Scottish-bred mare gives rider first national title at Winter Dressage Championships *H&H Plus*

  • Find out who claimed the first titles of the rescheduled NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships 2021

    “I’ve won lots of Scottish titles, but never a national championship,” said Jennifer Johnston Harman after winning the Baileys Horse Feeds novice freestyle gold class at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships at Hartpury College.

    The Aberdeenshire rider bought Dance With Me Fürst MFS from the Moray Firth Stud as a foal, and has produced the now-six-year-old – who is by Follow Me – herself. The pair scored 75.46% to edge past Jezz Palmer and Anni McDonald-Hall’s Tiny Dancer (75.19%).

    Jennifer said: “She’s quite a hot little mare, so today was a step in the right direction. I’ve always known she would be amazing in the future, but I didn’t know if today was a day too early, so I’m delighted that she let me hold her hand in there.

    “She’s beautiful to look at and her front and back end match; she has huge movement and moves as well behind as she does in front. She’s got a very good front and is always at the end of the rein, and that’s been a key to getting her confidence,” said Jennifer, who lives near Inverurie. “She certainly has challenged me and I’ve taken her slowly and carefully.”

    Remarkably, Dance With Me Fürst MFS’s dam Doro (Del Piero x Lauries Crusador xx) had a second winner on the day – Bali Dancer, who took the Petplan Equine bronze prix st georges (PSG) area festival championship under Samantha Dawn Turpitt who, like Jennifer, comes from Aberdeenshire.

    Bali Dancer, who is by Berkeley, was bought from Germany as a foal, but the Moray Firth Stud have since acquired Doro.

    Samantha, who scored 68.25%, won the advanced medium here last year on the 10-year-old mare.

    “I couldn’t believe we did that, and I was sure I had peaked!” she exclaimed.” I worked hard this year to get to the PSG and thought I’d go and give it a go; we’re still green at the level and there’s a lot to work on. I’m really hard on myself – I just thought it would be nice to be in the top 10. There’s very little mobile signal here so when people started messaging me and saying ‘Wow!’, I thought, ‘Wow, what?’ I really can’t believe it.”

    Samantha’s build-up to Hartpury has been busy: “My brother’s children were christened yesterday and I was a godmother, so I had to go to the christening before driving down in my Jeep and trailer to here, so I had to get permission from the stabling managers to get here at midnight last night, having driven 10 hours from Aberdeen. I was a bit worried she wouldn’t have had enough rest and might be a bit flat, but I guess she’s been here a few times now and is used to the travelling.”

    She works as an IT project manager, including setting up oil rigs, and has an oil rig due to sail from Dundee on 1 July.

    “Life has been very hectic – it’s been a crazy week,” she said. “I’m so chuffed that we’ve won this.”

    She continued: “I’m just really lucky. I only paid £2,500 for her as a two-year-old – I bought her out of the field from a guy up in Aberdeenshire who’d bought her as a foal. She’s been really tricky and can be so naughty. She’s either really good or really bad.

    “She’s a chestnut mare, which says it all. I think in the early days a lot of people would have questioned her trainability, because she would just lose it really easily; she was really nappy and naughty. I think because I’m quite mild-mannered and not very hard on the horses – too nice, and sometimes I need to get after them a bit more – but I think that’s worked for this horse. You just have to nurture her a little bit – she’s so quality.”

    ‘Super-cool – but a bit of a madam’

    The Equi-Trek elementary silver winter championship went to New Zealand’s Sarah Wilkinson, who scored 73.29% aboard the six-year-old mare Koko II (Desperado x Johnson).

    Sarah left New Zealand in 2916 and went to Germany for four years, where she worked for Ellen Schulten-Baumer.

    “My boyfriend and I moved to the UK in March 2020, 10 days before we went into lockdown,” said 28-year-old Sarah. “Jack’s from the UK and found a job straightaway, luckily, and I found a yard near Cirencester where I could keep my horses.”

    She now runs a riding, livery and training business there, with five of her own horses aged between three and nine to compete.

    Sarah found Koko at Kirsten Becker’s yard in Germany: “She was just broken-in and had been in work for three weeks,” she said.

    “She’s super-cool; she’s turning into a bit of a madam because I think she knows she’s good, but she is quite wise. She can be timid until she has confidence in you, but she is so sensible and level-headed in training. I hope to produce her to grand prix, and along with three really fantastic paces, I think her temperament will be a massive factor in that.”

    Second to Sarah and Koko II were Lauren Wilkinson and Vancouver LG with 72.6%.

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