Carl Hester Nails 63rd National Title at 2012 British Dressage Championships
Carl Hester took his collection of British National triumphs to 63 with a quartet of victories at the 2012 British Dressage Championships held at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire. Dances with Wolves won the PSG and Inter I while Uthopia starred in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle, giving Hester two particularly memorable rides on a horse he is savouring every last moment with.
“I had a really good ride in the GP and an equally good ride in the freestyle – which was more in tune with the music” compared to previous performances, he told Eurodressage. “We had one mistake in the GP but I don’t want to focus on that as there was so much good stuff he scored lots of 10s for”, the articulate Newent-based rider said, referring to the one mistake – in the one tempis – which blotted Saturday’s Grand Prix win, “and he was in such beautiful self-carriage throughout.”
The 81.80% freestyle score, on Sunday afternoon, reflected what was a stunning, expressive performance from the diminutive Metall stallion, which was awarded artistic marks of up to 86%. Not even a couple of minor mistakes (a slight hesitancy in the left pirouette, and a mistake at the end of the first line of two-tempis, which were duly repeated and correctly executed later on) could deny Hester a new record at the Nationals, and see a repeat of his Olympic Freestyle performance to Tom Hunt’s composition become the first ever to break the 80% barrier at a British championships.
Carl reiterated that “(neither Uthopia nor Valegro) have been sold – but we know it’s going to happen eventually, I’ve known that (Uti) was going to be sold after the Olympics for three years – that was always the plan: hold on to him until London, then sell. Horses are sold all the time in showjumping and eventing, without anybody being surprised, so I don’t see why it should be any different with dressage horses”.
Defending champions Laura Bechtolsheimer and Andretti came second with 76.58% with Michael Eilberg on Half Moon Delphi a close third on 76.35%. Andretti produced a glowing test with a super piaffe-passage tour, despite one misunderstanding in one of the passage half-passes, when he broke into canter. The degree of difficulty of Laura’s kür was raised by curved lines of one-handed two- and one-tempis, both flawlessly executed. The 17-year-old bay gelding’s performance was characterised by plenty of power and expression, belying his age; not that his (or Alf’s, for that matter) age is cause for concern, because the London bronze medallist can look forward to a bright future after the brilliant performance of her gifted homebred Polar Bear (by Polarion), who took home the Advanced Medium title with a beautiful, expressive test scoring over 74%.
The big tour podium was completed by Michael Eilberg, second ahead of Laura in Saturday’s GP but third after the freestyle, riding to a Shakira medley. “She is quite noise-sensitive so I am happy with how she coped with the atmosphere,” said Eilberg of the British-bred Dimaggio mare. “There is definitely even more to come from her: she is only 10 and this was only the second time she’s done this freestyle. And I could not help her more, as I was in so much pain.” Indeed, finishing was an achievement in itself, given the fact that Michael, who was competing half a dozen horses at different levels at these Nationals (including landing the Medium title with another Half Moon horse by Dimaggio, Dynasty), was struck down by a bug early this week which left him with severe cramps in his legs, so much so that he had to withdraw another horse, Torino, from the Inter I because of cramping.
Small Tour classes
The Small Tour supreme champion was Chagall ridden by Isobel Wessels, a lady of multiple talents: sought-after trainer, well-respected international judge, and of course successful, accomplished rider. “That’s not bad for an old lady”, she quipped to the audience as soon as she took to the microphone during the prize-giving following her freestyle win. She explained how Chagall is “the most amazing horse I’ve ever had”, thanking her “equally amazing team of Carl, Charlotte, Adam, and everybody else at (Carl’s) yard: we could never have done it without their help”.
Chagall truly rose through the BD ranks, winning 8 titles at different levels before progressing seamlessly to Small Tour. At Stoneleigh, the majestic orchestral composition accompanied an elegant test with flowing trot work – a trademark of the leggy, rangy Contendro gelding – and just one mistake in the two tempis. "He felt a little tired in the Freestyle, as we've been here since Wednesday, competing three days in a row,” Wessels told Eurodressage. “That's where the mistake came from, but I couldn’t be happier with him.”
While Chagall took home the Supreme title, both the PSG and the Inter I classes were comfortably won by Carl Hester riding Aram Gregory’s Dances with Wolves, who did not participate in the freestyle. “I am very, very excited about him,” he said. “He’s such a sensitive character but he coped with the atmosphere, he improved and got more relaxed as the show went on: he’s a true international horse! He has enormous potential, and he gave me a gorgeous ride. For me it’s not so much about the score, but rather about the feeling that each ride gives me, and about the rideability. I am definitely very much looking forward to his Grand Prix debut next year!”
Young horse classes
The Potential International Dressage Horse Championship, a competition in which the top eight from the age categories four-year-olds and five-year-olds reach Sunday’s final with the top two of each age group then ridden by a test rider to determine the supreme champion, by showing only the three basic paces (no set test), was won by Becky Moody (whose successful weekend also included a win in the Inter II on the Belgian-bred Caluna) on the 5-year-old 16.2hh bay gelding Carinsio (by Painted Black out of a Beaujolais dam line), whose performance was marked by a cadenced and elastic trot, solid walk and canter, and total obedience and rideability. Judge Susanne Baarup praised the horse’s willingness, which became even more apparent during Andrew Gould’s test ride. Reserve Champion in the class was Dan Sherriff’s 4-year-old Dance of Decadence, by De Niro, an elegant 17hh dark bay gelding with lovely uphill tendency in canter and secure contact, which was commended by the test rider, as particular highlights.
The two other finalists were Erik Theilgaard’s Shadow Line, a five-year-old by Sandreo, who showed perhaps the best walk of the day, plenty of elasticity in trot, and exceptional suppleness but, according to both ground judges and test rider, too much reliance in the rider’s hand, and Paul Hayler’s Lonswelt, a well-developed four-year-old 17hh chestnut stallion (by Londonderry x Weltmeyer), a gifted mover with ground-covering paces but, in the test rider’s words, perhaps a little tight at times.
Andrew Gould explained to the audience: “They were four very interesting, but very different horses. All were very close in their respective sections, so it’s not surprising that the original placings reversed after my test ride. The winner, Carinsio, had lots of energy”, taking the rider willingly forward and accepting the rider’s aids, therefore offering a pleasant, easy ride. Andrew concluded that “he is not a difficult horse to ride at all”, which is testament to Becky’s training and confirmation of the horse’s rideability. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Championship was the absence, among the finalists, of Benjamin Andrew’s stallion Kingswood Durable. The Spielberg four-year-old had won the Young Dressage Horse finals at Hartpury, back in July, with a 9, strongly impressing audience and judges alike back then, but he was only awarded a 6.80 in the preliminary test here at Stoneleigh.
Text by Selene Scarsi for Eurodressage
Photos © Risto Aaltonen - Selene Scarsi
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