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.
The Victorian Youth Dressage Championships always highlight our sport’s up-and-coming talent and the strength and camaraderie of the young dressage community, as was evident at the 2023 Stable Ground Victorian Youth Dressage Championships.
“The ultimate goal for many riders is to compete at Grand Prix level.”
What has been most exciting to watch is the increasing number of riders participating in the FEI classes. The opportunity to ride through these tests to a national standard provides the younger generation with a taste of what is to come at CDIs and allows them to test their training level against challenging FEI tests in a supportive and friendly atmosphere.
The FEI Junior class for competitors aged 14-18 had six combinations in the championship. These tests are considered to be at Medium level, however, they are utilised in the UK as the Medium-Advanced level due to the high-paced nature of the floorplan. Olivia Gillespie, riding her promising six-year-old Amsterdam, took out the overall Champion, while Reserve Champion was Rosemary Heagney riding Redgum James 007.
The FEI Young Rider class for competitors aged 16-21 had 10 combinations. With the first test being the Prix St Georges and the second being a rendition of the Prix St Georges, it is exciting to see the number of riders successfully competing at this high level of training at such a young age. The winner of the championship was Jessica Dertell riding Future Farms’ striking seven-year-old stallion, Kilimanjaro. The Reserve Champion was Indi Officer riding Wisteria.
The ultimate goal for many riders is to compete at Grand Prix level and the FEI U25 Grand Prix class for competitors aged 16-25 provides young riders with a stepping stone to open Grand Prix classes. The championship consists of the Intermediate II test, the U25 Grand Prix test – which has all the Grand Prix work without the dreaded canter half-pass zig-zag – and of course, the Freestyle. With eight combinations starting in this class, it certainly is an exciting time for dressage in Victoria. These combinations included:
Jessica Dertell (18) riding the gorgeous stallion Cennin (15) who is by Vivaldi
Jessica Dertell (18) riding the fiery Eskara De Jeu (13) who is by Jazz
Olivia Gillespie (18) riding the exuberant Versace I (13) who is by Animoso XL
Kelsey Josephs (20) riding the energetic Irock (14) who is by Sirocco
Isabelle Luxmoore (20) riding the elegant Hill Cottage Jazmira (15) who is by Jazz
Brooke Mance (20) riding the beautiful Callum Park Freya (16) who is by Falsterbo
Louisa Smith (25) riding the young stallion HP Fresco (11) who is by Fackeltanz OLD
Charlie Welsh (22) riding the flamboyant Horizonte De Jeu (10) who is by Glocks Voice
As riders of all disciplines know, a competition is a true test of your training and sometimes it all falls into place – while other times it does not go quite like you planned. The heat impacted Kelsey’s test with Irock, whilst Jess’s horses seemed to thrive with Cennin achieving a massive 74.233% in the Grand Prix Freestyle. However, the definitive theme from all the riders was that there is always room for improvement.
Each of these horses has their own strengths and weaknesses and, as a rider, it is our job to help make the movements that are difficult become easier. In Louisa’s case, “Fresco is naturally quite talented in the collected paces and has a great brain so doesn’t find the work too overwhelming. He finds the 1x changes a little tricky, but we are working on it!” says Louisa, “We spend time consolidating the work by doing small repetitions of different exercises to improve his suppleness, strength and co-ordination. This paired with hacking out and the water treadmill keep his mind and body fresh and happy.”
Brooke notes that, “Freya has a heart of gold, which is her main strength. She is a very talented horse but doesn’t necessarily find all the Grand Prix work super easy, however, she never stops trying and I think this is her best asset. In order to help consolidate all of her training we work on the lines we find tough in the tests and help build her strength and confidence so she feels capable in the arena.”
To get to this level of training takes a lot of hard work, so we asked riders to share some of the tips that could help aspiring riders along the way:
Jessica Dertell: “Go out there and enjoy yourself! It is all an experience to prepare you for the open Grand Prix. We are very lucky to have such a friendly group of riders who all support each other! Work hard and set realistic goals in your journey and know we all are working towards a common goal, and that takes time!”
Olivia Gillespie: “Understand your horses. With the help of my coach, Justine Greer, and my mum, I have come to learn how ‘Diego’ thinks and behaves. This has allowed me to modify my behaviour around him and my riding, so he trusts me. Trust is vital with horses. To achieve trust, I would recommend changing up your routine occasionally so your horse trusts you when something new occurs.”
Kelsey Josephs: “As a rider, always aim to have an open mind because there will always be instances where you feel you are taking one step forward and three steps back. Set realistic goals for yourself but learn to laugh and love what you are doing.”
Isabelle Luxmoore: “Consistency is key. Riding consistently is crucial to ensuring both you and your horse are conditioned for higher level dressage. This can be very challenging when you’re trying to juggle work, uni or school commitments, especially in the depths of a Victorian winter. But being disciplined enough to get yourself up out of bed to ride in the dark when it’s blowing a gale and sleeting is exactly the effort required to reach the higher levels – plus it’s quite character building. Ultimately, work hard, surround yourself with knowledgeable people, and if all else fails, steal your coach’s horse!”
Brooke Mance: “Find a coach who believes in you and helps you get the most out of your training with your horse. I have been super lucky to have amazing coaches and fortunate enough to be training with Denise Rogan, who has helped me reach my goals.”
Louisa Smith: “Surround yourself with people who pull you up not drag you down. Remember that nothing is perfect, everyone has struggles, so work hard and be kind.”
Charlie Welsh: “Developing a versatile training program is a must for keeping your horse happy and sound at any level. Additionally, having a good coach that knows how to train a horse correctly through the levels is a must. With these two tools you don’t need to have the most expensive horse to make it to Grand Prix… although having a horse like ‘Halle’ does help.”
The future is certainly looking bright for dressage in Victoria! The talent is continuing to shine through, and with competitions like the VYDC that foster supportive friendships and bonding it is certainly exciting. We now look towards Dressage by the Sea at Willinga Park this month to see some of these combinations perform and will continue to watch the development of the FEI classes at the VYDC for years to come. EQ