Friday night 15 March 2019 saw a winning return to the competition arena for British dressage posterboy Carl Hester and his loyal team ride Nip Tuck in the 2019 CDI Keysoe Grand Prix.
Jane De La Mare and Carl’s 15-year-old gelding (by Don Ruto x Animo) hasn’t been seen in competition since the 2017 European Championships in Gothenburg. It was announced in February that the pair would make their return to competition at Keysoe CDI3*.
“He last did the Europeans in 2017, and it does feel like it’s been ages! He was fourth there, and Jane and I thought he’d probably done the best he could ever do, so last year he had some time off - he’d done four major championships in a row” commented Carl following their win.
The infamously spooky gelding looked to be in his element entering the arena. Delivering a test that delighted the audience, Nip Tuck appeared to have been well-served by his extended holiday.
“He just feels so well. It was like riding a ten-year-old - he doesn’t feel anything like his age. He’s just so excited to be out and so happy. So, I’d said to Jane, ‘Look, I need a horse to fill in for some shows over here’, because Delicato needs to step up this year and do more shows abroad. But we’ve not got a lot of top-level British riders, and it’s so important that we represent at the home internationals and try to help out these guys who bother to put on internationals. He’s a brilliant horse to do that with. I thought, I’ll bring him to Keysoe and then Windsor - that’s the plan, just keep him happy. We both enjoy it, and the horse loves being out and about, and Jane will ride him in between.”
The pair delivered a score of 74.457%, some 4% away from their personal best, yet full of enjoyment and harmony between horse and rider.
“He obviously knows when I get on that I’ve got an electric backside, because he’s like, “ooooh, what are we doing?!” But that’s why I love him. He doesn’t feel any different than he did five years ago. I can just hop on and enjoy him. Tonight, there were a few mistakes, but it was just because he was a bit excited.”
On Saturday 16 March the pair went on to win the Kur to Music as well with 78.725%. Both in the Grand Prix and Freestyle, Hester placed ahead of his student and assistant trainer Charlotte Dujardin, who was narrowly beaten into second place in the Grand Prix by her amentor. On catch ride Erlentanz, following an injury to owner and rider Sonner Murray-Brown, Charlotte delivered a 73.413% Grand Prix test. A number of minor mistakes kept them off the top spot. In the freestyle they scored 77.700%.
British based Dane Anders Dahl made his international Grand Prix debut on his wife Fiona Bigwood's Belgian SBS bred Fidelio van het Bloemenhof (by Fidertanz x Jazz). He twice slotted in third and posted scores that will immediately draw the attention of the Danish team selectors: 72.978% in the Grand Prix and 74.000% in the freestyle. The chestnut arrived in Bigwood's barn in April 2017.
"I was first time out with my lovely Blümmen yesterday. It was a fabulous first show," said a thrilled Dahl. "The next six months will be super exciting."
Text by Sarah Skillin, edited by Eurodressage - Photos © Kevin Sparrow