‘I cried at the end’: the inter I freestyle champion on her winning test at the Winter Dressage Championships *H&H Plus*

  • Find out how the Winter Dressage Championships inter I freestyle champion designed her routine and what she changed after the day before

    Alice Oppenheimer landed the sought-after Superflex inter I freestyle at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships, riding Headmore Bella Ruby. 

    The pair produced a brilliant, faultless routine to an emotive Les Misérables soundtrack to score 74.17% and add the inter I freestyle title to their Magic prix st georges music title from earlier in the week.

    This was the fourth day in a row that the nine-year-old Belissimo M x Rubinstein mare, who was home-bred at the Oppenheimers’ Headmore Stud has performed at Hartpury, and Alice adjusted her warm-up accordingly. 

    “She’s the type of horse I can ride really quietly in the warm-up and then just trot round the edge and pick her up and she responds really well,” said Alice. 

    The pair finished fourth in the straight inter I final after a break to trot at the end of their canter zig-zag, and an error in the two-time changes pulled down their score. 

    “She made some mistakes this week but they were genuine mistakes and I know why they happened so I changed what I did today to stop it happening again,” said Alice, explaining that she didn’t canter in her warm-up to prevent the mare from associating changes with the surrounding noises in the indoor arena. 

    “Her character and temperament are just amazing and she always gives me absolutely everything. She has a heart of gold and will always dig deep and that was the best test she has done all week.”

    Alice and Bella’s attractive routine featured tempi changes on curved lines and prominently placed pirouettes. 

    “She’s such a naturally supple horse and we choreographed the programme to show that off,” said Alice. “Her changes are so big that they are actually almost easier on a curved line. It adds a degree of difficulty but also relaxes her a bit in the changes. 

    “She is so good at the pirouettes too. She can actually do them a bit better than she did today but I wasn’t going to push her in them too much because she was tired. Her canter is so expressive and then she can just sit and the pirouettes feel so effortless.

    “Sara Green did our music as always – I couldn’t do it without her. The Les Mis compilation really suits Bella and it’s very emotive. Sara was crying her eyes out at the end of our test which is very sweet. We were all emotional  – I cried at the end of the test, we have all cried a lot, but it’s all very happy tears.”

    ‘He’s my superhero’

    The runner-up in the straight inter I also finished second in the freestyle, but Kate Cowell was absolutely delighted with Jonny Clarke-West’s 12-year-old Royal Duruto gelding Ray-Ban, who was doing his first ever inter I freestyle. 

    “He’s actually green as grass at this level,” explained Kate. “He’s just a mega boy and I can’t ask any more.”

    Kate faced a last-minute scramble for music after her brand new programme did not arrive on time, but no one watching her slick test would have known that the Batman and Wonder Woman soundtrack she borrowed from Helen Illes at the eleventh hour was not Ray-Ban’s intended routine. 

    “It was really dramatic music and it really suited Ray-Ban as he is quite powerful and out there. He was my little superhero today.”

    Sadly the inter I champions, Nathalie Kayal and DHI Cleverboy had to withdraw from the freestyle after the 14-year-old gelding became unsound before his test.

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