European gold medalist, silver medalist from WEG Kentucky and 2008 Olympic dressage rider Laura Bechtolsheimer has become supreme national champion for the third time. Laura and her father Wilfried's 16-year-old gelding Andretti H (Aarking x Cerrin) were crowned 2011 Dressage Deluxe National Champions for the second year running on a score of 76.80%. In a close fought battle with emerging star Michael Eilberg, Laura finally clinched the title with an impressive technical freestyle, which included tricky one-handed, one and two time changes, "It was going so well, I decided to throw in a bit of show-boating!" Laura explained.
Performing to their tried and tested, up-beat reggae soundtrack, Laura and Andretti H entertained the crowds and impressed the judges. "It was great fun today," Laura told British Dressage. "I had a great time and I'm glad other people enjoyed it."
Despite her recent European gold medal success, Laura is never one to rest on her laurels and always has one eye on London 2012, "To come back here as champion one year down the line, I was more nervous to keep my place. There's pressure in front of a home crowd, you want to perform your best. We mustn't be complacent about keeping the horses fit and well for next year. To be national champion of a country that is the current European gold medallist is brilliant!"
Farewell Two Sox
One of British Dressage's superstar horses performed his last piaffe, pirouette and passage in front of a packed crowd at the Dressage Deluxe National Dressage Championships. On completion of her test in the Dressage Deluxe Grand Prix Freestyle Championship, his rider Maria Eilberg announced that her partner of nine years, Two Sox, is to retire from competition.
The Ehrentusch-sired gelding will be 18 its next birthday and Maria wants him to go out on a high at a venue that he adores. "I want him to be able to say good bye and not just fade away," said Maria. He hasn't missed a National Championship in the last decade and was British National Champion with Maria in 2008.
Two Sox, 'Ed' at home, came to the Eilbergs as three year old almost by mistake. "He was thrown in as part of a deal on another horse my dad Ferdi was doing on behalf of a client," recalls Maria. Ferdi took a shine to him and kept him in the yard, training him up to Advanced Medium before Maria took on the ride in her Junior year. The combination grew together up the levels with a little help from dad with changes as neither of them knew what to do and really blossomed when they hit Grand Prix level.
In 2006, they were named as reserve for the World Equestrian Games and two years later traveled to Hong Kong for the Beijing Olympics as reserves. This was a character building experience for Maria as she had to be ready to compete at a moment's notice for each British rider but she never actually got to trot down the centre line in competition. In 2009, they got their first Senior call up at Windsor Europeans and were part of the Silver medal winning team. A further Team silver came the next year at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington.
"Ed has taught me everything I know. He's been a great partner and like all great partnerships, we've had our ups and downs. He's quietly opinionated, especially since he's been at elite level I think it will be quite difficult to take him slowly into retirement as he loves the five star pampering which comes with top level competition. He's dad's favourite and will certainly be king of the yard!" said an emotional Maria.
Ed will continue in gentle work as a hacking buddy for the yard horses as well as going out in the field regularly something he hasn't been able to do since an unfortunate incident with a New Zealand rug when he was three!
British Dressage Chief Executive Amanda Bond commented; "I'm sure everyone in the sport would want to join me in wishing Two Sox a long and happy retirement. He and Maria have been a pleasure to watch and an integral part of our current rise to the top. It's lovely to see a horse and rider come up through the ranks and grow together to the very top level ? plus have the level of success they've enjoyed. He'll be much missed but Maria has some exciting prospects; although I'm sure no horse will ever take his place."
British title for incredible Worldchampion Farouche
24 year old Michael Eilberg has added a fifth national title to his impressive 2011 tally. With the current five year old world champion Woodlander Farouche (Furst Heinrich x Woodlander Dornroeschen), Michael took the Shearwater Potential International Dressage Horse 5 year old Championship and boosted his total.
Woodlander Farouche needs no introduction. The mare has received unprecedented attention from press and judges across Europe, and has enjoyed incredible success both on the national and international stage, winning the much-coveted gold medal at the Verden World Breeding Championships in August.
Judge Dr Wilfried Bechtolsheimer commented on the mare in the finals, "She is like a ballet dancer. You may see something like this only once in ten years. It's not just the paces, which are outstanding but also the rideability!" Farouche's trot left Wilfried speechless, "The trot, what can I say? You can see it all for yourself!"
Class riding judge Daniel Sherriff dismounted the bright chestnut and told the audience, "I'm shaking with exhilaration, I am incredibly honoured to have the chance to ride her. It's a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life. She really is as good as she looks; Michael is an excellent rider but he really is not concealing anything!"
With the five year old classes finished for 2011, Michael and Farouche look ahead to the six year old classes in 2012, "We will train her up to her age now, with flying changes, medium work and aim her at the Verden six year old classes ? but nothing is set in stone."
Michael relived the first time feeling of riding Farouche when he watched Dan Sherriff in action, "He was wowed by her. It's good hear feedback on her training."
Find full results of all classes of the British National Dressage Championships here.