who is owned by Charlotte Dujardin, and has been successfully produced up to this level by Rob Barker.

    “I’ve only been riding ‘Pinky’ for six weeks. We did one local show where we qualified for regionals, but this was much bigger,” said Katie, a former head girl for Carl Hester. “She’s a big horse at 17hh and she seemed to grow at the show, so she felt very powerful. Her changes are quite green, and I said to Charlotte that I wasn’t sure if she was ready for this. But Charlotte told me to have a go as the horse needs experience – as an owner, Charlotte is very chilled.”

    Ellie McCarthy also enjoyed double victory with a new ride, the Londontime son GB Londero Von Worrenberg, with whom she won twice at inter II after teaming up in May. Although she couldn’t try him in person due to the pandemic, the gelding was shipped to the UK for her to try.

    “He came for a couple of days and they said that if I liked him, I could keep him,” said Ellie, who trains with Charlotte Dujardin and represented Britain at the under-25 European Championships in August.

    “Charlotte and I have been training ‘Londy’ together – he was tricky in the beginning and is very strong and sensitive. I have to sit really quietly as he gets upset easily by things and is very hot to the leg, but he always tries hard.

    “I didn’t know what to expect here. I had to hold his hand for the first half of Thursday’s test, but then he started breathing and it was the best he had felt for me so far. On Saturday, I rode with a lot more risk and we scored 71.9%.”

    Ellie’s former grand prix partner Belafonte was on winning form here at advanced medium under new owner Annabella Pidgley. It was also a good week for Annabella’s sister Jessica, who rode FB Gangster to second place in the pony team test behind Gracie Morgan and Ella, before going on to win the individual.

    Other winners at the show included Sam Duckworth, who took a medium and advanced medium on Florida 147, and the final day’s PSG on LHH Harley. Sharon Lindop and Spielbanker topped Thursday’s inter I while Judy Harvey triumphed at advanced medium with SP Bento.

    A “thug” with presence

    Steph Broxford was crowned national middle tour champion with the 11-year-old Mr Benn II – known affectionately as “Thug”. He and Steph headed Friday’s inter B as well as the freestyle on Sunday evening.

    “I never thought in a million years he would win; I call him my Irish cob trotter, and he is very low mileage so I wanted to bring him out over a few days and see if, by the end of it, he calmed down and started doing what he can do at home,” said Steph.

    “As other horses started getting tired, he was getting more bull-like, and I was getting more pumped. I haven’t had a horse since [her international grand prix ride] Mr President who has this sort of presence. He always thinks he knows what he’s doing, then we get halfway through and he realises he needs my help, so we have lots of discussions through each movement. He’s off to the National Grand Prix Championships at Hartpury next.”

    The X Factor

    Anna Ross proved the value of resilience and a sense of humour in her grand prix freestyle on Newton Domino, which didn’t go quite to plan.

    Anna was a couple of minutes into her routine on the 11-year-old De Niro mare when the music stopped. Anna was undeterred and started singing mid-piaffe to fill the silence, with her supporters soon joining in. However, even when restarted, the music that sounded was not the soundtrack she had started her test with, but instead Anna’s old music from her freestyle at the 2007 European Championships.

    “I hadn’t ridden to that music for 13 years, but we kept going,” laughed Anna, who scored 70% and finished third.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 December 2020

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