Melissa explains that at home, 13-year-old Joey gets arena work four days per week, with two days out hacking and then a day off. “The most fabulous thing with Joey is that he is always ready to have a go at any new or old exercise. He puts his heart and soul into each day’s training and is always ready, asking ‘what’s next?’ He is such a cool character yet sensitive. He is a favourite!
“Anne was able to watch the live stream of the [Australian Dressage Championships] Grand Prix, and even though she was again not able to warm us up for the Freestyle, we spoke about what she thought could have been a little bit better and shared great ideas for the warm-up. Really it was not about any of the movements; it was simply that we needed to focus on the throughness, collection and uphill feeling.
“This was the first time that I had ridden this Freestyle in competition. We decided on music that was appropriate to all ages, and with my father being a bit of a muso and rock fan, Tina Turner was simply the best! It had a great feel, and our degree of difficulty was a 10; we managed to gain the marks for all the elements and difficult combinations.
“When I heard the scores [for the CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle] I was absolutely rapt, as we had all joked… well not really… that the goal was to get some scores of 80%. To have achieved this goal [the pair scored over 80% with three judges], that we believed could be a reality, was just the icing on the cake. We will now go home and continue training via Zoom lessons with Anne and have the [2023 FEI Pacific League World Cup Final] at Takapoto Estate, and then we plan to head back to Anne’s in February.
“I have to also say that it takes a team of great friends and mentors to allow me the privilege to compete as we did, coming to Australia to ride. It was also a great buzz and exciting to have David Woolley arrive to support and watch the horse he bred and adores. David also came to Denmark for the 2022 FEI World Championships, so New Zealand to Australia was not such a distance… but what an effort and it was so amazing to get those scores and that win against a top and talented group with him there as well.”
‘A VERY SPECIAL SOUL’
Another stand-out performance in the CDI-W Grand Prix Freestlye was Mary Hanna, who in one of her first Freestyles on Ivanhoe scored 76.61%, with one judge scoring 78.8%. Truly fabulous scores and absolutely deserved. If you compare the scores to horses overseas, it really lifts the heart of every Australian dressage rider. These scores really represent the ability and the good training that was shown. The positivity amongst all at the competition to see this recognition from a seriously talented and experienced international judges panel certainly made every rider and coach and owner smile with pride that their hard and continuous work has paid off.
Mary Hanna was very pleased with the scores and for the fact that Ivanhoe was unruffled by the atmosphere. “Ivanhoe is a very special soul and has come into my life at the most perfect time. He has an attitude of no other horse I have had – except perhaps Mosaic all those years ago – yet with way more athletic and upstanding talent. He is so concentrated on his job at hand. Loudspeakers, flags flapping, spooky arena surrounds, he just takes it all in and gets on with our job at hand. He is simply adorable to say the least. His breeding incorporates a bit of the Jazz lineage and that is a line I so like. He can make all the Grand Prix movements with consummate ease, especially the piaffe and passage tour and that’s where a lot of marks in this test lay! Training again with Patrik Kittel is a real bonus as he understands us both so well.”
Mary recognises that people may well ask how she’s managed to improve her marks since their last CDI in Brisbane only a short while ago. “It’s not about training the movements now; it’s all about improving the basics, the throughness and the adjustability,” she explains. “It’s about creating calculated and understandable reactions that are sharp and full of understanding and confidence, and it is this improvement in the basic throughness that allows the expression to show itself. The Freestyle was a real buzz for me yet I know there are few areas I need to tidy up… but that’s all about repetition and confidence in the music and the test.
“Ivanhoe only arrived in Australia in late December last year and when he hit our shores, he’d had one Inter II start for 65%. I truly adore this horse on the inside and the outside and to gain scores as he has at the CDI-W at the Australian National Championships was so pleasing as they fitted where we thought we were and that is such a bonus. Exciting times for me and this great horse and we intend on competing at the awesome Willinga Park competition and then the CDI at Dressage With The Stars. Then, all things equal, we want to head to Europe to train with Patrik Kittel and see what happens, and what will be will be… but all I can say is I am enjoying the ride like never before and it excites me. He is a special horse, and it takes a team of good people around you to support the many facets of this sport – and that I have.”
PATIENCE PAYS OFF
To top it off, David McKinnon rode the most beautiful test in the Freestyle on Forlan and was only 0.2 of a percent behind Mary’s score on 76.485% for this combination’s first CDI Grand Prix Freestyle. The positivity that everyone has gained through watching Forlan being trained in Australia and brought along so slowly to gain confidence is amazing, and to see this result excites every dressage enthusiast in Australia.