ISSUE 67
JUNE 2021
TAYLA & MAUS
MAKE MAGIC

REGARDEZ MOI,
LOOK AT ME NOW!
SAM LYLE & BF VALOUR
5 STARS IN THEIR EYES

PLUS: BRETT DAVEY STEPS INTO NEW ROLE, ROGER FITZHARDINGE’S GRAND PRIX TIPS, KERRY MACK’S LUNGE LESSONS, KAREN PET’S PROPERTY, GERMAN PONIES, WINTER HEALTH, BARNYARD CHEMISTRY, WILLINGA’S EQUINE HOSPITAL, OTT VETERAN’S NEW START, PLUS A ‘CONCRETE COWBOY’ & A SINGING DENTIST!

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
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ISSUE 67

CONTENTS

JUNE 2021
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A few Words

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

ROBERT MCKAY

Ryan's Rave

NEW ERA FOR AUSTRALIAN DRESSAGE

BY HEATH RYAN

Dressage

TAYLA & MAUS MAKE MAGIC IN GERMANY

BY ADELE SEVERS

Eventing

ALFIE & SAM LYLE, GOING THE EXTRA MILE

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Off the Track

GENERAL READY TO CONQUER AGAIN

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Property

PET PROJECT: KAREN’S ARCADIAN SHOWPIECE

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Dressage

REGARDEZ MOI,
LOOK AT ME NOW!

BY ADELE SEVERS

Health

HEADS UP
FOR THE BIG CHILL

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Breeding

THE VERSATILITY OF THE GERMAN RIDING PONY

BY STEPH HALLIGAN

Health

REPRODUCTIVE EXPERT HEADS WILLINGA’S EQUINE HOSPITAL

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Training

TAKING THE PLUNGE WITH THE LUNGE

BY DR KERRY MACK

Lifestyle

‘CONCRETE COWBOY’ SETS RECORD STRAIGHT

BY SUZY JARRATT

Dressage

10 TIPS FOR RIDING THE GRAND PRIX TEST

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE / EQ LIFE

Health

BARNYARD CHEMISTRY: pH & THE EQUINE DIGESTIVE TRACT

BY KENTUCKY EQUINE RESEARCH

Lifestyle

LEITH RYAN, THE SINGING HORSE DENTIST

BY SUZY JARRATT
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Tayla Desmet and Zaubermaus. © LL-Foto.
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Twenty-one-year-old Tayla Desmet jumped in the deep end when she relocated to the dressage heartland of Germany on the cusp of a pandemic. However, after her first CDI with mare Zaubermaus, her leap of faith — backed by hard work and a great team — is paying dividends.

Victorian rider Tayla Desmet began riding when she was just five years old. Her father and grandfather were both competitive showjumpers, and when Tayla went to Pony Club she did a bit of everything — showjumping, eventing, games and dressage. “I did this for many years,” explains Tayla, recalling her childhood in the saddle, “but then the challenge and precision of dressage drew me in and I never looked back!”

Since then, Tayla’s love of dressage has taken her to an impressive ranking of 12th in the world among the young rider ranks as a teenager, and more recently scores of over 70% at her very first CDI with mare Zaubermaus in Germany.

Tayla’s love of dressage was originally driven by her first horse, Liam, an Arabian Warmblood. “I began riding him when I was 11 and we learnt each level together and competed to Inter I,” says Tayla. “Liam was such a beautiful horse with the kindest nature. He is now teaching another young rider and is the perfect schoolmaster!”

Tayla says she’s been very lucky to have a strong support network throughout her career thus far that not only includes her parents Phil and Donna, but also really incredible coaches. “I will never forget my first coach. I met Leigh Dunstan at Woodend Pony Club when I was about eight years old. Leigh came with my family to every competition, clinic and training day, and was always so enthusiastic and committed to us. We were together for five years and then he introduced me to Maree Tomkinson.”

Maree, a renowned dressage rider who represented Australia at the 2014 World Equestrian Games, recalls the day that Leigh came to her and asked if she could coach Tayla. “Leigh came to me and said, ‘I’ve got this young girl who’s really talented and keen, and she and her parents are keen to move forward’. He felt he’d taken her as far as he could, and that he wanted to hand her over to me to see where she could go from there.”

Over the next seven years with Maree, Tayla began to learn what it takes to manage and train a dressage horse to the highest level. “I learnt, and still learn, so much from Maree. She is one of the strongest and most hard-working people I know,” says Tayla. “As much as she has taught me so much on the horse, I’ve taken so much away from her lessons of management off the horse. This is just as important as the riding part and I will be forever grateful to her for every second she spent outside of the arena watching exactly what I was doing!”

Maree says that from a coaching perspective, one of Tayla’s greatest strengths from the start has been her mental attitude. “She’s very measured, focused and committed to what she’s doing, whatever that may be. I trained her during her school years, and she was disciplined with her schooling, and also running and riding — she could compartmentalise her different disciplines.”

It was after a year of training with Maree that Tayla was introduced to her next horse, Rodrigo III — a stallion that Maree had owned since he was a foal and trained to Grand Prix. “After Liam, I was very lucky to have Rodrigo III and I was very fortunate to be learning from the two masters together,” says Tayla. “He was not the easiest horse to ride but he taught me so much. I will always be incredibly grateful to Ringo and forever treasure the special memories and achievements we had together.”

Maree recalls that in partnership with Ringo, Tayla went on to win just about every CDI-Y in Australia and was ranked 12th in the world at that time when they were competing in the Young Rider classes.

