“We don’t like wearing white jods, we don’t really like plaiting, we don’t like going to events where people turn up in flash outfits and flash floats,” says Corby Cunnington with a grin. “We wanted an event where really and truly we were out there to compete against ourselves.”
An integral member of South Burnett Equestrian Group, Corby recognised the need for events that catered to older riders who may not have set hoof in a dressage arena for many years – if ever – and wanted to do so in a relaxed, low-key environment with an emphasis on fun. ‘The Great Sport of Geriatric Dressage’ was designed to meet this need; aimed at riders 50 years of age and older and/or horses 18 years or older, ‘The Great Day of Geriatric Dressage’ was first held in November last year at the Queensland State Equestrian Centre (QSEC). Entries were full within 72 hours of opening.
“We just wanted people to get out there and feel comfortable,” says Corby, who explains the organisers have purposely kept the events small at around 30 entries to allow plenty of flexibility for those competing. Competitors choose the level and tests they ride – for example, if you want to do the Prepatory A test twice, you can – and their test caller can say anything they like. “You cannot be eliminated, provided you end the test with one leg each side of the horse,” laughs Corby.
“You can wear what you like and you can use whatever gear you like, provided that it’s safe and horse welfare is addressed; at any time, the judges will pull you up if there’s an issue. There’s no gear check on these days. Instead, I’m constantly on the lookout for anything that’s unsafe and not promoting horse welfare, as are the judges.
“We have two Olympic level judges who are in this with us, Mary Seefried and Maria Schwennesen,” continues Corby. “I worked very closely with Mary on EA committees and Maria has been a friend of mine since I was a teenager. I can’t praise them enough; they are so professional and manage to say exactly the right thing every time.
Mary Seefried was thrilled to be a part of the inaugural event: “This concept from Corby Cunnington has captured the imaginations of older riders around Australia! It was wonderful to see the older horses as well, with many over 20 years old. They were so fit and well looked after and a credit to their owners. Besides that, it was such a lot of fun for everyone in a very relaxed atmosphere!”