PLUS: HEATH RYAN ON TEAM SELECTION, ROZ TIPPET FINDS A WAY, JUMPING JACK WHITAKER, KERRY MACK TRAINS THE HALF-PASS, ASH MEAGHER’S ‘MAGIC’ STREAK, MICHAEL BAKER ON THE LANGUAGE OF DRESSAGE, JULIA ROBERTS IN THE SADDLE, BEHIND THE SCENES WITH ‘INTERNATIONAL VELVET’, THE IMPORTANCE OF ACID BUFFERS, & THE INFLUENCE OF LIGHT ON BREEDING.
Last month, I produced a list of ten 10 dressage combinations who I believe are the top considerations for the Australian dressage team at the FEI World Championships to be held in Herning, Denmark, on 6-10 August 2022.
Since then the last opportunity for Australian-based riders to qualify has come and gone at the Sydney CDLite competition on 28-30 April. This has firmed things up and some of these top 10 riders are not qualified or eligible for team selection according to Australian selection criteria. Riders based in the Northern Hemisphere do, however have a number of CDI competitions at which they can still qualify for Australian team consideration. The qualifying period for Australian performances according to Australian selection criteria finishes on 1 July 2022 (actually this date is courtesy of 2.1 in the Selection Process where it states Nominated Entries will be announced at this time. According to 6.2, Competition Criteria, which is all part of the Australian World Championships Dressage Selection Policy 2022, the qualifying period finishes on 4 July 2022; this is the FEI Nominated Entries deadline. I know this is small, but Australian High Performance Management continues to be less than tidy!)
I cannot explain to you how much the top riders have to absolutely practise and practise and practise – and sweat over the subtlest considerations that are not even in the Oxford dictionary – to produce performances that will contribute to Australia going forward in this sport. Detail is everything. Less than respectful administration seriously threatens riders reproducing their personal bests. The Tokyo Olympics had three very capable riders on the Australian team and all of them performed below expectation. A single rider can have a bad day, which is not normal but does happen, but a whole team? No way. These were seriously seasoned riders. Australian dressage is not yet able to challenge the leading nations, however, if our top riders do personal bests, we will put up a very respectable performance. A performance that we can build on.
I think the Tokyo High Performance management without question were unable to support our Australian dressage team in a way that would have allowed our riders to produce the performances that we all know they can produce. Detail, detail, detail! Surely going forward, the Australian High Performance administration needs to take ownership of the Tokyo results and make a concerted effort to support our dressage riders much better than they did at Tokyo.
Warwick McLean and Hendrix II competing this year. Image supplied.
“This restriction so needs to be readdressed.”
LEADERS OF THE PACK
So here, very briefly are the frontrunners in order as I see them.
Simone Pearce riding Destano has a personal best qualifying score of 74.816%. Simone is now fully qualified for Australian selection with a 2022 performance at Gӧssendorf CDI4* on 15 April 2022 with 73.435%.
Lyndal Oatley riding Eros has a personal best of 74.370% just behind Simone’s, and this was done at Lier CDI3* Grand Prix on 4/03/2022. There is a difference between a 3* and a 4*. Eros and Lyndal have a supporting score on the 24/09/2021 at Ludwigsburg CDI4* Grand Prix of 72.717%.
The No. 3 position is again held by Lyndal Oatley riding her second horse, Elvive. Of course, a rider can only ride one horse at the World Championships, so the selectors and Lyndal will have to choose one or the other and this will elevate the fourth ranked rider into the team as the third team member. There are four riders in a team and four reserves, theoretically. So Elvive and Lyndal have a personal best of 73.718% at Donaueschingen CDI3* Grand Prix on 14/08/2021. Lyndal has a second score on Elvive on 1/04/2022 at Opglabbeek CDI4* Grand Prix of 72.087%. All of these combinations are fully qualified for Australian selection.
Kristy Oatley riding Du Soleil has a personal best of 72.526% at Neumünster CDI-W Short Grand Prix on 19/02/2022. This is supported by her score of 72.14% at Zakrzow CDI3* Grand Prix on 23/04/2021. Kristy is all good for Australian selection.
Mary Hanna riding Syriana has a personal best of 72.239% at Bawley Point CDI3* on 25/02/2022. This score is supported by her score of 71.316% at Werribee CDI-W Short Grand Prix on 25/03/2022.
