A mule won a dressage competition for the first time ever in the UK – on the debut occasion he was allowed to take part.
Wallace The Great had been turned down from official events and was told he could not be a member of British Dressage, as he is half horse, half donkey.
But owner Christie Mclean decided to fight for the mule’s right to be treated equally to a genuine horse or pony – which are a different species, with different chromosomes.
Earlier this month, British Dressage conceded that mules would now be allowed to compete as a testament to ‘to inclusion and diversity in dressage, making the sport more accessible to all.’
For the first time ever in the UK, Wallace the Great competed in a British Dressage Quest Club competition, held at Summerhouse Equestrian, Gloucestershire – and beat eight full-horse competitors.
‘Wallace won first in the intro class, out of nine. We’ll be having a glass of bubbly this evening to celebrate the UK’s first mule in dressage. ‘He was competing against cobs, ponies and horses. There was a bit of everything and he blew them all out of the water. ‘It is giving him a second chance to be somebody – it is about perseverance. I wanted to do this and make him happy. I just want the best for him.’
Wallace is the first ever mule to compete under British dressage and he won with a score of 67.6 per cent (Picture: SWNS)
It might have been only the third grand prix together for Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St John Freestyle but it was another winning one. The pair gained their third victory in The Al Shira’aa Grand Prix with Charlotte heading off trainer, mentor and British team mate Carl Hester with Hawtins Delicato.
Freestyle, a nine-year-old mare owned by Emma Blundell of the Yorkshire based Mount St John stud, belied her main ring inexperience impressing the judges with her ground covering paces and relaxed attitude to the atmospheric arena to produce a winning score of 78.58%.
“I am chuffed to bits with her,” said the British Olympic gold medallist. “She’s so chilled and really takes everything in her stride especially as she has really done next to nothing at this international level – I am so, so happy.”
“You literally have no idea with these young horses how they will react but this is such a good arena and space and does give you an idea of how they will cope with the big occasion,” said Carl who is aiming Delicato for a team place for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ that will be held in the USA in September. “He is such a lovely horse with so much presence and the judges must, like me, also think highly of him.”
Dressage is a delight, when it’s done right. It looks effortless and elegant. Non-horsey people love to tell you ” I could so do that, it’s easy, you just walk in a circle”, but when you try it’s simply the hardest thing in the world. Walking in a circle should be easy. It’s not. Crossing over from one side of the arena to other should be easy. It’s not. That is not to do it perfectly straight, in balance and without any random wiggles or change in rhythm.
After a winter’s break from dressage it feels daunting thinking about re-entering the area and trotting down the centre line. Neither Archie or I have ever particularly enjoyed dressage, competing as necessary for eventing and happy to train at home to improve both of us, but never truly embracing the dressage competition life. For one thing I fail totally at matchy matchy, everything we own is black. It’s just easier to hide the mud!
Double Olympic dressage Champion, Charlotte Dujardin, produced a profound performance in front of HRH the Princess Royal at Horse of the Year Show on Thursday evening.
Charlotte, riding the shining eight-year-old prospect Mount St John Freestyle, claimed an emphatic victory in the Dressage Future Elite Championship, with Maria Eilberg finishing second aboard Sarotti 57 and multiple British Paralympic medallist Sophie Wells taking third with C Fatal Attraction.
“I am so lucky. I have 10 horses that I think are top horses. They are at different levels at the moment, and I am really excited. I am always hungry to win and keep producing those horses. For me, it is about finding that partnership and connection and training them to grand prix level, which to me is as important as winning gold medals. I have always been hungry for it and always wanted it a lot. I am very self-driven and motivated.
They may have been thrown slightly off course a few times in recent years, but Team Germany showed that they most definitely have the bit between their teeth once again when following up their Rio 2016 Olympic team victory to claim their 23rd Dressage team title at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“This is the latest press conference I’ve ever been at in my life, and the driest, so I hope we can go to the bar and have a little party! We really couldn’t expect at the beginning of the year that with two horses out of the team that went to Rio we really would dominate the Europeans here in the team competition. All of us are really happy!” Isabell Werth GER
Already in the lead after the first two team-members completed their Grand Prix tests yesterday, they inched ever-closer to that top step of the podium when third-line rider Sonke Rothenberger (22) took his turn with Cosmo this evening. This is a partnership that has matured splendidly, and such was the quality of their work that they were trending with a score over 80% early in their test, eventually posting 78.343 to become the new leaders despite a spooky moment and a mistake in the two-tempi changes.
Rothenberger’s score brought the German total to 227.915, so victory was already well within their grasp long before anchor rider Isabell Werth (45) came into the ring. Meantime a fierce battle was raging between neighbours Denmark and Sweden for silver and bronze, with that result finally sealed by a very special performance from Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour. Riding the 14-year-old Atterupgaards Cassidy which she has partnered since her Junior years, the 25-year-old sparkled for a score of 78.300 which put the result beyond doubt. Denmark had not been on a European medal podium since 2001 so there was plenty to celebrate along with team-mates Anna Kasprzak, Anna Zibrandtsen and Agnete Kirk Thinggaard. And for Sweden it was their fourth team bronze, and Rose Mathisen, Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven, Therese Nilshagen and Patrik Kittel were all riding horses that still have something to learn so Chef d’Equipe, Bo Jena, rightly admitted to feeling “really proud” of them.
