A fitting finale for Hartpury’s fabulous Festival of Dressage

Portugal’s Luis Principe brought down the curtain on this year’s Hartpury Festival of Dressage with a victory in Sunday’s Equikro FEI CDI Intermediate I Freestyle. The win was a fitting way to conclude a week of dazzling international performances, world debuts and stunning displays.

Luis Principe (Kevin Sparrow Photography)

With 14 nations represented, the festival lived up to its international credentials and offered team selectors an insightful preview ahead of the European Championships later this summer. 

Earlier on Sunday, crowd favourite Carl Hester stormed to an impressive victory in the Baileys Horse Feeds FEI CDI Grand Prix Special with Hawtins Delicato (75.894%). The Newent-based pairing scored 76.543% on Friday in the Hazlewoods FEI CDI Grand Prix.

Carl Hester (Kevin Sparrow Photography)

Friday evening also gave crowds their first opportunity to see the hugely talented combination of Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St John Freestyle. Drawn last in the Hazlewoods FEI CDI Grand Prix, spectators stayed on late to witness the pair notch up a score of 82.979%, just short of their Grand Prix Special score at Bolesworth a few weeks ago. 

Just over twenty-four hours later, the festival’s blue riband event – the NAF Superflex FEI CDI Grand Prix Freestyle was surely Charlotte Dujardin’s to lose. Once again paired with Mount St John Freestyle, the combination performed their long-awaited and highly-anticipated kür, a world debut of a new routine choreographed to Frozen-inspired music.

The 10-year-old daughter of Fidermark danced her way to a huge winning score and personal best of 87.6%. Emma and Jill Blundell’s mare earned no less than 86% from the judges with two even awarding the pair 89%.

Charlotte Dujardin (Kevin Sparrow Photography)

Speaking to Horse & Hound after her performance, Charlotte said “I’m absolutely thrilled because the degree of difficulty is immense; it is one thing after another and there is no room for error at all. On the last centre line I really didn’t know if I was going to stop — she was still raring to go.”

“I don’t know what it is about that horse, but she makes me cry every time, and that music feels so magical to ride to.” 

The NAF Superflex FEI CDI Grand Prix Freestyle was filled with personal bests. Second-placed Hayley Watson-Greaves earned an impressive 77.69% with Rubins Nite while Gareth Hughes scored 75.93% aboard KK Woodstock.

Gareth Hughes was in particularly good form on Friday too, following up an earlier win on Sintano Van Hof Olympia in the Freeflex FEI CDI Prix St Georges (72.324%) with a third placing aboard Classic Briolinca in the Hazlewoods FEI CDI Grand Prix (75.696%).

Saturday’s Elite Stallions Young Horse Prix St Georges championship was another hugely competitive affair during the popular gala evening with Jayne Turney and Shirley Rixon’s Penhaligon’s Jupiter coming out on top with 72.94%. Eventer and dressage rider Dannie Morgan scored 71.04% to take second place on board Knoxxs Figaro.

Elsewhere on Super Saturday, Charlotte Dujardin notched up yet another win in the Equine Construction Advanced Medium 98 with her own and Carl Hester’s Hawtins San Floriana on a score of 75.79%.

Lucy Pincus (Kevin Sparrow Photography)

Hartpury students and graduates enjoyed a good week with solid performances across the board. Graduate Lucy Pincus finished in sixth place during Saturday’s NAF Superflex FEI CDI Grand Prix Freestyle scoring 68.535%. Student Tesla Whitaker’s 67.63% with Barcelona in the Equine Construction Advanced Medium 98 earned her a special prize courtesy of Andrews Bowen Equestrian Surfaces.

Kate Shoemaker of the United States made a promising European debut in a competitive para dressage offering alongside compatriot Rebecca Hart. Shoemaker’s impressive 71.220% in the FEI Para Individual Championship Test Grade IV and 70.300% in the FEI Para Team Test Grade IV, were particularly eye-catching on the opening day.

Great Britain took the para team championship overall helped by impressive performances from Sophie Wells, Erin Orford and Georgia Wilson. Brazil also enjoyed individual championship successes with Sergio Oliva and Rodolpho Riskalla topping their respective grades. Ireland was once again well represented with popular rider Michael Murphy returning to Hartpury with Rohan and Skjoldsgaard Hippo-Vo. 

If the young equine talent on show is anything to go by, the future of the sport looks promising. In the Hickstead 5-Year-Old National Qualifier, Abigail Lyle took the top spot with the De Niro bred gelding Jefferson P on a score of 8.1. In the international equivalent, it was the Franziskus bred gelding Time Will Tell that reigned supreme under Martina Ott. The Hickstead National 6-Year-Old Qualifier was won by Michael Eilberg and the Dante Weltino bred MSJ Dante VX on a score of 8.82 with the international equivalent won by Mia Mordecai-Smith and the Johnson-sired Innocent with a score of 7.6. 

Young human talent was on display during the final day with Soraya Rogers and Evita I winning the Andrews Bowen Junior, Young Rider and Pony Team Test with a score of 69.64%.

Alice Peternell and Hillgarth Nixon proved popular winners of the British Dressage Young Pony Finals for 4-year-olds on a score of 7.48, while Bryony Goodwin and RSC The Ogopogo, and Jayne Turney and Hikins Showgirl claimed the 5 and 6-year-old finals respectively.

Sunshine beamed down on Hartpury for much of the festival and attendance figures were near 5,000 across the five days.

The Hartpury Festival of Dressage returns in 2020 just a month before the Tokyo Olympics. The event is already anticipated as the last chance to see some of the world’s best combinations in action before the Games.