Lyndal Oatley’s 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare showed her outstanding potential for high-level competition scoring a massive 76.2 per cent to win her Grand Prix debut in Germany. If that performance is anything to indicate what Lyndal and Elvive are capable of achieving, the world may have just caught its first real glimpse of the Australian rider’s future Olympic champion.
Now home with husband, Swedish dressage rider Patrik Kittel, at their spectacular property, Eulenhof, in north-western Germany, Lyndal has had time for the extraordinary test sink in. “I was super thrilled and excited,” she says. “It’s really hard to get good scores nationally in Grand Prix in Germany. I don’t think even Patrik’s had 76 per cent in a national GP, particularly as a debut. But I wasn’t really thinking about the score… this mare’s my heart and soul and I’ve put everything into her.”
Lyndal and Patrik set out for the FEI Grand Prix at the Sportshorse Scholz Dressage Day at the start of March. Due to restrictions on numbers, this was the first time the couple had gone to a show on their own. “Patrik was groom, husband, and trainer which all the home team found hysterical!”
For some riders, this was the first time they had been able to compete since the pandemic gripped Europe one year ago. For Lyndal, it was her opportunity to finally unleash Elvive’s Grand Prix talent after the mare’s debut was delayed last year. “Ellie was ready for Grand Prix quite some time ago, but corona has made that difficult,” explains Lyndal. “Her strength is in Grand Prix and upwards — that’s what she does best.”
While warming up for their test, Lyndal was told the rider before her had pulled out and she was given the option of going in then or waiting. Eager to show what her little mare could do, Lyndal chose to enter the arena early. “Patrik said, ‘do you want to take the whip?’” Lyndal recalls. “I said ‘no, she doesn’t need a whip; she feels great. Let me trust her and she trusts me’. And in we went.”
“I just was so thrilled,” says Lyndal. “I finally got her out to Grand Prix, and she showed what she can do. And she did it so easily with no pressure, and so naturally, so focused and with me. The feeling was amazing. And then I came out and I was in the truck with her, and then Patrik told me the score. I had to ask twice because I couldn’t believe it. I just burst into tears. It was such an amazing moment. And to be there with Ellie at the time when I got the score was really special.”
In one way, dressage is like an iceberg. The world only sees the tip — a six-minute, well-ridden test — while underneath the surface lie years of dedication and careful training. For Lyndal and Ellie, their six minutes in the arena was a goal that they had been working towards for the past five years. “She was my focus while I was pregnant,” says Lyndal. “Every horse-related goal has been towards getting this mare out and she means the world to me.”
“That is [her normal standard] but she can also do a lot more. She’s just a natural freak that loves to move, loves to work and finds it all really quite easy which is enjoyable to ride but it puts all the focus on you as a rider to do your job well. She does everything with such elasticity and elegance and ease that you don’t see many horses that move like that. That was the reason why we bought her in the first place, because of her possible potential at Grand Prix, when she was seven.
“What was overwhelmingly humbling was the amount of support that I received once Ellie competed and realised the journey we’ve been on. I found it so inspiring that you don’t give up and you listen to your horse. It means that sometimes when things look a bit dark, things can always get better and you can reach new goals. The support that my family has had as well was really humbling from across the world. It just shows you what an amazing sport we have that it brings people together when things go well, and that’s a lovely thing.”
Now Lyndal is turning her attention to the future and her next move with Ellie’s career. “The next step is hopefully a CDI start,” says Lyndal. “Now, it’s a bit difficult with what’s going on over here [with Europe experiencing further equestrian event shutdowns due to an EHV-1 outbreak]. We should start up in the middle of April, hopefully, if everything goes okay. And then I’ve got to find shows that we can even get into because everybody’s in the same boat and no one’s competing over here, so there’s going to be a lot of riders for probably not enough shows. This is going to be the next challenge for us ahead.”