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Space Pageant Championships: ‘He’s my first dressage horse; I actually don’t know what I’m doing’ – success for Paul Tapner’s spouse

Georgina Tapner emerged the winner of the inter I bronze at the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships at Hartpury. Georgina rode the Belissimo M 11-year-old Bugatti II (pictured) to a score of 68.77%.

“When you’re in there, there are so many things going through your head, but on the whole he was brilliant,” she said. “He is a little under confident in the arena but he speaks to me for confidence and then listens to what I say. I was really pleased with him.”

Georgina, who credits trainers Amy Woodhead, Charlie Hutton and most recently Sarah Wilkinson with helping her, has had Bugatti since he was a four-year-old and they have worked their way through the levels via the Area Festivals.

“He is a really solid performer and great fun to ride because you know what you are going to get in the arena,” she said. “He is my first dressage horse; I really have no idea what I’m doing. I spend a lot of time having to decipher what the words mean and what the tests mean! But I just love to keep going up and seeing where we can go.”

‘Cool as a cucumber’ pony breaks 70% barrier

Last year’s novice bronze winners, Victoria Homden and Olly, successfully stepped up a level for 2022, taking the elementary bronze title at the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships. The seven-year-old 14hh Olly is a home-bred Welsh/traditional cob, and Victoria described him as “cool as a cucumber” in the arena. 

“He took it all in his stride and performed the best he could,” she said of the “cheeky” coloured stallion, who was the only horse in the class to break the 70% barrier. 

“We have been working on mainly lateral work and stretching, trying to keep him rhythmical. Every day is a learning day!” said Victoria, a riding instructor who also runs a livery yard with her friend Sammi Illston. 

Victoria and Olly will also compete in tomorrow’s Petplan Equine novice silver.

‘I bought him by accident’

Sally Walker and Wilton were one of the first combinations to perform their test in the Petplan Area Festival Championship inter I silver class, but their score of 67.79% score was enough to clinch them victory.

“I wondered the whole way through the rest of the class if someone was going to beat my score,” said Sally, who Left the fire service in November after serving as a firefighter crew manager for 15 years. “His party pieces are probably his extended and medium trots.”

Sally admitted that she bought Wilton “by accident” when he was four, now 11 years ago.

“He was sent to me to break as a four-year-old and I was eventing at the time,” she explained. “I took him cross-country schooling and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to buy this horse’. He came wild from the field and I’ve done everything with him, so to get him to this level is something I’m proud of.”

Sally, who now works full-time with horses and has a riding coaching qualification to her name, says that the aim is grand prix.

“We’ve been working really hard on our inter II movements at home and I’d love to get to grand prix.”

‘We’d written off coming here’

Laura Hill and Kensington I were the narrow winners of the Petplan Area Festival Championship elementary silver, clinching victory by just under .3% with 69.85%, over Sam Roberts and Longhalves Renior in second.

“We had a good clear round, which is the main thing, as he can have his moments where we can be doing medium across the diagonal and then he’ll put in a 360 degree spin and off we’ll go in the other direction,” said Laura, who had twins a couple of years ago. “Kensington had a couple of little tiny things that could have gone better, but I was really pleased and he gave me really good medium canters.”

Laura has had Kensington since he was three.

“But he didn’t do too much when he was five or six after I’d had my twins and more recently, he’s had four or five weeks off after banging a splint,” she explained. “So we’d kind of written off coming here or to even have him back in work by now, but my vet and farrier have done some work and said ‘well, it’s not out of the question – we’ll do as much as we can’, and thankfully they got him sound again, but we haven’t had much match practice!”

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