OCT 2023




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OCT 2023
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A Few Words



Ryan's Rave
























EQ Journeys











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A test event was held around the Olympic cross country course at Palace of Versailles in August... the countdown is on to Paris 2024! Image by FEI - PSV.

Right through the three Olympic disciplines in Australia of eventing, dressage and show jumping, there is definitely now a current of awareness and intensity building as the 2024 Paris Olympics are more and more coming into focus.

Here I update my eventing and dressage top 10 lists, having to postpone my promised show jumping list until next month, as it is proving challenging to compile…

The eventing and dressage leaderboards are starting to tighten up, and just because you win an internationally accredited competition either in Australia or in the northern hemisphere, it doesn’t automatically mean you will make my top 10 Australian shortlist. You also have to put in a jolly good score. You can actually win an international competition and still not make this Australian top 10!

“The top 10 leaderboard
in each discipline is
focus-focus-focus on

I have had numerous correspondence from Australians who feel they should have been in the top 10. I have replied to all of them. At the moment, we are considering scores only, and only from competitions which are internationally accredited and contribute to Paris Olympic qualifications. This system is not yet super fine-tuned in recognising varying levels of international competitions as in 3*, 4* or 5* competitions. This will come as we get closer to the pointy end. For the moment, this system is 100% objective and doing its job. These scores have to be posted within the Olympic qualifying timeframe, which is 1 January 2023 to 24 June 2024. This is indeed part of the qualifying criteria for the Paris Olympics. The top 10 leaderboard in each discipline is focus-focus-focus on Paris-Paris-Paris!

For people confused or feeling short-changed at their exclusion, you are very welcome to write to me at and enquire as to why your son or daughter or husband or wife or partner or friend is not on the list. I would love it if you also give me permission to print your correspondence. The questions people are asking when writing in are the same questions people are asking who are not writing in. It would be great to get these questions out there and the answers in the column, which would be helpful to everyone.

So far, no one is game to have their letters printed. Letters are very welcome, just so long as everyone is promoting a rider, and that means indirectly that the rider is considered by their supporters as better than some of the riders currently in the top 10 shortlist. This is completely acceptable. What isn’t acceptable is to disparage the performances of listed riders. The top 10 shortlist promotes a rider’s best score. All riders will have moments that are inconsistent and not so good, and all will struggle with horse and rider soundness etc. The negative considerations are there with everyone who is trying for Paris and will be duly considered by the Australian selectors at the end of the selection period. It is these negative considerations which are indeed necessary but have the potential to make the whole selection process a not very nice experience.

Australia is littered with riders who have thrown their lives at riding for Australia and then been brutally burnt at the final cut. Some of these riders are hurt beyond repair. It’s bloody awful. The whole thought of riding for your country at the Olympics is so romantic when it is really not!! Being selected for Australia means you have a job to do. You have to represent all of we mortals who are not quite so good and do us proud and produce the best performance you are capable of. It is on your honour to try with everything you have to produce a personal best. Hopefully an Australian team posting scores representing their personal best means that Olympic medals are possible or that the end result is the best Australia has ever done and paves a pathway to Olympic medals in the future.

Just over the horizon is the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and this personal best idea and improving our international standing is very much a part of our Australian journey to a magnificent performance in Brisbane. The pressure is enormous. These top 10 lists are simply a promotion of our best riders with their best scores. Actually, it’s a little more than that. It is food for thought for everyone, including mums and dads and husbands and wives and friends and coaches, in our efforts to produce Australian gold medals.

Righto, here are my current top 10 shortlists!


1. Shane Rose and Virgil have a magnificent 28.5 penalties from Adelaide CCI5*L on 20 April, 2023. The obvious worry with Virgil is that he will be 19 years old next year. Virgil is, however, enjoying wonderful health and soundness and just recently at Willinga Park’s Jumping@Willinga competition, they were competing in the 1.55m Grand Prix class. This was the biggest class of the whole show and is Olympic serious in just straight show jumping. In eventing, the maximum show jumping height at the Olympics in the individual jump-off is 1.35m. So right now, Virgil is in great health and performing in straight show jumping way beyond any standard necessary for eventing jumping. Holy smoke! That is a performance!

2. Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend have 32.2 penalties from Kilguilkey House International Horse Trials CCI4*S in Ireland on 29 July, 2023. Kevin is based in England.

