The Espayo national dressage championships at Stoneleigh finished in fine style with yet another win from Carl Hester and a few surprises along the way.
Carl and Uthopia brought the house down when they won their second class of the nationals in the freestyle – giving the Olympic gold medallist his seventh national title. Using the same music that they used at Greenwich Park, the talented pair scored 81.50%, which is the first ever +80% score at the nationals.
“It’s been great to be able to bring Uti here to support those who weren’t able to come to London plus it was fantastic to be able to ride to Tom’s music once again,” said Carl. “I’m so pleased with the test today – I stayed in time with the music unlike London where I seemed to be either too fast or too slow. He’s as fit as ever and was really in super self-carriage today. He felt confident and even though there were a few mistakes, it was lovely.”
Fellow team GB member, Laura Bechtolsheimer came in second with Andretti H on a score of 76.58%, while Michael Eilberg was third riding the British-bred Half Moon Delphi.
Laura had her chance to shine in the advanced medium open, which she won with Polar Bear on a score of 74.58%. The 17.3hh home-bred gelding is on the World Class Equine Pathway, a scheme which supports the development of horses that have the potential to be medal winners.
“He’s a big horse and when he’s on side he feels amazing,” said Laura. “He’s lovely and it’s so exciting to have had him from the start.”
In the elementary open, Carl’s magic touch was seen once again, although this time in the guise of Lucy Cartwright, who is one of Carl's working pupils. Riding the six-year-old Samba Dancer, owned by Christine Richards and Audrey Lawrence, Lucy was awarded 73.06%, over three per cent ahead of the rest of the field.
“It was a great test, of course there are things that could be perfected, but he is only six and he will get stronger,” said Lucy.
Other youngsters showing their precocity were those competing in the potential international dressage horse championships. Taking the top spot in the four-year-old class was Paul Hayler riding Lonswelt, while Dan Sherriff was runner up riding Dance of Decadence.
In the five-year-old class, Erik Theilgaard took the title ahead of hot favorites Becky Moody and Carinsio, who is owned by Partick and Anne Moody and Julie Lockey. The four combinations then went through to the final, judged by Susanne Baarup and Eddy de Wolff Van Westerrode and ridden judge Andrew Gould.
Somewhat surprisingly it was the runners-up from the previous classes that took the top two spots. Becky Moody and Carinsio were named as the supreme champions, while Daniel Sheriff and Rachel Ablett’s Dance of Decadence were handed the reserve title, which he said was a "brave decision" by the judges.
“It’s been an interesting few days!” said Becky. “He’s an awesome horse and I really believe in him. If I’m honest, I was hoping to come out on top yesterday but it’s so satisfying for him to be put up today. I think it’s his rideablity that made the difference today, he’s loose and supple and even if he becomes tense he still shows off well. We were runners up last year but that we always knew we couldn’t win as Farouche set the benchmark but to claim the supreme title this year is simply fantastic.”