PLUS: GRACE KAY, THE HORSES OF GILI, CELEBRITY CUTTING CHALLENGE, PIGGY MARCH, WILLINGA PARK’S GOLD BUCKLE, ROGER’S TIPS FOR THE MEDIUM TOUR, KERRY MACK’S DRESSAGE FOR JUMPERS, THE INS AND OUTS OF BUYING A HORSE, A NEW APPROACH TO LAMENESS DETECTION & MY FRIEND FLICKA
With the Tokyo Olympics only months away, the Nomination Criteria for dressage team selection is now available. With a lack of CDIs in Australia, things are not looking good for locally based combinations that don’t already have the required scores on the board.
The Australian Dressage Nomination Criteria for the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo was updated on 14 April 2021. For those of you interested in reading the fine print you can find this on www.equestrian.org.au/selection-policies.
For the Australian-based dressage riders it is almost sinister. Not really through anyone’s fault, but due to Covid-19 and the difficulty or impossibility of having international judges overseeing our CDI3* or higher ranked dressage shows.
The updated selection criteria says that Australian combinations must have achieved an overall percentage of 69% or higher in at least two Grand Prix tests at a CDI3* or above, or a CDI-W event, between 1 January 2019 and 21 June 2021. If competing in a CDI3* there must be at least one 5* judge on the Ground Jury. The 5* judge must be of a different nationality to the rider. At least one of these scores of 69% or higher must have been achieved during 2020 or 2021.
By my reckoning, the last international show in Australia that met this criteria was a CDI4* at Willinga Park in February 2020. Since then, because of Covid-19 there have been no international dressage judges available to competition organisers simply because no one is allowed to fly into Australia. This means that any Australian rider who did not get a qualifying score at Boneo Park on 24-26 January 2020 or at Willinga Park on 22 February to 1 March (the event ran over two weekends) 2020, cannot qualify for Tokyo. That means that for the year and four months leading up to Tokyo no Australian-based rider can improve and perform at a recognised show that allows them to become considerations for the Tokyo Olympics.
There are some really good Australian riders here in Australia who are not yet qualified. There are also some really good Australian riders in the northern hemisphere who are also not qualified. The difference being that there are at least 11 CDI3* or above shows where those overseas based Aussies can qualify (although of course gaining entries to some of these events is not always easy). The Australian-based Aussies can just sit on the sidelines and watch all of their Olympic efforts just disappear into the thin air.
This is a really bad thing!
Unofficially, here is a little bit of a guide to who should and who could be in the final selections for the Australian dressage team.
“I presume the Australian selectors will nevertheless be considerate…”
WHO’S IN THE RUNNING
Currently Simone Pearce, who is based in Germany, and her horse Destano have to be a real favourite to make the team. On 28 August 2020, Simone set a new Australian Grand Prix record scoring 76.261% at Brno in the Czech Republic. Simone is a great example of somebody who would not have made the Australian team had the Olympics been in 2020 when they were originally scheduled. Simone’s score of 76.261% came after when the Tokyo Olympics were supposed to be held. With the Olympics being postponed for a year, Simone has gone from not even being on the horizon to being an Australian superstar! Before the event in the Czech Republic, Simone also scored 74.152% at a CDI4* in Achleiten, Austria, on 24 July 2020, and more recently achieved a big score of 72.043% in January this year at a CDI-W in Salzburg, Austria. So Simone is qualified and available for selection.
Kristy Oatley, who is also based in Germany, won the Grand Prix at a CDI-W in Pilisjászfalu, Hungary, in May 2019 with a score of 73.913% riding Du Soleil. Later in 2019, the pair also scored 71.261% at a CDI-W in Stuttgart, Germany. More recently, Kristy has again gone on to win the Grand Prix CDI3* at Zakrzow, Poland, in April 2021 with a score of 72.174%. This means Kristy is qualified with Du Soleil. Du Soleil has been a great horse for Kristy and is by De Niro and has already represented Australia in 2016 at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and again at the World Equestrian Games in the USA in 2018.
Mary Hanna has two horses going great guns and Mary is Australian-based, which does mean that her qualification scores were some 16 months ago. I think she is going better now than ever in her life, however, because of Covid-19 she cannot improve her scores officially to be recognised by the Australian selection criteria so she is a sitting duck with the overseas based riders able to take free pot shots at her and her not able to return fire! Mary rode her mare Calanta to a score of 72.761% at Willinga Park’s CDI4* on 27 February 2020; they also scored 70.696% at the event the weekend prior (Willinga Park’s Dressage by the Sea runs back-to-back CDIs over two weekends). Mary also scored 69.739% at the CDI3* Boneo Classic on 24 January, 2020. So Mary and Calanta are qualified and available for Australian team selection.
