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Horse of the Year Show hat-trick for Dujardin

Charlotte Dujardin and Florentina VI raised the roof last night with their winning performance in the Dressage Future Elite Championship during the Horse of the Year Show at the NEC in Birmingham (3 – 7 October 2018).

Charlotte Dujardin with Florentina_at HOYS 2018 (Photo © 1st Class Images).

The Olympic dressage champion completed a Horse of the Year Show hat-trick when she won the class in dominant fashion in front of a packed out HOYS crowd. Charlotte, riding Florentina VI, posted a score of 79.12% to secure a treble and produce further evidence of her enviable string of horses in the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

A high class field also included her Great Britain colleague at the recent World Equestrian Games – Emile Faurie, and London 2012 team mate Laura Tomlinson. Second place went to Nicola Buchanan and Half Moon Dark Magic, with Becky Moody and Eureko taking third.

This competition for up-and-coming horses, now in its sixth year, provides a unique opportunity to expose young horses to the big stage as well as acting as a shop window for our sport. At an event which is famed for show jumping and showing, the Andrews Bowen International Arena was jam-packed in anticipation for the dressage, testament to the popularity the sport now has within the wider equestrian community.

For talented eight- to ten-year-old horses, this class is invitational based on rankings throughout the season from High Profile, Premier League and CDI shows on average percentage in Small Tour classes. The top ranked combinations are then invited to take part in an Intermediate I Freestyle competition. Eight competitors came forward last night under a top judging panel of Peter Storr (C), Andrew Gardner (H) and Stephen Clarke (M).

First into the arena was Lewis Carrier who made his British team debut at the FEI Young Rider Championships in Fontainebleau this July, with his ride here, Diego V. Setting off to Western-inspired trot music, Lewis (21) rode with style and confidence, creating a picture of elegance with the 10-year-old bay son of Spielberg. The canter was assured with accurate pirouettes and three-time changes on a turn, in a lovely frame; and the walk covered much ground. Transitions were attentive throughout and they earned a creditable 71.37%. “For me the horse settled more in canter,” said Andrew Gardner, summarising the performance. “The structure of the canter was very good and it was nicely uphill. The trot could have been more elastic – the horse was a little tense, but he’s a young horse and he’ll benefit hugely from this experience.”

Nicola Buchanan followed with her own and Diana Reynolds-Hale’s Half Moon Dark Magic, a nine-year-old by Dimaggio, interestingly a full brother the late Half Moon Dynasty who won here with Michael Eilberg in 2013. An instrumental adaptation of Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black accompanied the pair who performed technically demanding components with precision and panache. The big horse moved seamlessly from half passes to extended trots; two-time changes on the centre line were expressive and bold. They concluded their performance with a powerful extended trot towards the judges who awarded the pair 75.04%. “She took a lot of risk, and there was a lot of impulsion and expression,” said Stephen Clarke. “It was a very good test, and I particularly like the extended trot.”

Experienced Grand Prix competitor Nikki Barker and the bay stallion Durable had a commanding presence as they came down the centre line. Riding to their Kill Bill soundtrack, Nikki and Durable who is a 10-year-old son of Spielberg and is owned by his rider and Viv Gleave, showed huge power and elasticity. Mistakes crept into the canter work but much of the work was breathtaking showing great promise for the future. They scored 70.79%. “There were lovely highlights in the extended trots. He’s an impressive, beautiful-moving horse,” said Peter Storr.

Becky Moody, who is no stranger to this arena having won this class in 2015 with Carinsio, was next up with Jo Cooper’s Dutch-bred nine-year-old Eureko (by Uphill). The crowd loved their Sherlock programme and the judges were equally impressed, awarding them 74.70%. The trot segments were fluent and powerful with exemplary rhythm. The canter featured three-time and two-time changes on a turn and accurate pirouettes. “For me the music was just right and there was a certain drama,” said Andrew. “From a judging perspective, personal taste doesn’t come into it, it’s how it fits the performance that matters – and this did.

“I liked the pirouettes. The horse showed ability to sit and wait and I liked that. They looked part of the canter.”

At the midway point of the class, it was the turn of Alice Oppenheimer with Sarah Oppenheimer’s eight-year-old Headmore Davina (Dimaggio x Rubinstein). Entering to Supertramp’s Dreamer which all the trot was set to, the pair performed circles directly into fluent, expressive half passes the opposite way. The walk – ground covering and relaxed – preceded super canter work to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. The two-time changes were beautiful. “It was a really obedient performance and it all went well,” commented Peter. “She’s a lovely mare and was well presented.”

