Find out how a chance phone call led to a former breeding stallion swapping mares for music and how a tactical use of lockdown resulted in a winners rug on his NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championship debut...
A three-month “furlough” proved a successful tactic for a former breeding stallion, who danced his way to victory in the Baileys Horse Feeds novice freestyle silver winter championship.
Vancouver LG, ridden by co-owner Lauren Williamson, topped the class on a score of 74.44% with their freestyle routine to a Lion King soundtrack, put together by Jenny Johnson.
The pair entered to the powerful tones of Circle of Life, with their canter work set to the upbeat sound of I Just Can’t Wait to be King, which they debuted at regionals in March.
The combination put a “dodgy halt” behind them to impress judges Isobel Wessels, Andrea Smith and Jenny Ward, with a consistent test and take home the coveted winners’ rug in a high-scoring class, where all the top 10 scored +70%.
“He is a really quality horse and you know you could win on him anyday, you’ve just got to keep a lid on him,” explained Lauren, who also finished 12th with the son of Connaiseur in the Suregrow elementary freestyle silver earlier in the week.
“We were here on Monday and this is his first national championships — he was just a little bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. With that under his belt he was better today.
“Normally I would arena walk him for the maximum time, so it was a big thing for him to just come in and do it — and he did. He had to put his big boy pants on today!”
In second was Kate Oppenheimer and SOS Sealpoint on 73.24%, with Ali Dane and Stantaii Ashbank third on 72.13%.
Lauren, who trains with Sarah Probyn, Patsy Batram and Stephen Clarke, has had the ride on the eight-year-old for 18 months after a gamble on a horse she’d never seen before paid off.
“He was originally a breeding stallion for LG Sports Horses, who still own him with me, and he just didn’t really suit life as a stallion,” she explained.
“I’ll never forget the phone call, they said ‘this might not go anywhere, but do you want to ride him’? I’d never even seen him, but I said ‘yes absolutely’ as I know they have a good eye for horses and it went from there.
“He’s quite an anxious person, but he’s starting to enjoy it now — he trusts me and is starting to show himself off a little bit more.”
The Cheshire-based rider, who balances riding and coaching full time with raising her two children, explained how a lockdown break had worked a treat for the 16.2hh Dutch warmblood.
“We furloughed him for three months during lockdown — he had his shoes off and went in the field,” she said.
“Then when we heard the winters were going to be on, we thought we should get him out the field. He had been out with my two-year-old, but he came back from it so much better than before, so it was the right thing to do for him.”
Find out why the champion and runner-up in the advanced medium silver freestyle both opted for bold music at the