Dressage Zeeland and highlights
Charlotte Dujardin triumphs at every senior level with two very talented mares each making their international debuts
Zeeland, Nieuw en Sint Joosland, Netherlands
ALMOST exactly seven years ago, Charlotte Dujardin and a relatively unknown nine-yearold named Valegro made their international grand prix debut, scoring 73.7% and kicking off a new era for dressage.
This weekend, Charlotte piloted an equally exciting nine-year-old to a fantastic international debut. Emma Blundell’s Fidermark mare Mount St John Freestyle was already the talk of the British dressage scene, with a plus-81% grand prix debut in March, but here Charlotte and Freestyle stamped their authority on the international scene with a 75.15% grand prix victory and a phenomenal 81.45% kür.
The most impressive thing about their grand prix score was that the test was not mistake-free. This mare loves an atmosphere, and her overexuberance meant she broke to canter in both extended trots and lost balance in the right pirouette, causing the marks to plummet. But with more experience, this talented horse’s scores look set to rocket.
“Freestyle has never done anything like this before — we didn’t know how she would cope with the travelling,” said Charlotte. “But she felt incredible and was so excited to be in the arena. So many people swarmed the sides of the arena to watch and, normally, Freestyle’s not fazed by that, but she was a little fragile in her trotwork. It just felt as though she was trying too hard at times.”
While some marks suffered — some threes creeping in for her first extended trot — this powerful, expressive mare earned plenty of nines, including for her one-time changes and her piaffe, as well as a 10 for her passage.
Freestyle produced a much more consistent kür, barely scoring below a seven. Using Valegro’s How to Train Your Dragon music, Charlotte kept the floorplan relatively simple for the mare’s second ever freestyle test.
“It was a case of me holding her hand and not scaring her. But I know that in another month or two it will be different,” said Charlotte, who plans to campaign Freestyle at Windsor, Bolesworth and Rotterdam CDIs as part of their bid for World Equestrian Games team selection.
Sweden’s Juliette Ramel slotted into grand prix second with Buriel KH, also taking the top spot in the special, while
Hans Peter Minderhoud made a successful international grand prix debut on the 10-year-old Vivaldi stallion Glock’s Dream Boy, scoring 73.87% for third.
Gareth Hughes and Don Carissimo were the best of the chasing Brits, finishing 13th in the grand prix but pulling up to third in the special. Their 68.29% is well below what this pair can achieve, but this is just their second international appearance since withdrawing from the 2017 European Championships.
CHARLOTTE’S own eight-yearold Vivaldi mare Florentina proved unbeatable at small tour, winning the prix st georges, inter I and inter I freestyle on her own international debut. Incredibly, these were the delicate grey mare’s first ever inter I and freestyle tests, having been lightly competed through the levels thus far.
“I’m so proud of ‘Flora’ — she’s done so little at home and has never really travelled,” said Charlotte, who scored plus-77% in both straight tests and nearly 79% in the kür. “The classes here were huge and I felt a little out of our depth; it was such a big ask for her. But she’s so focused.”
Britain’s Charlotte Fry had a great show in her first year out of young riders, piloting Dark Legend to third in the under-25 inter II and grand prix. Charlotte and the 10-year-old Zucchero son also finished fourth in the under-25 grand prix freestyle, their 73.47% a huge personal best.
“I couldn’t have asked for any more from him,” said Netherlands-based Charlotte. “There’s so much to improve on, so hopefully there will be many more marks to come.”
Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St John Freestyle continue their upward trajectory with a high-scoring international debut