PLUS: HEATH’S HIGH PERFORMANCE PLAN, ROGER REVIEWS THE AUSTRALIAN DRESSAGE CHAMPS, WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE WORLDS, NEW TRAINING SCALE FOR RIDERS, DISCOUNT DYNOMITE PAYS OFF, ASTRO THE OTT WONDER HORSE, LIVE YOUR TEEN DREAM, RUSSELL CROWE & CARL HESTER’S CAMEO.
AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
click here to start reading
click on left side to read the previous article
click on right side to read the next article
scroll down or click icon to read article
A Few Words
FROM THE CHAIRMAN
PLANNING FOR PARIS, LEADING TO LA, BUILDING FOR BRISBANE
What an amazing feat to pull together a competition of such diversity and magnitude, including judges from all Australian states and internationals from Belgium, the Philippines, New Zealand and Germany! To then have the most torrential rain event that created flooding throughout Victoria on the first two days of the competition was potentially overwhelming.
But adversity is just another challenge to Fiona Selby, the unflappable facility manager at Boneo Park on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The ever-resilient Fiona took it all in her stride as she ensured the Leader Equine Australian Dressage Championships proceeded regardless at this amazing property.
As always it was a huge undertaking to run such a competition including the CDI3* status, and the small and tireless team led by Jade Woodhead had their work cut out for them when one of Victoria’s most devastating rain events in years bombarded the first two days of competition. There was not a whimper or a complaint from anyone, committee person or competitor. Everyone realised the difficulty they were all competing under, but it was the National Championships and it was time to perform. If any horse was worried by puddles at the beginning, they certainly weren’t by the end – tick that box!
The sheer numbers tell the story of what was involved:
Tests… 614! Including CDIY, CDI-U25, CDI3*, CDIJ, Pony classes, all grades of Para competitions, and National classes at all levels from Novice to Grand Prix.
Horses – 300
Riders – 225
Stables – 260
Judges – 27 including 5 internationals
Pencillers – 40/day
Stewards – 19/day
There were six competition arenas and four warm-up arenas in full swing for the four days of competition. Despite the torrential rain there was not a moment when all those arenas were not totally safe and rideable. Quite incredible and not a single murmur from a competitor about the arenas, which is a huge compliment. For sure, some horses were affected and didn’t cope as well as others, but it was a level playing field and barely a scratching on the seriously wet first day. It was a shame that (some) judges gave no reconciliation for the extremities in the weather in some instances.
The judging came up with some considerable discrepancies, and not only in percentages that were sometimes 10%, but in placings like 7th to 27th. Some riders and owners and coaches were left bewildered with nothing to do but grin and take it on the chin before trekking back home with their great horses in tow. They might well wonder if their annual leave would be better spent heading to Europe or Greece for a well-deserved holiday in the sun!
It’s time these judging discrepancies were taken very seriously by the national and state judges committees to initiate positive pathways to further educating judges. It’s not as if they aren’t doing their very best, as they are. They never want to be seen to be so different to other judges, but where do they go for mentoring? Where are the judge educators when these well-meaning and keen judges need help? This is not good for keeping judges on the list – and as if this country doesn’t need judges. It needs good, well-educated judges and it’s time the committees involved in this education woke up!
Despite the ups and downs in the judging – as is part of any subjective sport – there were a lot of truly inspiring horses and rider combinations. The quality of the horses, the training, riding and professional approach to the sport has improved in leaps and bounds the last few years. It is quite amazing that there are not higher marks at the lower levels where there were some outstanding performances with scores that were in the low 70% range. There were scores of similar percentages at the Grand Prix level, where one may wonder what they might have scored if competing in the lower levels.
If one was to write about every class in the championships this article would become a tome! Here are some of the highlights…
The Novice classes are always full of interest and there was a lot of atmosphere for these inexperienced horses – and what a fabulous collection of talent. In the 2B, only three over 70%! Justine Greer and Daily Dancer 72.598% and unanimous. The B judge awarding 70.8% and that was her only score for the 25 best horses in Australia at Novice level to touch 70%! Second went to D Or Danseur and Lyndal Yelavich with a 71.029%, but 3rd, 3rd and 4th not clear. Then Deon Stokes and Axel DC on 70.539% and a 2nd, 4th and 2nd. This shows the diversity in the class, including placings as divergent as 8th to 16th, 21st to 11th and 5th to 22nd.
