Maidenhead equestrian Gill Peckham and horse Hero top leaderboard at Equine Area Festival

Maidenhead equestrian Gill Peckham and her horse Hero saw off a competitive field to finish top of the dressage leaderboard at the Petplan Equine Area Festival Elementary Bronze Championships in Gloucestershire on Tuesday last week.

The talented horse and rider demonstrated a series of intricate skills and Gill was thankful Hero, who she says has a ‘big personality’, was willing to listen and perform in the Hartpury College arena.

Nine-year-old Hero certainly impressed the judges with a powerful performance that achieved a winning score of 69.21 per cent.

The pair qualified at the rescheduled Winter Area Festivals, which took place in April and May.

Gill said: “He went really well, he was a bit lively when I was warming him up and also in the arena walk, he was quite explosive, so I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen when we went into the ring. Luckily, he was on my side, he whinnied a couple of times, but he listened, and he had that bit of spark today. I think that’s what makes the difference.

“I was looking for a dressage horse and my best friend/trainer Katharine Lewis, who’s enjoyed success with plenty of carriage horses, told me that we’d get a driving horse and retrain it for dressage as long as it was backed.

“We saw some videos of Hero being backed and it was love at first sight.”

She added: “He’s a big personality; Katharine describes him as being full of his own self-importance.

“He likes to buck at the gate when you go to catch him and he’s a bit grumpy in the stable but when it matters and you’re riding him he’s just 100 per cent on your side.

“He’s got lovely movement, he’s brilliant fun to ride – he’s just the perfect amateur’s horse, he’s rideable but he’s got that bit of spark.”

The Equine Area Festival series, sponsored by Petplan, gives amateur rides the opportunity to experience the thrill of competition in classes from Preliminary to Intermediate II level.

British Dressage Chief Executive, Jason Brautigam, added: “The Petplan Equine Area Festival series just gets bigger and better, with the Championships always being a highlight in our calendar.

“It is a pleasure to see grassroots riders competing alongside the stars of our sport – and rescheduling these Championships from April to now be vitally important to ensure that all their hard work and commitment in qualifying over the last 18 months wasn’t wasted. We also have the Summer Area Festivals to look forward to for the first time this year, which will be very exciting.”

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