Te Aroha’s Gaylene Lennard and Jax Johnson added the Level 5 Dressage Horse of the Year title to their impressive haul this season. The popular and down-to-earth former showie describes herself as relatively new to dressage, although she has previously been inducted to the Hall of Fame for her numerous Hack of the Year and Park Hack of the Year wins.
The beautiful-moving Johnson gelding really rose to the occasion in his musical freestyle today, scoring 71.667% for the win. It was the closest of margins, with Wendi Williamson and Bon Jovi MH second on 71.556%. Wendi and Bon Jovi won 5D and finished up Reserve at Level 5.
Gaylene and Jax were Level 1 Horse of the Year just two years ago and last year were Reserve at Level 4, the first and only time the horse ever been beaten in a championship. “He’s come a long way. Twelve months ago I got on here and had someone lead me around on the first day!”
For obvious reasons, Gaylene really rates her starry Jax, but says he has big shoes to fill, seeing as her former hack El Sid won seven Horse of the Year showing titles, including Hack of the Year five times in a row. And while Gaylene doesn’t miss the early starts and ‘fluffing’ of the show ring, it has clearly given her the knack of pulling off a smooth performance when it counts.
Haydee Wells-Parmenter and her classy Royal Dream proved that this really is their show, winning the Level 4 Horse of the Year title. They were second in 4D and won the freestyle on 70.611%. Wendi Williamson and Don Vito MH were third in 4D and second in the freestyle to wind up Reserve Champions at Level 4.
Haydee and nine-year-old ‘Pipi’ (by Royal Blend) won the Level 3 here last year, the mare belying all the hot-headed chestnut myths, as she is seemingly unaffected by the atmosphere.
“She is super consistent -– she comes into the arena and she’s there, every time. Which is a major, because there’s a lot of pressure at a show like this where you’ve got a lot of really tough competition. It’s good to know that you can rely on them,” says Haydee.
Funnily enough, neither Haydee nor Gaylene were too sure what music they rode to, claiming to have no ear for music, and both crediting Christine Monaghan with compiling the soundtrack for their freestyles.
Clevedon-based professional rider and coach Haydee clearly has a close bond with her special mare, which she purchased as a foal from her breeders Chris Sorrell and Tracey Blackmore. Haydee was a keen eventer in her pony club days and still loves jumping her horses every week, over both show jumps and cross-country fences. She says jumping was a key part in Pipi’s preparation for Land Rover Horse of the Year!
Northland’s Julie Flintoff and her big, scopey Belladonna MH got off to a great start in Level 7, winning 7A on 66.69%, from Christine Weal on Schindlers Liszt, 65.89% in second.
Wellington rider Chelsea Callaghan and her black Friesian-cross mare Sisters II Etta J won the Prix St Georges title class on 67.882%, with Wendi Williamson and Decadance MH second on 67.44%. The polished duo of Vanessa Way and NSC Pronto have been indomitable at Level 6 all season, but had a few mistakes to finish in fourth place.
However, Vanessa was delighted to win the Level 2 Horse of the Year with her up-and-coming NRM Timbermill Prequel, with Reserve at Level 2 going to Henrike Puketapu on HSP Soe.
Rosanne Rix and Lindisfarne Danseur won the Level 1 Open Horse of the Year title, with Louise Ayres and Beaufields On Time Reserve. The Level 1 Amateur Horse of the Year was Lucy Russell on Donneroyale, with Catherine Smith and Quendrix in Reserve.