DRESSAGE Ireland Northern Region (NR) members travelled to compete at the three-star international dressage show in Wellington in England, with great success, which was echoed by Dressage Ireland riders from other regions.
Northern Region rider Carolyn Mellor competed on ‘VSH Gouveneur M’ at their first Big Tour competition since getting selected for the Irish High Performance squad. Ellen McDonald on ‘Dante Alighieri’ competed in the Pony classes and Vicky Campbell on ‘Habouche’, owned by Anna Ross and Marcelo Tosi competed in the Junior section.
HOLSTEIN AND DWYER STAKE CLAIMS FOR TOKYO SQUAD PLACES
Heike Holstein and Kate Dwyer both staked claims for inclusion in the Team Ireland Tokyo Olympic Dressage squad, following a strong showing in the Grand Prix at Wellington last Wednesday (May 12). Wellington CDI3* was designated as a British Olympic team selection and observation trial. The best of the British elite riders competed for selection, including dual Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin and five-time Olympian Carl Hester.
Holstein and her 12-year-old home-bred mare ‘Sambuca’ scored 70.087% for 11th place. Heike’s first international outing of 2021, the previous week, saw her place eighth in the Grand Prix Special at Exloo in The Netherlands. Dwyer posted an international Grand Prix personal best score of 68.957% with the 15-year-old gelding ‘Snowdon Faberge’ to place 12th. Wellington is only the second international show of the 2021 season for Kate and ‘Fabio’ (‘Snowdon Faberge’s’ stable name). They won the five-star Grand Prix Special in Doha, Qatar in February 2020.
It was a record day for Irish dressage, with an unprecedented total of six competitors in a Big Tour international class. Alex Baker marked her first start in three-star action since October 2020 by posting an international Grand Prix personal best score of 67.196% with the 13-year-old KWPN gelding ‘Dutchman’ for 17th place.
Comber-based Carolyn Mellor and her 10-year-old KWPN gelding ‘VSH Gouverneur M’ were 23rd on a score of 65.348%. On her Big Tour international debut, Mellor secured the first of two qualifying scores required to be eligible for selection for the 2021 European Dressage Championships to be held in Hagen, Germany in September.
After a 653 day absence from international competition, Belinda Brereton and her 14-year-old chestnut gelding ‘Captain Negro C’ scored a Big Tour international personal best total of 64.152% for 27th place.
British-based Katie Williamson’s Grand Prix international debut for Ireland with the 16-year-old KWPN stallion ‘After Midnight’ saw her complete on 63.609% for 29th place.
Reigning Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin and ‘Gio’ scored 79.130% for a home win and she took the second podium place with ‘Mount St John Freestyle’ on a 77.935% total. Great Britain’s dressage legend Carl Hester scored 77.500% with ‘En Vogue’, which proved to be good enough for third place.
PERSONAL BEST SCORE FOR HOLSTEIN
Heike Holstein’s personal best international Grand Prix Special score of 70.596% saw the Tokyo Olympic contender claim seventh place with ‘Sambuca’ at Wellington last Thursday, May 13.
Speaking from Wellington, Heike said: “’Sambuca’ was much more forward and harmonious today. We had a little hiccup in the two tempi changes in the Grand Prix yesterday. Her piaffe (stationary trot) work is much better. She has grown up a lot compared to last year, less looking around and much more concentrated on the job in hand. Between Covid and EHV (Equine Herpes Virus) restrictions, I was really impacted when it came to competing internationally this year. It is important to get out to shows with more competitors and more judges. I was really pleased to see so many Irish riders competing here, the competition is always strong in Great Britain and we are holding our own.”
Fellow aspiring Tokyo Olympian, Kate Dwyer and ‘Snowdon Faberge’ produced another eye-catching international result when placing eighth on a score of 69.404% just below their personal best achieved when winning the five-star Grand Prix Special in Doha, Qatar last year.
“He felt better today, compared to Doha,” said Kate. “Due to Covid and EHV restrictions, we competed at just two national competitions in 15 months before going to Exloo in The Netherlands last week. It was a long break, he backed off there and was a bit ring-rusty. He was much more pumped up here in Wellington, more uphill, lighter and we took more risks. ‘Fabio’ is a passionate horse, he gives 100%, is light, supple and harmonious. He is happy in his job. I’m excited about the future.”
Another day, another personal best international score for Alex Baker and ‘Dutchman’. The British-based rider, trained by Anna Ross, was drawn first to go in the Grand Prix Special class at eight o’clock in the morning, but the early start did not deter her as she scored 68.979% for 10th place. Her omission from both the Horse Sport Ireland high performance dressage squad and the high performance dressage development squad, announced in February 2021, was a surprise.
Wellington proved to be a good show for Baker where she secured the qualifying standard for the 2021 European Dressage Championships and the first of two qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics.
