Four young dressage riders from Hampshire are the new National Pony Club Intermediate Dressage Champions.
Julian Hill (16) riding What a Pleasure (15), Alice James (22) riding Diflorio (13), Victoria Leabeater (17) riding Kid Rock (7), and Katharine Roe (17) riding Knockmore Lad (13), qualified in July to compete at the prestigious Pony Club National Championships held in the beautiful grounds of Cholmondley Castle in Cheshire.
The best young riders from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales qualify at Regional Competitions throughout the Summer, culminating in these Championships – where many of our current Olympic Champions such as Charlotte Dujardin, Ben Mayer and William Fox-Pitt started their illustrious careers.
Dressage involves riding a predefined series of movements in different paces, assessed at the Championships by some of the UK’s top National and International judges, who are looking for accuracy, harmony between horse and rider, suppleness and obedience. There are also marks for the horse’s quality of movement, and the rider’s ability.
The four Hursley riders, who are trained by Heather Ashley – herself one of the South’s top judges – impressed with their calm, obedient tests, yet all also showed flair and eye-catching movements, to earn excellent marks, beating their nearest rival teams by a healthy margin.
Alice James and Diflorio (known as Ella at home) gained the top marks of the whole competition, and were delighted to be crowned Individual Intermediate Champions.
Two days later, at the same venue, Victoria Leabeater and her Belgian bred mare, Dolces E, had qualified for the blue riband event, the Open Horse Trials, which involves all three of the major disciplines.
Victoria and Dolces were the only pair in their section to go clear within the time, and having come third in two previous years, Victoria was delighted to finally achieve the top podium place. As part of the prize, Victoria and Dolces will attend a two day training session with the legendary eventing coach Gill Watson, who has trained British Junior teams and many International and Olympic event riders.
Hursley District Commissioner Margy Budden was delighted, as this is the first time in several decades that a Hursley team and individual members have taken the top honours at the National Championships.