-- text and Photo © by British Dressage
There was plenty of exciting competition on display at the Hickstead Festival of Dressage on 9-11 May 2023, which included the second British CPEDI international of the year.
Sophie Wells continued to dominate Grade V with a personal best on her Olympic medallist Don Cara, while showcasing the talent of her young horse LJT Egebjerggards Samoa who also scored international personal bests.
Don Cara scored a cracking 81.21% in a runaway win in the GP Freestyle class. The 14-year-old Don Jovi gelding, owned by Roland Kinch, is on top form as Sophie starts her campaign for the European Championships. “Don won all three of his classes but he was really pushed by Diana (LJT Egebjerggards Samoa), which is a very exciting place to be in,” commented Sophie. “Don’s freestyle worked really well and we didn’t make any mistakes. It’s a great start to the year.”
LJT Egebjerggards Samoa, known as "Diana" (St Schufro x Gribaldi), is an exciting prospect for the future. She is only seven and consistently scored over 72% in the GP A and B tests. “My aim is to get her calm and confident in the arena. She’s got a really good brain but sometimes she tries too hard and scares herself. She’s growing in confidence each time she comes out. My job is not to over-face her.”
Ireland’s Jessica McKenna won the Grade III A and B classes with former Danish Paralympic team horse, Davidoff 188 (Diomedes x Rubinstein 46). Jess acquired ‘David’ last year and this was her second international with him. “I started para dressage two years ago but it wasn’t until I got David that I started to compete seriously. My trainer Sue Smallman found him for me in Denmark. I rode him once and didn’t want to get off! It was like a dream when he arrived at the stables – he came off the lorry literally bubble-wrapped!”
“His previous rider had the same disability as me – hemiparesis – but on the opposite side. He can be quite cheeky and ignore my weaker side so Sue rides him every day to keep him on top form. He’s definitely a show man. When he gets to a show, he knows he’s there to do a job.”
Jess was prevented from making a clean sweep of Grade III wins by Erin Orford and Sophie Wells’ Dragons Fire (De Niro x E.H. Hohenstein) who danced to a 73.72% freestyle victory. “I’ve been playing with the gears and the first two days of the show I had too much power,” commented Erin, who used a music programme she had for her previous team horse, Dior. “On the third day I had him in a really good balance and felt more consistent. He’s come on a lot since the Winters.”
“He’s very sensitive and responsive. He wants to work and wants to get it right. I’ve been building up the partnership and communication with him. He’s a really nice horse to work with.” The pair’s next outing will be the Wellington Paradressage Semi-finals.
Paralympian Georgia Wilson and Sakura (Supertramp x Rockstar) were unbeatable in grade II as the pair put some disappointing results earlier in the year behind them. “We didn’t have the best start to the year and our scores had dipped,” explained Georgia who scored a fabulous 76.16% in the 3* Grand Prix Freestyle “I’ve recently started training with Nicky Lickley and she was very helpful at Hickstead. She’s very good at understanding chestnut mares like Sukie. Hopefully the improvement will continue!”
“She was a lot softer in her tests and I feel I rode her a lot more accurately, You never stop learning!”
The honours in the 3* Grade IV classes were shared equally between Nicola Naylor and her two horses, Humberto L and Del Piero, and Izzy Palmer and Je Suis Adiva.
Del Piero (Flemmingh x Houston) won the Grand Prix A class while Humberto L (Cachet L x Haarlem) had far too much fun in the test, throwing in flying changes and explosive transitions. “What he did well scored highly but he was very excited,” recalled Nicola who was nevertheless pleased with both horses. “On day two Humberto had sorted himself out and gave me a lovely ride [in the GP B test]. I was pleased with his way of going and the amount of power. He’s recently found this power and now he has to learn to channel it. Sometimes he tries too much.”
“I was pleased with Del Piero too but he’s returning to work after time off and he felt tired on the second day.”
Izzy Palmer rode her socks off on Catherine Austen’s Je Suis Adiva (Negro x Fabriano) to head the Grade IV Freestyle. Isabelle has been riding ‘Frenchie’ for two years. “I’m super-lucky to have the ride,” she said. “This was our first show back after I had a fall at the beginning of the year. I banged my head on the fence and was quite concussed. It’s thanks to the great team around me that I’m at Hickstead. Sophie (Wells) kept Frenchie going for me and got us into the place we needed to be at.”
In the Freestyle, the pair scored 75.62%, with one judge scoring them over 81% for artistic interpretation, despite the showground experiencing a total power cut just as they began their test. “I had to wait 20 minutes for it to be back up and running so I could start again. She was good to pick up again and be so relaxed and forward. It was some of the best work I’ve got from her.”
“I used a Tom Hunt music programme I previously had for Touchdown (reserve for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics). It fits Frenchie too and I really enjoyed riding to it.”
The Grade I classes were all won by Hong Kong’s Pui Ting Tasha Tse and Jockey Club Caraat. The pair scored over 74% in all of them, showing them to be strong contenders at the level. Her other horse, Baxo, was second in the Grand Prix A and B classes.
Ireland also produced winners in the 2* classes. Former Olympians Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift have rerouted to paradressage after a devastating fall in 2018. Jonty was in a coma for six weeks and suffered a brain injury.
‘Art’ seems to have taken well to the dressage, and according to Jonty, always enjoyed that phase of eventing. The pair won all three of the Grade IV classes. “He went beautifully,” said Jonty. “He was an absolute professional. I’ve always produced him to be good in the ring although when he arrived at the showground, he was behaving like he was a 3* Event, dragging me around!”
“I had to compete in the 2* competition because of FEI rules, but to be fair I was very under prepared so it was a jolly good thing. We’ll be in the 3* next at Wellington and I’ll be better prepared for that!”
Tamsin Addison, Irish team member at the Tokyo Olympics, was riding her seven-year-old Lissau’s Decco in his second international and won the Intermediate A and B tests. Fondly known as ‘Donk’ for his strong character, Decco recovered well after an unfortunate start on the first day. “The boards clanked as they replaced them at A after we entered and it startled him into executing a canter pirouette,” recalled Tamsin who trains with Joyce Fearn. “Fortunately, he was really good after that as he has the capacity to lose the plot.”
“I was quite careful in the tests and had the handbrake on a lot as he’s not very experienced. This was a big show for him and he’s a big horse. The judges seem to like him. He had a lovely holiday at Hickstead as he fell in love with the black mare stabled next to him and even shared his haynet with her!”
“I was lucky to have my physio, Jin Langstone, as my groom for the show and she makes sure his body feels great.”
The CPEDI 2* Grade 1 classes were all won by Victoria Smith and Firenze, who she has been competing since September last year and were taking part in their first international. Also competing internationally for the first time, Vicky Earnshaw and Prince Pepe had a great run in the Grade III classes. Vicky has been competing her horse since September last year and has had a string of first places.
In the 1* competition, young Elan Williams was thrilled to win the Grade I Novice A test with BKS Brandini as it was his birthday that day, beating his stable mate into second place. However, on the second day, the positions were reversed and ‘Trinny’ (WSH Something Borrowed) stepped up to the win with 65.23%. Trinny then finished with a 66.32% in the freestyle where he was the sole entrant.
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