Carl Hester has claimed his 59th national title, winning the prix st georges at the national dressage championships at Stoneleigh (13-16 September).
Carl was riding Dances with Wolves, who is owned by Aram Gregory. The 10-year-old used to be competed by Aram’s late wife Jane, who herself represented Great Britain at the 1996 Atlanta and 2008 Beijing Olympics. When Jane tragically died last year from a heart attack aged just 51, Carl took over the ride.
“Jane thought the world of him so it’s a real milestone in his career and it’s exciting for Aram to see him come on,” Carl said after the competition.
Carl rode an impressive display on the equally impressive 18hh dutch bred gelding. Playing in the background was the eighties track ‘Take my Breath Away’ by Berlin, which perfectly suited Dances with Wolves’ extravagant paces.
“He’s a horse with lots of energy and can get quite hot,” said Carl. “He can also be nervous so taking him in there today was a big thing but he’s getting used to shows like this. The judges do throw marks at him and over 74% is a great score.”
According to Carl there is still much more to come from this “fantastic” horse, who he says has real olympic potential. However, both he and Aram are in no hurry to push him.
“He can do all the grand prix movements but until I feel he is confident in the arena we’ll take our time; we’ll take him up when he’s ready,” Carl said.
In total contrast to Carl’s gold-medal winning experience, were three teenagers who won three of the titles on the opening day – two of which were making their nationals debut.
Competing against a field of senior riders was 14-year-old Chloe Vell from Prestbury, won the advanced medium restricted. She was riding Kaja Di Valentina, an eight-year-old Trakehner mare by K2 that she only bought seven months ago.
“I’m very happy,” said Chloe. “This is my first time at the nationals so I’m really pleased we did well.”
Taking the preliminary title was nineteen-year-old Daisy Coakley from Hertfordshire. She rode the promising five-year-old KWPN mare Cleopatra II to victory, with a two per cent lead over the rest of the class.
For Hampshire-based Hannah Bates it was a case of third time lucky, as she won the elementary restricted championship riding Essentially M&S. The 19-year-old has qualified for the past three years with her Westphalian, and last year they finishing second in the novice championship, but this was their first win there.
Doing it for the grown-ups was 32-year-old Becky Moody from South Yorkshire, who won the intermediate II title with Caluna, a 10-year-old by Saras Von’T Gestelhof. The Belgian-bred mare is normally ridden by Becky’s sister Hannah, but she took over the ride in February as Hannah is expecting her first baby in few weeks’ time.
“I’d previously done a bit with Caluna and as Hannah and I work very much together, I already knew the horse well,” said Becky. “We hope to take her on the big tour next year. Whether I’ll keep the ride remains to be seen. It all depends whether Hannah tries to steal her back!”