In last month’s column, No. 6 was Jayden Brown riding Senator Nymphenburg, who was not qualified as he did not have a second score of over 69%. Anyway, the whole situation is very complicated and Jayden did not ride Senator Nymphenburg at the Sydney CDLite and so is not qualified and this combination is no longer available for selection. If Jayden and Senator Nymphenburg were to go overseas, it is possible, but as far as I know this is not planned. So that is actually a development that is not positive for Australia going forward to the World Championships. Such is life. So, sixth placing is the first really big move, going to Warwick McLean riding Hendrix II. Their personal best is 70.609% achieved at Lier CDI3* Grand Prix on 4/03/2022. Now, Warwick and Hendrix II need another score over 69% before the Australian selectors will consider them. Warwick has done another CDI4* at Opglabbeek on 31/03/2022, however, his score of 66.652% is not enough to meet Australian prerequisite selection qualifications. Warwick, however, is based in the Northern Hemisphere and does have the opportunity to go to more CDI competitions before 1 July 2022. Warwick has only ever competed in three CDI Grand Prix tests with Hendrix II, and so Hendrix II is very green and this is a race against time. Can they do it? At the moment, if Warwick and Hendrix II can achieve a score over 69% in Grand Prix at a CDI competition, they will at least move into first reserve for the Australian team. They may climb higher into the actual team if they were to score over 72.2%, which is Mary Hanna’s best score. This is allowing for Lyndal only riding one horse. This is a very, very serious slot, and I have said before that to exclude Warwick because of Australian selection criteria would not be in the interests of Australian dressage. This in my opinion is also another example of Australian dressage administration not understanding the process of nurturing our sport for the future. I do hope that the 69% selection criteria can be reconsidered.
Jayden Brown riding WillingaPark Sky Diamond has a personal best of 69.674% at the Bawley Point CDI3*. There is a slight complication with this score in that the JSP (Judges Supervisory Panel) decided in their wisdom that WillingaPark Sky Diamond was not eligible for an FEI MER (Minimum Eligibility Requirement). In my opinion, for what it is worth, this was a real muddy tangle of human error which spilt into the competition arena and affected the riders – as it should not have. This was an FEI miscalculation. Jayden and WillingaPark Sky Diamond then scored 68.684% in the Short Grand Prix at the Werribee CDI-W on 25/03/2022 and 68.804% at the Sydney CDLite CDI3* Grand Prix on 28/04/2022.
So similar to Warwick, Jayden is not qualified by the Australian selection criteria which states that the combination must achieve 69% or above on two separate occasions at a CDI. It is very difficult to explain, but Jayden does have two MERs courtesy of his performances at Werribee and at Sydney CDLite. So, Jayden does not have a second 69%, which is a restriction put on by the Australian selectors. This restriction so needs to be readdressed. In this instance Jayden is actually heading overseas, but I don’t think he can get there and compete soon enough to make the 1 July deadline. At the moment, Jayden and WillingaPark Sky Diamond will be second reserve if the Australian selectors can bring themselves to readdress the 69% selection criteria.
8. Lindsey Ware riding Aristede has a personal best score of 69.196% at Boneo CDI3* Grand Prix on 21/01/2022. Lindsey then did a 66.870% at Bawley Point CDI3* on 25/02/2022. By my reckoning, Lindsey has her MERs covered, but like Jayden and Warwick has fallen short of the Australian 69% prerequisite. Lindsey and Aristede should be third reserve for the Australian team going to the FEI World Championships in exactly three months’ time. 9. Michelle Baker and Bradgate Park Puccini have a personal best of 67.974% in the Short Grand Prix at Werribee CDI-W on 25/03/2022. At Bawley Point CDI3* on 25/02/2022, Michelle scored 67.261%. Michelle should be fourth reserve for the Australian team, but is really struggling with the Australian selection prerequisite of 69% being scored twice before Australian selection becomes available. At the risk of repeating myself, this prerequisite is not a good thing for Australian dressage.
Mary Hanna has shifted camp from Australia to the Northern Hemisphere and is up and running and competing with her Olympic horse, Calanta. At the time of publication, Mary has not returned a score to challenge any of the top nine riders mentioned; at the recent CDI3* Grand Prix in Troisdorf, the pair scored 67.609%. If Calanta was to qualify – and she well may as Mary is such a competitor – it will just rejuggle a little bit the above standings. Keep in mind that Mary is already No. 4 on Syriana and she can only ride one horse, so the above nine placings are pretty much going to stay the same no matter what Calanta and Mary score. The only horse this might affect is Mary’s other horse, Syriana.
I had absolutely meant to address the Australian eventing developments, which are now starting to take shape. The FEI World Championships for eventing take place in Pratoni del Vivaro in Italy on 15-18 September 2022. Just some four and a half months away. The Kentucky Three Day Event in the USA has just finished and there are no Australians putting their hand up in the USA at the moment. Badminton is about to run next weekend from 4-8 May, with the cross country on Saturday 7 May. We have five Australians entered: Bill Levett on two horses, Lassban Diamond Lift and Lates Quin, Hazel Shannon riding WillingaPark Clifford, Dom Schramm riding Bolytair B and Sammi Birch riding Finduss PFB. This will make for riveting viewing.
This coming weekend is the Sydney Three Day Event running from the 5-8 May. There are 10 riders in the CCI4*L (long format). A good performance in this class will definitely catch the Australian selectors’ attention. There are 26 riders in the CCI4*S (short format) and there are a couple of combinations there that could end up being serious considerations for the FEI World Championships. The Melbourne Three Day Event will be held 9-13 June and this also will be a selection trial. The Australian selectors will nominate 15 combinations to the FEI on 10 August 2022 and on 17 August will announce the World Championships squad, which will be eight riders and horses. I promise in the next column I will present my best guess of the top 10 Australian eventers heading towards the FEI World Championships. EQ