Charlotte Dujardin on her ‘Tokyo contender’ who wowed the crowds at Stoneleigh *H&H VIP*

Charlotte Dujardin riding Gio at the National Dressage Championships 2019

It came as no surprise that Charlotte Dujardin walked away with the Cavalor inter II title at the National Dressage Championships last week (12-15 September), but nonetheless, spectators were left wowed by her winning partner, Gio, who earned 78.34% — believed to be the highest score ever achieved in this class. The eight-year-old chestnut gelding, […]

Day four: LeMieux National Dressage Championships

Day four of the LeMieux National Dressage Championships dawned, another beautiful day, another spectular schedule of competition and the final titles waited to be claimed by those who proved best of the best.

Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle and National Championship

The Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle, the jewel in the LeMieux National Championships crown, drew a knowledgeable crowd to Stoneleigh Park this afternoon. Ten combinations came forward and the competition was strong but it was the maestro himself, Carl Hester, who secured the class and his tenth National Champion title.

Carl and Nip Tuck rode the incredibly technical freestyle that they performed in Rio to earn the winning score of 78.47%, ahead of Lara Butler and Kristjan (75.55%) and Louise Bell with Into the Blue (73.60%).

At the half way mark, Maria Eilberg and the stunning grey Royal Concert had the lead with their brilliant Rod Stewart compilation which earned them 73.20%. Louise Bell and Into the Blue later delighted with a fun, expressive performance to the sound of Sweet Home Alabama and The Greatest Showman, the roan gelding and his rider showing off an extensive piaffe-passage tour. Josh Vietti’s Despacito set the canter off well, and there was great interpretation of music. A secure test with the horse showing a good ability to collect earned them 73.60%.

Next in, Laura Tomlinson and Duval’s Capri Sonne Jr, showed much ability riding to their familiar reggae routine, which many will associate with former ride Andretti H. The performance was tinged with some tension with ‘Cas’ not quite settled in mouth, but when it all comes together, it’s going to be spectacular as the stallion has so much ability. 69.67% was their score today.

Lara Butler and Kristjan entered next to Amazing Grace in passage. Accompanied by Thin Lizzy‘s Whisky in the Jar and Scotland the Brave, their test had bags of energy, high points and flair. A misunderstanding into half pass left was costly, the extended canter impressed and the one-time changes very confident. Ultimately second place was theirs with 75.55%.

The penultimate pair Carl Hester and Nip Tuck entered in passage to a good square halt, straight into piaffe-passage tour, including turning piaffe, to their familiar Rio music. Carl is so confident with this horse and the two time changes on a curve and the 23 one-time changes on a curve were beautiful. The canter pirouettes both ways were high quality, there was one moment when something in the grandstand caught the attention of ‘Barney’, but his mind was soon back on the job. The extended trot was cautious but beautifully balanced, and overall the test beautifully presented for a great reception from crowd and a score of 78.47% from the judging panel.

Last to go Sadie Smith and Keystone Dynamite showed a lot of energy and talent with some super highlights. There score was 72.85% despite some miscommunications, so what a promising combination for the future with more experience under their belts.

After the prize-giving, Carl told us, “That first centreline has some impact! He did 23 one time changes without an error and then I had one small blip on the straight but that was it. He knows that test so well and gives all he has, he’s just so obedient. It’s nice now that he enjoys it rather than being terrified, but then again at 15, he should really! It’s a really difficult programme and he makes it look easy.

“It’s nice to get my tenth National Champion title with him. He deserves it for what he’s given to British dressage – he’s represented Britain at European, World and Olympic level and always been so solid – he was due this win.” 

Barney currently lives at Rob Barker’s yard and he’ll train with Carl to work towards a Grand Prix debut. “I’ll keep schooling him twice a week to keep him sharp and Rob can learn from him which will only help his riding and his skills for his own horses. If I hadn’t had a ‘leg up’ like this when I was younger, I’d never be where I am today so it’s important. Barney still has a lot to give and I don’t think he’ll ever retire!”