3. Andrew Cooper and Hey Arnold have 32.9 penalties from Tamborine CCI4*S in Australia on 19 February, 2023.

4. Sophia Hill and Humble Glory have 33.5 penalties from Werribee CCI4*S on 2 February, 2023.

5. Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB are the only new combination to penetrate the previous Australian top 10 shortlist. Sammi and Finduss PFB have a score of 34.4 penalties from Blenheim CCI4*L in England on 13 September, 2023. This was a fabulous performance from Sammi and Finduss PFB. They sailed around the cross country clear of jumping penalties and clear of time penalties. They backed this up with a clear show jumping round. So Sammi and Finduss PFB finished on their dressage score which is a magnificent effort and was one of only seven competitors to achieve this amazing performance.

“This was a fabulous performance
from Sammi and Finduss PFB.”

Do you know how many competitors were in the Blenheim CCI4*L? There were 93 who started! For comparison, recently at Canberra, Australia, there was a CCI4*S with a field of 15 riders. No one finished on their dressage score, with the winning score being 42 penalties. 42 penalties does not even make the current Australian top 10. Canberra results are, however, a qualification for Paris. So, what an amazing performance from Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB.

Just to get everything into perspective, however, the first placegetter at Blenheim was the British girl Rosalind Canter riding Izilot DHI who finished on a score of 22 penalties. Rosalind is in great form, and on her other horse Lordships Graffalo won the European Championships on 9 August with a score of 25.3 penalties. Rosalind, you would have to think, is definitely going to be picked on the British Eventing Team for Paris. We Australians have to put a team together that can beat her? Oh, my goodness!

What is even worse is the second placegetter at Blenheim was also an English girl who is in magnificent form. Yasmin Ingham riding Banzai Du Loir finished Blenheim CCI4*L on a score of 24.5 penalties. Yasmin is also currently the World Champion on this horse, where she scored 23.2 penalties to win this title. Yasmin you would have to think is also definitely going to be picked on the British team for Paris. Ye gods! How are we going to round up a team to go up against these two British girls? What’s more, the British actually have another four or five riders capable of similar scores. These scores are being posted right now by the British riders.

Anyway, Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB are really flexing muscle against the absolute best in the world. They have gone so magnificently well and are currently ranking fifth in my Australian top 10.

So, just pondering Sammi’s score on Finduss PFB and the way forward is to improve the dressage score. Sammi is actually a really good dressage rider and I think she is already getting close to getting the best test possible out of Finduss PFB. Her performance at Blenheim was actually nearly perfect for what this horse can do. This is such a tough gig!!

Sammi has been selected on the Australian Nations Cup Team in Boekelo in the Netherlands on 5-8 October. She is selected on one of her other horses called Jutopia. Jutopia has a promising record and is only just now moving into the big time. Jutopia has a record of scoring 27.9 penalties and 27.6 penalties in the dressage, so definitely potentially a better dressage horse. Sammi’s results on Jutopia at Boekelo will be of great interest to all of us.

6. Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture have 34.7 penalties from Adelaide CCI4*S on 20 April, 2023.

7. David Middleton and WEC In The Money have 35.3 penalties from Wandin CCI4*S on 18 March, 2023.

8. Olivia Barton and Hollyander HG have 35.5 penalties from Melbourne CCI4*L on 8 June, 2023.

9. Bill Levett and Huberthus AC have 35.5 penalties from Montelibretti CCI4*S in Italy on 9 March, 2023. Bill is based in England.

10. Moving into the “death seat” – the first to be bumped off the list if an Australian rider does a better score – is Kenya Wilson and Sandros Salute with a score of 36.7 penalties from Brigadoon CCI4*S in Australia on 1 April, 2023.

The rider who was in the death seat before Sammi and Finduss PFB moved in was Molly Lines riding Tadpole. Molly and Tadpole have just been unceremoniously dumped! Such is life in the fast lane. Molly and Tadpole are indeed capable of making a comeback and it will be very interesting to see if Molly can respond. Molly Lines and Tadpole are a little similar to Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB. They are really good jumping horses and really fast cross country, but both of these horses struggle a little bit with the dressage phase.

Kenya Wilson and Sandros Salute are the next to get dumped if anyone out there can go through 36.7 penalties at a CCI4*S or CCI4*L or CCI5*L. Things are getting super tough in this top 10! Well done to everyone who has managed to make this list temporarily and good luck to those with solid scores that just might survive right down to the wire and final selection of the Paris team.


We have quite a bit of movement in the top 10 as a result of the Brisbane CDI3* on 14-17 September.

