CARL HESTER continued his stellar year with a seventh National Champion title at the Espayo National Dressage Championships held at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire last weekend.

Hester and his Olympic mount Uthopia brought the house down in front of a sell-out crowd to win the Espayo Freestyle Title.

Performing a near-perfect test, Hester rode to his Olympic test music, prepared by Tom Hunt, to achieve 81.50 per cent, the first ever 80-plus at the Nationals and Carl’s 63rd national title in total.

“It’s been great to be able to bring ‘Uti’ here to support those who weren’t able to come to London, plus it was fantastic to be able to ride to Tom’s music once again.

“I’m so pleased with the test today – I stayed in time with the music unlike London where I seemed to be either too fast or too slow.

“He’s as fit as ever and was really in super self-carriage today. He felt confident and even though there were a few mistakes, it was lovely.”

Fellow Gloucestershire rider Laura Bechtolsheimer gave her best shot with loyal partner Andretti H to their characteristic reggae music routine but they just couldn’t match Carl with 76.58 per cent.

However, she did come away triumphant with a win in the Suregrow Advanced Medium Championship on Polar Bear, her charming home-bred eight-year-old. The pair scored 74.58 per cent to head the high class field of 26 finalists where the top six competitors all broke the benchmark 70 per cent barrier.

“I’m a real proud mum,” said Laura after the prize giving. “I’m very pleased with him; he’s taken it all in his stride. With the Olympics this year I haven’t had much time to compete Polar Bear. We did just enough to qualify – two shows, followed by the regionals which he won.”

Polar Bear continues in the Bechtosheimer tradition of big, powerful dressage horses, as he stands at a stately 17.3hh.

“He’s a big horse and when he’s on side he feels amazing. He’s lovely and it’s so exciting to have had him from the start,” she said. “The horses and I will have a short break now before the winter and next year we’ll (Laura and Polar Bear) maybe do a small tour.”

Carl Hester and Uthopia also won the Dyon Grand Prix earlier in the competition with 76.55 per cent. Laura B came second with Andretti H.

WILTSHIRE endurance rider Carri-Ann Dark helped Great Britain to bronze medal position at the European Endurance Championships at Mont le Soie in Belgium recently.

This combination rode hard around the competitive and demanding 120km course to take home the first team medal for the British Endurance team for more than 17 years.

Carri-Ann, from Little Cheverell near Devizes, took individual 14th on her own Vavavoom and despite graduating from Plymouth University this year she is already preparing to step up to the Senior team in 2013.

Carri-Ann said “The course was challenging and technical, but great fun. It went according to plan and we had a very exciting finish with a race to the line.”