Britain’s Gareth Hughes & Nadonna Set Tone in Lead After Day One of Hickstead Nations Cup Grand Prix

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Gareth Hughes and DV Stenjkers Nadonna riding in the Nations Cp Grand Prix. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Gareth Hughes and DV Stenjkers Nadonna riding in the Nations Cp Grand Prix. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

HICKSTEAD, England, Aug. 1–Gareth Hughes rode DV Stenjkers Nadonna to the top of the first day’s leaderboard in the Nations Cup Grand Prix Thursday, setting the stage for Great Britain to post a victory on the week the country celebrates the first anniversary of their Olympic gold performance that was the first dressage medal since the sport was first in the Games a century ago.

In the first of two days of the Grand Prix that actually do not count toward the Nations Cup–that will be decided by the Freestyle Sunday–Gareth and the 15-year-old Danish Warmblood mare scored 72.213 per cent for a personal best since starting their Grand Prix career together two years ago.

Their best performance came despite Gareth thinking he was scheduled to ride Friday so worked Nadonna in the morning, hadn’t shaved and was wearing black boxers which he had never done before in case it rains and they show the white britches.

Jenny Lang, at 26 years old riding on her first German team, placed second on Loverboy with 72.105 per cent with the Netherland’s Katja Gevers and Thriller in third on 70.745 per cent.

America’s Kathleen Raine of Rancho Murieta, Caifornia and Breanna placed fourth on 70.404 per cent, that also was a personal best on a horse her husband, David Wightman, found as a youngster and Kathleen has trained through the levels to Grand Prix.

Eight teams—seven from Europe plus the United States–are competing for top honors in the last of the four Nations Cups held this summer in a pilot series created by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) as a prelude to what the governing body of the sport hopes will become a global series like the popular worldwide jumping series.

The eight teams are France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland,, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

Perhaps more importantly than this being the only competition in the pilot series to be decided by the Freestyle, has been emotion that Hickstead has tapped into.

Emotion has been been buiding throughout the series that began with only four teams at Vidauban, France that was won by the Netherlands in May; saw seven in Rotterdam a month later where Britain won, and then the biggest field of all with nine teams at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany where the home team were victorious a month ago. The first three events were decided by the Grand Prix as is traditional.

Gareth, who is now 42, and lived in Australia from the age of three where he rode Western until he returned to England 23 yars later.

He got the ride on Nadonna by accident.

Jane and Kevin Sparrow, an equestrian  photographer, bought the mare for Jane to ride and she initially had Gareth exercise the horse during the week.

However, his own Classic Sandman was injured and he got to compete “Donna,”as the mare is nicknamed, for the past three years in a routine that Jane still rides the horse on weekends and Gareth during the week.

“She has improved beyond everybody’s expectations,” he said, “from a mistake-free 65 to a 72 per cent international Grand Prix horse that is the reserve for the Europeans later this month.”

“She is an out and out fighter. She’s really tough and digs deep to try really hard and not get it wrong.

“She’s not a natural mover, but once you click her into gear she’ll throw everything at it.

“When Sandman was injured, Donna carried the torch. Through circumstances, she got pushed to the forefront.”

Nadonna is, though, a pain in stables. She dosn’t like horses next to her.

“But if you went to war you’d want her up there with you.”