With a strong grounding in the sport from Leigh, Liam, Maree and Ringo, Tayla was ready to take the next step and find a special young horse to produce.

“That’s the one.”

FINDING ‘MAGIC MAUS’

In 2016, with Ringo in his late teens and retirement on the horizon, Tayla and her family began searching for a young horse that could help her take the next step in her riding career. It was off to Germany for two weeks with her father and Maree, with Christoph Koschel, Johannes Westendarp, Helgstrand Dressage and Emmy De Jeu on the list of barns to visit. As Maree explains, their trip to Europe wasn’t because there were no good young horses in Australia — there were: “The problem is that anyone who has a really fancy young horse here generally doesn’t want to sell it!”

Three days into their trip, Tayla, Maree and Phil went to the Performance Sales International (P.S.I.) Auction. “We went for the spectacle more than anything else, because it’s such an amazing and wonderful thing to do,” says Maree. Tayla echoes the sentiment, explaining they didn’t really go there planning to purchase a horse, as they thought most would be outside of their budget. Before leaving Australia, they had watched a few videos of horses that were to be at the auction. “[Zaubermaus] was my favourite; she was my pick from home looking at the videos,” recalls Maree.

During the trialling session at P.S.I. prior to the auction, Zaubermaus — which translates from German to English as ‘Magic Mouse’ — came into the arena and Maree couldn’t resist having a ride. “I had my boots on, so I just had to have a ride on her, because we were there… and why not! I got off, and I said, ‘that’s the one’,” she explains.

“We went into the auction with not a lot of hope but luck was definitely on our side,” continues Tayla. “Zaubermaus was number 20 in the auction — we were sitting on table 20 that night! We kept our fingers crossed and the rest was history!” Adds Maree: “Phil and Tayla, to their credit, completely took my word for it. Tayla hadn’t even ridden [Zaubermaus] at that point, and so with 100% trust in my opinion, they bought her.”

Four-year-old Maus was transported to Australia, and with Tayla busy in her final year of school, the mare’s training began with Maree. Once she had finished school, Tayla took over the reins of the then six-year-old Maus. “She’s done it all herself ever since, with training from me,” says Maree. “After a couple of years of working with Maus, we [Tayla, her parents and Maree] all decided it was a good idea for Tayla to spend a couple of years in Europe, training and learning the big sport and what’s required at an international level.”

TO THE HEART OF THE SPORT

At the end of 2019, Tayla made the decision to head to Germany with Maus and spent her first year with Patricia and Christoph Koschel. “They were extremely welcoming and generous to me. I had a really great time and enjoyed many experiences there. I was very lucky to be a part of their team,” says Tayla. It was during her time with the Koschels that she travelled with the team to the equestrian wonderland of Wellington, Florida, at the beginning of 2020.

“It was really something amazing and so totally different to experience,” she recalls of the USA’s equestrian mecca. “The farms in Wellington were something that I had never seen before, they looked like they were from a magazine! Wellington was very much an equestrian world. There were riders from dressage, showjumping and polo competing, so there was always something happening. There were horses everywhere… even crossing at the traffic lights on the road walking from their farm to the competition facility… it was definitely something else!”

While Wellington was a great experience, the timing of the trip with the pandemic unfolding made for a difficult return to Germany. “It was actually when I was in America when the pandemic really hit,” says Tayla. “At the end of the Wellington season in America, it became quite difficult to get back into Germany as they closed their borders. My family wanted me to go back to Australia, but I knew if I were to do that it could be even more difficult for me to get back to Germany.

“Maus and I had to take an alternate route but we made it back eventually! I haven’t seen my family for 18 months. This is really the most difficult part, as you don’t have the same support network overseas that you do at home; you are a lot more on your own. I am incredibly lucky to have the best family though that do everything they possibly can from so far away and who always support me through every decision and challenge.”

While the pandemic has made the move all the more difficult, Tayla is adamant she’s where she needs to be. “It has always been a dream of mine to train in Germany and nothing was going to stop me; it was really the right time for both Zaubermaus and I.”

She’s gone right into
the heart of dressage.”

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!”

ONWARDS & UPWARDS

So what are Tayla’s plans for the future? At this stage, she hasn’t booked a flight home. “I am learning so much from the competitions and training here in Germany. It hasn’t been the easiest start with COVID-19 and I feel I have a lot more to do. I have been very lucky to be able to continue completing my university degree whilst I am here also. For now, my aim is to continue learning as much as I possibly can and enjoying every single ride and time I get to spend with Zaubermaus,” she says.

Maree agrees that it’s the right place for Tayla at this point in her career. “She’s in such a brilliant place with Ton and Alexandra, and the horse is outstanding. She has the right character for the sport and she’s determined, and with myself and her parents here in Australia, she has a dedicated team behind her.”

Although Tayla hasn’t seen anyone from home for some time due to the pandemic, she’s still very much influenced by her Aussie support team. “Maree is a huge support and role model for me; I have been in Germany for the last 18 months and I often think, ‘what would Maree do if she was in this situation?’”

For Maree, watching someone who she has trained succeed on the other side of the globe has her brimming with pride. “I’m very proud to have trained her for seven years and to have produced such a level-headed, measured, professional little athlete. I will for sure be behind her the whole way as long as she needs me… and probably even when she doesn’t!” EQ

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO READ:

‘Regardez Moi, Look At Me Now!’ – (Equestrian Life, June 2021)

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