Young talent impressed at the 15th running of the Sheepgate BYRDS Under 25 Championships in Boston, Lincs, (24 – 29 August), which once again saw record entries and mammoth scores, with live scoring and streaming throughout the six days of competition, sponsored by Pikeur.
Traditionally a hotbed of young talent, many top riders have made their mark at this show, including Charlotte Dujardin, Phoebe Peters and Charlotte Fry.
This year was no exception with 20-year-old Gaby Lucas from Brentwood, Essex, impressing the judges in the Top Spec FEI Young Rider Championship with her eight-year-old 18.2hh German-bred gelding Salo (pictured right), (by Sandro Bedo), who she found through Peter Tomlinson.
“Although Salo’s ginormous, the first time I sat on him I couldn’t stop smiling, he’s got natural cadence and a very sweet temperament,” said Gaby, a former pony, junior and young rider European team member, who has been riding since the age of two and now runs her own training yard. “I’ve been training with Sarah Turner for the past four months and it’s made a big difference -- although Sarah’s style is quite laid back, she’s taught me to ride for a 10, which we achieved for the first time at Sheepgate.”
Gaby also rode her own 11-year-old Zante, a, 16.3hh Danish-bred gelding, (by Flemmingh), who finished fourth overall in the championships.
The Farnam Products FEI Junior Championship proved a close run battle over the two days between 16-year-old Anna Jesty (Aquiro) and Jo Thurman Baker (Highcliffe Apollo), who both produced evenly matched high scoring tests, with Anna just clinching the title by less than one mark in spite of an uncharacteristic error of course.
“It was nail biting right to the end, but ‘Gleavo’ tried so hard so I’m really proud of him,” said Anna, who bought her 12-year-old German-bred gelding (by Aquino) in May last year and trains with Bruce King and Claire Speer.
“Having always evented and ridden more Thoroughbred types previously, he’s the first warmblood I’ve owned and gives you a different feel - Gleavo has the most amazing work ethic and power, but we include pole work, hacking and a bit of jumping in his training, which helps to keep him fit and happy.”
Anna, who works as a groom /rider at Platinum Stud in Hampshire and is studying for her advanced AASE at Hartpury College, also won the FEI Junior Freestyle to Music test scoring 74.25% with a compilation of contemporary hits put together by Amanda Birch Dressage Music.
The British Dressage Supporters Club FEI Pony Championship saw 15-year-old Lara Kuropatwa and her sister Olivia’s nine-year-old German-bred pony Mr Snowman achieve a personal championship best, scoring 73.72% in the team test and earning their first 10 (for the rein back).
“We’ve never won a major championship before, so I’m very proud of ‘Snowy’,” said Lara, who trains with Peter Storr. “When he first came to us as a four-year-old, he was quite strong and unruly, but as he’s matured, we’ve developed a real trust and we enjoy hacking out on our own a couple of times a week – Snowy has already exceeded all our expectations!”
Twenty-five-year-old Devan Woodgate from Epsom, Surrey, won the KBIS Insurance Ltd Under 25s Advanced Medium Championship scoring 70.39% with her 17.3hh seven-year-old British-bred gelding, who she has owned since he was three.
“Because of his size, we’ve taken it slowly and concentrated on doing a handful of young horse classes last year, coming fifth in the international six-year-old class at Hickstead, as well as winning the Dressage Masters semi finals at medium level,” said Devan, who has been training with Charlotte Dujardin for the past year . “I’m only 5ft 4ins, but ‘Bling’ is a pleasure to ride and compete with such a willing and trainable temperament.
“The U25's at Sheepgate was his first time staying away at a show with a busy competition atmosphere, and he tried hard to do his best. He’s a big moving horse, although still lacking in strength for self carriage and balance. Bling did a lovely test earning 8s for his extensions, but I think we ‘re only just starting to scratch the surface with him and there’s still a lot more to come in the future which is exciting.”
Gaby, a semi-finalist in the Young Professionals award last year, says her aim is to compete Distaulgold in their first prix st georges early next year, with an eye on contesting international grand prix in the future.
