PLUS: RYAN’S RAVE, MARY HANNA’S NEW CHARGES, GARY LUNG’S MASTERCLASS, ROGER FITZHARDINGE’S YOUNG HORSE EXERCISE TIPS, INK MAKES HIS MARK AT BARASTOC, WHY SUSIE HOEVENAARS LOVES THOROUGHBREDS, THE GLENHILL TEAM, WHAT MOTIVATES KERRY MACK, A VET’S LOOK AT SALIVARY GLANDS & ‘A KNIGHT’S TALE’.
Equestrian Australia makes lots of appointments to their staff over the year and often they are for jobs that have not in the past existed. To be bluntly honest, as an ordinary member, most of these appointments make a zero impact on most of us who are part of EA, because we ride our horses, we compete, some of us volunteer to help run local competitions, some are judges or coaches or officials – we are all in it because we are passionate about our horses. We all need EA administration and leadership but the changes and new job positions within EA rarely make any difference to our individual journeys with our horses.
So why would we specifically feature Will in this column?
I cannot remember ever a High Performance Director for EA coming from an equestrian background. That in itself is amazing. Trying to think logically, surely a HP Director in the equestrian world would have to come from within the industry? Equestrian is so unique. Well, no, in Australia our HP Directors have not come from within the sport. For me, this is really, really weird and I would question how effective a non-horse person could be in this sport if they have not grown up within it.
Chris Webb, who was our HP Director since 2013, came from a Rugby background. Most of our previous HP Directors came through the Australian Sports Commission and were often ex-athletes from hockey, or rowing or some other discipline in the main Olympic sports. So, Will Enzinger is a big, big change!
What can we expect from Will that could make a difference to our individual journeys with our horses?
To be honest, I am probably about to launch off on a wish list, however, I do know Will really well. I think he is in a position to be effective and introduce programs that reach out across Australia, that are inclusive and that will actively seek younger riders with the potential to have an impact on Australia’s future. Many of these younger riders would be unaware right this moment that indeed Australia’s future is on their shoulders.
I think we have had an era of squad schools in most states of Australia, but these have degenerated into a process which is not measuring the standards within the squad schools against the standards needed to be selected onto Australian teams. Each rider in a squad school should, in my opinion, be focused on progressing through the grades safely in the first instance so that they are competing at a standard that allows them to take part in Australian Olympic or World Championship trials. Each rider in a squad school in Australia should be very conscious of what scores they are producing at their relevant competition level and also be aware of what scores they need to produce to be competitive on a national level.
Once a squad school rider starts to emerge into Australian Olympic or World Championship trial standards, each rider needs to be very focused on what score is necessary to be part of an Australian team capable of delivering gold medals for Australia in their discipline.
So, for eventing for instance, we will need Australian riders to finish all three phases of dressage, cross country and show jumping with a score under 30 penalties. That is so difficult. Guess what! The Australian riders can do that. This, however, never appears in squad schools and goal setting, and in being aware of other riders internationally who are moving into this zone, and observing philosophies and training techniques that are evolving elsewhere and being exactly coached in competitions and pathways that lead to effective Australian team selection… and so on and so on and so on and so on.
Exactly the same focus needs to come to dressage and show jumping. There are individuals in Australia who do have this knowledge and who do again and again get selected on Australian teams. This means that, at the moment, most of our teams are seriously ageing. It is a knowledge equation. The older you get the more knowledge you have. Blimey, imagine what would happen if these squad schools started imparting knowledge to our young athletic riders of the future!
The gold medal winning Australian team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics - Andrew Hoy and Darien Powers, Phillip Dutton and House Doctor, Matt Ryan Kibah Sandstone and Stuart Tinney on Jeepster. Image supplied by Equestrian High Performance.
Australia did have a golden era in the 1990s where it won three consecutive team eventing Olympic gold medals. In 1992 at Barcelona, Spain, in 1996 at Atlanta, USA and in 2000 at Sydney in Australia. The riders in these teams and squads started at 18 years of age and were mostly in their 20s: Olivia Bunn, came individually seventh at the 1998 World Championships in Rome when she was 18, and individually seventh in 2002 Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, when she was 22. Wendy Schaeffer won a team gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics at 21, and she should have been awarded the individual gold medal, however, the FEI was fiddling around with different formats at both Atlanta and Sydney and both times it cost Australia an individual gold medal.
I know that measuring squad school riders today against Australian Olympic selection comes as a bit of a surprise to squad school organisers, but honestly, squad schools in the eight states and territories of Australia proactively search out, or should search out, the most promising riders they have. Of course, from our most promising squad school riders in each state should come our elite squads. Now, for the last 20 plus years this has been one big fail! Time to change.
In the 90s we did work hard on our young riders and their development and Australia won three Olympic team gold medals consecutively. It doesn’t matter what sort of a cynic you are, that is no fluke. We didn’t have a basketball coach or a tennis coach as our High Performance Director. We didn’t have an HP Director with a title in those days. Squad schools run accurately are potentially life changing for we riders, especially our younger riders, and squad schools have the potential to change Australian history.
I know Will Enzinger is very aware of the potential our young riders have, and is also aware of the almost 100% attrition rate that we in Australia experience today. Time to change. Guess what, Will, we are all watching!
