STALLION OR MARE?
It’s not just the height that goes against precedence with Mary’s two new horses. In recent times she’s had mostly mares in her stables – notably her Tokyo Olympic mare Calanta and the beautiful Syriana – and she says that initially when looking for new horses, her preference was to continue that trend.
“I swore I’d never have a stallion again, but Tommie has got a very sweet nature. I used to ride stallions all the time back in the days when we were breeding a lot of horses, we would only pretty well ride stallions… in more recent times it’s been lovely having the mares and I do love mares… I was trying to buy a mare, but I couldn’t find one that worked. It’s actually quite hard to buy any horse nowadays, the horse market has become very difficult.”
While Mary does miss having mares, she says having the two boys in the stable is working out well and she couldn’t be happier: “They both seem to have really lovely personalities. We’re getting to like them more and more as we get to know them.”
Alongside Ivanhoe and Tommie, Mary is also enjoying training Christopher Ardron and Jason York’s gelding, CJP Sir Dragonfire II, whom she recently rode at Boneo to win the Advanced championship. “He has got talent for the piaffe and passage; we’re just working on getting him more collected and uphill, and we’re also just starting to teach him the one tempis now. That’s always fun and exciting! I’m not exactly sure of their plans for the future, but I’ve been really enjoying riding him.
“Three horses working towards Grand Prix, that’s quite enough,” laughs Mary. “And then I hop on my young horse, Luckybird, and work a little bit with the piaffe passage. That’s the bit I love training the most.” Luckybird is a seven-year-old by Everdale out of a mare whom Mary purchased at one of Van Olst Horses’ auctions. “He wasn’t so easy in the beginning, but he’s just suddenly turned the corner and starting to develop into a real dressage horse, and he’s showing great talent for the piaffe and passage. It took us a while to get the changes happening, but now they’re really getting established.
“Tori Weir – who’s worked with me for years – has formed a very nice partnership with Luckybird and so I’m also enjoying developing them because he’s showing great potential to be a Grand Prix horse,” explains Mary, adding that the aim is to qualify the gelding for the seven-year-old class at Dressage & Jumping with the Stars later this month.
Before Mary returned to Australia at the end of last year, she had been training with Finnish Olympic dressage rider Henri Rouste in Germany – and she’s continued lessons with him on Tommie via the internet. “I began training with Henri because I felt his training methods were most similar to the way I’d already been taught. I admire his riding greatly. He’s a very, very good rider and he’s right up with those high percentages we see nowadays.
“I haven’t trained Ivanhoe with anyone yet, but Patrik had offered to help me. He knows the horse very well and so it’d be great for us to get things going. It’s all dependent on Patrik having enough time as he’s extremely busy,” says Mary, explaining that at this stage she plans to head back over to Germany during the Australian winter for training and competition.
“The whole sport is changing. You have to get well into the seventies to be competitive on the international stage nowadays. It’s changing at a rapid rate and it is getting harder and harder. As I’m getting older and it’s getting harder, I don’t know if I can make that gap, but I’m not giving up.”