Carl Hester (Nip Tuck) made a valiant effort to claw back a podium place for the beleaguered British who were always compromised once reduced to a three-member side, and his score of 74.900 placed him individually fifth but Team GB finished two percentage places behind the Swedish bronze medallists while the defending champions from The Netherlands lined up fifth.
Lucinda McAlpine is an expert in Natural Horse Management. As a Grand Prix dressage rider she became disillusioned with conventional methods of training and keeping horses. Despite her horses living what many would regard as the perfect life she came to the conclusion that it was unhealthy both physically and emotionally. From then on she decided to keep her horses as naturally as possible, in herds, unshod, unclipped and without rugs, using training methods that encouraged the horse to play and learn without tension, allowing their intelligence and natural athletic expression to develop as harmoniously as possible.
And now she is taking her beautiful, naturally conceived, birthed and reared home-bred horses out into the big wide world of competition. Like any journey it will have it's ups and downs but the goal for Lucinda will always be the good of the horse.
I think it's probably fair to say that if you keep your dominant mare in a herd of ten and then expect her to come out and perform in a strange dressage arena that you must expect a long and steep learning curve!!
As you can see from the photo (above) we struggled to get round the arena at all, which makes riding a Medium test pretty hard.
Photo: BML Photography
The first test had some spectacular moments, some airs above the ground and a lot of peering at the boards, with barely an entire movement executed correctly. You can't help but laugh with this mare, I have bred and brought her up to have opinions and boy is she delivering!
Photo: BML Photography
The second test was a HUGE improvement. It felt like I was barely riding the same horse. Oddly it only earnt 0.3% better but judging this mare is never going to be easy. I think I'll stick to riding because with Biba it's really a lot of fun!
Photo: BML Photography
It was a long way off from being perfect, but look at the grins on our faces. In years gone by my "shut down" horses could do a better test than that and I would leave the arena close to tears. With these natural horses I understand that it is quite traumatic for them in comparison to their field at home, but I am committed to finding a way to make it okay for us to perfect our dancing partnership at a show. On Sunday we laughed and grinned and had a ball! Imagine how it will feel when we actually do the test properly!!
Find out more about Lucinda McAlpine HERE
Thibaut Vallette, 43, a member of France’s victorious Olympic team in Rio last year and an instructor at the legendary Cadre Noir in Saumur, has made a brilliant debut at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, fourth leg of the FEI Classics™. He leads the scoreboard after the first day of dressage at the 4* event on the 13-year-old Qing du Briot ENE HN, his only ride at this level, on a mark of 38.7, with the second half of the field competing today.
‘I didn’t expect to do this well, so I am very happy” he said “Coming here is a dream for any eventer. This is the best dressage test the horse has done this year, as we had some difficulties after Rio - the experience made him very tense. But it’s not going to be a dressage competition!”
The next four placed riders have years of experience and 4* wins under their belt. Veteran German team member Bettina Hoy, who is now the Dutch team trainer, was thrilled to be just 0.5 of a penalty behind in second place on her only top horse, Designer 10.
Defending champion Michael Jung, fresh from victory in Kentucky last weekend and currently second on the FEI Classics series leaderboard, admitted that he was feeling some pressure, and his test with the 17-year-old La Biosthetique Sam FBW did contain some tension, but they scored 40.0 penalties and are in third place.
However, all riders who have observed the handiwork of new course-designer Eric Winter agree that it will not be a dressage competition. There are only five combinations on the track, but there are plenty of old-fashioned big fences and some difficult lines designed to slow riders and test the strength of their partnerships with their horses.
“I am happy my horse is full of energy as that will be good for the cross-country and he is brilliant at that,' said Jung, who is currently second in the FEI Classics. ‘The conditions are perfect and I’m feeling motivated and looking forward to it.”
Vallette’s Olympic team mate Astier Nicolas, who many people have tipped to be only the second Frenchman to win Badminton (following Nicolas Touzaint in 2008), is in close contention in fourth place with his 2015 Pau winner Piaf de Bneville on 41.5.
Four-time Badminton winner Sir Mark Todd, 61, was thrilled with the performance of the 13-year-old Leonidas ll, currently in fifth on 42.9 after a mistake in the final halt.
Today, the second half of the field of 82 riders will perform their dressage tests, with strong performances anticipated from Karin Donckers (BEL) on Fletcha Van’T Verahof, Izzy Taylor (GBR) on KBIS Briarlands Matilda, Ingrid Klimke (GER) on Horseware Hale Bob OLD, Christopher Burton (AUS) on Graf Liberty and both Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson (NZL) on their second horses.