PLUS: HEATH RYAN’S DRESSAGE ADVENTURE, KERRY MACK TALKS THE WALK, ROGER FITZHARDINGE ON THE NEW NOVICE TESTS, MIM COLEMAN & COURAGE IN THE ARENA, VIC YOUTH DRESSAGE CHAMPS, AVENEL HORSE TRIALS, DJWTS, A VET’S LOOK AT CARDIAC MURMURS, KALEY CUOCO & THE HORSE WITH THE FLYING TAIL.
Doing this dressage thing is a case of riding your horse or horses pretty much every day. Easily said, not so easy to do. Well, if you are serious you have to! This year is a great year to have a crack at getting into the final Olympic selection trials, which will occur in the first half of next year, 2024.
I am very fortunate and have four young horses which I think are very talented and which would respond very positively to a serious effort on my behalf. Well, on Sunday 29 January, I made the trip from Newcastle to the Bowral Dressage Club official competition held at the most magnificent Bong Bong racecourse. How did that country racetrack get that name? It was 2am start from home for a 7am arrival time with the first of our tests being 10.30am. That kind of sounds tough but easily doable if you want to make an effort.
The Bowral Dressage community was super hospitable and the competitors were made up of a wonderful mix of locals and people from Canberra and people from Sydney and myself from Newcastle. This was not the normal group of dressage riders that haunt the more northern competitions on the East Coast of New South Wales, which is more my territory. Seeing all these different riders in action was very interesting. Actually, very, very interesting.
In the Medium classes the 4.1 was won by Rochelle King-Andrews on Challenger Florian. Challenger Florian is by Fiji R out of Jaimie R, who is a Jive Magic x Regardez Moi mare. Rochelle is actually a cracking good dressage rider who has managed to stay below the Australian international horizon. Rochelle has ridden Grand Prix on her horse Challenger Jacaranda in the past with scores up to and including 66%. That is actually deadly serious.
Right now, I think if anyone in Australia can put up a GP score of 71%, they will be a very serious consideration for Australian team selection for the Paris Olympics next year, 2024. So, the Medium 4.1, was won by a very serious rider who did score on this occasion 68.33%. Second place in this class went to Riley Alexander who is not seen competing up north of Sydney very often and he rode really, really well. He was second in the 4.1 on a Friesian stallion called Tjibbe B who was ridden by Daniella Dierks a couple of years ago. Daniella had scored up to and including 80% in the lower grades. This is a very exciting ride for Riley and it will be very interesting to watch progress here.
Riley went on to stamp his authority on the whole competition in the 4.2 where he won the class on a black Negro mare called New Star LP with a breathtaking score of 74.53%. This mare is owned by Christan Trainor from the Glenhill Sporthorses stud. Christan has a couple of foals from New Star LP through embryo transfer. The Negro blood is reigning supreme at the moment in the dressage world with Valegro, who won the Individual and Team Gold Medals at London Olympics 2012 and again at Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016. Valegro is by Negro. The current reigning World Champion, Glamourdale, is out of a Negro mare. Wow, it was pretty amazing to watch a Negro horse competing at Bowral and doing so well with an up-and-coming Australian rider. Riley also took out second place in the 4.2 on the Friesian stallion, Tjibbe B. Like Rochelle, Riley has actually ridden Grand Prix and does have a score of 68% to his credit. My goodness, that is very serious.
In the Advanced 5.1 class, the winner was Matthew Dowsley on TS Firestorm. Matt is one of those riders who seems to always just focus up on one or two horses at any one time. TS Firestorm was breathtakingly impressive, winning on 73.65%. Matt has ridden for Australia in years gone by at Grand Prix level. Matt is, in my opinion, just getting better and better as he gets older and older and basically that means he has more and more experience. Certainly, his performances at Bowral Dressage were breathtaking. He won the second Advanced 5.2 on 76.91%. You have to hope that Matt goes on with TS Firestorm to Grand Prix and becomes available for team selection in the not-too-distant future. TS Firestorm is owned by Cheryl Smith. Maybe Paris is a little close but the World Championships in 2026 should see this partnership explode into contention.
In the Prix St Georges class, Boulevard – ridden by David Mckinnon – was having his first Prix St Georges start. I happened to be beside the warm-up arena whilst David was warming up and to say the warm-up was impressive is an understatement. Boulevard and David went on to do a magnificent first Prix St Georges test to win on 74.71%. Boulevard is an 11-year-old owned by Kylie Riddell and is by Bordeaux. That Prix St Georges score is to die for.
