PLUS: VALE JOY CHARLTON, THE UNSTOPPABLE GILL RICKARD, THE WHITAKER FAMILY, TRAINING THE REIN-BACK, YOUNG HORSE CLASS FUN, KATIE CLARK’S GRAND OTT, DELUXE HORSE TRANSPORT, EADC’S GUIDE TO RIDER SIZE, HI FORM’S SECRET TO SUCCESS, VET ADVICE FROM DR MAXINE BRAIN, THE STORY BEHIND ‘HARRY & SNOWMAN’, HYGAIN AMBASSADOR JANET SECCULL, & SEEING THE LIGHT WITH EQUILUME.
Like many Australians who grew up in the saddle, Janet Seccull came to a crossroads as she reached adulthood — to continue riding or take a step away to focus on other pursuits. A difficult decision indeed, however, for some the decision is made for them by other factors.
Janet started her riding career as a youngster under the supervision of one of Australia’s equestrian power couples, Kerry and Art Uytendaal. “As a young rider I was taken under Kerry and Art’s wing,” says Janet. “When I stopped riding, they weren’t that happy about it but understood that I needed to pursue a career outside of horses. They are like parents to me and every now and then would still ask me to come and sit on something for them or help someone with a horse.
“When I stopped, I needed a break,” explains Janet. “I needed to find a life outside of horses. Twelve years away from the sport, and one thing led to another; I knew I needed to ride again. I came back to it because I love it and I realised how much I missed it. I love the challenge and I love building a relationship with a horse both on them and on the ground. There is nothing like producing a horse, taking something raw, creating something beautiful and being proud of what they become.”
Taking the plunge back into the horse world can be incredibly daunting, especially if the foundation you spent years building when you were younger feels a little wobbly. Using what she learnt from her experience, Janet recommends going back to the basic steps for riders wanting to get back in the saddle.
“Firstly, find a horse that is suited to you,” says Janet. “Be careful buying the big moving, young and talented horse if you haven’t had previous experience with young horses. Make sure you find a coach who you admire and who is someone you can relate to and stick with them – and take their advice! Don’t go in with a glass jaw, accept criticism and be consistent. Never give up and always want to get better.”
Now well and truly back into her groove, Janet has made great strides in the dressage world. Travelling to competitions from her home in Yellingbo in the Yarra Valley, Janet now also has the support behind her of one of the country’s biggest equestrian brands, Hygain.
“I became a Hygain Ambassador about 18 months ago,” explains Janet. “The range of feeds and supplements is extraordinary and thankfully very simple to understand. With the help of their nutritionist, I am achieving the best from my horses. They both look and feel brilliant. It’s fantastic feed.”
Along with hundreds of dressage riders eager to get back in the arena, Janet competed at the Homes & Acreage Summer Dressage Championships. “I am very pleased with the weekend at Boneo Park but I know that it has to get better, it always has to get better,” says Janet. “I have just started riding FEI and I think that all my hours and years riding green horses and producing my own ultimately has helped me, but now it’s time to step up and learn to ride the higher movements.”
Dancing around Boneo with Janet were her two rides, Maritza and Bloomfield Vegas. Janet rode Maritza in both the Prix St Georges CDN and Intermediate I. “Maritza is part-owned by Bloomfield Farm Warmblood Stud,” explains Janet. “Axel (Renz, who co-founded Bloomfield with Kerrie Mann) mentioned that he had a superstar that I should look at. She was five years old and unbroken. I first saw her on a 45-degree angle from the back and already I knew. Then I saw her from the side and then running free. It was a no-brainer. She is pure class; elegant, expressive, and intelligent. We had her broken in and then I started. She is virtually human. She tries so hard and takes her work very seriously. I adore her. She makes me want to be better.
“The Inter I [at Boneo] was my first and her first. It wasn’t perfect; dressage is tricky that way. But it wasn’t too bad, definitely something to build on and to be proud that we have come this far.” Janet and Maritza finished in fourth place on 68.343% in the Inter I and in sixth place on 66.912% in the PSG. The combination also won the PSG at the Dancing Horse Dressage Championships on 69.633% earlier this year and placed second with a score of 70.049% in the PSG at the Victoria Dressage Festival late last year.
However, Janet also placed third in the recent PSG class at Boneo on Bloomfield Vegas with a brilliant score of 69.902%. “Bloomfield Vegas was a two-and-a-half-year-old colt when I got him and was gelded at three,” says Janet. “He has taken a while to focus and mature but in the last 12 months he has started to understand his job. He is bigger than people think, he’s 17.1 hands and very leggy. He is now seven and developing and getting more balanced from the narrow youngster that he was. At the end of 2021, he did three Advanced competitions and was champion in all of them, including the State Championship, so it was time to move on. I was so pleased with him in his first PSG start. He tried so hard and we are becoming a team.”
Working with the team at Hygain, Janet has tailored both horses’ diets to suit their specific needs. “I’m pretty careful with them,” she explains. “They’ve got a long way to go. Vegas is only seven and Maritza is 10, so I’m not too hard on them. They have a couple of days where it’s a bit more intense, but they both have a day off a week and at least one stretchy ride each week. All my horses are on Hygain Allcare, which is a vitamin and mineral supplement, and then they’re both on Bonafide (a vitamin K supplement) because they’re stabled (vitamin K intake is typically acquired via pasture). Maritza is also on Anazolic, a natural appetite stimulant that helps her eat. I then use Hyaglyde as well for their cartilage and joints. I just wouldn’t do without it.”
Since finding her way back to the saddle, Janet says it has been an incredibly rewarding and challenging journey. “You have to work very hard to get where you want to get,” says Janet. “I wouldn’t have a life without horses now, I don’t think. I love it. We all know it’s all-consuming and can be a tough gig sometimes. There’s no easy road in this sport.” EQ
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