1. Mary Hanna on Ivanhoe with a score of 71.348% at Brisbane CDI3* on 15 September, 2023. Out of the blue the front-running score has been seriously wrested away from everyone now that Mary has entered the fray. We did anticipate that Mary could put in an amazing performance at Brisbane in her first international show on Ivanhoe. Yep, Mary is unstoppable and if she makes the Australian team – which is likely with scores like this – it will be Olympics No. 7 for her. This score is going to take some rounding up. It has really taken the bull by the horns and I would think that it could hold the lead right through the rest of this year and perhaps even down to the wire next year. A big, big score for everyone to chase!

“This is the first CDI that ten-year-old
Immerdale has done… there’s going
to be considerable improvement.”

2. Simone Pearce on Immerdale with a score of 70.717% at Ornago CDI3* in Italy on 29 September, 2023. Well, Mary Hanna has set a cracking pace but Simone Pearce has almost instantly responded brilliantly on Immerdale. This is the first CDI that the 10-year-old Immerdale has ever done. That being the case you would have to think that there is going to be considerable improvement in this score between now and 24 June 2024, which is when selection for the Paris Olympic team closes. There is no doubt that like Mary Hanna, Simone Pearce is unstoppable. I think it is very likely that for the first time ever, Australia is going to field a dressage team where each member is capable of doing 70% or a little more. That is very exciting.

3. Jayden Brown on WillingaPark Quincy B with a score of 69.804% at Hartpury CDI3* in England on 7 July, 2023. Jayden competed at the British Nationals recently on Quincy B and scored a very promising 70.957% in the Grand Prix. This score, however, was in a British National class. To qualify for Paris and be eligible for Australian selection the scores have to be achieved in a CDI3* or above or a CDI-W. Nevertheless, Jayden and Quincy B are out and about and showing signs of improving on their 69.804%. We will be very interested to see if Quincy B can respond to Ivanhoe’s front-running 71.348% challenge.

4. Jessica Dertell on Cennin with a score of 69.522% at Brisbane CDI3* on 15 September, 2023. This is another big score coming out of the Brisbane CDI3*. Jessica is just 19 years of age, so a staggering development for Australia. She did make a course error in the Grand Prix, which is very, very costly. Jessica and Cennin are next expected to perform in the CDI-W at the StableGround Australian Dressage Championships at Boneo Park on 12-15 October. This will be fascinating viewing because without the course error at Brisbane you could argue that Jessica and Cennin would have scored over 70% and that would definitely change the order of this top 10. Very interesting Australian developments and very interesting viewing.

5. William Matthew on Mysterious Star with a score of 69.174% at Exloo CDI3* in Holland on 4 May, 2023. Will is out and about doing very well in really big CDI4* competitions in Europe. Competing in these big international shows is historically what Australians have avoided when seeking Australian team selection. So far Will’s top score is unchanged, but I have to say he has been fronting up at very tough shows. This is quite a different approach for an Australian rider. We are all wishing Will and Mysterious Star the very best of luck in this head-to-head tactic with the best and where it leads will be fascinating.

“Jayden and both his
horses are on the improve.”

6. Jayden Brown again, this time on WillingaPark Sky Diamond, who have a score of 68.609% at Hickstead CDI3* in England on 13 May, 2023. Jayden also competed WillingaPark Sky Diamond at the British Nationals and again experienced a slight improvement on this score with 68.913%. As I pointed out with WillingaPark Quincy B, this competition was a national competition and so doesn’t count towards Paris qualifications or for the top 10 leaderboard, however, it is an indication that Jayden and both his horses are on the improve.

7. Elliot Patterson and Del Piero ZF with a score of 68.522% at Brisbane CDI3* on 15 September, 2023. Elliot and Del Pierro ZF have rocketed out of nowhere and this is a very serious score. Elliot and Del Piero ZF have only just now started Grand Prix. 

The mind does boggle as to what this partnership is capable of once they settle a little bit and get more experience. Elliot’s partner, Alexis Hellyer, and her mare Daenarys do not quite make the top 10 as her score of 67.304% has her ranked 11th. What is really interesting is that both Daenarys and Del Piero ZF are by the superstar Grand Prix sire, De Niro. De Niro horses do tend to really, really piaffe and passage.

8. Robert Schmerglatt riding Quando Queen with a score of 68.239% at Willinga Park CDI3* in Bawley Point on 24 February, 2023.