In the 2C, it was Caitlin Scott and Furstenglanz who came up to win on 73.143% with a 5th, 1st and a 4th. Second to Deon Stokes and Axel DC and 72.857% with a 2nd, 3rd and 1st, then Justine Greer and Daily Dancer 4th, 2nd and 2nd on 72.571% for third. A class that was very hotly and closely contested. It was Justine Greer and Daily Dancer who were named champion and Deon with Axel DC reserve.
It is always interesting to see the Novice judging, a class that is not easy to judge as the horses lack the experience and the consistency throughout the test, and so the scale of marks varies. It is a test with not as many movements so it’s easy to lose percentage with one mistake and then it’s hard to recover it. No one envies the judges at this level but sometimes perhaps they shouldn’t penalise minor mistakes when the training is good.
The Elementary class was full of fabulous horses in a class where you start to see the introduction of collection and the lateral work. This is a level where it would be great to see some percentages around 80% as this is only ‘good’, but no such chance. It’s time that judges threw caution to the wind and started to let some marks fly for these talented horses. The percentages are no better than they were many years back when we saw Aussies struggling with horses off the track!
It was the in-form Matthew Lord from Queensland and Carool Charmer, by Charmeur from a Regardez Moi mare, who stole the Championship with a 69.542% and a 73.333%. This brown gelding has an expressive trot and is always forward with long flowing strides; again, mistake-free tests from Matthew and that’s the way to get a championship. It’s all about harmony, ease and no mistakes and Matthew seems to be an expert at that! Maddison Growcott and the Questing gelding BZ Qantas were runner-up among a very strong group of horses. It’s a worry that the percentages were barely scraping 70%. Is it the lack of attention to the Training Scale? Is it the fact the judges are not game to step out and give marks and use the scale of marks, high and low? Is it the fact that the test riding does not show attention to detail and fluency and accuracy? No matter what the reason, it needs addressing.
It was interesting to see the judges spread their placings around in these classes, and the fact that the eventual champion was actually fourth in one of the two classes shows how many horses were in contention. A great competitive section.
The Medium level was a classy affair with a close-packed field. It was Remi Vigneron by Viscount for Matthew Lord who gained a 72% and a 75.6% to win the championship from David McKinnon and QS Sierra, an 8-year-old by Stedinger X Florette and the SPH Fortino by Bluefields Floreno from Donner Carina and ridden by David’s wife, Robbie. This SPH Fortino was ‘Champion of Champions’ at the Dressage with the Stars this year as a 6-year-old, with scores consistently around 85%, and so shows the quality of the class yet the scores were still tight! 85% in a 6-year-old class and you may well think that the marks here would be higher… 7 is fairly good and 8 is good.
The champion Remi Vigneron, ridden by Matthew Lord, gave away no marks in a regular trot and the canter was super consistent, if lacking a little jump, but clear and consistent. Others to watch out for in coming times will be Fidibus, a compact and active stallion by Floriscount and ridden in the classes by Elliot Patterson for a second in one test, with Jessica Dertell and Kilimanjaro impressive also.
Now for the class that was much admired, the Advanced, where several were also competing in the Prix St Georges and have been competing Small Tour for a while. However, the horse that caught the eye and who has yet to have a Small Tour start was the upstanding chestnut gelding Boulevard, imported and by Bordeaux. So harmonious and such a wonderful expressive and impulsive horse. There is no doubt that this horse who has been very lightly shown will be turning heads and reaping in more marks.
JOHNNY’S BEST PERFORMANCE
Iresias L won the Advanced 5B on 75.135%. The bay stallion is owned by Sarah Hanslow who was also competing in the Small Tour at the show. “Johnny”, as he is known, was shown and competed very successfully by Gina Montgomery, who found him for Sarah in Holland when he was a three-year-old. Gina trained and competed him from Novice to Inter I. He is by Glock’s Johnson and winning many DJWTS young horse championships and at Small Tour with mid-70% scores before Brett Parbery took over the training and riding and now competing at Advanced. One judge all the same gave 6.5 for submission with a 7 and an 8 from the other two. Sarah admitted she had tears in her eyes and feels it was Johnny’s best performance and was the proudest owner.
Others in the class that will really be making a mark were Hollands Bend Rococo and Robbie McKinnon, a winner at the NSW Championships and placing well here; Miramar Serene by Hollingrove Surreal, a mare owned and ridden by Ruth Schneeberger from South Australia, and such a light and elegant, tall and leggy mare so nicely harmonious; another SA combination in Heather Currie and the tall and flashy chestnut Fred Perry; and then Karen Blythe riding Sonic K, who was a little unsettled in some of his work but well and truly in the mix.