Equine Construction Advanced Medium Gold

The Headmore Stud is enjoying a fabulous LeMieux National Championships, with their horses in the frame all week. Alice Oppenheimer was runner up in yesterday’s Saracen Horse Inter I with top ride Headmore Davina but today she secured her first win of the show.

With another liver chestnut Headmore-bred mare, the up and coming Headmore Bella Ruby, Alice claimed a highly competitive Equine Construction Advanced Medium Gold with 73.71% ahead of Jane Turney and Cruz III (72.26%) and Sam Rahmatalla with Hawtins Falerno in third (71.78%).

“I was so pleased with her today,” beamed Alice. “She had the Medium yesterday, and she warmed up OK, but I got in the ring and she was so hot that I had to ride a safe test. I was quite disappointed with the feel I got in the ring yesterday, just because I know she can go so much better. She still got 70% though, and I thought if she can still get that, when she feels like that, I’m on to a winner – I can’t really complain.

“Today, she was so much more relaxed, so much more rideable, and I’m so surprised as it’s only her first season Advanced Medium,” said Alice of the Belissimo M x Rubinstein seven year old. “I was just coming here for the experience, I thought she’d be too green to do this well but she just gave me such a super ride in there.

“I need to thank my farrier Tom Smith. A couple of weeks ago we just slightly changed her shoeing to give her a little bit more support. I felt that I’d lost the quality in her changes, and we discussed it and felt that she could do with a little bit of help, a bit more support on her shoeing, and she’s been like a different horse since. She nailed it today and I’m so proud of her. Mum cried and I cried!

“I love that horse, she’s so special,” concluded Alice. “She’s just so lovely to ride, she’s got everything you want. She’s supple, she’s hot on the leg, she’s good in the contact, she’s clever, and she’s a real character on the yard.”

Childeric Saddles Elementary Gold

Becky Moody staked her claim in the Childeric Saddles Elementary Gold Championships as she rode to a one-two with two rising stars, James Bond and Jagerbomb. The winning margin is almost as impressive as the result itself as Becky scored an identical mark of 74.56% with Jo Cooper’s five year old stallion James Bond just pipping the home-bred Jagerbomb to the post on collectives, there were just two marks in it!

“He’s [James Bond] such a talented horse and has a really good attitude. Jagerbomb isn’t so talented but the more I do with him the more he’s developing,” Becky said about her two promising partners, “Jagerbomb did a really tidy, neat, correct test. His canter work and simple changes, transitions were really good – the other horse is much more talented but he just pulls it out the bag with the consistency and tidiness.”

“Both of these horses in their different ways are future Grand Prix horses,” Becky continued, “I’d like to keep hold of both of them!”

“I’d hoped James Bond would do well, he was second in the Novice to Charlotte at the Winters and e’s a really cool horse so I’d hoped he would score well! It’s been a pretty epic weekend, we’ve had six horses and ridden 11 tests so thanks to my wonderful team – the weather has definitely helped too, it’s been amazing!”

Becky will now focus on training and strengthening James Bond, known as Q at home, over the winter with a view to working towards Medium and Advanced Medium in the New Year. Whilst ‘Bomb’ will aim for the NAF Five Star Winter Championships, “It’s good for him to get out and do a bit, he’s a bit more edgy out of the two – he’s very good boy but he’s the one we’ve done the arena walks with this week! The long term aim with both is Grand Prix so it’s just working towards that.”

Full results
Photos by Kevin Sparrow Photography


Shearwater Young Dressage Horse Championships

The popular Shearwater Young Dressage Horse Championships are a highlight on the final day of competition at the LeMieux National Dressage Championships. 2019’s three show-stopping finals didn’t disappoint as three worthy winners took home the accolades. Denmark’s Susan Baarup, David Hunt and rider judge Philip Hess were the panel to deliver the much awaited judgement.

Shearwater Four Year Old Championship

The four year old division got the 2019 Shearwater Young Horse Championships underway and it was the perfect start with four outstanding contendors in British bred mare Hawtins Floresta (s. Follow Me), stallion King IV (s. Governor), British bred Waverley Fellini (s. Furstenball) and the German bred mare Special Diva (s. Sezuan).

