With a massive grand prix class and fierce competition for para Olympic spots, Wellington Riding showcased British dressage at its finest
Wellington Riding Premier League was without doubt Charlotte Dujardin’s show. She achieved seven wins and no scores under 74%.
In the grand prix, Gio (Pumpkin), the horse she owns with Renee Hart, delivered a creditable 79.47% to win.
The 10-year-old Apache gelding appears so confident in the ring, it’s hard to believe this was only his 10th start at the level. A mistake in the rein-back and a slight stumble at the end of a good line of one-time changes produced the only fives on a scoresheet that was otherwise full of eights and nines.
“He’s never done a show before in heat like this,” commented Charlotte. “It was another good schooling round for him.”
Not too far behind Gio in second was Charlotte’s grand prix debutante Florentina VI, whose only outing since becoming the 2018 inter I, inter I freestyle and prix st georges (PSG) national champion was Liverpool Horse Show in December 2018. The elegant grey mare (Vivaldi x Rubels), owned jointly with Paul and Wendy Dockley, had green moments in the passage-piaffe transitions and some swing in the one tempis, but showed plenty of highlights.
“She’s so genuine in her mindset though she’s still green. We’ve given her time between small tour and grand prix, and I hope to go international with her next year. I’ve never doubted she’d turn into something special,” said Charlotte.
The eight-year-old Imhotep (Everdale x Vivaldi) was on blistering form throughout the show. Charlotte took over the ride on Carl Hester and Coral Ingham’s gelding last year and has won every time out on him. Although only 16.2hh, ‘Pete’ is a substantial horse who commands the eye in the arena.
Here, they won an inter I and a PSG before finishing off their show by claiming the £2,000 first prize in the Nirvana Spa-sponsored PSG freestyle in the gala evening.
“It was a last-minute entry,” admitted Charlotte, who used Carl’s old Simon & Garfunkel Cecilia compilation. “I only tried out the programme once, with the music playing from Alan Davies’s car, and we were way behind the music.”
In the arena, Pete looked like he was concentrating on every hoofbeat and showed off his beautiful, uphill extended canter. He also received good marks for his balanced, smooth canter pirouettes.
After the event, Pete learned a valuable new lesson, to stand still while a queue of young admirers had their photo taken with him and Charlotte – all part of becoming an equine superstar.
Charlotte’s win wasn’t a foregone conclusion, though. Alice Oppenheimer chased her hard on Headmore Dionysus (Dimaggio x Rubinstein), who had contested his first inter I for fourth, and his first PSG, for second, during the previous days. On the gala evening, “Dillon” scored 77% to Imhotep’s 79.46% as Alice went all out to beat her trainer, Charlotte.
“I tried,” she laughed afterwards. “I took the handbrake off and chased it. He was a bit nervous about the speakers on the ground at first but once he started the test, he tried his heart out. He couldn’t have done any more.”
The show finished on a high for Alice as she won both small tour classes on the Sunday. Headmore Bella Ruby topped the PSG on 72.63% and Headmore Dionysus scooped the inter I on 73.68%.
“On the first day ‘Princess Bella’ was a bit tense so I rode a safe test. One of the judges commented that I should take a risk,” revealed Alice. “So I did and she gave me a lovely ride.”
Ellie McCarthy’s summer is going well. Her inter II win here with GB Londero Von Worrenberg was her second at a Premier League in the space of two weeks.
“It’s our first year at the level,” said Ellie who is aiming for the under-25 team at the Young Rider Europeans with the 12-year-old Londontime son. “We’re both starting to trust each other. He could do all the moves when I got him but he was still green. Charlotte Dujardin has put in a lot of work with us.”
Lucinda Elliott and Hawtins Soave are both new to small tour, but polished performances gave them a PSG win and a second in their first inter I.
“When we entered her for Wellington, she’d never done either test before,” said owner/breeder Judith Davis. “She shows so much potential; she’s working at grand prix at home.”
Rider Lucinda added: “She’s like a ballerina. She floats around the arena.”
Kate Cowell found a new level of confidence in Ray-Ban, whom she owns with Jonny Clarke-West to win Saturday’s inter I, and said: “He came out all guns blazing!”
Future stars on display in young horse classes
In the young horse classes, three horses scored more than 80%. Luke Baber-Davies and Le Vie (Le Vivaldi x Sorento) posted 80% in the five-year-old class, while Lucy Straker and the Don Frederic son Didjeridu received 81.2% in the six-year-olds. Charlotte Dujardin was again in pole position with 85.2% in the four-year-old class on the Martinez son Mon Amour (Monet).
“I bought him from a video as a three-year-old,” said Charlotte, who owns him with Peter Belshaw. “I just had this gut feeling about him. He’s phenomenal. This was his first show and he came out like he’s done it all before.”
Odette completed Charlotte’s clean sweep of winning everything she entered by heading the seven-year-old advanced medium and straight class at the same level. The Grey Flanell x Samba Hit I mare is owned by Ernst Bachinger of the Spanish Riding School, who sent her to Charlotte for training.
Hawtins Stud was well represented by the relatively new combination of Sara-Jane Lanning and Nicola Seal’s Hawtins Lirica (by Lemony’s Nicket), who won the international seven-year-old class on 76.43%.
Top para pairs eye Tokyo
The big guns of British para dressage were at Wellington’s Para Festival, which was also a selection trial for the Tokyo Olympics.
Grade III multi-medallist Natasha Baker was on top form with her 10-year-old mare Keystone Dawn Chorus (Dimaggio x Escudo). The pair won all three of their classes and scored a personal best of 81.83% in the freestyle.
Lee Pearson and Breezer III, who Lee has described as “one of the best horses I’ve had”, won the individual grade II test before posting a personal best of 76.81% in the freestyle.
Sophie Wells and Don Cara, one of her three horses qualified for Tokyo, won both the grade V team and individual tests. At the same level, Charlotte Cundall and LJT Simply Red scored a personal best to win the freestyle with 76.03%.
All three grade I tests were won by Sophie Christiansen and Innuendo III.
This report can also be read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 17 June
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