Charlotte Dujardin and Hawtins Delicato set the show alight with their winning performance in the Arbonne Dressage Future Elite Championship on Friday night at the Horse of the Year Show which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham (5-9 October 2016).
This competition for up-and-coming horses, now in its fourth year, provides a unique opportunity to expose young horses to the big stage as well as acting as a shop window for our sport. At an event which is famed for show jumping and showing, the Andrews Bowen Arena was jam-packed in anticipation for the dressage, testament to the popularity the sport now has within the wider equestrian community.
For talented eight to ten-year-old horses, this class is invitational based on rankings throughout the season from High Profile, Premier League and CDI shows on average percentage in Small Tour classes. The top ranked combinations are then invited to take part in an Intermediate I Freestyle competition, generously sponsored by Arbonne, manufacturer of botanically based beauty, health and wellness products. Eight competitors came forward on the night under a top judging panel of Stephen Clarke (C), Isobel Wessels (H) and Andrew Gardner (M).
First up was 28-year-old Sonnar Murray-Brown with Erlentanz, his nine-year-old Trakehner gelding. All eyes were on Sonnar and the dark brown son of Latimer as they entered the arena. Moving to the rhythm of his Thunderbirds soundtrack, Erlentanz displayed great power with elegance. Canter pirouette left into two-times to canter pirouette right, all performed with super balance, finishing in extended trot to their final halt. Sonnar set the bar high with a score of 76.87%. “It was very a very positive performance with a lot of power,” said Stephen Clarke, summarising the performance. “There were no real mistakes and there was good interpretation of the music.”
Tom Goode (33) followed with Dior III, Samantha Geddes’ eight-year-old Gribaldi-sired stallion. The striking chestnut has oodles of presence and clearly relished being in the limelight. The athletic horse is powerful with a great range of gears and has grand prix written all over him. Their compelling performance to emotive music was rewarded with 74.57%. “He’s a natural, very elastic horse with lots of energy,” said Isobel Wessels. “He sometimes loses balance but is a beautifully ridden horse with clear talent.”
Cara Shardlow was the third rider to enter the arena and she did herself proud with Detonator II, her ten-year-old British-bred son of Demonstrator. Their performance was harmonious and created a lovely picture as they performed some challenging moves including tempi changes on curved lines. They earned a creditable 69.37%. “It was a steady test without mistakes,” said Andrew Gardner. “At times it was a little careful and there could have been more power and support from the hind leg, but it was a pleasing test.”
Bryony Goodwin (31) and Hawtins Floriana, Judith Davis’s ten-year-old daughter of Florestan showed what they’re made of to earn 70.33%. The talented mare has bags of enthusiasm and power which was well matched with her dramatic music. Her half passes were fluent and the extensions covered much ground, but there were costly mistakes. “Unfortunately, there were a few problems – the rhythm of the walk and a mistake in the three-times,” said Stephen Clarke, “There were highlights though, for example the extended trot, two-time changes, half passes to the left and [interpretation of] the music.”
Henrietta Cheetham (59) and Schattentanzerin, her nine-year-old San Remo daughter, were hot on the heels of Bryony. Their routine, to very fitting music for a mare – Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Cecilia’ for trot, Umberto Tozzi’s ‘Gloria’ for the canter and for walk, The Temptations’ ‘My Girl’ – showed moments of real promise and glimpses of what’s to come as the mare gains more balance. The pair earned a creditable 69.95%.
It was then the turn of Kate Cowell (36) and Samba Dancer, Christine Richards and Audrey Lawrence’s ten-year-old son of Samba Hit II. The pair danced through a convincing routine to the beat of One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ for trot and, for canter, Rachel Platten’s ‘Fight Song’ laced with ‘Amazing Grace’. They created a picture of poise and confidence and proved a hit with the crowd. Andrew Gardner said: “I liked the horse’s technique, particularly in canter. He’s very confirmed in the flying changes and there are a lot of positives for the future.”
The penultimate competitor was Charlotte Dujardin and Hawtins Delicato, Carl Hester’s eight-year-old son of Diamond Hit. As they came through the curtain into the arena, you could hear a pin drop, as the crowd was enthralled to witness their Olympic Champion perform live. The horse, who Charlotte has competed only a handful of times, showed great elasticity, range and super balance throughout their Simon and Garfunkel programme. The audience erupted when they completed their test in appreciation of not only this performance, but also Charlotte’s incredible achievements in Rio. “The horse looks like a top international horse and Charlotte gave him all the confidence he needs for the future,” said Isobel Wessels once the arena had settled down. The pair was awarded 78.62% to take the lead.
The final competitor of the evening was Michael Eilberg (30) and Elena Knyaginicheva’s Der Designer. The exciting ten-year-old by De Niro was a little unsettled and neighed several times through the test. He did however show incredible power and expression and is an obvious talent. The pair earned a score of 73.49%. “Michael certainly had some amazing highlights but also some unfortunate problems,” said Stephen Clarke. “The horse was quite nervous but the extended trot, half passes and [flying] changes were amazing. He’s a fabulous and expressive horse.”
So victory belonged to Charlotte and ‘Del’, a moment which clearly meant a lot to the rider who won four showing championships here as a child. “This is really good, it’s so exciting to be back. I have great childhood memories of competing here so it’s like being a kid again!” smiled Charlotte.
“Delicato’s not a horse I’ve ridden a lot so I’m very happy. Amy [Woodhead] had ridden him to Advanced Medium and then he then jumped to Inter I for the Bolesworth International which he won,” said Charlotte, clearly impressed by the eight-year-old’s aptitude for the advanced work. “We then won the Young PSG Championship at Hartpury and the PSG at the Nationals.
“In the arena familiarisation here he was like ‘holy moley!’ but tonight, he was fine with the crowd. What bothered him was standing, but as the test went on he really settled into it. I rode VIP [Mount St John VIP] in the demo here earlier and she was amazing too. It’s such a good education for them.
“We don’t have many shows like this to go to. It’s nice to come into this arena and, for horses up-and-coming, it’s great to have that experience. It would be great to have a Grand Prix here.”
The Olympic, World and European Champion, who’s in greater demand than ever, flew to Sweden the following morning to test ride four-year-olds before travelling to Toronto this Thursday then on to LA.
1st Charlotte Dujardin with Hawtins Delicato, 78.62%
2nd Sonnar Murray-Brown with Erlentanz, 76.87%
3rd Tom Goode with Dior III, 74.87%
4th Kate Cowell with Samba Dancer, 74.70%
5th Michael Eilberg with Der Designer, 73.49%
6th Bryony Goodwin with Hawtins Floriana, 70.33%
7th Henrietta Cheetham with Schattentanserin, 69.96%
8th Cara Shardlow with Detonator II, 69.37%
For full results click here
Photo credit: E.S. Photography
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