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LeMieux UK National Championships: Day four

It’s been four days of extremely high standard sport at Stoneleigh Park and with over 1600 tests ridden, the LeMieux National Dressage Championships continue to be the pinnacle of the BD calendar.

Charlotte Dujardin

British Dressage congratulates all who took part in this year’s Championships. Thanks go to the generous sponsors of this event, to Kelvin and Kate Bywater plus all the team at Show Direct, to the vast team of judges, scorers, stewards, test sheet runners and to the many more who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the week an event for all to enjoy.

Equine Construction Advanced Medium Gold

It was a Charlotte Dujardin whitewash in the Equine Construction Advanced Medium Gold on the final day. Four rides, four top five placings, quite the strike rate. The victor of the quartet was her final ride in the class, the Vivaldi sired seven year old mare Mount St John VIP, owned by Emma Blundell with an astonishing score of 81.21%.

She set the early pace with Gio, her Apache x Tango seven year old with a 79.34% and Michael Eilberg gave it a good shot with another of Mount St John Stud’s talented seven year olds, Valencia with 75.5%. However the third of Charlotte’s rides, then slotted into third, Brioso II, owned by Carl Hester while River Rise Nisa, whom Charlotte owns jointly with Sarah Tyler Evans who also bred the mare, finished fifth behind Michael.

VIP certainly impressed the judge at B, Debbie Jones who awarded 13 marks more than any of her fellow panel.

Charlotte said; “I’m really pleased with her. I think she got a similar score at Somerford Regionals. This level for her at seven is pretty easy, she just went in there and did it; everything felt so smooth and easy. Her extensions are amazing, her canter work has improved from last year, the flying changes are super; she’s just a feisty, go-ey little number! I just love her and she shows incredible talent for Grand Prix. I was very happy when I came out as I couldn’t have asked for any more.”

She was also full of praise for her runner up, Gio; “I love my little pumpkin pie! Warming him up, he just puts a smile on my face. Everyone that sees him says that horse is so amazing and I just say ‘yup!’ He probably would have won if his medium and extended trot was better. There’s more to come there. He has so much more power there and he’s so talented for the Grand Prix work. The piaffe and passage is just out of this world and he’s brave as an ox. His little ears are always forward and he feels so happy when you ride him; I just love him to bits.”

Jo Barry

Childéric Saddles Elementary Gold

It was an extremely close affair in the Childéric Saddles Elementary Gold Championships with all of the top twelve competitors finishing on 70% plus scores but it was East Lothian rider Jo Barry who took the spoils. Jo had two chances at the title having qualified Hidalgo II whom she jointly owns with Lady Hope and Gordon Grainger’s Goofy La Perle.

71% with Hidalgo gave Jo a ninth place rosette but stable mate Goofy La Perle (Belissimo M x Jazz) claimed his second title of the year with a fabulous 73.5%.

Local rider Rebecca Hughes was a very close second with Alison Croft’s Tantoni Dallaglio on 73.12% with Ashley Jenkins completing the podium on 72.81% with His Highness, owned by Jamie Reynolds and Cherry Elvin.

Goofy La Perle was acquired for Jo to ride by Gordon Grainger whose wife went to her for help with her showing Connemara ponies. “We’ve had Goofy just over one year. The Graingers were inspired to buy a dressage horse for me, having seen my determination after the accident [Jo sustained a serious head injury in a riding accident in December 2014]. They wanted to help me on my way and kindly offered to buy a horse for me.”

“And it’s been quite a fairy tale with Goofy,” reflected Jo. “We won the PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Gold at Hartpury and now he has won here. That’s his Elementary career finished now. It’s been a fantastic introduction for them [the Graingers] to dressage.”

“I was pleased as punch with Hidalgo’s test too,” said Jo. “He was a bit scared in his Novice test due to the weather so for him to come back with more confidence for the Elementary was very pleasing. I’m so happy with them both!”

Lara Butler

Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle

The Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle – arguably the jewel in the LeMieux National Championships crown – played out under sunny skies at Stoneleigh Park on the final day of competition.

Nine top quality combinations stepped forward to contest the Championship, with seven of those scoring over the magic 70% barrier. The event wasn’t without it’s surprises as title favourite Gareth Hughes unfortunately had to retire Rebecca Hughes’ and Julia Hornig’s Classic Briolinca as the talented mare struggled to cope with the atmosphere in an electric Horse Health arena. Although a sad outcome for the team, the decision was undoubtedly a demonstration of true horsemanship at it’s finest.

WEG team reserve Lara Butler capitalised on her time in the ring and rode a supreme test on board Dr Wilfried Bechtolsheimer’s Rubin Al Asad. Their thrilling freestyle earned them a total score of 77.07%, giving them the Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle Champion title and the overall LeMieux Grand Prix National Champion title to boot.

In a test full of highlights, Lara and ‘Rufus’ truly showed their quality. Set to a routine including tracks from Dire Straits, the duo showed flowing trot half passes, punchy extended trots and neat double pirouettes.

“It’s been a long time coming!” Lara commented in her prize giving interview, “I’ve tried three or four times and been reserve a couple of times too! It was really unfortunate for Gareth today, I feel really sorry for him – it must have been very tough. But, I produced a good test so I’m pleased the judges were happy and rewarded me with a good mark. I feel like we earnt it as well!”

The sixteen-year-old gelding by Rubin Royal will now enjoy a break before perhaps heading to Olympia in December, “It’s so nice to finish off the outdoor season here and to prove that we’re such a strong partnership is great, I couldn’t ask for any more. We’ll have another shot at the team next year, he feels so fit and fresh and he keeps getting better.”

Second place went to last year’s overall champion Hayley Watson-Greaves with the spritely Rubins Nite. The experience combination showed their characteristic extended trots alongside some other super high quality work to be awarded with 75.15% for a lovely routine.

Sonnar Murray-Brown and Erlentanz showed huge potential for the future in today’s test, using none other than Valegro’s emotive How to train your dragon programme to great effect they scored 73.92% for third place.

Photos © Kevin Sparrow