Mary Hanna again has her second mare Syriana going beautifully and she scored a 71.239% at Deauville in France on 19 July 2019 before she packed up and came home to base from Australia. Syriana again scored 70.717% at the CDI3* Boneo Classic on 24 January 2020, and 70.065% on 22 February at Willinga Park’s CDI4*. So again Mary is qualified and all good to go for Tokyo.
Kelly Layne on her horse Samhitas is based in the USA. On 25 February this year, the pair scored 71.935% at a CDI3* in Wellington, Florida. On 2 April this year, the combination competed at a CDI4*, again in Wellington, and scored a 71.326% in the Grand Prix. They then competed a few weeks later on 23 April in another CDI4* at Tryon in North Carolina for a score of 70.130%. This has Kelly well and truly qualified and all good to go for Tokyo. Kelly and Samhitas are a good example of just how important qualification opportunities being available in the final run-up to an Olympic Games are. Had Kelly been based here in Australia she would not be qualified simply because the shows would not have existed in 2021 and so she would not have been even remotely considered.
Lone Joergensen scored 70.109% on her horse Corinna at the CDI3* Boneo Classic on 24 January 2020. Prior to that, Lone and Corinna had scored 69.348% at the Sydney CDI-W on 18 October 2019. So again, Lone is qualified according to the Australian Dressage Nomination Criteria and good to go. Since the Boneo Classic, which is Lone’s highest score, Lone did compete on 14 December 2020 at the Dressage Festival at Werribee in Victoria. This is normally an international show, which historically would have been recognised by the Australian nomination criteria. Unfortunately due to Covid-19, no international judges were at this competition last year so the Dressage Festival at Werribee lost its international status. Lone and Corinna did a blinder of a test here and scored 73.949%. This is now not recognised by the Australian Dressage Nomination Criteria. I presume the Australian selectors will nevertheless be considerate of this score and others at now non-recognised shows, such as the recent Sydney CD-LITE. It’s all okay in a way for Lone because she has managed to qualify before Covid-19, however, there are other competitors here in Australia who did not qualify before February 2020 and now it is impossible to qualify even if they do the most amazing performances. Anyway, go Lone!
So, as I see it, those are the only qualified Australian Grand Prix combinations for the moment.
Lyndal Oatley and Elvive. Image supplied by Lyndal Oatley.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Following are some interesting combinations worth watching. The Australian-based riders who are not qualified under the current Tokyo nomination criteria are pretty well finished and as far as selection is concerned are hitting their heads against a brick wall. The Australian combinations in Europe, however, are in a great position and have at least 11 more CDI dressage competitions to use for qualifying and then challenging for Australian Olympic selection.
Lyndal Oatley has no CDI qualifying scores to date, however, I have seen a video of Lyndal in her Grand Prix debut on the 12-year-old mare Elvive. This test was just done at a local show in Germany, however, she did score 76.20%. I know that it was just a local show but I did watch the video and it’s my opinion that if Lyndal can reproduce the test I saw on video at a serious CDI show she will indeed post a score that will give Simone Pearce’s new Australian record of 76.261% a real run for its money. Lyndal is based in Germany and does have plenty of opportunity between now and 21 June 2021. That is the closing date for all riders to be qualified. As I have already said, the northern hemisphere riders have another 11 CDI competitions at which they can possibly compete.
Matthew Dowsley riding Santiago competed at the Sydney CD-LITE, which is normally the Sydney CDI, in the Grand Prix on 29 April 2021. Matthew scored 73.196% (the class was won by Mary Hanna and Syriana on 73.913%). Santiago has only had a couple of Grand Prix starts and they have all been over 70%. Being Australian-based, Matthew is going to be denied the opportunity to have a last-minute run at Tokyo selection.
Sue Hearn on her Rio de Janeiro horse Remmington scored a 70% at Boneo on 21 September 2019. So Sue is half-qualified but again being Australian-based I think the current Australian Olympic nomination criteria will deny Sue and Remmington the opportunity to even qualify for Tokyo selection.
“I don’t think there is anyone to blame.”
In conclusion, I think the field of play is very unfair for the Australian-based dressage riders and I think there will be horses not considered who in other times would have made a very serious bid for Tokyo Olympic selection. Having said that, I don’t think there is anyone to blame and it’s just one of those things that has turned out to be a very sad situation. EQ