Man-of-the-Moment Dannie Morgan Takes Top Honours in Shearwater Insurance British Dressage Six-Year-Old Championship

Dannie Morgan, of Eastleigh, Hants, may have recently scooped the Superflex Intermediate I Gold title at the NAF Five Star Winter Championship, but his reign of dominion hasn’t ended there: riding High Hoes Estelle, he scored a decisive win in the Shearwater Insurance British Dressage Six-Year-Old Championships at Keysoe College Equestrian Centre, 4 October, too.

High Hoes Estelle (Escolar x Luadabilis) was bred in West Sussex at Nicky Callum’s High Hoe Stud, and the leggy mare’s quick ascent to success is certainly promising for the outlook of British breeding. Though only broken in as a rising five-year-old due to her size, she performed with a maturity and correctness that was rewarded with a score of 83% by judges Maria Eilberg and Helen Bradley.

“She’s enormous – people are always surprised when I say she’s ‘only’ 17.2hh – and because of that she’s taken some time, but she’s a real natural,” said Morgan, who co-owns the horse with Callum. “She has a lovely big walk and really swings through her back in the trot, and I think she’ll be a great Grand Prix horse in future.”

Though producing young horses in a year fraught by a pandemic offers up plenty of challenges, for Morgan, Estelle’s strengths shone through in adversity.

“She’s done very little show-wise, but she’s got a great temperament and she’s very good in the arena,” he said. “It’s so nice to go in and know what I’m going to get.”

Still, he explains, he didn’t come to Keysoe with the expectation of a major win to come. Instead, he planned to use the class as a pivotal stepping stone in the mare’s education.

“Someone said to me once, and I really liked it, that the Young Horse classes – particularly the qualifiers – should be treated like an arena hire,” he explained. “It gives them arena mileage and experience, but it’s not necessarily like a test environment as the qualifiers are a little bit simplified. If the judges like your horse it’s a great bonus, but even if you’re not riding what might be considered a ‘young horse type’, it’s still so useful to go and give them the experience.”

Morgan’s partnership with the small but successful High Hoes Stud is an exciting one for the future of British breeding, and the prolific rider is also producing a five-year-old sibling of his winning mare for Callum. 

“With Nicky it’s a great relationship – she puts us under no pressure to produce the horses in a certain way,” he said. “It’s all about giving each horse what they need, and we have open discussions and make plans for each one. It’s great to ride for someone who really understands the production of horses; we’re always thinking about the bigger picture and everything that comes our way along the way is a bonus.”

Gloucestershire’s Hawtins Stud took second place in the six-year-old class with Judith Davies’ Hawtins Finaello (Floriscount x Cardinar), piloted by Lucinda Elliott to a final score of 82.4%. This is the gelding’s second time taking the reserve title at the Shearwater Championships: he was second in the four-year-old class in 2018, too.