Olympia might have been cancelled and the news headlines get gloomier and more confusing by the day, but what a festive treat British Dressage organised for us at Hartpury. The LeMieux National Grand Prix Championship showcased fabulous riding and equine talent and gave dressage fans a perfect Christmas present despite the technical glitches with the livestreaming.
The top fifteen from the first days Grand Prix, came forward to the freestyle, with the combined score from the two days determining the overall National Champion.
As this is a breeding page it is of course of interest to examine the bloodlines between that made up the top 15.
First to go in the freestyle was the 10 year old KWPN mare Famke PF ridden by Becky Moody. Becky had chosen fabulous music to open the show with – a medley of Madonna hits. It was ridden in perfect time with each passage step hitting the note to ‘Vogue’ I enjoyed it so much I even clapped her remotely from my chair at the end. There were little losses of balance but ‘Iris’ has only done 2 Grand Prix and this was her first freestyle.
Famke PF is a daughter of Houston, who competed to small tour and is also the sire of 2002 KWPN licensing champion Symphonie and British Inter II Champion Nicky (Jodie Lister) who went on to compete at international Grand Prix. Her dam is by another Keur stallion in Cabochon, a known broodmare sire. Inexcusably, British Dressage does not list her breeding at all.
Dan Greenwood rode his handsome KWPN gelding Chevalier O. A lovely model of a horse by Lord Leatherdale x Negro, a very popular cross. Lord Leatherdale has recently stepped down from stud duties and is now in the UK as a schoolmaster for Isobel Lickley. Chevalier O lost some marks in the piaffe transitions and pirouettes but a really interesting horse and stayed in a nice frame throughout.
Interestingly this is a jumping mare line with the next damsire being Animo and then we see the Nimmerdor son Wellington. Not many dressage horses have been bred from this line as most of the family are out and out jumpers (Animo’s Hallo, Uno) but the cross onto a dressage stallion also produced the Grand Prix Solo Bachelorette (by Welt Hit II)
The third horse in was again from the KWPN studbook. Durable is a very interesting breeding stallion for the UK already sire of National Novice Vice Champion Dan Icarus. Standing at 17.2hh (and looking bigger) Durable has a wonderful presence and is light on his feet for such a big horse. The passage and half pass had lovely rhythm, piaffe maybe not as much energy. A soundstrack inspired by the Kill Bill film I thought the walk music was fabulous (Ennio Morricone) which highlighted his lovely big loose walk and translated really well in to the canter music. And rider and part owner Nikki Barker has11 weeks to go before having her baby girl.
Durable’s Westfalen sire Spielberg’s oldest crop are now 12 and include a number of Grand Prix horses such as Steffen Peter’s very talented Suppenkasper. The immediate mare family has produced Alcazar (5 Star Grand Prix competitor for USA) and other international Grand Prix competitors West Side, Legend of Loxley and Odyssey.
Lisa Marriott and Valucio DH Z had some slightly spooky moments in the Grand Prix but the 11 year old gelding was more settled in the freestyle which was Lisa’s first championship freestyle at any level. They lost a few marks with a mistake coming out piaffe when he broke to canter and a mistake in the ones. Lisa had choosen festive music from The Holiday that suited this athletic little horse with their double pirouettes a real highlight.
As his suffix suggests, Valucio DH Z is registered in the Zangersheide studbook and has a pure jumping pedigree, His sire Va-vite is a 1.60m jumper by the great Heartbreaker. His dam sire is Libero H, who jumped internationally for Belgium (1994 World Cup Final winner) and became a great influence on their breeding programme. Valucio’s half brother Zoweja jumped internationally for Poland.
More festive cheer followed when Nicola Buchanan and the British bred Half Moon Dark Magic performed to a real medley of old and new Christmas classics that put a smile on everyone’s faces. The music was put together by Nicola’s husband and was combined with a complex packed routine. The passage was powerful and the half passes had really good bend. Half Moon Dark Magic is a British Hanoverian son of leading British sire Dimaggio out of Leandra by Laptop.
Leandra is a half sister to the international Grand Prix mare Donna Carrera (Rozzie Ryan – Australia) and already produced Michael Eilberg’ international winner Half Moon Dynasty (by Dimaggio), a previous HOYS Future Elite winner.
Next to go and starting the second group were Charlotte Dujardin and Gio. Clipped out to an almost roan coat, Gio is a powerful little horse that everyone seems to love. He always looks like he has a lovely supple topline. A high stepping horse, typical of the Dutch bloodlines, but without the tight back that can be common in horses that move this way. Using Valegro’s How to Train a Dragon freestyle music, the almost military style drumbeats worked very well in the piaffe section. Gio went easily up and down the gears from collection to extension and the lateral work covered a lot of ground. The extension still has room for improvement.
Gio is a son of Apache, a Dutch team horse, who was known to be tricky as a young horse. He could also throw tension in his offspring but the Dutch breeders learnt to find the right match for him and how to train the offspring. Apache carries the combination of Jazz and Krack C, and we see the Jazz son Tango on the bottom half of Gio’s pedigree. Tango was also an international Grand Prix horse who again was tricky as a young horse due to his tendency to spook but developed a great talent for the piafffe/passage work.
The 2018 National Champions – Lara Butler and Rubin Al Asad entertained with her Dire Straits compliation. Strong guitar music was in perfect sync to the passage and trot work. The final centre line was so powerful with the strong bass guitar, marred by one small spook, but overall I loved this test. The music took you into the test and made you want to ride him yourself.