9. Jemma Heran on Total Recall with a score of 67.783% at Wellington CDI3* in Florida, USA, on 16 March, 2023.

10. Alinta Veenvliet on Desperanza with a score of 67.717% at Sydney CDI3* on 26 April, 2023. I have to make a huge apology here because Alinta and Desperanza should have been in the top 10 all along. She was the top placed Australian rider at the Sydney CDI behind two conquering New Zealanders who belted the hell out of us there. Because this was Alinta and Desperanza’s first international competition she did not come up on the FEI rankings and so somehow I managed to overlook her. I am so, so sorry Alinta. Alinta and Desperanza would have ranked sixth prior to the scores coming in from the Brisbane CDI. They are definitely on the move and about to front up at the Australian Dressage Championships at Boneo Park on 12-15 October. Alinta and Desperanza do tend to keep a fairly low profile so watching them perform head-to-head with the best we have is going to be very, very interesting.


So, this is a huge shake-up in the top 10 Australian dressage rankings. All of these scores are now high enough to count as qualifying scores for the Paris Olympics. The next big head-to-head is the Grand Prix CDI-W  at the StableGround Australian Dressage Championships at Boneo Park. All of the Australian-based riders on the top 10 list will be there except for Robert Schmerglatt and Quando Queen.

The riders that were on the top 10 longlist who have been rudely dumped as a result of the recent high-scoring inclusions from the Brisbane CDI3* include Jessica Dertell on her second horse Syriana, Charlotte Phillips riding CP Dresden, Pauline Carnovale riding Captain Cooks, Sue Hearn riding Eminent and Michelle Baker riding Bradgate Park Puccini. These four riders are all fronting up at Boneo Park and it will be riveting to see if they can respond.

There are a couple of new and exciting challengers also at this Grand Prix CDI-W competition. Special attention will be on Dave McKinnon riding Forlan, who is owned by Carol Oately. Dave and Forlan scored 72.848% in the Grand Prix at the NSW State Dressage Championships on 1 September, 2023. This was a national class and so does not count for Paris or Australian team selection, however, the National Championships at Boneo Park certainly do count. Wow! That would be so exciting if this partnership could step out and reproduce that form in the international arena.

Also of interest will be Justine Greer on her horse Yarramee Fonzie. Yarramee Fonzie has had only a few starts in national-level Grand Prix tests. The results have been very good and certainly at Small Tour level, Yarramee Fonzie has been scoring up into the low 70% bracket. There is no doubt at national level Justine Greer and Yarramee Fonzie are going from strength to strength. Can they maintain the momentum into their first CDI at the National Championships at Boneo Park?

Finally, there will be one New Zealand rider, Melissa Galloway riding Windermere J’Obei W at the Australian National Championships. Although Melissa is not a candidate for the Australian top 10, she is one tough New Zealand girl who is going to try very hard to embarrass the top Australian riders and win against them on their home ground. The last time Melissa was in Australia was at the Sydney CDI on 27 April this year where she and Windermere J’Obei W won everything from the CDI3* Grand Prix to the CDI3* Grand Prix Special and CDI3* Grand Prix Freestyle to Music. She belted the heck out of us Australians with scores always above 70%. Of course, Melissa is always welcome here and competition at this standard is very good for all of us. The big tip from me is that Melissa will really have to work very hard for a repeat performance. What I can promise you is that Melissa will be trying, and this is going to be fascinating viewing.

I do expect my Australian top 10 Paris shortlist will have another major makeover after the Australian Championships at Boneo Park. Watch this spot!

So for this month that is that. This coming month we do have a lot of action in both the dressage arena and the eventing discipline. This should make next month’s column very interesting.


Heath EQ


Tracking Our Paris Contenders – Equestrian Life, September 2023

Let the Qualifying Games Begin – Equestrian Life, August 2023

Live Wire Sparks Coaching Debate – Equestrian Life, July 2023

It’s All Happening Overseas – Equestrian Life, June 2023

Exciting Times for All Of Us – Equestrian Life, May 2023

Will Enzinger a Potential Game Changer – Equestrian Life, March 2023

A Dressage Adventure – Equestrian Life, February 2023

The Big Picture for 2023 – Equestrian Life, January 2023

Heads Up Next Gen, Brisbane Awaits – Equestrian Life, December 2022

Planning for Paris, Leading to LA, Building for Brisbane – Equestrian Life, November 2022

Eventing Results: Disappointing but Promising! – Equestrian Life, October 2022


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