The Small Tour had plenty of likely winners coming in to the competition and for sure the weather on the PSG day did not favour some of the fancied ones, but it was constant rain for the entire class, yet the footing was just amazing. Deon Stokes and Don Dancier took out the PSG with 72.059% to beat Justine Greer and Yarramee Fonzie, who were a mere 0.6% behind, then Serena Ireland and Royalty R. In the Inter I it was again Don Dancier on 71.9%, then Royalty R and Fonzie. It was a fabulous class with others such as Robbie McKinnon with two favourites not enjoying the rain in Silmarillion E and Hollands Bend Rococo both fresh from the NSW Championships. Janet Seccull with Maritza and Flowervale Sancierra, Sara McDonald and Adlanta Marcella, Denise Rogan and Greco, Ruth Schneeberger and Roxleigh Fidelio, to mention a few, but plenty of discrepancies in percentages and placings amongst the five judges, ranging from second to 18th. With such a diversity of types of horses and differing frames and ways of going, it was easy to see the various opinions.
Don Dancier won the Small Tour Championship and Royalty R was the reserve. Two very different types and ways of going. Don Dancier is a very poll-high horse with open and elastic strides and quite forward in what is the collected work. Royalty R is a stronger, more engaged horse with a very ‘through’ look. The work shows a great degree of collection and better bend in the lateral work and the harmony and ease, with Serena’s still position appealing. Don Dancier is a lot looser mover, but still lacks some engagement. The changes are super expressive and easy and certainly scopey and ground-covering. Very outstanding to win both classes in such strong company. Justine Greer was unlucky with a few minor mistakes to not be in the lead, but a horse with great ethics and great over-the-back with a good ability and ready for Grand Prix. This is one to watch for!
The Inter II Championship was an interesting class won by Quando Queen and Robert Schmerglatt on 67.598%. In second was Desperanza and Alinta Veenvliet from WA. Another interesting horse with some outstanding parts of the test. It will be so interesting to see how these two progress into the CDI ranks.
In the Inter A and Inter B classes, it was Ampersand for Layla Williams who was Champion; this black gelding by Ampere has plenty of movement. Springfield Passion Hit with Nina Boyd was runner-up and very close behind. This wonderful smaller bay mare has so much expression. It was a shame that the mare Daenarys was not able to compete in the Medium Tour as Alexis Hellyer had a fall the day before off a young horse and was unable to ride with broken ribs. This mare could have been up the top as her previous scores were quite outstanding.
YOUNG STARS DOMINATE BIG TOUR
In the Grand Prix CDI it was Jessica Dertell and the imported 15-year-old chestnut stallion Cennin that swept all before them, winning with a score of 70.370%. This stallion by Vivaldi X Donnerhall is a beautiful bright chestnut with a wonderful front and has all the Grand Prix movements well and truly established in performing the tests. Jessica rode several horses at the Championships and won just about everything. This big horse takes quite some riding and Jess is doing a great job considering they have not been together that long. Cennin has very expressive paces with elastic front legs but needs to show more engagement and activity behind; this will certainly improve as this partnership is new. He does have a tendency to hang a little in the bridle and can get quite strong at times. All the same, the judges rewarded good marks even with this taken in to consideration. This is a wonderful combination and what a chance for this talented 18-year-old.
Runner-up was Aristede for Lindsey Ware, who together are as honest as the day is long, 67.674% and a pleasure to judge and watch – but for the bigger marks he could be more uphill (couldn’t we all!) Michelle Baker and Bradgate Park Puccini were third and Charlotte Phillips was fourth with CP Dresden. The judges in this class were unanimous with Cennin, but after that it was a bit all over the shop. (Marvin Smink gained a second and an 8th!) How interesting to see that the first three placings in the Freestyle here went to the young riders in Jess, Lindsey and Charlotte, and all over 70%… quite amazing and so positive for the sport with the up-and-coming talent. It was these three that ultimately filled the podium for the Australian Big Tour Championship.
Ella McConarchy was the Australian Childrens Champion on Kasperrado D Andreas, a super close comp with second to Rosemary Sutherland and then Annabell Shoobridge. The CDI Under 25 was dominated by Jess Dertell with Eskara De Jeu, except for a retirement in the Freestyle when the chestnut mare simply said NO! Mary Nitschke and Utopian Cardinal were right up there, and the liver chestnut was very bright and full of energy, as was her Small Tour horse that is an exciting prospect. Mary was crowned the Australian Under 25 Champion. Jess also won in the CDIJ with Kilimanjaro, as well as taking out the Australian Young Rider Championship, this time on Gladstone MH!
What a huge and amazing competition! Some really wonderful horses and riding and hope here for some up and coming Grand Prix hopefuls. EQ