Did you see the results of the dressage at EQUITANA on 10-11 November? Very interesting. The Grand Prix was won by Jessica Dertell riding Cennin. Jessica is 18 years old. Jessica also won the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Freestyle and the Grand Prix Special at the 2022 Australian Dressage Championships at Boneo Park on 13-16 October. I think she would have to be the youngest rider in Australian history to have won the open Australian Grand Prix Dressage Championship ever. My goodness, this has to be so very promising for the Australian future.
In actual fact, the top three placegetters at the Australian Championships in the open Grand Prix Freestyle and the Grand Prix Special were all young riders. All of them are a production of the Under-25 Grand Prix competition and program.
Just getting back to EQUITANA in November, the winner of the CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle was another young rider, Lindsey Ware, riding Aristede. Lindsey is 20. Again, all three top placings in the Grand Prix test at EQUITANA came from Australian young riders who are products of the Under-25 Grand Prix dressage program. Where are these young riders coming from?
Both Lindsey and Jessica are based in Victoria and are part of the Hygain Dressage Young Rider Squad and Development Program. I think the personality driving this program is one of Australia’s national dressage selectors, Jan Smith. Of course, there are other people who are instrumental in the Victorian program, and I mean no disrespect. The fact is, holy smoke! This Victorian program is having an enormous impact on Dressage Australia if ever there was one. Well done to the Victorians, and this is very likely to make a huge impact on results up to and including the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.
Just before I leave this topic, I would note that the current Australian Under-25 Grand Prix Dressage Champion from the Australian Dressage Championships at Boneo Park in October is Mary Nitschke, who was from South Australia and now based in New South Wales.
I think the Germans credit their current production of amazing young Grand Prix riders who are challenging their established superstars, and the whole world, to their very active young rider program. Not just Germany, I guess, because the reigning World Champion, Charlotte Fry, who is just 26, has also come through the British Young Rider Under-25 program. My goodness, that is a very strong message for the Australian High Performance managers right across Australia. And these results, in my opinion, are demanding a very serious shake-up and refocus in the existing Australian Dressage High Performance programs. Just talk to the Victorians and Jan Smith.