The Oceania Eventing Championships scheduled for 9-12 March in New Zealand have been cancelled due to Cyclone Gabrielle and the extensive damage that it has left in its wake. What a shame. We were sending an Australian senior team and an Australian young rider team over. The teams announced to represent Australia were:
Oceania Championships Senior Team – Andrew Cooper & Pepper Jack; Cathryn Herbert & Wimborne Constable; Shenae Lowings & Bold Venture; Kenya Wilson & Sandros Salute MW. Non-travelling reserves, Sam Lyle & BF Valour. Chef d’equipe, Will Enzinger.
Oceania Championships Young Rider Team – Molly Lines & Tadpole; Riley Lyall & GI War Machine; Tess Morrow & Nawarrah Park Dark Star; Ella Smith & Jaybee Altimate. Chef d’equipe, Andrew Barnett.
What a shame. Hopefully everyone on these teams will get another go. However, with horses it is really, really scary and sometimes the stars all align on one occasion only. This is such a tough sport.
BREATH OF FRESH AIR
Willinga Park is a most spectacular venue and for a rider to be part of it is a privilege, as was the case for its Dressage by the Sea CDI competition on 23-26 February. It was also the FEI World Cup Pacific League Final to determine who would represent our region – as in New Zealand and Australia – at the real World Cup Final in Omaha, USA, on 3-8 April.
This is the one Australian representative opportunity that incurs no selection uproars or controversies ever. It is simple. You win the Pacific League Final and you are the nomination. There are no selectors, there are no multiple trials, there are no vet opinions, there are no subjective character assessments, it is just whoever wins this area final. Works brilliantly. Well, the winner was Charlotte Phillips riding CP Dresden owned by Jane Bruce. Well, Charlotte is 21 years of age! Oh my goodness, what a breath of fresh air! This will be a world record for Australia in terms of sending a young rider to represent our country at Grand Prix.
Funding for this opportunity is a big issue. In days gone by travel expenses were covered by EA and a special International Travel Fund existed to help riders. I think that fund has been swallowed up within EA and the High Performance budgeting and maybe doesn’t exist anymore. Are we able to re-birth this fund? It should be available to all four disciplines of dressage, para dressage, eventing and show jumping, specifically for situations like the Charlotte Phillips situation. This would be an enormous tragedy for Charlotte not to be able to afford to represent Australia at Omaha. There are lots of private initiatives in fundraising that are possible, but this does really revolve around how “out there” an individual is. I am really worried.
Of course, this is a High Performance issue and what a disaster if Australia fails to send its youngest Pacific League World Cup winner ever. This is absolutely something that Will will bend his mind to and maybe he can do something. However, I feel Will has literally just been appointed and this will really blindside him. Will does come from an eventing background and to get across all of the other disciplines is going to take him a moment. Nevertheless, you can see why dressage in Australia does struggle. Well, welcome to our world, Will Enzinger.
I always feel when I do these columns that I do not pay the show jumping discipline enough respect. I personally feel that this discipline also is on the up and up even though I also feel that the show jumping journey to address World Championship and Olympic standards is pretty lonely and those guys are doing it on their own. I feel that the unexpected massive game changer that has happened here is the advent of frozen semen and the obsession Australians have with their opportunity to breed top-of-the range horses.
In this instance, breeding show jumping horses is something that we Australians have taken to like ducks to water. Our show jumping riders are right in the middle of accessing horses that are not that far away from top-of-the-range horses in the northern hemisphere. Given the Australian competitive attitude, and give Australian riders top-of-the-range equipment, you will get results that are unexpected anywhere in the world.
These flashes of international brilliance have already appeared on occasion; I point out that in 2018 we sent a team of four boys to represent Australia at the World Equestrian Games at Tryon, USA. They were a bunch of tough characters and some of our high-profile riders decided not to be available for Australian selection in that team. Well, didn’t those boys dig in. It was heroic and Australia placed an unprecedented sixth place as a team and automatically qualified us for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Bloody brilliant.
Just for the record, Scott Keach rode a horse called Fedor. Fedor is by Kashmir van Schuttershof. The Swedish show jumping team won the World Championship team gold medal last year (2022) at Herning, Denmark. This is the first time the Swedes have won team gold at the World Championships. The Swedish show jumping team also won team gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Anyway, two of the horses on both of those Swedish successes were also by Kashmir van Schuttershof – H&M All In and H&M Indiana.
Scott Keach in 2018 was sitting on a magnificently bred piece of show jumping machinery. Jamie Kermond was riding a horse called Yandoo Oaks Constellation. Yandoo Oaks Constellation is by ASB Conquistador who was brought into Australia by Chris and Helen Chugg. Conquistador has evolved into one of our most outstanding show jumping sires ever and he was also the sire of Oaks Redwood, which was ridden by Billy Raymont at the 2018 World Equestrian Games at Tryon, USA as well. That is pretty impressive.
The final rider for Australia was Rowan Willis riding a mare called Blue Movie who is by Chacco-Blue. Well, Chacco-Blue is the sire of Explosion W who was the individual gold medallist at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. So, Rowan was also on just the most state-of-the-art jumping genetics. Those boys were all tough Australian competitors, and given horsepower equal to the rest of the world, man didn’t they do us proud! There’s lots more of that to come from the show jumping world and I think it is becoming more and more likely.
I would be optimistic that Will Enzinger is going to be a huge positive for the show jumpers as well. I do suspect they are right on the edge right now of once again making Australia competitive at the World Championships and Olympic Games.
Will Enzinger just might be a massive game changer for Australia. EQ