Eventer turned dressage diva puts focus on the flat to up her game
Pure dressage has been a major part of event rider Helen West’s winter prep. Annabel Groom talks to the eventer turned dressage diva.
The first British Dressage outing of the year for Helen West proved fruitful as she enjoyed a clean sweep at Bicton Arena with four of her event horses.
Despite the freezing conditions, all horses performed good tests and came home in the ribbons.
Riding her own eventer, Mon Chapelle (named Pick Pocket Chapelle under BD) Helen yet again headed both Medium tests with a good scores of 67.94% and 68.37%.
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"He's very consistent at that level now, so I'm planning to tackle our first Advanced/Medium next time out," said Helen who runs her Stonelands competition yard in Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot.
"I've been working on his changes at home and have nearly got them nailed so I'm keen to ride them in a test environment," she added.
One of the younger contenders, Mickey Taker, performed a lovely Prelim test to score a brilliant 73.04% to win his class.
"He has really benefited from doing dressage over the winter," said Helen of the Kings Composer gelding who ran at Pre Novice level eventing last season.
"Dressage is his weakest phase so we have really knuckled down the past few months and it's definitely coming together. He is a lot more consistent in his way of going, even if a bit of tension creeps in. If he settles on the flat I feel he will have a lot of potential in all three phases."
Jane Marsden's Master Charlie took second place behind his stable mate in his Prelim test with a very good score of 68.26%. He then performed his first ever Novice test and he scored 65% to take fourth place.
Sarah Tobey's 16.3hh gelding On The Brash was competing in his first competition since his winter holiday.
"In the Novice 35 he did not disappoint by winning the class with a good score of 67.69%," said a delighted Helen. On the seven-year-old who finished last season as a Novice horse, she said: "He is pretty good jumper but can get a bit anxious so it's been good to do some dressage with him to get more relaxed and rideable."
She added: "My aim with all the horses is to push them a bit over the winter by competing at higher level pure dressage so it seems easier in the dressage phase of eventing. It means we can ride the tests a lot more positively together."
With Amanda Coleshill's Fontainebleau gelding, Furneaux, Helen has qualified for the Novice regionals at Kingston Maurwood next month.
"It's another string to his bow and from a young horse's point of view it is good for their CV. The regionals will be a good experience for him as it will be atmospheric and hopefully we can up his game," added Helen who has plans to aim the six-year-old for the Young Horse Breeding Championships at Osberton and possibly for the six-year-old's at Le Lion in France.
Helen has also qualified both Mon Chapelle and Windsurfer for the Summer Regionals at Medium. The latter, owned by Jessica Colson, has also qualified at Elementary. "If all goes well I'll aim him at a 2star in the Spring and then I'd love to aim him at Blenheim to do the eight or nine-year-olds."
Helen admits she has always loved her flat work – at the age of 11 she was lucky enough to be given Emma Hindle's dressage pony on loan with whom she represented Britain in Pony Dressage and also became the youngest rider to compete at Prix St Georges level when she was just 12 – and feels it is a major ingredient for success in eventing.
"It helps you improve your game by giving you more control and more gears," she said.
"From an event rider's point of view, gone are the days when you can get away with a run of the mill test. The standard has improved so much you've now got to be in the top six after dressage to be in with a chance."
On the eventing season ahead, she said: "I'm sincerely hoping the weather will be better than last year otherwise I'll be turning to dressage completely – at least you can get out and do something however wet or dry it is!"