It was a busy weekend for Grimsby-based Amy Woodhead at the Shearwater Insurance British Dressage Young Horse Championships, 2–4 October. Woodhead brought six rides forward to the Championship, but none would eclipse Mount St John Diamonds Are Forever. Together, they took top honours in the Four-Year-Old Championship on a final score of 82.4%, awarded by judges Jenny Ward and Jane McGarel-Groves.
Though all young horses have been affected by this season’s spate of cancellations, none have been put on the back foot more than 2020’s four-year-olds – but under Woodhead’s expert piloting, Diamonds Are Forever produced a confident and promising performance in what was just her second competitive start.
“She’s an absolutely gorgeous horse and has three lovely, exceptional paces, but because we’ve had a funny year none of them have been to many shows,” said Woodhead. “She did her qualifier, went home, and then came back to me four weeks before the championship. It helps that she’s not a spooky horse; she can get quite hot, because she has a lot of power, but it’s a positive hotness.”
The young mare’s confidence in the ring can be attributed to Woodhead’s forward-thinking production: she spends plenty of time out hacking, taking her horses to the beach, or making use of her secret weapon.
“My dad [Ian Woodhead] trains Ros Canter, and she’s only ten minutes down the road and has this brilliant outdoor arena that’s full of cross-country jumps. I took the young horses down there and rode them out there – I didn’t expect them to go in a proper dressage outline, but they had to work in a spooky environment and learn to be brave about it.”
The four-year-old mare was bought by Mount St John’s Emma Blundell as a foal from breeder Andre Obermayer in Germany as a way to introduce her Diamond Hit bloodlines into Blundell’s prolific breeding programme. For Woodhead, this marks the fourth year of partnership with Mount St John.
“Everyone always thinks it’s quite a new thing,” she laughed, “but back when I used to work for Carl Hester I would sit on them quite often. Then, when I left four years ago to set up at home, I went and rode at Mount St John twice a week while Emma was between riders. Then I began competing some of them, and since then, I’ve always had something in. This year, I’ve taken on more of the young ones because no one knew what would happen [in light of the pandemic], so I offered to give them some mileage.”
Woodhead, who also finished reserve in the Five-Year-Old Championship with MSJ Florenza, praised the Shearwater Insurance Championships for providing essential learning opportunities to British Dressage’s stars of the future.
“I go with the idea of giving them a fantastic experience,” she explained. “They get to learn what the white boards are, and at the qualifiers, you get to go in with another horse and so their experience isn’t very daunting. The judging is great, too, because you can get marked on your horse’s paces and way of going, rather than losing points for not going deep into the corners, which of course you won’t with a four-year-old. I really enjoyed the final and the comments after; you really get to know what the judges are thinking and looking for, and you get a better grasp of the foundation for how the horses should go. It’s really beneficial for horses, and for riders, too.”
Luke Baber-Davies finished reserve in the four-year-old class aboard his own and Yula Skornyacova’s Vaudeville Carrus (Vivaldi x Davignon II), a Finnish-bred stallion in only his sophomore competitive outing.