Friday and Sleigh Take Small Tour Titles at 2013 British Winter Dressage Championships

Mon, 04/15/2013 - 11:33
2013 British Winter Dressage Championships

Paul Friday and Zoe Sleigh captured the national title in the important small tour classes at the 2013 British Winter Dressage Championships held at Hartpury College on 10 - 14 April 2013. Grey chilly Gloucestershire days didn’t detract from some great competition and two amazing FEI level winners, amongst many other lower level champions, were crowned at Hartpury.

Paul Friday and Winston Bond Win Prix St Georges Winter Championships

Paul Friday and Christine Trendell’s Winston Bond set the crowd alight on the first Gala night at the 2013 British Winter Dressage Championships to take the Prix St Georges Championship, which was contested via a kur to music. The impressive 10-year old, by OO Seven, wowed the captivated crowd with some spectacular trot work to ‘Easy Lover’ – a test highlight for Paul. The combination has been at PSG level since last November and won their regional at Addington but this is easily their biggest performance and achievement.

“His trot extensions were brilliant – there was a flying change early on in the test which was late as he hadn’t settled. He felt a bit amazed by the crowd really. He’s a spooky and unconfident horse at times and we’ve been keeping him at Advanced or Advanced Medium to build that confidence,” said Paul.

Matt Hicks was certainly the busiest man in the Hartpury Arena – three horses, three floorplans, mostly to music which arrived on Monday courtesy of Sara Green! He got the evening underway with Sheepcote Walnut, owned by Alison Hill. He then hopped off straight on to the Vaughans’ Casse-Cou before it was the turn of Talent III owned by Matt and Anne Marie Dolan. At the end, he certainly deserved some liquid refreshment!

Riding to Risto Aaltonen arranged music, Leslie Peyton-Gilbert was the first rider to break the 70% barrier fairly early on in the proceedings with Woodcroft Stud and Tim Harris’s Woodcroft Garuda K to keep a healthy lead on 72.04%.

After some great entertainment from John and Charlotte Lassetter and Richard Davison’s masterclass, the final group of riders got underway. First to go was Jo Hamilton and the Rilke-sired Vivaldi V and the jet black gelding, still relatively experienced at this level, put up a sparkling floorplan with the horse looking happy, harmonious and relaxed throughout to score 72.42% and take the lead. Matt Hicks and Talent danced their hearts out and were rewarded with 70.04%.Thten it was the turn of Alice Oppenheimer with her mum Sarah’s Headmore Boadicia who performed to a great West Side Story medley but the electric atmosphere got to the hot chestnut mare and a few mistakes crept in for 66.38%.

Last to go was Paul Friday and Winston Bond who entered to much expectation as the knowledgeable crowd knew the combination is in great form. Early tension was quickly overtaken by athletic prowess and a polished performance. To keep the suspense, the score was kept secret from the crowd while Paul and Bobby Hayler performed their amazing pas de deux, Dancing in the Moonlight. The score of 73.04% was read out and the crowd responded in a wave of acknowledgement.

Runner up Jo Hamilton said of Vivaldi; “I’m so thrilled with him tonight. It’s my first competitive ride to this music so I wasn’t sure how it would go but he was just brilliant. It’s our first season at this level and he’s done me proud. I managed to have a quick 15 minutes with Carl (Hester) yesterday and it was just the job to get us focused.”

The winner also attributes some of his success to Carl; “He found the horse for us after Charlotte Dujardin had campaigned him in Young Horse classes as a six year old – he won the Shearwater Potential International Dressage Horse here at Hartpury. Carl’s training is invaluable and I’m fortunate to be able to train with him almost daily.” Paul also paid tribute to owner Christine Trendell; “She’s so supportive as an owner. We’ve been together for 17 years and I simply couldn’t do it without her.”

Paul now plans to build on his results here and campaign at some Premier Leagues to get some good scores with a view to being ‘spotted’ to go to some shows abroad.

Zoe Sleigh, Intermediaire I Kur to Music Winter Champion

It was a freestyle debut win for Zoe Sleigh with Christine Sleigh’s Fantastic Light in the Intermediate I Music Freestyle in front of a capacity Hartpury crowd.

Alice Peternell with Surprise, owned by Ann Wilson, had an early draw and made the most of it to take a healthy lead with a score in that all-important 70%+ zone. But then crowd favourite Matt Hicks came along to steal the lead with a fantastic 72.54% with Anne Marie Dolan and his own Talent III. It was to be a short lived time at the top as 25 year old Zoe came in for her first ever Inter I freestyle. She rose to the occasion and 72.63% was the score. It wasn’t a unanimous judges’ decision but the average score gave her the edge and ultimately the victory.

Others came into the electric arena and gave it their all with Lesley Peyton-Gilbert coming closest on Woodcroft Garuda K on 72.25%

Zoe said; “Really pleased with him tonight especially the trot work. It’s the first time I’ve ridden to music at Inter level and we only got my CD last week! I used Abigail Todd and sent her a video and from that she put something together which really suits him. I came here not really knowing what to expect or what he’d do. He’s never been to such a big indoor venue but he dealt with the crowd brilliantly – I’m so proud of him.” Zoe was quick to praise trainer Michael Eilberg; “He’s always been so good with this horse and knows him well.”

Runner up Matt Hicks praised Talent III; “He was brilliant tonight – really thrilled with how he went. I was tired by the time I rode him last night but tonight, I could let fly and he responded to it. I like to think of us both as a pair of diesel engines and we take a bit of warming up and stoking!”

Text by British Dressage
Photos © Risto Aaltonen

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