Sunshine Tour: rider discharged from hospital just in time to win dressage title despite having no time to practise


A pony who was once considered to be “not much of a dressage pony” and a rider who was hospitalised with tonsillitis for a week before competing were victorious in the intro C championship at last weekend’s Sunshine Tour.

Chardonnai Paull and Longhill Boy (‘Charlie’), who headed the intro C championship at Hickstead, are a fairly new partnership – Chardonannai bought the 14hh Connemara from a Pony Club home as the country went into lockdown just under a year ago.

“When I bought him, he couldn’t even take up the bridle. He couldn’t do any of it, and he just wasn’t interested [in dressage],” said Chardonnai. “When he first arrived home, I did think ‘what on earth have I bought?’

“It’s taken months of work, with the help of my instructor who would ride for half a lesson, then I would get on, and we just kept battling, twice a week, trying to get him to listen.”

Although he wasn’t the big, flashy warmblood that Chardonnai thought she wanted, Charlie made up for it in personality. She describes Charlie as a typical Connie — he loves people, hates his stable, thinks with his belly, and adores an outing.

The pair didn’t immediately bond. Chardonnai says that she bought Charlie when her old pony, whom she had owned for 11 years, retired. Sadly, he was put to sleep due to a melanoma on the side of the head shortly after.

“I couldn’t bond with Charlie while my old boy was still alive – he was my baby for 11 years,” explained the rider.

A hospital stay

Qualifying for the Sunshine Tour was a really big deal. The pair had only won one local competition together before coming to Hickstead and  Chardonnai had been in hospital for the whole of the previous week with tonsillitis.

“We haven’t been able to do any practice at all — I had to learn my test in the lorry on the way here,” said Chardonnai, who confessed that winning came as a surprise and put it down to “lots of luck, and hoping for the best”.

She plans to continue working Charlie at prelim level, and hopes to step up to novice soon. Eventually, she has her sights on elementary.

Chardonnai added that Charlie’s success at the Sunshine Tour has given her the confidence boost that she needs to affiliate with British Dressage.

“This has shown me that he is a dressage diva, and every bit as good as a big, flashy Warmblood — I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together,” she said.

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