Dressage rider and prolific producer Greg Sims, who is based in North Wales’ Ty’n y Groes in the Conwy Valley, took home a decisive victory with Waverley Fellini in the Shearwater Insurance British Dressage Five-Year-Old Championships at Keysoe College Equestrian Centre, 5 October.
The pair scored an extraordinary 92.6%, leaving them well ahead of the pack as judged by Sandy Phillips and Andrea Smith. But although the young horse’s trajectory has shown considerable promise so far, with a win in the Prestige Italia Novice Gold section at the postponed NAF Five Star Winter Championships among Waverley Fellini’s accomplishments, Sims admits he was blindsided by the score he earned in the ring at Keysoe.
“I’d hoped he’d do fairly well,” he said of the gelding, who scored 87.2% to qualify on Friday, “but it was quite a shock when I saw the final score. A nice shock, of course!”
Sims co-owns Waverly Fellini (Furstenball x Sandro Hit x De Niro) with partner Stenna Hoerner, with whom he runs GSH Dressage. Together, they bought the horse as a three-year-old from Warwickshire’s Waverley Stud – and in his short but fruitful career thus far, he’s given Sims every reason to have high hopes for the future.
“He’s really sensitive in a nice way – you teach him something one day, he goes away and comes back and he’s got it,” said Sims. “He’s like a sponge. He’s a nice horse to have around, and he doesn’t really have any weaknesses in the arena. But his greatest strength is that he’s got a really good work ethic – he’s always up for the job and you never have to pep him up to do it.”
Now, Sims hopes to be selected for the FEI World Breeding Championships at Verden with the British-bred gelding, who could be an exciting raw talent for teams in the future, too.
“He’s proven at this level that he’s got the raw talent – he’s very trainable, he takes everything on, and he’s always in the right balance. You don’t have to put a lot of strain on his body to put his body where it needs to be. I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t go all the way,” he enthused.
For Sims, the Shearwater Insurance British Dressage Young Horse Championships is an essential component in the production of these stars of the future – and Waverley Fellini, who finished third in the Four-Year-Old class here last year, is proof of the foundation they provide.
“I produce quite a lot of young horses, so I do see it as a really important thing,” explained Sims. “You don’t have to have the flashiest horse of the biggest mover, but it’s a great way to educate them.”
Part of the benefit of competing here is the way that the classes are structured, with a focus on providing a useful, confidence-building experience for young horses, rather than putting them on display in the same way as their more established counterparts.
“In the first round you get to go in a pair with another horse, so it’s a great way for them to gain confidence at these bigger shows. You don’t get really marked down if your horse has a spook like you would at a straight dressage show, so it really takes the pressure off them and allows them to learn.”
Second place went to the prolific Yorkshire-based Mount St John Stud, whose MSJ Florenza (Furstenball x DiMaggio) scored 84.8% with Amy Woodhead aboard. Excitingly, this five-year-old is second-generation British-bred; her dam, Emma Blundell’s Keystone Diaz, was also bred in the UK, proving that British breeding’s foundations are getting stronger – and more formidable – by the year.