Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle and National Championship
Ten strong combinations contested the Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle, the jewel in the LeMieux National Championships crown at Stoneleigh Park but it was the maestro himself, Carl Hester, who won the class and his 10th National Champion title, performing the same technical freestyle that they performed in Rio, to earn the winning score of 78.47%, ahead of Laura Butler and Kristjan (75.55%) and Louise Bell with Into the Blue (73.60%).
At the half way mark, Maria Eilberg and the stunning grey Royal Concert were in the lead with their Rod Stewart music compilation scoring them 73.20%. Louise Bell and Roan gelding, Into The Blue, performed to the sound of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and The Greatest Showman’, showing off an extensive piaffe-passage. Josh Vietti and Despacito’s extended canter into piaffe earned them 73.60%.
Next in, Laura Tomlinson and Duval’s Capri Sonne Jr, riding to their familiar reggae routine, scored 69.67%, followed by Lara Butler and Kristjan performing to Amazing Grace, Thin Lizzy‘s ‘Whisky in the Jar’ and ‘Scotland the Brave. Despite a misunderstanding into half pass left, ultimately second place was theirs with 75.55%. Last to go Sadie Smith and Keystone Dynamite scored 72.85% despite some miscommunications.
The penultimate pair, Carl Hester and Nip Tuck, entered in passage to a good square halt, straight into piaffe-passage tour, then turning piaffe, to their familiar Rio music. Straight into canter pirouette, Carl is so confident with this horse and the two time changes on a curve and the 23 one-time changes on a curve were so secure. The canter pirouettes were both high quality, there was one moment when something in grandstand caught the attention of ‘Barney’, but his mind was soon back on the job. The extended trot was cautious but beautifully balanced, and overall the test beautifully presented for a great reception from the crowd and a score of 78.47% from the judging panel.
After the prize-giving, Carl was interviewed, “That first centreline has some impact! He did 23 one time changes without an error and then I had one small blip on the straight but that was it. He knows that test so well and gives all he has, he’s just so obedient. It’s nice now that he enjoys it rather than being terrified, but then again at 15, he should really! It’s a really difficult programme and he makes it look easy. It’s nice to get my tenth National Champion title with him. He deserves it for what he’s given to British dressage – he’s represented Britain at European, World and Olympic level and always been so solid – he was due this win.”