The Wolds Exclusive Bling Under 25s Medium Championship title belonged to 18-year-old Lucy Pincus and her father David’s home-bred 15.2hh gelding Sheepcote Suncrest (by San Schufro)
Lucy and ‘Sunny’, winners of the PDS Saddles elementary open music freestyle at this year’s NAF Five Star Winter Championships, repeated their winning form at this show (the combination won the elementary title here last year) to take top slot scoring 73.03% on the first day and 71.96% on the second.
“Sunny can be quite opinionated and sometimes he thinks he knows best, so as a rider, you just have to try and remain very calm and focused,” explained Lucy, who now heads for the LeMieux National Dressage Championships later this month, where they have qualified for the TopSpec Medium Open and Nettex Elementary Open Championships.
“I love riding Sunny because he’s quite cheeky, but enjoys his work - his natural flexibility makes the lateral movements easy and we gain a lot of confidence from each other.”
On form combination 12-year-old Maddy Whelan and her six-year-old British-bred 14.2hh Connemara/Thoroughbred pony mare Ode To Shannon (by Washington Postman), who train with Jackie Beaven, were outstanding winners of the Farnam Products Under 25s Elementary Championship scoring 73.14%.
“We’ve bought ‘Lissey’ 18 months ago -- before coming to us she was a Pony Club all-rounder who’d also done a bit of hunting, but Maddy’s taken things slowly and they’ve formed a close relationship which is a pleasure to watch,” said Maddy’s mum Lorna.
This combination are also heading to the LeMieux National Dressage Championships this month where they’ve qualified for the Nettex Elementary Open Championship and they plan to contest some FEI tests at Premier League shows later this year.
The Tottie Under 25s Novice Championship saw a convincing win for 23-year-old Sara Malpass, from Farnham, Surrey, and her seven-year-old 15.2hh Andalusian gelding Pitingo II, who made their first visit to this championships.
Sara, who suffers from Fibromyalgia, a long-term condition which causes pain, fatigue and muscle stiffness, works as head groom for her trainer Edward Creamer and is a freelance instructor.
“We wanted to come to Sheepgate because it provided the opportunity of three days to concentrate on training and competing as ‘Pingo’ can be quite sharp and naughty” said Sara, who qualified for the prelim championships at last year’s national and is returning to Stoneleigh this month to contest the Dodson & Horrell Novice Restricted Championship.
“He’s the first PRE gelding I’ve owned and quite different from my previous horses, but he’s taught me a lot. Although he can be quite hot, we manage his diet carefully and we’ve also worked on making sure he’s really loose over his back in training, which has helped improve his paces a lot.
“I took him for half an hour’s hack on the morning of our competition, which helped loosen him up and set him perfectly for our test later that day.”
More than 30 combinations qualified for the finals of the hotly contested Senots Ltd Under 25s Preliminary Championship, which saw 11-year-old Alice McCall and her nine-year-old British-bred 13.1hh Welsh Section B gelding Bochym Royal Casanova (by Barkla Royal Highlander) win by the narrowest of margins.
The combination from Newbury, Berks, are members of the South Berkshire branch of the Pony Club, and they’ve enjoyed taking part in Team Quest dressage competitions as part of the Ready, Steady, Ride team.
“We’ve only owned ‘Darcy’ for a year, but already Alice has gained a lot of confidence from him and they adore each other,” said Alice’s mum Jo. “We’d never been to Sheepgate before, but a lot of the BYRDS’ mums I know recommended going to the Under 25s Championships because it’s a great show.
“We didn’t expect to do so well – we were blown away when Alice came third in the semi finals because her dream was to climb onto the podium. The next day, we were bags of nerves until the last score of the championships went up and we discovered Alice and Darcy had won.
“I thought I'd dreamt it all until the next morning when I woke up and saw Alice’s haul of prizes and amazing rosettes which were bigger than her head – it certainly made our five-hour journey worthwhile!”
This was the last prelim for Alice and Bochym Royal Casanova, who train with Lindsey Jenkins, who now plan to move up to contest novice classes later this year.
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