The 1970s was the era when dressage stamped itself as an official sport in Tasmania, however, Tassie’s first brush with dressage goes back to the early 1950s. There was buzz in the air when Australia was named host nation for the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956, and it was being felt across the nation.
As host country, it was imperative that there was representation at all Olympic events. The EFA secured the services of Captain John Snedden from the UK to conduct clinics around Australia to find the perfect combinations to represent their country in Stockholm. Why Stockholm? The International Olympic Committee declared that the equestrian events for the 1956 Olympics were to be held in Sweden, purely for the welfare of the horses and the time required for quarantine in Australia when arriving from overseas.
The net was cast wide and in 1953 at the Elphin Showgrounds in the north of Tasmania, Captain Snedden drilled 30 hopeful and hand-selected combinations from around Tasmania. The five-day clinic started in the morning with dressage training, while the afternoon was showjumping and the art of cross country. Diana Wolfhagen recalls attending the clinic on her showjumper who was a bit exuberant, which did little to impress Captain Snedden.
Fast forward to now and Tasmania boasts a history of outstanding and accomplished dressage riders and judges who have influenced the current enthusiasts that learn and hone their craft in the dressage arena on the national and international stage.
The foundation for ongoing learning through seminars, masterclasses, judge clinics and rider clinics was set by a small group of enlightened and intelligent visionaries. Over the past many decades, Tasmania has welcomed interstate and international coaches and judges to assist in the pursuit of harmony and ease of grace between horse and rider. Luminaries such as Christoph Hess, Michael Eilberg, Gonzalo Carvalho, Brian Sheffers, Roger Fitzhardinge, Charlotte Pedersen, Carolyn Lieutenant, Peter Fischer, Dirk Dijkstra, Mary Hanna, Vanessa Ward, Briana Burgess, Andrew McLean, Heath Ryan, Rozzie Ryan and the list goes on.
What does the future hold for dressage in Tasmania? History will tell, and with the past as its guide, it will be influenced by the next generation of focused, hardworking dressage enthusiasts with a strong desire to continue to learn and improve all aspects of the sport in Tasmania. EQ
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