15 riders travelled from the UK to Turin, Italy, last week to compete in the Masters du Cheval (MCI) European final, a dressage league specially held for Spanish and Portuguese horses (27 – 31 October 2016).
The Brits secured a team fourth place behind Italy, France and Belgium in the 2016 European final.
Nika Vorster, who rides for Premier PRE Dressage in Oxford, led the way as she secured two individual podium places for the British team. Aboard Karen Bourdon’s impressive six-year-old Spanish stallion Chulo Msuay, Nika produced a pleasing performance in the first of two young horse classes for a score of 69.6%. With plenty left in the tank, the duo pulled out all the stops for a sensational winning score of 78.6% in their second test which subsequently earned them the silver medal in the young horse championship. “Chulo was imported from Spain at the beginning of 2015 and I began riding him in March when I started working for Karen”, said Nika. “He was very inexperienced and had only just been backed before he came to the UK. Since then we have progressed together from prelim to elementary, qualifying for area festivals at each level along the way. We aim to carry on training through the levels and hopefully make our medium debut next year”.
The Yorkshire-born rider’s form was not to be underestimated as Nika returned on Luisa Collins’ grey Lusitano gelding, Curioso, to solidify her place at elementary. With a 65.2% and 68.9%, the pair climbed into bronze medal position after a polished second test to be within touching distance of the top spots. Nika said of the affectionately named ‘Q’, “he is a very talented horse and he’d been trained to quite a high level before he was imported from Spain two years ago. I have spent a long time improving his basic way of going and gaining his confidence since he arrived. Now we have formed a bond together, it’s fantastic for me to be able to progress through the more advanced levels as I had only ever competed up to novice before”.
Pete Saunders, who runs Illixa PRE stud in Kent, rode the youngest horse in the competition namely his own Spanish stallion Danes CA (pictured). The four-year-old grey, who was taking part in his first international competition, achieved a score of 68.4%.The duo went on to post a 66.8% in the second young horse test which landed them seventh place overall in the young horse rankings. Pete said, “taking a four-year-old PRE stallion to his first international competition against much older and more advanced horses, we naturally went with conservative expectations and planned to gain more experience than awards and podium places. However we were blown away with our achievement and we were equally thrilled by our team performance”.
The weekend continued to see success for the British team with the top two places in the advanced medium test being secured by UK riders.
Alice Hurley, riding Karen Bourdon’s “fun, sensitive and intelligent” nine-year-old PRE stallion Resuelto XX, produced a solid test to win the class on a score of 67.9%. The Irish rider went on to break the 70% barrier with 71.7% in the advanced medium freestyle test, making the pair worthy winners of the advanced medium section overall.
Alice, who rode as an individual for Ireland as well as part of the GB team, said: “I’ve trained him since he was three and a half years old. He has a huge personality; a very confident little horse who has always been a little opinionated. He wasn’t easy as a young horse and he was often fiery at competitions”, Alice recounted of the versatile showing and dressage stallion. “In the last couple of years he has gone from strength to strength. We will make the transition to advanced level within the next few months, with PSG in mind for next year”.
Hot on Alice’s heels was fellow Brit Charlotte Crocker-Westlake on the first of her two striking black stallions. Charlotte rode nine-year-old Gaspar de Valle, who was imported from Spain earlier this year, to achieve a score of 66.7% for second place in the first of the advanced medium tests. She followed this up with a respectable score of 64.6% aboard her own home-bred Lago Fulgor for 12th place. Charlotte later returned on her first ride to contest the Prix St Georges with two classy tests scoring 64.1% and 65.3%. The pair are aiming for the dressage finals at SICAB; the Spanish horse world championship held in Seville, Spain (15 – 20 November). “I was so pleased with both Gaspar and Fulgor, after a long journey they were on top form and gave me their all”, said an enthusiastic Charlotte. “The MCI finals has given us invaluable experience towards competing internationally and an excellent warm up for SICAB”.
Justine Armitage, a classical riding instructor based in Wales, was the only rider to fly the flag for Team GB at the highest level in the Italian competition. Partnered with Lusitano stallion Xique Tramagueira in the Grand Prix tests, the pair scored 61.8% in their first opportunity in the arena. The combination went on to improve with a 66.9% amongst hot company in their second round in order to bring home overall sixth place. Justine, who has been riding at Grand Prix for three years, said: “Xique is the second horse that I have trained up to this level and this is the second time we have represented Team GB internationally. I bought him five years ago from Portugal and we love competing with the MCI. My next venture is to train my own purebred Lusitanos to be the best they can be”.
Karen Bourdon, the director for the UK branch of the Masters du Cheval Iberique – namely the Iberian Dressage Masters (IDM) – said, “following in the success of Britain’s first representation at the MCI finals last year in Belgium, this year we travelled to Turin, Italy and Team GB came away with a very creditable fourth place for the second time. Set up in June 2015, the IDM and MCI GB are gaining in popularity with over 130 members and 14 qualifying venues across the UK. In 2016 the British contingent has almost doubled, with a team of 16 riders and 20 horses competing in classes ranging from young horse to Grand Prix. The GB series of qualifying venues and the success of the British team has helped to raise the profile of Iberian horses in British dressage. We are enormously grateful to the MCI for organising such an incredible event in Italy this year and providing the opportunity to compete with other horses and riders from across Europe. I am delighted that we are able to offer owners and riders with purebred Iberian horses the opportunity to compete internationally and represent GB at these prestigious events”.
The Masters du Cheval Iberique holds a European final every Autumn for those who have qualified via their respective organisations. The UK branch for the MCI is the Iberian Dressage Masters. For more information visit www.iberiandressagemasters.co.uk
Report by Yasmin Jaouane