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A Few Words
FROM THE CHAIRMAN
PLANNING FOR PARIS, LEADING TO LA, BUILDING FOR BRISBANE
Entering the world of dressage can appear daunting; purpose-bred horses don’t come cheap. However, NSW rider Isobelle Muller is proving you don’t necessarily need an expensive steed to enjoy success at the higher levels – or to have fun!
Isobelle gives Dynomite a pre-ride pep-talk before the 2019 Pony Club State Dressage & Show Riding Championships at Murwillumba. Image supplied.
Isobelle and her 14.1-hand Stock Horse x Quarter Horse Dynomite have just completed a successful campaign at the Australian Dressage Championships, finishing on the podium in both the Medium and Advanced Pony Championships. A brilliant achievement made all the more impressive by the fact that Dynomite was purchased for just $1500 as an unstarted five-year-old and trained from the get-go by a then-13-year-old Isobelle. Dynomite, now 12, and Isobelle, now 21, have formed a formidable partnership and are focused on an FEI start.
“I started riding when I was tiny on a little Shetland pony called Hobbit,” says Isobelle of her introduction to riding. “I then got a Welsh called Ricky, but she was only a leadline pony. Mum has a riding and agistment centre, so I began riding the school horses and then begged for my own pony. Eventually I got a little Welsh x Clydie called Star, who pretty much taught me to ride.
“Star was amazing; I took her to Pony Club and we did everything. She was only 13 hands and I outgrew her, and with my younger sister coming along behind me who needed a pony to ride, I handed over the reins and we started looking for something else for me. I was thinking something bigger and probably already educated.”
FROM PADDOCK TO PIROUETTES
“We found Dynomite through Equine Veterinary & Dental Services in Grafton. Dr Oliver Liyou, the dental vet there, actually owns his sire, the heritage-listed Stock Horse stallion Bromac Aladar. Oliver was always telling Mum, ‘You’ve got to buy a Bromac Aladar baby, they’re really quiet, they’re really trainable’.
“He said he had one available, but with a tooth problem; he had a recently fractured tooth that had to be operated on. He said he’d sell him cheap and do the surgery at a discount rate – we wouldn’t have been be able to afford it at full price. And so we went and picked up Dynomite.” By Bromac Aladar, Dynomite was a 14.1-hand unstarted five-year-old by Quarter Horse mare Chilli. He cost the Mullers a mere $1500.
So instead of a big, educated horse, Isobelle found herself with a small, blank canvas. “He was super trainable and always really good,” she says of how Dynomite was to train, considering she was just 13 at the time. “We had a really good horse breaker that was based near us, Col Minter, who I actually did a lot of work with. I used to follow him around and ride his ‘pony horse’ that he would lead all the youngsters off; I learned a lot from him.
Competing at the 2019 Pony Club Nationals in the Novice classes for third overall. Image supplied.
“When I got Dynomite, he helped me start him. He gave him his first couple of rides and then I think it was only two rides later that he put me on. Dynomite was super easygoing, more ‘woah’ than ‘go’. He was definitely really lazy. It took a lot to get him to go forward, but he was just really quiet and sensible and really easy to do everything with.
“We did Pony Club… show jumping, eventing, sporting, hacking. Dynomite was the perfect allrounder. He had a good crack at everything,” notes Isobelle. Their dressage journey began after meeting Lizzie Wilson-Fellows, whom Isobelle began having lessons with through a young rider program run by her local club.
“Lizzie used to come to our place near Coffs Harbour once a month for a two-day clinic. She helped me get Dynomite going in dressage. She’s based near Newcastle, and one day we were passing by, taking my sister to an event at Camden. Lizzie told me to bring my helmet and boots… I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not riding, my sister’s competing’. I got there, and she pulled out her Grand Prix horse, Let’s Jazzabit, and gave me a ride on him.”
From that moment, Isobelle was hooked. “I think from then I knew I loved the sport. It was so cool, just being able to get the horse to do the movements so effortlessly… the connection and everything that’s involved with dressage drew me in.”
Isobelle completed Year 10 work experience with Lizzie, and then when she finished school she secured a job working for Lord Dressage Australia (Matthew Lord) up in Queensland where she worked for two and half years through the pandemic lockdowns. Dynomite of course went along, and progressed from Novice/Elementary to Medium in that time. “That was a big achievement to get him even to Medium; I thought he would never get that far,” recalls Isobelle.
Isobelle says that stepping out at EA level events with a Stock Horse x Quarter Horse was certainly a little daunting in the beginning. “Trotting around, watching all these naturally impressive moving horses… I felt I did have to make mine a bit more fancy!” she recalls. “I self-sabotaged a lot… it took me a lot to not focus on them and just focus on myself. Lizzie – who I now actually work for – has helped a lot. It used to get to me quite a bit, but she’s pointed out that Dynomite actually does look really fancy now and is going around really nicely. She said, ‘You have to believe in him a little bit more and believe in yourself’. It’s taken time to learn to not put too much pressure on myself; it’s just a dressage test. There will be another one.”
At the Australian Dressage Championships, Isobelle and Dynomite competed in the Medium and Advanced Pony classes and finished third in both Championships. “I was super happy. He did the Medium the first day in torrential rain when it was freezing cold and did two awesome tests. And then he was a bit tired in the Advanced, but we got a personal best in every single test, which was really cool. He’s amazing and goes out and does an accurate test nearly every time. He’s always trying, everything’s on the aids. And the scores are starting to reflect that.”
“He’s actually entered for his first Prix St Georges, which is a bit scary but exciting at the same time. My next goal for him will be Small Tour,” explains Isobelle of her future plans. “The flying changes have always been really difficult; it took me forever to get clean changes confident on him, which we now have… pretty much every change I now ask for will be clean, whereas it took a long time to develop that because he had such a poor canter to start with. I had to train the canter correctly first, and then work on the changes. Being quite short and compact, I think he will find the pirouettes easy once he figures them out. He finds all the lateral movements easy; I think being smaller and more compact helps there, too.”
Isobelle now has two new horses in her stable – a four-year-old Warmblood owned by her mum that she hopes to do young horse classes with, and a Welsh x Warmblood pony she bought as a project. Although she’s looking forward to seeing where she can take these two, she has no plans to sell Dynomite.
“It’s a tough sport… but you see all the nice ones go around and then you’re there on something that you’ve made, and it shows you can go out and achieve the same or even higher. With enough hard work, determination and good support networks around you, you can achieve anything – even with an average horse or pony that maybe didn’t cost a lot of money.
“It’s all about having fun and learning and growing in the sport, because it’s such a tough industry as it is. It’s quite difficult to get into, so you’ve just got to run your own race and be nice to people. It’s been an amazing journey so far. I’ve loved every minute of it.” EQ