MARNIE CLAPHAM & CHERRYMOUNT RHETORIK (GRADE I CHAMPION)
Grade I rider Marnie Clapham is no stranger to international level competition, having competed previously with Freedom Spyda and Frantonio, however, the Para Nationals marked her first CPEDI with Cherrymount Rhetorik – a 17-year-old gelding by Rituel out of Scarlett II (Lucano), owned by Elizabeth Watkins.
“I was very happy with our first CPEDI as a partnership. ‘Henry’ and I have been building on our communication and I was so happy he listened to me and tried his best. Our scores were good considering our lack of competition experience together, but also the lack of competition over the last two years for both of us,” says Marnie.
Marnie and Henry were crowned Grade I champions following their wins in the Individual and Freestyle tests with scores of 63.333% and 65%, and also a second place in the Team test on 64.286%. Their scores meant they ticked the FEI MER box in terms of World Championship qualification.
Marnie began riding when she was five years old, explaining that her mum would lead her around on her stock horse. “I fell in love with horses and got my first pony at seven years old. I have loved training and developing a great partnership. At 10 years old I qualified for the State Young Rider Championships on my six-year-old pony that I had trained myself from a three-year-old.”
Marnie became involved in para dressage in 2016 following a major brain haemorrhage two years earlier, whereby she spent 15 months in the Brain Injury Unit at Westmead Hospital, Sydney. “I was a national-level young rider before my brain haemorrhage and never thought I could return to riding. As a Grade I rider, my disability is both physical and cognitive. My brain haemorrhage resulted in major damage to the balance and coordination centre of my brain and also my memory. I have very little short-term memory,” she explains.
“Every ride is a blessing. I have been competing in FEI competitions since 2019, however, I had two years off from January 2020 after my beautiful lease horse I was riding, Freedom Spyda – owned by fellow para rider Anne Skinner – sustained a major injury,” says Marnie.
Marnie’s partnership with Cherrymount Rhetorik, aka Henry, came about through her membership with Equine Pathways Australia (EPA), a not-for-profit organisation founded by Julia Battams. “Julia offered me the opportunity to have a ride on a new lease horse when Spyda was injured in 2020. Henry was leased to EPA a few years ago by Liz Watkins from WA and is a real favourite in the EPA program. I had a couple of rides when Henry first arrived, but felt he was too big for me.
“However, Julia encouraged me to try him again about six weeks ago and I felt ecstatic. I loved that he tried the whole lesson and really wanted to listen to me. I have loved riding him since. Henry is a talented horse and has competed at a high level, however his favourite pace is walking. He is a bit quirky and loves all things sweet,” adds Marnie, who says her goals this year are to improve her scores with Henry and hopefully gain World Championship selection.