Ride judge Philip Hess took time with each one and carefully considered their positives and any faults before reporting back to fellow judges Susanne Baarup and David Hunt. There was a clear favourite for the trio, Special Diva under rider Tom Goode. The leggy elegant mare had it all and Philip clearly loved his ride on her. It wasn’t just the talent on the day which shone but the clear potential for future work and progress.

Susan Baarup commented after the announcement of the winning horse; “This has been a very high quality line up and some horses showed themselves off better than others. Our winner is full of quality with a very clear walk, active trot, a canter with uphill tendency and nice overall mechanic. Her rideablity was outstanding and Philip really enjoyed riding her; we rewarded her with a general impression mark of 9.5.”

Tom, stable jockey for Emile Faurie, has been riding ‘Diva’ since March when the owner, Isabelle Bergmann, who bought her from a foal auction, sent her over to Emile from Germany. Their aim was age classes this year and have their target for next year of the five year old World Young Horse Championships.

This is clearly a horse which Tom loves to ride; “She’s so intelligent and finds everything so natural – she’s the most amazing horse I’ve ever sat on! Her canter feels like you’re flying and she has the perfect mix of being hot but never naughty. Her temperament and trainability are superb.

“This is only her fourth show and she’s quite noise sensitive so I’m really glad today I could show her off to her best as yesterday there were a few nerves.”

Shearwater Five Year Old Championship

After a thrilling four year old section, the Shearwater Insurance Five Year Old candidates took centre stage in the LeMieux arena to be put through their paces by Philip Hess.

Judith Davis’ exquisite Lemonys Nicket mare Hawtins Lirica topped yesterday’s qualifier under Hawtins Stud stable rider Lucinda Elliot and continued to impress in today’s examination. Speaking direct from the saddle Philip provided expert analysis: “she’s a very sensitive horse with fabulous movement, I was very positively impressed when I saw her in the test yesterday and also today under her rider!”

“She’s a horse with great opportunities and it’s just important to get a feeling for her now to make her relaxed but she has a lot of cadence and quality,” Hess continued whilst clearly enjoying his test ride, “She has lots of motivation and this is what we like as dressage riders. The more I canter the more she gets comfortable with me and it’s an amazing feeling in trot – It’s a pleasure to ride this talented horse.”

Next up, Astrid Bolton’s Femme Fatale, a powerful daughter from Paul Schockemohle’s popular stallion Foundation. “She rode a positive test yesterday and we [judges] thought we’d try to bring the horse just a bit more uphill – I’d like to see her pull the nose more in front. I want to open her in the frame and I can tell you that the first trot steps feel really comfortable!”

The tall, dark mare presented yesterday by Sammie Gualtieri was another to impress the 2019 guest judge, “I just can say after the first few rounds – I like her! When you look to her ears she’s really concentrated with her ears in front, she makes a really cooperative impression so compliments to this nice mare but also to the rider.” In canter, Philip worked on producing extended and collected strides, as well as a little counter canter before making a transition to trot to change the rein, his word ‘Brilliant’. His concluding comment, “when you have horses like her, you enjoy dressage riding! It’s fun and a pleasure and I know why then dressage is such a nice sport when you have a horse as comfortable and easy to ride as this. I am positive and thank you very much for allowing me to ride this nice mare.”

Alex Hardwick’s Joie de Vivre Prins (Expression x Uphill) scored 7.69 in yesterday’s preliminary round. “This nice bay gelding made a good test yesterday but I try now to make him a little bit more soft, more loose in my rein and hand,” Philip discussed his aims for the brief but effective session before complimenting how easy the horse was to work with, particularly in canter.

“He understands what I like, he’s really cooperative and also here a horse with lots of potential – he will learn to more by himself, a little more self-carriage but I’m happy and he’s a really nice horse with a good future. He also reacts well in walk, I’ve asked him to go forwards and he’s now doing it by himself.” Philip concluded as he also praised how impressed he was with the progress of the horse throughout the session.

