It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of David Johnson,Managing Director of Equine Construction & Equine Planning.
David was filled with endless optimism, passion and determination. He was a larger than life personality and possessed a great sense of humour. His tragic passing comes as a great shock to Sarah and the rest of his family, and we thank everyone who has already offered their support and condolences.
His eye for detail and passion for equestrianism shone through in each of Equine Construction’s projects in which he took great pride in personally overseeing. The passion and love for horses didn’t stop at building their homes or training facilities but stemmed back through a lifetime of riding along with breeding and producing elite level dressage horses. David’s love of dressage was clear for all to see through his continued sponsorship of British Dressage’s Advanced Medium Championships, Keysoe’s CDI Grand Prix and most importantly through the support of his own horses.
2019 gave David the great joy of witnessing Freeman, under the expert guidance of Hannah Biggs, crowed British Dressage 6-Year-Old Champion. Having followed and supported every step of his horse’s career, to be able to share in this victory was a very special moment for David, and wife Sarah.
Equine Construction & Equine Planning currently continue as ‘business as usual’ under the management of Sarah Johnson.
A chance meeting, a lucky bid and an emotional journey all played their part in Equine Construction’s Freeman becoming the new Shearwater Insurance British Dressage 6-Year-Old Champion.
Hannah Biggs’ dressage talent was spotted by Sarah and David Johnson when competing in their Equine Construction Advanced Medium championship class several years ago when the pair were looking for a rider for their young horses at the time, David Johnson was also a breeder and producer of elite level dressage horses as well as being Managing Director of the class leading equestrian construction firm.
“I found Freeman at the Westphalian Elite Auction a few months after meeting Sarah and David. We’d already had a conversation about buying a good young horse, so I called him up and said, ‘do you fancy buying a horse?’” commented Hannah Biggs.
That happy meeting, spur of the moment phone call and lucky bid started the ball rolling on an emotional journey.
“He moved through every inch of his body. Every step and movement just oozed quality” says Hannah.
Since then Freeman, the simply stunning Foundation x Ehrentanz gelding, has been based with Hannah, and with a little help from Carl Hester, has made his progression from a sensitive young horse to become the first horse to score a 10 in the Young Horse Final.
“We’ve taken it really slowly with lots of hacking and ground work because he’s big moving and sensitive. We didn’t want to push him to do too much too young. This is the first year that we’ve really started competing him seriously.”
Freeman was head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the field in the qualifying round, an impressive feat seeing as he had gained his place at Nationals thanks to a wildcard space. Comments from ride judge Philip Hess were sublime to say the least.
“The trot movement feels really nice,” explained Hess, “it is important to keep him soft and smooth. I can get nice cadence – a really good feeling. Extended canter is developing and feels mega, and the collecting is super. Definitely a horse that’s on the right line of training. A very positive impression and very relaxed. I’m absolutely happy and a big complement for this wonderful sport horse and rider for the way of training.”
Watching someone else ride your young horse in a competition arena for the first time was clearly a nerve-wracking moment for Hannah, as owners Sarah and David also looked on nervously.
“Because Freeman has never been schooled by anyone other than Hannah it was lovely to see that within 30 seconds it was a very harmonious picture as the horse was responding beautifully to Philips aids and was relaxed and Philip also commented that the horse was really listening to him” commented David Johnson.
These age classes are not only a perfect way to gently introduce young horses to their competition careers but also help showcase British and foreign breeding, as well as the talent of those riders who are producing these horses, as the class recognised correct training.
“Freeman being awarded a 10 for his walk was the most incredible feeling!” added Sarah Johnson. “We always knew he was special and have deliberately taken his training very slowly to give him time to strengthen, this mark proves that taking it slowly was the right thing to do. Whilst riders can enhance the trot, the walk is very difficult to improve.
“Philip Hess’ comments were wonderful and really highlighted that Hannah’s training has been impeccable! The fact he used the word MEGA during Freeman’s canter was definitely a stand out moment.”
Freeman will now continue his journey through the British Dressage levels and will look to compete in the Equine Construction Advanced Medium classes in 2020.
Equine Construction’s Freeman continues his good run of success with a winning debut at Medium level.
It has been a busy few weeks for our gorgeous 6-year-old Freeman. He produced a 70.2% in the Regional Championship at Sparsholt, in the pouring rain. He then quickly followed this up by becoming the Hickstead International Young Dressage Horse 6-Year Old Reserve Champion! Hannah then decided it was time to let the brake off and tackle his first Medium test. He really is incredible and produced an astonishing 73.38% and 75.69% to WIN both Medium classes at Half Moon Stud. We really couldn’t be any prouder of him.
This special young horse has such a natural elasticity of movement, with equal measures of power. He moves with such fluidity through his whole body and feels like a Ferrari engine to ride. His presence in the arena has made him irresistible to watch . The comments we have received from Young Horse judges have been truly touching. One judge stated “Freeman is the sort of horse you spend a lifetime searching for”.
Freeman and Hannah have developed a deep bond over the years and she’s learnt to think quicker than he does, so as to ensure he’s only learning the good bits! He’s a sensitive character, but their growing level of trust in one another are starting to show.
As such a big moving horse we’ve ensured that he has a varied life and that he’s been given plenty of time to grow into himself and to develop his strength. He doesn’t spend every day in the arena, and enjoys plenty of hacking, along with chill time in the field.
Between now and the National Championships in September we’ll be looking at keeping him as relaxed as possible. Hannah will work on building him to a peak in September, whilst being careful not to overwork him. He’ll make a trip to see Carl Hester for some fine tuning, and will then continue working quietly at home.
Equine Construction & Equine Planning were approached by a leading architectural practice, in Sussex, to support them on an equestrian project. We’re delighted to offer our design and build consultancy services for this rather exciting project. The project consists of a bespoke, and very unique, 60m x 20m indoor riding arena, for their client.
David’s extensive experience in equestrian construction was invaluable to the design phase. In addition to this, our knowledge and understanding, of the equestrian athletes that will be making using of the new facilities, has proved to be a winning combination for the architects, who subsequently recommended Equine Construction to carry out the build.
The Equine Construction team look forward to starting the project on the 16th August, working with our clients to produce a world class equestrian facility.
We’ve always known that ‘Equine Construction’s Freeman’ was a very special horse. Right from day one he has shown all of the requirements of being a first class dressage horse. A little late out of the starting blocks, while he grew into himself but now, aged 6, he really is showing the world what he is made of.
Under the expert care and guidance of Hannah Biggs, Freeman has out performed and out classed his peers on multiple occasions. At the recent Wellington Premier League he stunned the judges to bring home a double win in the Shearwater Insurance 6-year-old Qualifier with 8.3 (83%) and an 8.76 in the Dressage at Hickstead Championship Qualifier. This followed hot on the heels of a win in the Shearwater class at King’s Sedgemoor Equestrian, in which he scored an incredible 84% (8.4).
In Hannah’s own word’s “he is just dreamy and feels incredible as he gets stronger”.
Earlier on this year, our wonderfully talented boy, dazzled the judges at Half Moon Stud to score a staggering 85.34% in the Novice class! If we look back at his record as a 5-year-old and then on to now, we can see the journey he’s been on and how, as he’s got older, he’s become stronger and much more able to express himself.