Winter Dressage Championships: ‘She really deserves this – she works so hard, and people don’t see it’ *H&H Plus*

  • A young rider posts a surprise one-two with chunky scores at her very first championship, while a four-star eventer tops an advanced medium podium with her Irish coloured cob

    There were emotional scenes after Georgina Nicholls claimed an emphatic one-two in the Baileys Horse Feeds novice freestyle silver at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships.

    Nationals first-timer Georgina led the class for a long time with a score of 75.19% on Briarwood Notorious, before beating herself with last-to-go Headmore Figaro on 76.02%.

    Georgie, 19, has been based with the Oppenheimers for two years, having done one year as an apprentice and a year now as second rider. International grand prix rider Alice Oppenheimer was full of emotion after Georgie’s win: “She really deserves this – she works so hard, and people don’t see that. She really deserves all these opportunities and I’m just so pleased for her,” Alice told H&H.

    Georgie explained that Headmore Figaro, an eight-year-old son of Florencio who started his career under Alice, and Dannie Morgan, is very good under pressure.

    “He’s amazing because nothing really affects him – I can take him in any atmosphere and he’s perfect. He doesn’t look at anything,” she said. “Covid and everything affected a lot of horses, in not being able to compete, but Figaro came back out as good as ever at his job.

    “It means I can really push him in every movement, but his medium paces are a highlight.”

    However, Georgie revealed that it was the second-placed Briarwood Notorious who really surprised her. The six-year-old, by Negro, only properly got his career underway just over a year ago, and has been known to live up to his name.

    “Nobody expected that to happen,” laughed Georgie. “I would have been happy to have just got in the arena – I just wanted a nice photo. But he was so with me, so good, and probably for the first time ever didn’t sabotage my test!”

    “I’m a little shocked to have won”

    Four-star eventer Sarah Holmes claimed the Petplan Equine advanced medium silver title with her “standard Irish coloured cob” Harley Brown. She pipped Jennifer Harkness and White Sparrow to the win by less than 0.05%.

    “I was really chuffed with him; he sometimes gets a bit strong and bit tight but he managed to keep his cool,” said Sarah, who is based on the Isle of Wight.

    “It’ so important now to get all three phases spot on in eventing, so I just wanted to improve my dressage,” said Sarah. “I think it’s really good for my riding, but I’m a little shocked to have actually won here.

    “It’s really good for the horses to come out and do some pure dressage, especially trying out some of the higher levels tests where you have to ride for every mark.”

    Alexandra Ratcliffe took the Petplan Equine novice silver victory, posting 72.15% on Heaven V/H Trichelhof.

    Alexandra has had the nine-year-old Lord Leatherdale since a four-year-old, but he has only been lightly competed so far, with this being by far the biggest show he has ever done.

    “I was really pleased with him and just over the moon that he took it all in his stride,” said Alexandra. “He’s taken a long time so we really haven’t done much with him at all. It was only a couple of years ago he really started doing some tests.”

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