The Petplan Equine Area Festivals are all about encouraging and celebrating the success of grassroots riders. Inspired by the competitors, Petplan Equine launched the Area Festival Awards to commemorate the 20th anniversary and to recognise the dedication and hard work that each and every rider commits to take part in the series.

It was a tricky task for judges Linda Whetstone – British Dressage Chairman and founder of the Area Festival Series, Allison Lowther – Acting editor at Your Horse Magazine, and Charlie Hutton – International dressage rider to choose the winning dressage duos.

Meet the winners

Inspirational Star – Frodo and Sue

Considering 18-year-old gypsy cob Frodo isn’t a traditional dressage type, he has defied all odds to progress to Intermediate I level, putting in 100% every time he’s in the arena.

Owner Sue adds, “Frodo and I have been together since he was four, he has a heart of gold and is the most genuine horse I have ever come across.

“Our journey hasn’t always been the smoothest. Four years ago, Frodo had a severe case of laminitis. We didn’t know if he would ever be sound again, let alone return to the dressage arena.”

Sue had hoped Frodo would recover well, but never did she imagine the level to which they would rise. “Every stage I have competed at I wondered if that would be as far as he could progress. I am very conscious that he has to work twice as hard to perform the more advanced movements.”

Surprise Star – Mimi and Caroline

Caroline rescued Mimi when she was only a year old after she was saved by the RSPCA and paid just £100 for her.

“She was covered in lice, had Strangles and was terribly malnourished,” explains Caroline. “She was originally meant to be a companion horse but she became very attached to me, so I decided to bring her on. Since then she has just gone from strength to strength. Her advances in dressage were quite unexpected.”

Two years after their first dressage outing, Caroline decided to give the Petplan Equine Area Festivals a try, “We didn’t get into the top 10 but that hasn’t put me off. She’s only six, we have all the time in the world to progress further. I am just proud to have reached this milestone with a £100 pony, whose fate could have been so different.”

Support Star – Brendan Tegg

Trainer and Area Festivals competitor, Brendan, began his equine education helping his mum educate and rehome rescued ponies. He has evented and showjumped in the past but dressage is where his true passion lies.

Brendan recently attended the Beacons Equestrian Area Festival to help warm up a seriously impressive 17 clients, before competing himself in the Advanced Medium class.

“He spent 12 hours at the Area Festival both days helping. He was there from seven in the morning and won his class on Saturday night. He is such an inspiration,” praises one client.

Commenting on his Award Brendan said, “I had no idea I had even been nominated! I really appreciate the recognition.”

Progressive Star – Crunchie and Clare

Clare balances her busy job as a full-time veterinary surgeon with her horses, who she keeps on a diy yard on a local farm. Clare has progressed through the levels of the Petplan Equine Area Festivals with her 13-year-old Oldenberg gelding, Cascento (Crunchie), from Preliminary to Prix St Georges (PSG).

Clare bought Crunchie with the intention of eventing him, but soon realised that he was too spooky for cross-country and decided to focus on dressage.

Eight years on, the pair now have three regional titles, have attended seven British Dressage National Championships and represented their region and England at five Home Internationals.

“We did our first Intermediate I a few weeks ago and we managed to qualify at Intermediate I and PSG for an Area Festival Final.”

Perseverance Star – Teddy and Linda

Linda had no idea her husband, Ben, had nominated her and Irish Sports Horse, Tankmore Boy (Teddy). Described by her husband as the ‘embodiment of hard work and dedication’, Linda has had a testing few years with Teddy but through sheer determination the pair have recently qualified for an Area Festival Final and are looking forward to stepping up to Novice level.

“Teddy and I have had our fair share of ups and downs, which has included significant time off for Teddy for Gastric Ulcers, a tooth removal and a severe foot abscess. I have also had a few knocks to my confidence along the way.”

Following Teddy’s recovery, the pair qualified for an Area Festival this year where they came seventh qualifying for an Area Festival Final at Prelim level. “I think I cried throughout the presentation,” beams Linda.

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