Emile Faurie and a young horse he thinks a lot of, Café’s Caletta, followed Alice. The tall German-bred mare is only nine, with limited experience under her belt, but she’s an exciting future prospect her rider. Moving off in a powerful extended trot to compelling music, followed by half pass in a lovely frame and balance. In the canter there was some loss of rhythm during the pirouettes but the tempi-changes were full of quality and verve. They scored 74.54%. “She’s a lovely elegant horse and there were some really expressive parts of the test,” summarised Stephen. “Obviously she’s a bit green and there were a few errors including the pirouettes, but it’s a strong horse for the future. The elasticity and elegance is lovely.”

The penultimate rider was the defending Dressage Future Elite title holder Charlotte Dujardin and the anticipation in the crowd was palpable as she rode down the tunnel on the dapple grey Florentina VI (Vivaldi x Rubels). Florentina, at eight, was one of the youngest horses in the class but nonetheless she looked very at home in the iconic arena. Starting boldly in extended trot on the centre line, they went on to show super-elastic shoulder-ins which were simply to die for, and expressive trot half passes. Riding to a Tom Hunt compilation using music from animated films The Snowman and the Snowdog and Ice Age the pair were full of class. The canter featured three-time changes, in which there was a costly error, then into a canter pirouette right, and two-time changes to a pirouette left. Rather than a response from one of the judges, this time the roving mike was taken to Carl Hester who was watching on from a seat in hospitality. “Charlotte still can’t quite count to three! This is something we’ll talk about on the way home in the car!” he quipped. “She’s a gorgeous horse. Very energetic and elegant. If you blink on the mistake, it was a wonderful piece of riding.” Up went the score – 79.12%, taking them into the lead.

The final competitor of the evening was Laura Tomlinson, who was so influential in Great Britain’s medal success at London 2012. Six years on, and with two young children and another on the way, Laura’s enthusiasm for competing looks as strong as ever. She rode to a catchy Latin compilation with her father Wilfried’s lovely Fallatijn Van Kairos, an eight-year-old gelding by the same sire as Florentina, Vivaldi. The horse is a little green being new to the level but showed great energy and expression. “Laura did a great job.” said Peter. “The horse is lovely. He’s a young horse and there were green mistakes but he’s an exciting horse for the future.

“We’ve seen some lovely young horses tonight. It will be exciting to see them out at Grand Prix in the future,” concluded Peter.

Reflecting on her victory, Charlotte said: “This is Florentina’s first real big indoor show, so she has never really been in an atmosphere like this and I wasn’t sure how she was going to cope with it, but she felt really good. I am really happy.

“It’s great to bring horses like her here and get them used to this environment and atmosphere. It’s great to be able to do that and such a great experience for her.

“She’s a very brave horse, and I didn’t even do the arena walk. She’s such a soldier,” she added. “And we’re so lucky that we get to do demos such as at Your Horse Live with the young horses. It’s a very good education for them.”

Talking about her music, Charlotte said; “Tom Hunt came up with it. I like to follow themes of cartoons as they’re familiar and they always tell a story.”

It has been a busy schedule for the Gloucestershire-based rider in recent weeks, having claimed two bronze medals at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, then travelling straight to the LeMieux National Championships in Warwickshire before arriving at Horse of the Year Show.

“I have literally come home from WEG, went straight to the National Championships, and then to here. It has been non-stop, but WEG was fantastic. We weren’t sure if we were going to bring home a medal, but it went better than we could have ever have thought. I have learnt so much from going to WEG. With me, dealing with different aspects of it with Valegro, there was so much pressure, and now it is about bringing on another horse. I have got a fantastic string of horses, and heading towards Tokyo I think I will have about four Grand Prix horses lined up, which is a great position to be in. It’s fantastic.”

Results
1st Charlotte Dujardin with Florentina VI, 79.12%
2nd Nicola Buchanan with Half Moon Dark Magic, 75.04%
3rd Becky Moody with Eureko, 74.70%
4th Emile Faurie with Café’s Caletta, 74.54%
5th Alice Oppenheimer with Headmore Davina, 73.75%
6th Laura Tomlinson with Fallatijn Van Kairos, 73.58%
7th Lewis Carrier with Diego V, 71.37%
8th Nikki Barker with Durable, 70.79%