Photos from the RDA National Dressage Championships 2012

Friday 13 July, 2012

10.30am on Friday 13 July 2012: there is still much to be done before an 11am departure, and Jane leads the support team in maintaining a calm, professional approach. First into the lorry is big Ed, who will be competing under his posh moniker of Quarrington Shadow, and like his stablemates, he's already spruced up to look the part. Jazz comes next in her fetching pink socks.
Last on the loading ramp is Tom, who has the busiest weekend ahead with six tests across the two days of the competition. Finally everything is in place, the ramp goes up, and wagons - well, one wagon and a 4x4 or two - roll!
Woodall Services on the M1 lies almost exactly at the half-way point on the 260 mile trek south and has become a traditional lunchtime staging post.

While human travellers enjoy the delights of KFC and Burger King (and the first loo for 126 miles), equine friends are tended by Jane and Lesly.

Then it's back on the road for the second 133 mile leg to deepest Gloucestershire. A few years back we had a trip when the M1 turned into a sun-scorched car park just south of Woodall - miserable for people and horses alike - but this time the going was good.

By 5.30pm the wagon has landed safely
at Hartpury College, five miles north of Gloucester, and top priority is to check
out our stabling allocation and get
Tom, Jazz and Ed into their billets.
It's been a good journey, but everyone's glad its over and we can check out our accommodation and settle down for a picnic tea. The student flats at Hartpury are... well, let's say utilitarian (if you've been a student, or seen a cell in a Swedish prison, you'll get the idea) - but convenient and economical, and they serve a tasty breakfast in the refectory. In the meantime the horses will be checked later in the evening to see they're happy and settled, before everyone gets an early night ready for the busy weekend ahead.

Saturday 14 July, 2012

More horse care has been administered at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning by the support team, but the riders get a slightly more leisurely breakfast before heading down to the busy mounting area.

First in front of the Tack Steward is Kirsty, who is due in Arena 4 - the impressive indoor Hartpury International Arena - for her Grade II Freestyle to Music test at 9.40am.

Jane and Jazz: "Where's Liz?"

Grade Ib Freestyle to Music in Arena 4.
Photo © Michael Martin Photography

Liz: "I'm here!!"
Paula and Lesly: "Here he is!"

Louise: "I'm up here - where's Tom?"

Grade Ia Championship, also in Arena 4.

It's just after midday: things are getting really busy and it's all hands on deck. While Jane is down in Arena 4 with Louise, Lesly and Karen make final adjustments with Liz in the mounting area, ready for her Championship test in the rather less glamorous Arena 1.

Photo © Jane McCard

Photo © Michael Martin Photography

The last tests of the day on Saturday are Kirsty's Championship class in one
of the three outdoor arenas,
and Louise's Freestyle to
Music in Arena 4.
Because of the number of classes taking place across the two days of the Championships, the prize-givings take place in stages over the weekend. On Saturday there can't have been many riders with bigger smiles than Kirsty picking up First in her Freestyle, and Louise collecting a double-First in both Freestyle and Championship classes!

Photo © Michael Martin Photography

By 3.20pm Saturday's riding is over for our group, but not the stable work. Later on everyone gathers back at the flats for an improvised barbecue on the back steps and a tearful response when Jane is presented with thank-you gifts from the appreciative riders.

Sunday 15 July, 2012

At the Championships this year there were no fewer than 83 classes. As well as nearly 40 dressage classes catering for riders with varying types and levels of disability and experience there are classes for Countryside Challenge, Musical Rides and Drives, Horse Care and Knowledge, even Arts and Crafts, and for the first time this year Show-jumping. With a total of 780 entries, involving hundreds of riders and dozens of groups from across the UK, the Hartpury campus is full of activity from early in the morning to last thing at night.

By 6.30am on Sunday morning Paula, Karen and Jane are back down at the stables doing the necessary, and it's past 8am before Jane snatches a bite of breakfast, which Ed looks quite keen on snatching himself - perhaps he's realized that after a lazy Saturday he's going to be having a busy day today!

The Tyne and Wear riders go into action just after 9am to begin a morning mainly in the outdoor arenas, and featuring three first-time Hartpury competitors, Michael, Alice and Paula, along with a veteran of many Hartpury campaigns, Tracy.

Michael is first up for his Championship
class with Ed, while his Dad and other supporters from the group look on.
Then it's Tracy in her Grade III Championship class. Like Michael she's riding Ed, with whom she'd had a regular partnership over several Hartpurys. Alice, above with her family, is the last of the morning's outdoor rides in her Championship class on Tom.

We're back indoors just before 11.30am for Paula's Grade IV Championship class, riding Hugo - who she met for the first time the previous evening!
Then a dash back to the outdoor arenas - Hartpury keeps
spectators as well as riders on their toes! - for Michael's freestyle.
On Sunday afternoon we have two final classes to round off the weekend. Tracy's Freestyle to Music has a James Bond theme - though sadly she hadn't been allocated rider number 007.

Then we were back in Arena 1 for Alice to close procedings for Tyne and Wear with her Freestyle.

It's 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon. Stables have been cleared, Jazz, Tom and Ed loaded, the ramp raised, and rosettes and marks sheets (which include feedback from the judges) collected.

So, "Goodbye" to Hartpury for this year as we hit the road for the 260 mile return journey to "The North" - but we've had a fabulous weekend and can't wait to be back in 2013!

Except where stated otherwise, photos are © Gerald Little. Special thanks to Gerry for creating such a comprehensive photographic record of the trip, only a fraction of which appears here.

All photographs reproduced by kind permission.