“I have had ‘Jack’ (‘Dutchman’s’ stable name) since he was eight. We worked hard over the winter with my boss and trainer, Anna Ross,” said Alex. “We are now at a fun stage, where I can push for more marks, he really worked with me in the arena over the last couple of days. I plan to compete him in Le Mans, France next month just before the Olympic MER (Minimum Eligibilty Requirements) deadline of June 21.”
The focus will now switch to the Horse Sport Ireland dressage high performance director, Johann Hinnemann with the announcement of the Team Ireland Tokyo Olympic squad just a few weeks away at the end of June. With Wellington CDI3* designated as a British Olympic team selection and observation trial, Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin continues to impress the selectors by winning a third Big Tour class in two days, this time with ‘Gio’ on a 81.426% total. Great Britain’s Gareth Hughes and ‘Sintano Van Hof Olympia’ slotted into second place on a 75.298%, with Emile Faurie and ‘Dono Di Maggio OLD’ marginally adrift on 75.192% for third place.
MELLOR’S MEMORABLE DEBUT CROWNED WITH TOP TEN PLACING
Carolyn Mellor’s memorable Big Tour international debut for Ireland was crowned with a top 10 placing in the Grand Prix Kür (Freestyle to Music) at Wellington last Thursday, May 13. Mellor and ‘VSH Gouverneur M’ scored 68.325% in Grand Prix Kür (Freestyle to Music) for 10th place.
“I bought ‘Gucci’ (‘VSH Gouverneur M’s’ stable name) as a three-year-old in The Netherlands and I fell in love with him straight away,” said Carolyn. “He has a lovely temperament and is like a Labrador. ‘Gucci’ is imposing at 18 hands high, but was really easy to produce because he has a brain. If he has one fault, it is that he tries too hard. I’m delighted with our performances here at Wellington. I trained with Pammy Hutton and, after Covid, when Pammy couldn’t travel to Northern Ireland, with Johann Hinnemann (via zoom) after I was included by him on the Horse Sport Ireland high performance dressage squad, which was a big help.
“We were stabled opposite Carl Hester at Wellington. He is a true gentlemen and was very encouraging about how positive the future is for us. I plan to compete at the international show in Hartpury in July and then go to the continent to compete in September/ October.”
Carolyn is a former chair of Northern Ireland Dressage (now Dressage Ireland Northern Region). Commenting on the Irish competing at Wellington, she said: “I have been involved in Irish dressage for decades and it was absolutely amazing to see six Irish competitors in a Big Tour Grand Prix. This was a three-star show in name only. With a full five-star ground jury and a British Olympic trial, it was more like a five-star show. We always hoped Ireland could field this number of riders and Heike, Kate and young Alex Baker put in great performances. It is a tribute to all involved with Irish dressage and very positive for the future of Dressage Ireland.”
Belinda Brereton and ‘Captain Negro C’s’ total of 68.085% for 11th place in the Grand Prix Kür (Freestyle to Music) was their second Big Tour international personal best score in as many days. Katie Williamson scored 64.760% with ‘After Midnight’ on their Grand Prix Kür (Freestyle to Music) debut to place 13th.
Reigning Olympic champion, Charlotte Dujardin secured a clean sweep of all four Big Tour classes at Wellington, when scoring 88.345% with ‘Mount St John Freestyle’ to win the Grand Prix Kür (Freestyle to Music) class. Completing the podium for Great Britain were Gareth Hughes and ‘KK Dominant’ on 77.080% in second place, with Louise Ann Bell and ‘Into the Blue’ placing third on a 72.990% total.
VICTORIA CAMPBELL SECOND IN YOUNG RIDER INTERNATIONAL CLASS
Ireland’s Victoria Campbell (20) delivered an outstanding result at Wellington CDIY on Friday, May 14, when scoring 70.735% with the nine-year-old KWPN gelding ‘Habouche’ to place second in the FEI Young Rider Team class. It was a first international outing at Young Rider level for Campbell, who is from Rostrevor, County Down. Vicky competed for Ireland at the 2017 European Pony Championships in Hungary and she is now based with leading dressage trainer, Anna Ross in Great Britain, who also trains Alex Baker and ‘Dutchman’.
Great Britain’s Caitlin Burgess and ‘Chocotof’ won the FEI Young Rider Team class on a score of 70.980%. Competing in her first Junior International class since graduating from the pony ranks last year, Ireland’s Martha Jobling-Purser and ‘Seagry Roshan’ scored 65.101% for 10th place in the CDIJ FEI Junior Team class. Irish pony rider Ellen McDonald and ‘Dante Alighieri’ completed on a 66.095% total for seventh place in the CDIP FEI Pony Team class.
Meanwhile, Irish Olympian Judy Reynolds returned to international competition at the four-star show in Munich, Germany last Friday (May 14) for the first time since competing at the FEI World Cup show in Stuttgart, Germany in November 2019. Reynolds debuted her new Big Tour international horse, Sonia Zugel’s 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding ‘Leroy Naeldeborg’, in the Grand Prix class, scoring 64.761% for 18th place.