Sophie Wells Don Cara M GP A V 1St TUE

Dazzling dressage and driving rain: Sophie Wells shines with 1-2 on day one

Rain did little to dampen a truly international spirit at the NAF Five Star Hartpury Festival of Dressage as the first of the Gloucestershire venue’s equestrian classics got underway on Tuesday 4 July. The first full day saw a CPEDI3* Grand Prix test A start list brimming with paralympic, European and World Championship riders many of whom will be eyeing team slots ahead of this year’s European Championships and next year’s Paralympic Games.

The CPEDI3* competitors faced everything the British weather had to offer with driving rain remaining for much of the day. However, that did little to stop Sophie Wells - a force of nature in Grade V para dressage taking a magnificent 1-2.

Wells was first into the arena at 8.20am with her Tokyo 2020 Paralympic partner Don Cara M, with whom she won a silver medal. Here, the natural ability of this 14-year-old Don Jovi-sired gelding owned by Roland Kinch shone through. A score of 73.846% set a superb standard for those yet to come and the combination that dominated at Kronenburg’s CPEDI3* looked set for glory once more.

As Wells prepared her other ride yet to come, Great Britain’s Charlotte Cundall put in an eye-catching test that saw the ground jury break the 70 per cent barrier once more, awarding 71.974% before 9am!

Wells bookended an impressive session going last in the Grade V with the Lady Joseph Trust’s LJT Egebjerggards Samoa. A score of 73.513% would secure a solid first and second place for the Lincolnshire rider. Hartpury graduate Hope Hayward scored 65.103% with Cadeau K.

Conditions remained equally grey for those in Grade IV but an international line-up was reflected with a win for the United States’ Kate Shoemaker and her mount Quiana who scored 74.778%. Great Britain’s Fiona Maynard meant the home nation stayed in touch, finishing in second place with Denver IX and a score of 70.167%. Isobelle Palmer and Je Suis adiva finished in third place with 69.167%.

The Grade III competition saw a home win for Great Britain’s Erin Orford and Dragon’s Fire with a solid 70.333%. Orford is no stranger to Hartpury having competed here on a number of occasions with her other horse Dior. Ireland has a strong representation this week and Jessica McKenna with Davidoff 188 secured second place on a score of 69.300%. McKenna is a current Hartpury student studying a BA (Hons) Equine Business Management degree. Ireland had two in the top three with Katie Reilly and Impulz W finishing in third place with 67.733%.

In the Grade I, there was another international win this time for Singapore’s Laurentia Tan and Hickstead who caught the eyes of those watching on from undercover with a score of 75.750%. This was a particularly high scoring competition with Ireland’s Michael Murphy finishing in second place on his well travelled Cleverboy, on a score of 73.208%. In third was Great Britain’s Mari Durward-Akhurst and Athena Lindebjerg with 73.125%.

The Grade II competition was the last to get underway in the International Arena - a setting that has often provided a sundrenched place to sit and watch this festival over the years. Unlike in recent years, umbrellas protected from sharp showers as opposed to intense sunshine, but that didn’t detract from more breathtaking performances. The United States picked up another win with Fiona Howard and Jagger marching to a score of 73.724%. In second place, Great Britain’s Georgia Wilson and Sukara did what they’ve done so often at the Gloucestershire venue, impressing all that were watching and finishing in the ribbons again - this time with 71.241%. She also finished in third with her other ride Faside Got The Love earning a score of 69.828%.

In the shelter of Hartpury’s indoor arena, the British Dressage Premier League got underway without the need for umbrellas and fresh breeches. Hartpury representation came in the form of Jessica Hickey, a dressage talent and Hartpury alum that has shone on many occasions in this arena both as a competitor and member of the institution’s Equine Academy. 

The Equitex Advanced Medium 92, supported by NAF, was led from the very start by Hannah Luesley and Rihanna who eventually had to settle for second place as Sadie Smith with Carl Hester’s Jaguar I took the win on 70.676%. Coming a very respectable third was Jessica Thompson and Midtgaards Gijon with 69.430%.

The Bret Willson Dressage International Advanced Medium 98 DQ had a number of withdrawals and no-shows but an impressive field still took their chance. Going almost at the end of the class, Lucinda Elliot and Hawtins Quatro showed all their potential and talent, catching the eye of the judges and delivering a 70.658% test that secured the win. Second place went to Sadie Smith with Jaguar I (69.649%) who once more looked to be on form having won earlier in the day. Third place went to Jessica Thompson and Midtgaards Gijon with a score of 69.430%.

The action continues on Wednesday 5 July with the CPEDI3* and the Premier League.