David is recognised around Australia as being one of our very fancy up-and-coming riders for the future. David as yet has not stamped his presence on the Grand Prix world, however, if Boulevard stays confident and keeps progressing, this combination will very soon be in contention for Australian selection. Paris next year is very close but definitely a possibility. Certainly by the World Championships in 2026, Boulevard will more than be ready. So, so exciting. The Prix St Georges class at Bowral was very strong with all eight riders showing a lot of promise.
The Intermediate I class was won by the 10-year-old mare Revelwood Queens County ridden by Megan Keir. They had a great score of 70% neat. Revelwood Queens County is by Quando Quando who represented Australia in dressage at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Revelwood Queens County is out of Richmeed Lara who is a Lanthan–Donnerhall–Pik Bube mare. Grand Prix bloodlines to die for! Megan has been riding Revelwood Queens County for four years now and this does look like a great partnership evolving towards a Grand Prix outcome. This will be Megan’s first crack at the big time and that is very exciting. Rapport and partnership is a really big thing right at the top. Megan has managed to move right up through the grades amongst a group of megastar professionals. She has done fantastically well and everyone wishes her lots of luck as she continues to take on the best Australia has on offer at the moment.
The Intermediate A test had one competitor in Sharon Potter riding Bradgate Park Amadeus. Sharon and her husband, John, are based in Wagga Wagga which is almost off the beaten track when it comes to serious dressage. Actually, it is 344km away from Bowral or 4½ hours travel. Sharon is of slight build but fiercely determined and does ride very powerful expressive tests. Her horse, Bradgate Park Amadeus, was bred by John and Bev Healy and is by the Dutch stallion, Ampere. Bradgate Park Amadeus is out of Donna Karan which is by Don Ramiro who carries Donnerhall and Pik Bube bloodlines. Very fancy.
Every time I see Sharon and Bradgate Park Amadeus, I am struck by how good this combination is and that any moment soon they will be on an Olympic team. I think the challenge of that Wagga distance is more difficult than any of us can imagine. I am doing a little bit of guesswork here, but I think this might have been Sharon’s first Intermediate A test. So, before a combination can compete in Grand Prix these days, they have to have two scores over 60% at Intermediate A, Intermediate B or Intermediate II. Sharon sure did score over 60%. Sharon and Bradgate Park Amadeus scored 67.06%. That is simply fantastic. I am guessing but I think Sharon will now have to do a second test as mentioned above before being able to do Grand Prix. Very, very close and Sharon and Bradgate Park Amadeus are dynamite. Very exciting.
The Intermediate II and the Grand Prix test were won by me on Hunterview Jasper. In the Intermediate II we scored 64.46% and in the Grand Prix we scored 62.01%. These are not great scores but from my point of view it is a start. Judith Buckley, who is the owner of Hunterview Jasper, said, “Congratulations, you now just need to improve your scores by 6-8%!” Well, that is dead right. I did have a look at the video, and by comparison with those riders I have already mentioned in this article, the videos did make me flinch. However, make no mistake, just climbing into the Grand Prix arena is a hell of a thing. If I do a 9% improvement in the next year, that will give me a Grand Prix score of 71%. That will go jolly close to selection in the Australian Dressage Paris Olympic Team. 9%!! That is a world of pain. Where to start?
Well, I am fat and old and I have started dieting. I have lost 4kg and I have 16kg to go. This is just going to be so painful. The horse, Hunterview Jasper, naturally is really up in front and naturally breathes fire. I really like him but at the moment he just isn’t round enough. Okay. I am now committed to producing my next Grand Prix test rounder. I think Hunterview Jasper does have really great piaffe and passage but at the moment it doesn’t come easily and looks like hard work. I need to be more creative and train in a way where Jasper can move in and out of his piaffe and his passage more easily and more willingly.
I have had some really good horses in the past and they were all really slick in the piaffe and passage. That is my special area. I keep thinking what is wrong with me, I just need to be more creative and work harder. Of course, working harder can also backfire. The horse’s mental and physical wellbeing is 100% paramount. It is through misadventure with soundness and mental health whilst training that is the main reason why there are so few Grand Prix combinations who can front up at a competition. It is a slippery, slippery road but 9% here we come. EQ