Our final horse coming forwards to rider judging was Sara Lucas’ SJL Baks Zacco, the Blue Hors Zack offspring has impressed this year, from his appearance in the BD Young Horse Forums at the start of the year through to the Shearwater Semi Finals this summer. His performance under Philip continued his form.

“This gelding made a positive impression throughout yesterday’s test. He was cooperative and did a nice job but the judges said the horse could have some more energy and a little more self-carriage and cadence. He’s managing with a new rider positively, he understands quickly what I want.”

Hess was impressed with the charming gelding’s great attitude to his work, “The feeling of the judges and my riding is that you can improve very easily and quickly this horse! This is a sports partner! He makes a nice ride, I feel so comfortable in canter I could canter to the airport in Birmingham!” His concluding comment: “I’m absolutely positively impressed with this horse – compliments to the rider, he’s done very well otherwise I couldn’t do the exercises so nicely. Definitely on the correct way of training and for me a positive feeling. I feel really happy and comfortable on him!”

Following a brief deliberation between our judges, the decision was made. For a second consecutive year the Shearwater crown was given to the outstanding Hawtins Lirica with the runner up position going to Astrid Bolton’s Femme Fatale.

“She shows great potential and anything you ask she just finds so easy! She just picks everything up so well. She is quite hot but she’s not spooky at all.” Lucinda complimented her ‘favourite horse’, “She’s very powerful and so go-ey her engine is amazing, she always takes you – it’s a lovely feeling.”

Judith Davis’ wonder mare will now head home and hopefully prepare for another shot at the World Breeding Championships for Young Horses following a successful trip to Ermelo this year to fly the British flag.

Shearwater Six Year Old Championships

The top-four six year olds from yesterday’s first round came forward for the Sunday afternoon final. All four showed much promise as future Grand Prix horses, however it was the sublime German gelding Freeman (Foundation x Ehrentanz), owned by David and Sarah Johnson of Equine Construction, who was declared the 2019 Shearwater Six Year Old Champion by judges David Hunt (GBR), Susanne Baarup (DEN) and ride-judge Philip Hess (GER).

The Shearwater classes are a firm Stoneleigh favourite, and the stands were packed in anticipation of watching Philip Hess test ride the top young horses. Philip, son of FEI 4* Judge Christoph Hess, is a young professional rider who has gained much respect and acclaim as a test rider at the Bundeschampionate as well as at the German stallion performance tests and this year’s Pavo Cup Finals in Ermelo, the Netherlands. This is the first time he’s played this role in the UK.

First up for Philip to assess was Freeman. Philip commenced his appraisal with the comments, “This is a very impressive horse with a lot of potential. After first round of trot, it’s a great feeling. He has swing through the body and by nature, he’s uphill. My aim is to keep him a little round. From time to time he pulls, but it’s a positive feel. I like them soft, but the trot movement feels really nice.

“Ask a little shoulder in, half circle, same other way. Keeping in front of my inside leg so I can feel he understands what I’m asking. In the half pass, there could be more flexion and bending but he’s only six. It’s important to keep him soft and smooth. I can get more cadence, yes it’s a good feeling.

Talking about the canter Philip commented, “I feel super comfortable. I feel I could do a pirouette. And it’s a super smooth transition to walk.”

“And the extended canter – it feels mega. The collecting is super too. He’s listening, feels very nice in the transitions and is definitely a horse that I can say is on the right way of training. He ends in a relaxed and nice way. I am absolutely happy. A big compliment for this wonderful sport horse and the rider for training him so well.”

Next up was Michael Eilberg’s super-talent Dante VX (Dante Weltino x Quattro B), owned by Geri Eilberg. “He was a little nervous to start, which is normal in this atmosphere with another rider,” commented Philip. “I’ll give him a few moments to relax, and then I can have influence. There’s a little lack of communication but it’s no problem, he’s developing positively in these few moments.

