Heike Holstein wrote herself into Irish sporting history by becoming the first rider to win twelve national dressage championships at the Dressage Ireland national championships in Cavan Equestrian Centre on the weekend of September 29th and 30th.
An emotional Heike paying tribute to her mother, the legendary dressage trainer Gisela Holstein said: “I’m very honoured to have mum who can help me so much.”
It was truly a family occasion as Holstein scored 67.02% to secure the win in the Grand Prix championship on her nine-year old home-bred mare Sambuca by Samarant (by Sandro Hit) out of Astoria.
“Four years ago she won the preliminary national championship,” said Heike.
“I think she is great. She is one of the best horses I have had. She is a star. She loves the atmosphere and she is getting better all the time. She was a bit tricky when she was younger. I think she is going to be great.”
The married mother of two young children and three-time Olympian secured her record haul of 12 national titles despite not being able to compete at every national dressage championship since 1990 due to international duty and family commitments. Heike won her first national championship in Powerscourt, Co Wicklow in 1990. She added eleven more at Birr Castle, Co Offaly (1991), Castletown, Co Kildare (1992 and 1993), Tattersalls, Co Meath (1994), Marlton Stud, Co Wicklow (2005), Necarne Castle, Co. Fermanagh (2007) and Cavan Equestrian Centre, Co Cavan (1997, 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2018).
British-based Irish international riders Dane Rawlins (Espoire)[64.05%] and Katy Price (Bon Viveur)[62.53%] secured a podium finish in the Grand Prix championship placing second and third respectively. Heike also won the Intermédiare II championship with the best Irish-bred national championship award winner Sambuca.
At small tour level Dubliner Kevin Acres and Saint Emilion II scored 67.94% to win the Prix St-Georges championship. Heike Holstein and Chameur had a less than ideal preparation for the national championships with the gelding having been off for months due to surgery on a hidden wolf tooth.
Despite only a few days riding they scored a double, winning the Intermédiare I and Prix St-Georges freestyle championships and placing second in the Prix St-Georges championship.
The South East region proved to be a force to be reckoned with at the 2018 championships.
They won both the regional team championship (Anne Marie Dunphy, Hannah Fielding, Rosemary Gaffney and Gabrielle Le Guay) and the under 25 regional team decider (Oscar O’Connor, Rachel Dowley, Rachel Carr and Emily Kate Robinson). Between them the South East region team members won ten national championship classes. Defending national champion Anne Marie Dunphy and Urbanus won the Grand Prix Kür freestyle championship.
International para equestrian rider Rosemary Gaffney took first and second place with Werona and Bink in the para equestrian division.
Rosemary completed a hat-trick with the nine-year old Painted Black mare Werona by winning the preliminary category three championship and the novice category three championship.
Hannah Fielding and the six-year-old Fidertanz mare DWS Florentina, big winners at the 2017 national championships and the 2018 national winter finals, scored again winning the elementary category three championship.
The diminutive pony rider Oscar O’Connor raised the biggest cheer of the night when presented with his winner’s rug and rosette for his decisive win with Top Hero 2 in the novice category one championship, on an overall score of 73.283%.
Oscar who was a winner in the trailblazers classes at the 2018 national winter finals won the junior trailblazers preliminary A championship at the national championships with Trefiw Pepsi.
Rachel Dowley completed a double with the eye-catching Florencio gelding Insticator B.S. by scoring 85% to win the young horse five-year old championship.
The pair were awarded the Kilkea trophy for the highest score in a freestyle championship after scoring 83.05% to win the novice freestyle. Gabrielle Le Guay and Hartpury Sky Is The Limit completed the South East region team ten-timer by winning the elementary category two championship.
Fourteen year-old Sive Kearney from Co Tipperary won the Advanced Medium championship with Rob Roy on an overall total score of 67.617%.
Galway’s Alana Cazabon scored a double winning the Advanced championship with Zazou and she secured the leading Connemara pony award with Carn Verdon Boy following their win on the Advanced Medium freestyle championship.
International pony rider Tara Hayes and Thorneyside Kestrel won both the FEI pony championship and the freestyle equivalent.
Courtney Stuart is soon to depart these shores for a new job in Wellington, Florida and she signed-off in style by scoring 72.71% with HH Empire to win the Medium freestyle championship.
Belinda Brereton and Galaxy Moone had less than 0.5% advantage in hand over Courtney and HH Empire when claiming top honours in the Medium category three championship on an overall total of 70.11%.
Mary Devine repeated her 2017 win with Wolansky making it back-to-back Medium category two championships for the Glenswilly, Co Donegal native.
Leinster region team member Joanne Logue and Cashmir’s Hadena won the elementary freestyle championship.
Roisin Winters scored 84.60% with the Rossolini gelding Rossini to win the young horse four-year-old championship.
UK pony club ambassador Jazmin Vollands (North Down branch) and Mo Chara Nua just missed out on the novice category two title at the national winter finals but she was not to be denied at the nationals claiming the win on an overall total of 71.070%.
In the preliminary division the category two championship was won by Aisling Deverell (Annaharvey Dunowen) and category one championship by Ashleigh Hughes Lordan (Castlelack Lancelot Boy).
The Irish Draught award was won by Beezies Big Brother, ridden by Simone Hession. Shauna Fitzgibbon (Wee Cola) won the leading pony rider award and Rachel Carr (Calelvador May Blossom) won the award for the highest score by a pony rider and pony in a freestyle championship when scoring 68.365% in the elementary freestyle championship.
The senior and junior trailblazers classes sponsored by the Reynolds family, to make dressage more accessible to a greater number of new competitors at regional and national level, returned to the schedule again this year.
Amy Lambert and Jerry The Jazz won the junior trailblazers preliminary B championship. Tara O’Brien and Marlfield Fallon scored 73.125% to win the junior trailblazers novice championship.
Lauren O’Mahony and Ballingowan Freedom won both the senior trailblazers preliminary and novice championships.