Antonello set for a dressage three-peat

John Thompson and JHT Antonello (Image: Libby Law)

John Thompson and two-time Dressage Horse of the Year JHT Antonello proved they are the ones to beat after winning the Grand Prix convincingly, on 69.52%. John was ‘over the moon’ with 15-year-old AJ, who showed tremendous energy in the piaffe and passage.

Although the Grand Prix doesn’t count for the HOY title, it’s super-important to the riders. John was happy with his test overall but felt one small blemish in the canter half-pass zig-zag, a late change behind, prevented them from posting their third 70+ Grand Prix score in 12 months.

John was also pretty excited at breaking into the FEI top 100 world rider rankings, and currently sits in 99th position. The ranking is based on the rider’s best four CD-I scores over the past year.

“Our last two tests have been the best the horse has ever felt, which is really exciting looking towards the World Equestrian Games,” he says.

Taranaki’s Abbie Deken and her 14-year-old chestnut KH Ambrose were also on fire, scoring 67.42% to slip into second place in the small field of seven, ahead of Penny Castle and Magnus Spero on 65.95. Vanessa Way and NRM Arawn looked good, but mistakes in the changes proved costly and they finished fourth, on 65%.

Abbie Deken and KH Ambrose (Image: Libby Law)

Overall, it’s been a great show so far for Abbie, who picked up her first-ever HOY title, winning the Level 3 with Giuliani. The outstanding six-year-old is by Gym Bello and out of Sophie de Clifford’s Advanced mare, Ashanti. Ashanti won the same title with Sophie a couple of years ago, making it a very special mother and son double.

Although Giuliani got a little frightened in the oval during his musical and finished second, to Rebecca Rowlands on Solo, he and Abbie won all their other tests.

“I’m so happy with him – he just keeps proving that he’s got it,” says Abbie.

Alex Matheson and PSL Lingh II (Image: Libby Law)

Cambridge’s Alex Matheson is on a roll in the Level 6/7, and he won the Inter I with his wife’s stallion PSL Lingh II on 67.94%.

“He’s really built for the higher levels – he finds it easy to carry and sit,” says Alex of the rising 10-year-old import. “He is super-sensitive to ride, but also really laid-back.”

The Inter 1 was a strong field of 20 with several stand-outs. It was once again a tight tussle between Alex and his trainer Vanessa Way, who finished second to him as she did in the Prix St Georges. Her powerhouse NRM Andreas is looking impressive in only his second season of competition, scoring 66.6%.

Vanessa Way and NRM Andreas (Image: Libby Law)

Louisa Ayres and Playmate finished third in the Inter I on 65.26% with Auckland’s Angela Lloyd and Ruanuku R in fourth on 64.36% with an extremely pleasing and harmonious test.

Pony Dressage

Alison Addis and Whistledown Kristopha are Level 4 Pony of the Year Champions, despite a rocky start for the Bay of Islands-based teen. Alison’s first test of the week was a bit of a disaster and she finished well down the field, due to sickness. After her test, Alison was vomiting and severely dehydrated, due to a suspected stomach ulcer. However, riders are clearly made of tough stuff and she fought back to win the next two tests – 4C and the freestyle – as well as the overall title.

Alison, who has just turned 17, is in her last year of pony dressage, although she’d like to continue to train her lovely chestnut as far through the grades as possible. Amazingly, she’d never done dressage before she bought the pony three years ago, originally with show hunter in mind.

Mackenzie Sim (13) from Karaka and North East won the Level 3 Pony of the Year.