There was a dramatic twist on the final day of this year’s LeMieux National Championships, with different combinations taking the Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle and LeMieux National Champion titles.
Heading into the Freestyle at the top of the leader board, Lara Butler and the Bechtolsheimer’s 15-year-old Rubin Royal gelding, Rubin Al Asad, pulled off a fantastic performance for a well-earned score of 77.40%. Radio Nationals' John Bowen commented that there was ‘so much quality, it was difficult to choose a highlight’.
However it was Carl Hester who reigned supreme aboard his new partner, Katherine Bateson’s Alcazar. Dancing to music previously used by Uthopia, Carl and the 12-year-old Contango gelding scored a whopping 78.75% to steal the title and crown of Freestyle Champion once more.
“I’m thrilled!” enthused Carl. “It was Uthopia’s music, it felt like riding Uthopia and he went like Uthopia. His extended trot was great and he gave me a really fun, happy feeling. He had lots of power in there and he did the technical things really well. Yesterday was my rehearsal and today I had a different ride; I had a happy horse and it was a great performance to end the Championships on. And….I’m one title further away from Charlotte!”
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Nationals without some form of twist and today’s was a big one. Although Lara won yesterday’s Grand Prix and Carl claimed the Grand Prix Freestyle, their scores were not high enough to earn the top spot so we had a brand new LeMieux National Champion…step forward Hayley Watson-Greaves.
Riding her long-term partner, her own 13-year-old Rubin Royal gelding WG Rubins Nite, Hayley attained her first ever National title after a fantastic and confidently ridden test with John Bowen commenting that ‘there was not one foot out of place, it was beat perfect. Hayley must be thrilled – there’s definitely a competitor inside her after that performance’.
Earning a score of 78.43%, Hayley and ‘Squeak’ may have just been pipped to the post for the Freestyle title, however their brilliant performance in the Grand Prix gave them an average score of 76.18% - enough to win the title, an awesome achievement for the duo.
“I can’t quite believe it, I’m a little bit speechless!” exclaimed an ecstatic Hayley after her prize giving. “He’s just absolutely awesome and tries his heart out every time. I love him [Squeak] to pieces, we have a great partnership and he’s got me where I am today.
“I know my freestyle really well and I knew the pressure was on because it was so close with the competition, but I love riding him, I just went in there to enjoy it and have fun – which is what I always do with him.
”With campaigning for the World Cup as their next step, Hayley announced that today is the last time the pair are riding to that music; “I’ve got bits and pieces of my new floor plan as I’d like to make it a little bit more difficult for the World Cup competitions – although I’ve been told that it’s already quite challenging! I’m hoping to run through my floor plan next week and then I’ll be getting Chris Lever, who does my music, to compose it in time for the end of October, hopefully.”
Article Source:British Dressage News
Images courtesy Kevin Sparrow Photography
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