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Promising horse and rider talent on display during penultimate day

There was a true international flavour to the penultimate day of the NAF Five Star Hartpury Festival of Dressage on Saturday 6 July.

Many of the four-year-olds had very challenging conditions to contend with in the International Arena with torrential downpours. This did little to deter from the standard of the tests as high scores were being achieved. Julie Fauld’s Platinum SNW ridden by Jezz Palmer scored an impressive 82.400% to take the win. Very close behind with 82.200%, Sadie Smith, a rider/groom for Carl Hester riding her own TLH First of May, who took second place (82.200%). Finishing in third place was Beth Bainbridge and Elite Stallions Galaxico on 80.200%.

The five-year-olds in the next door arena had the same problems with the weather and coped equally well. Gloucestershire-based Ashley Jenkins and Nicola Mahoney’s gelding, Game On I won the class with a very respectable score of 82.000%. Hartpury has played a big part in the career of second-placed British rider, Annabella Pidgley. It was here in 2022 that she won individual silver and team bronze medals in the FEI Dressage Junior Championships. Today she took second on Fifty-Fifty with 81.600%. Hampshire-based Dannie Morgan, a familiar face at the Festival of Dressage, took third place with the promising Hillgrounds Wolkenstar (79.000%).

The final class of the day in the International Arena,the Andrews Bowen CDI1* Intermediate I saw a large field come forward. David Harvey and Diamond Blue continued their winning streak from yesterday when they won the CDI1* Prix St-Georges. The combination were the first in the arena and managed to hold onto the lead and take the win with 70.294%. Irish rider Roisin Henry and the 17hh bay gelding Habil rode a good test to take second on 69.412%. Sara-Jane Lanning, a list 1 dressage judge and UKCC level 3 coach took third on her top horse Hawtins Lirica (69.118%).

The KBIS British Dressage Young Horse Semi Finals for 6-year-olds was the first class of the day in the Hartpury Arena. Dannie Morgan and his own gelding Fever Tree certainly caught the judges eye achieving a 10 for their canter work and a final score of 91.000% to easily take the win. The crowd had to wait for the final combination of the day to watch the test that was to take second place, Michael Eilberg and the black KWPN stallion New Secret on 84.200%. The chestnut mare Della Ballerina and Alicia Lee took third on 80.200%.

The second class of the day in the Hartpury Arena, the JS Teamwear Pony Team Test saw eighteen combinations coming forward to be judged by three judges, Isabelle Judet (FRA), Maria Colliander (FIN) and Jane Ventura (AUS). The final combination of the class, Ella Fraser riding Rebecca Fraser’s 14.2hh Dutch Sport Pony Brouwershaven’s Viceroy, scored best, taking the win with 69.095%. Coming a very close second was Lily Crawley with the well-known pony Cognac IX on 68.666%. In third place was Daisy Bullman and Godrics Chemin de Vie (67.310%).

The JS Teamwear Childrens Team Test only saw two combinations come forward. Sophie Mansell and Millfield Lancelot were the last to go but took the win on 62.775% with Amelia Dovey and Ode to Shannon taking second (62.025%).

In the JS Teamwear Junior Team Test Jessie Clarke on the 16.2hh dark bay mare, Mount St John Doornroos II took the spoils on 69.798%. Mia Smith and Dutch Discovery were second with 64.899%, while Elin Harries and Love Affair Caledonia were third on 64.293%.

The final class in the Hartpury Arena before the evening Gala Performance was the JS Teamwear Young Rider Team Test Prix St-Georges. As the penultimate rider to go, Daisy Hills scored 64.412% with Midigaards Gijon to secure top spot. Marie-Ayesha Barilits-Gupta and Rob Roy were last to go, taking second place with 63.922%. The first rider to go, Nynn Puttisombat with Ivaro had led until the end of the class but had to settle for third place with 63.676%.

The NAF Five Star Hartpury Festival of Dressage is renowned for its evening Gala Performance on Saturday night. The highlight of the week is the NAF Superflex CDI3* Grand Prix Freestyle and Louise Bell returned to the Hartpury Arena with the John Whitaker-bred Into The Blue. She was rewarded for her choreography and musical interpretation by Great Britain’s Stephen Clarke (at C) and France’s Isabelle Judet (at E). Later in the evening, she would return with one of her young horses, accompanied by two junior riders with their ponies. They gave an insightful and entertaining demonstration about preparing and riding grand prix tests. 

Four musical tests were performed in the first session, and Great Britain’s Lara Edwards with the imposing black gelding Jazzed Up led with a score of 69.540%. However, the 70 per cent barrier was broken by the second rider after the break, Great Britain’s Kimberley Siddorn who scored consistently across her collective marks (worth x4) from all five judges. Kimberley would hold the lead and take victory, with her score of 72.565%.

Hartpury College alum Lewis Carrier has spent a number of years training with the likes of Eilberg Dressage, Elite Dressage and Carl Hester, and made a memorable return. His dramatic Spielberg-infused musical masterpiece with Diego V was rewarded by all five judges, with Finland’s Maria Colliander particularly impressed with the pair’s artistic interpretation. A final score of 72.180% was enough to secure second place for the former member of the Hartpury Equine Academy. 

Another musical highlight came from Caroline Chew and Melanie Chew’s bay stallion Blue Hors Zatchmo. The Singapore rider was also rewarded for artistic interpretation from the judges and finished in third place with a score of 71.255%. UK Marketing Manager from NAF, Isla Boxall-Loomes presented the rosettes at the prize giving alongside Stephen Clarke, President of the Ground Jury later in the evening.

Another highlight of the gala performance is the Elite Stallions Young Horse Prix St Georges Championship. This championship has a seriously impressive roll of honour with Imhotep and Mount St John Freestyle among the previous winners. The event sees horses aged 7-9 years old qualifying from a preliminary round earlier in the week, with no more than eight horses (one per rider) making it through to the final. As has been customary with this celebration of young equine talent, it would take another high score to secure the win.

This year, the winning score came from Michael Eilberg who partnered the imposing MSJ Encore owned by Nicky Hannam and by the talented sire Escolar. Escolar was something of a talking point in the breeding world after he made an impressive debut at early training shows and stallion grading. MSJ Encore demonstrated his sire’s expressive, ground-covering movement particularly with his flying changes that received a flurry of 8s from the judges Nick Burton, Stephen Clarke and Anne Prain. A score of 75.295% was enough to easily win the class. 

Taking second place was Lucinda Elliot on the For Romance-sired Kakalina on 69.853%. The combination have found this show to be a happy hunting ground over recent years with a number of Premier League successes, too. 

Sarah Millis qualified two horses for the final, demonstrating the impressive array of young talent she holds in her stable. However, the rules allow riders just one horse in the final so she opted for the Hero-sired Le Zorro. The 17hh gelding scored 69.167% and finished in third place, scoring consistently throughout and receiving good marks for the first half pass. Sarah has competed at junior, young rider and senior level, and trained with dressage legend Kyra Kyrklund and Richard White.

Lorna Wilson from Elite Stallions was on hand to congratulate the riders and present the rosettes.