Rubin Al Asad is by the Grand Prix stallion Rubin Royal who is a serious force as a sire of top horses. He consistently shows on the WBFSH leaderboard, peaking at 3rd place in 2018. He is a son of Rohdiamant (Rubinstein x Inschallah AA) out of the famous mare line of Rudilore that has produced more than 25 licensed stallions including 5 other full brothers to Rubin Royal such as Blue Hors Romanov and Rubin Action. What makes Rubin Royal an interesting stallion to me is that he is not a foal maker, but a Grand Prix maker and passes on lovely type as well as that famous ‘R line’ trainability.
Also a son of Rubin Royal was the 2017 National Champions WG Rubins Nite and Hayley Watston Greaves. Hayley is expecting a child in April. Like his close relation Rubin Al Asad, both Hanoverians have a little cheeky side, looking for a spook, even though they are both very experienced. WG Rubins Nite showed lovely extensions and performed a technically difficult test. He is out of the British Hanoverian mare Little Wixi by Limbo.
One of my favourites from the Grand Prix was Mount St John Kom Fairytale and Amy Woodhead. Amy was previously stable jockey for Carl. Amy had borrowed the floorplan and music just the day before which she learnt over night. The mare has a lovely ability to compress the hind quarter. A little energetic but Amy kept that energy under control. I loved the fact she is a little hot and forward thinking. Maybe it is that classic Weltmeyer influenced hind leg that I love, but I think this is a pair to watch. Kom Fairytale is by Furst Heinrich out of Weltmaid Willow by Weltmeyer.
Kate Cowell showed Samba Dancer by Samba Hit. They finished in the top ten with a plus 70% score after the Grand Prix. Sadly they made a few mistakes in the freestyle in the two tempis and pirouettes. Kate’s soundtrack combined Amazing Grace for some of the canter work mixed with Myley Cyrus.
Emile Faurie started the final group riding Dono Di Maggio by Dimaggio . The music was a little flat to start with but then the online coverage dropped out the sound anyway. When the sound did return the music for the canter matched the powerful work on show. Dono Di Maggio is a strong horse, probably influenced by the older style jumping blood on the bottom half of his pedigree courtesy of Sandro and Castro.
Charlotte DuJardin and Mount St John Freestyle were the winners of the Grand Prix on the 1st day. Once the sound gremlins were removed that seem to plauge Horse & Country TV coverage, the music I confess I don’t love. I appreciate it is clever music with lots of layers, but with a few exceptions, for a lot of the test it could just be background music. Luckily there was enough with the actual test itself to make up for it. Lovely expressive changes, reach and expression in the passage, lovely carriage. She is a delightful mare to watch. They finished with a personal best score for Freestyle and Charlotte’s first test to score over 90% since Valegro.
Freestyle is directly a daughter of the short lived Grand Prix stallion Fidermark, who left behind a legacy through sons such as Fidertanz, Farewell I-IV and Furst Piccolo and can be seen influencing the dam side of new stars including Escolar. Freestyle’s dam sire is another giant of the dressage world – Donnerhall.
Laura Tomlinson and Rose of Bavaria opened their freestyle to Titanium, a track that is one of my personal favourites. Her music was exciting, modern and engaging. Her partner is a tall, powerful, scopey and expressive, a beautiful model. Her test was technically difficult too with tempi changes on the half circle and piaffe full pirouttes. I was totally invested in this partnership and absolutely loved it. There is improvement still to come as this was the first time riding to this freestyle for Laura.
I have always been impressed by Rose of Bavaria’s sire Bordeaux since my days in Germany where I felt he consistently produced a strong foal crop from sometimes average mares. He then proved himself to Grand Prix and now his offspring are doing the same. Rose of Bavaria is then out of a Florestan dam who is full sister to the licensed stallion Fuerst Schoelling.
Second last to go was Sonnar Murray-Brown and Erlentanz TSF, a pure bred Trakehner by the Bundeschampion and Grand Prix competitor Latimer. Their Grand Prix test the day before had been light footed and elegant. Sonnar’s Lion King soundtrack was emotive with the music swelling to a highlight for the expressive and forward tempi changes on a curved line. The final piaffe/passage tour was lifted by the ‘I just cant wait to be King’ lyrics. A test that still could be a little cleaner in places with the occasional loss of balance, but overall what a wonderful fun and beautiful test.
With 10 national champion titles under his belt Carl Hester and En Vogue looked set to give Charlotte a run for her money. Lovely extended trot and ground covering half passes were my highlights and the pirouettes were excellent too. He was a little hot (oh that Jazz blood) which affected some of the transitions and the balance in piaffe. By Jazz, En Vogue’s damsire is the Grand Prix performer Contango who brings in jumping blood from Contender.
The final freestyle results were:
Charlotte Dujardin MountStJohn Freestyle 90.2 % & National Champion
Carl Hester En Vogue 86.475 %
Sonnar Murray-Brown Erlentanz TSF 83.575 %
Laura Tomlinson Rose of Bavaria 79.95 %
Lara Butler Rubin Al Asad 79.675 %
Emile Faurie Dono Di Maggio 78.725 %
Hayley Watson-Greaves WG Rubins Nite 76.025 %
Becky Moody Famke PF 74.925 %
Amy Woodhead MountStJohn Kom Fairytale 74.775 %
Nicola Buchanan Half Moon Dark Magic 72.725 %
Kate Cowell Samba Dancer 72.65 %
Nikki Barker Durable 71.9 %
Lisa Marriott Valucio 70.725 %
Dan Greenwood Chevalier-O 67.975 %