MAKING DREAMS A REALITY
In January 2021, Tayla began training with Ton and Alexandra de Ridder, where she says she has learnt so much in such a short time and feels incredibly lucky for the opportunity. In late April, she and Maus jumped straight into the thick of the action by choosing Horses & Dreams, a premier event run at Hof Kasselmann (P.S.I’s home base) in Hagen, Germany, as their debut CDI.
“Zaubermaus and I had competed in a few national shows in Germany, but Horses & Dreams was our first CDI together. Prior to this competition we hadn’t competed for about six months due to COVID-19 and EHV-1 restrictions,” Tayla explains. However, that didn’t slow the pair down. Together, they finished fourth in both the Prix St Georges and Intermediate I tests, with scores of 70.059% and 70.882% against some of the sport’s leading names — including Nanna Skodborg Merrald, Patrik Kittel and Beatriz Ferrer-Salat.
“It’s in the heart of dressage with all of the very best riders in the world,” says Maree, who couldn’t have been prouder of the pair’s performance. “I stayed up until 2am and watched it on the live stream; it was such a good test. You could see immediately that when the mare came into the arena, the picture was really good. It was really professional, well ridden and confident. To go in there straight off the bat and with no one knowing her, from a country like Australia, and to get scores like that straight up, it’s very impressive.”
Maree believes that while it would have been daunting stepping out at their first CDI — and in fact Maus’ first Inter I test — at an event such as Horses & Dreams, it’s very much the right way to go about it.
“If you want to go that step further, you need to go and put your foot in the big pond and see how you go. To Tayla’s credit — I’m very proud of this and I think it’s absolutely the right way — she’s gone right into the heart of dressage. There is always a temptation to go as far away as possible, to Hungary or Poland or Russia, because you have less competition and there’s a better chance to achieve better scores. But in the end, if you want to go to the other side of the world — leave your home and your family and everything that is safe and comfortable — to compete against the best in the world, then get in there! And that’s exactly what she’s done.”
From Tayla’s perspective, her tests at Horses & Dreams were surreal moments. “I couldn’t have been more proud of Zaubermaus; it was her first ever Inter I. It was totally surreal to be at such a huge event with the best riders in the world. The calibre of riding and horses was absolutely incredible and very rare to see all in the same place. We worked really hard with Ton [de Ridder] in the lead up and he prepared us in the best possible way. Zaubermaus tried her absolute best the whole week and I really couldn’t have asked for any more. It was a really promising beginning to our international start in Europe!”
It was an amazing result for Tayla and Zaubermaus, a strong-willed mare who Tayla says has been the biggest challenge in her career thus far. “The last five years with Maus have been some of the most challenging, exciting and rewarding years. She is so incredibly talented. I always say that I never finish a training session with her and feel like I have had a bad ride. For sure some days are better than others, but it never matters what happens because she always gives me this incredibly amazing feeling every time.
“We know each other so well and have a very precious bond which I think definitely makes a big difference in the competition arena. The years we have had together from the beginning have made the whole journey with her so much more special. I have never had such a powerful connection with a horse before; Zaubermaus is my best friend and I would do anything in the world for her!”