DEC 2023


Go the distance in Sydney
Stuart Jenkins & ‘Josie’


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DEC 2023
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Olivia Barton and Henrik APH are new to Heath's Paris Eventing Leaderboard this month. Image by Elegant Exposures (Shelle Smith).

The Paris Olympics are getting closer and closer and our two leaderboards revolving around the eventers and the dressage riders are continuing to be challenged – and when I say challenged, I mean challenged right at the top.

The margins are getting skinnier and skinnier and we are starting to see our top Australian riders staking their claim for Australian selection for the Paris Olympics.

I started these rankings in August, just five months ago. In eventing, the No. 1 selection was on a score of 28.5 penalties and No. 10 was on a score of 37 penalties neat. So, the top 10 riders had a margin of 9.5 penalties in which to make a challenge, so to speak. This month, just five months later, the top score is still 28.5 penalties, however, the No. 10 selection score is 35.5 penalties, which means the top 10 riders now have a margin of 7 penalties in which to make a challenge.

These rankings are getting much skinnier and much sharper. We now have two riders with scores under the 30 penalties, which indeed is really where the team medals in Paris are going to be decided. I think before 24 June 2024, which is the end of the qualifying period, we will have another two riders at least climb in under the 30-penalty mark. Three riders for the team in Paris and one reserve. We are all going to be holding our breath, but my prediction is that this score under the 30-penalty mark is where this leaderboard is heading. That means that if our top eventing riders at Paris can produce personal bests or the equal of their personal bests, Australia will indeed be in the running for a team medal.

We are not there yet, however, and you do not need to be Einstein to see the eventing leaderboard scores painfully inching their way towards that under 30 penalty outcome… and “painfully” is the right word. Just check out the battle zones and where our eventers are focusing up on the smallest of margins in the eventing leaderboard below.

These Olympic medals are going to be a very painful experience for all of our top 10 Australian riders. All of these riders who are making a contribution to this pointy end of the leaderboard are also making a contribution to all of their fellow competitors immediately around them, sharing the pain, increasing the focus, and never giving up. This is a mighty mixed bunch of Australian riders who we all should be very proud of.

The first barrier which is going to be very, very painful that these riders have to do battle with is making the Australian team. There are going to be some brilliant performances that just don’t quite make it into the top four on the Australian team. This will hurt so much. One slip and you are gone! And once they have gone through that, the riders have to regroup and perform as they have never performed before against the rest of the world. Such is the life of an Olympian!

“The top end of the
rankings has gone crazy…”

The Dressage Leaderboard did not start until September this year. That is just three months ago. The No. 1 ranking had a score of 69.804% and No. 10 ranking had a score of 66.261%. So, the margin was 3.543%. Well, let me tell you things have changed big time! Today, the top score is 73.217% and the No. 10 ranking selection score is 68.522%. The margin has actually gotten bigger and is now 4.695%! How can that be? Especially when I have just told you that things have changed big time? Well, the top end of the rankings has gone crazy and we now have six riders above 70%! That is unbelievable! Never has Australia been in a position to have a whole team of riders over and above 70%, and that includes a reserve.

This group of charging riders is indeed small enough so our tail on the leaderboard is a little longer. In actual fact I think it is fair to say that the whole world over only has a small number of riders who can address scores over 70%. Australian dressage riders going over 70%?! Wow! Here come the Australian dressage riders. Just check out our Top 10 rides in the Dressage Leaderboard below.

Firstly, however, let’s look at the rejuggled eventing rankings.


1. SHANE ROSE AND VIRGIL have a score of 28.5 penalties from Adelaide CCI5*L on 20 April 2023. Unbelievably, Shane is still in the lead and was in the lead right from the very first posting of our Eventing Leaderboard in August.