Philip moved the athletic bay through shoulder in, half circle, half pass. “The half pass, this is really good for a six year old horse. He gives a nice feeling, flexion and bending. He’s now more my friend. He gives me a good feeling and more cadence.

“In canter, it’s important that he waits for me. Now you see, on the short side, he comes for a moment behind me. It’s useful to use the canter to bring him forward again, to bring him back to relaxation.” Philip rode counter canter and extended canter, “Very positive and the extension is good. I think this is another horse with potential, a horse that is hot enough, he wants to work. The rider needs to keep him soft in the contact and closed behind, but his experienced rider will do a good job with the training.”

Assessing Judith Davis’s Hawtins Quattro, Philip said, “He had a really positive impact when the rider warmed him up for us. From the first two rounds (of the arena) – I like him. He’s nice in the contact, good in my hands, listening to my aids. In the shoulder in right, he’s not 100 percent in front of me. So I make him straight, in front of leg, then ask again.

In the canter work, Philip said, “The horse has a lot of quality but the rider needs to pay attention that he’s always 100 percent in front of her. The canter gives me a really great feeling. It’s uphill, and when I can keep him more in front, it’s really nice. You can hear his teeth the whole time, so perhaps there’s not 100 percent relaxation.

“I would like to ride him more, but time in Britain is running too quickly!” joked Philip. “It’s a very good feeling. The horse definitely has great potential and I think the rider will manage very well.

“This quite beautiful chestnut gelding gives me a very comfortable feeling,” said Philip about Judy Harvey’s ride, SP Bento. “I find it really easy to ride this horse in trot. I have a super nice, comfortable feeling in the sitting trot. He’s really nice to ride. I think for the training it’s important to keep him a little in front of the vertical and open the neck. He’s a lovely horse, now the half pass.” In the half pass, SP Bento showed a good reaction. “Perhaps for the future, more improvement of flexion and bending.”

In the canter, Philip commented that from time to time the horse is a little strong. “This can be solved though and he gives me a nice collected canter feeling. He listens and responds, then he’s a horse you can bring easily to relaxation. Philip summed up his ride, “This makes really fun to the rider the sympathetic and wonderful horse. I understand him and I think he understands me.”

“It’s been a pleasure to be here in Britain and I’ve enjoyed the weekend very much. It’s a super team here, with very nice colleagues to work alongside,” he concluded.

After a final consultation between the judges, the final order was announced – Hannah Biggs and Freeman, Lucinda Elliott and Hawtins Quattro, Judy Harvey and SP Bento, and Michael Eilberg and Dante VX.

“I found him at the Westphalian Elite Auction,” said Hannah about Freeman. “I actually met the owners here three years ago for the first time [when the Johnson’s spotted her talent competing in the Equine Construction Advanced Medium] and they were looking for a rider for their young horses. We later had a conversation about finding a good young horse. Then I was at the auction a couple of months later when I found him, so I called David up and said “You know that promise? Do you fancy buying a horse!” she laughed.

“So then yes, he suddenly came to England and he’s been with me ever since, and Carl [Hester] helps us. We’ve taken it really slowly with a lot of hacking and ground work because he’s big-moving and sensitive, so we didn’t want to push him too much and too young. This is the first year we’ve really competed him seriously.

“I always knew he was a special horse and am just so proud of him.”

Describing what caught her eye, when she first saw Freeman at auction, Hannah said, “When I first saw him move, he just moved through every inch of his body, everything just oozed quality. He was a little bit naughty with one of the auction riders who didn’t ride him very well, which put everyone else off. It was at that moment I thought “he’s mine!” because I knew I could cope with him. It was just meant to be.

“It was the most nerve-wracking five minutes of my life watching Philip ride him today. I know what an amazing feeling the horse gives and when I heard Philip use the word ‘mega’ at one point, I knew that he could feel that. It’s such an honour to ride this horse.”

“I couldn’t do it without David and Sarah Johnson, they are very supportive,” added Hannah.

Full results
Photos by Kevin Sparrow Photography.