2. ANDREW BARNETT AND GO TOSCA have a score of 29.3 penalties from the Sydney International Three-Day Event CCI4*L on 9-12 November 2023. What a wonderful performance from a rider and a horse that had not to this point even made the bottom end of the top 10 rankings. Andrew and Go Tosca have been in form all year, but their scores have been off the mark mainly because they would traditionally incur considerable cross country time penalties. Well, that didn’t happen at the Sydney 3DE. Andrew and Go Tosca had just 3.6 time penalties which actually means that there is room for an even better score. Had Andrew not had any time penalties, he would have had a score of 25.7 penalties which is definitely in the hunting territory for an individual Olympic medal. So Andrew Barnett and Go Tosca are a very significant addition to our Top 10 Paris Eventing Leaderboard.

3. 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 a team silver medallist from the Tokyo Olympics and is very aware of what sort of scores an Australian team will need to perform well again in the Paris Olympics.

4. ANDREW COOPER AND HEY ARNOLD have 32.9 penalties from Tamborine CCI4*S in Australia on 19 February 2023. Andrew and Hey Arnold are the most magnificent performers when it comes to cross country. Andrew and Hey Arnold competed at the Sydney International 3DE CCI4*L on 9-12 November 2023. On the cross country this partnership was again clear of jumping penalties and clear of time penalties. Their end score did not go round their Tamborine performance; however, they are very solid performers.

5. OLIVIA BARTON AND HENRIK APH have 33.3 penalties from the Sydney International 3DE CCI4*L on 9-12 November. Olivia was ranked No. 8 with Hollyander HG last month and this month has slipped to No. 10. However, Olivia has just ridden Henrik APH into the Top 10 as well as Hollyander HG. What a fabulous achievement. With Olivia’s second horse, Henrik APH, she has rocketed right up the standings to No. 5. Olivia is one of Australia’s young riders who has the potential to move even further up the rankings and go in under the 30-penalty mark. I mentioned this last month. Well, here she comes with a double-pronged attack. To say that everyone is a bit relieved is an understatement. We still have six months before the selection trialling time comes to a close. Olivia is well and truly on the move.

“Olivia is one of Australia’s
young riders who has the
potential to move even
further up the rankings.”

6. SOPHIA HILL AND HUMBLE GLORY have 33.5 penalties from Werribee CCI4*S on 2 February 2023. The last start for Sophia and Humble Glory was the Adelaide CCI5*L where she was third. At Adelaide Sophia was around two months pregnant. I am guessing and doing rough maths, because on Sophia’s Facebook page, she has Oliver, her one-week-old baby, being introduced to Humble Glory. Oliver was one week old on 19 November in her Humble Glory Facebook post. Humble Glory has a stable name, ‘Hughie’. If I have got this wrong, I do so apologise Sophia! Anyway, for those astute enthusiasts who have registered that Sophia and Humble Glory seem to have been not competing for the last few months, you are absolutely correct. There are lots of not-very-healthy soundness reasons why a horse would stop competing for eight months. There are a few reasons why an eight-month break can be extremely positive and exciting. Well, producing Oliver is a very positive and exciting eight-month break! Congratulations to Sophia and her husband, Andrew. Sophia now has six months to get Humble Glory back on the road and fine-tune their score. That is plenty of time and I think you can all be assured that Sophia will be back very shortly!

7. SAMMI BIRCH AND FINDUSS PFB have a score of 34.4 penalties from Blenheim CCI4*L in England on 13 September. The pair are very, very solid in the jumping department, both show jumping and cross country. Actually, they are downright brilliant in both. Sammi is indeed a very good dressage rider. Finduss PFB is not nearly as gifted in this discipline as he is in the jumping and galloping disciplines, but nevertheless a great score.

8. SHENAE LOWINGS AND BOLD VENTURE have 34.7 penalties from Adelaide CCI4*S on 20 April 2023. They competed in the Sydney 3DE CCI4*L in November and went very well but had 8 time penalties, which did not then go around their posted score of 34.7 penalties. I know everyone can say, ‘Yes if this didn’t happen or that didn’t happen we would have done a lot better’. I know that. What I want to point out is that on 10 June 2022, Shenae won Melbourne International 3DE CCI4*L without incurring any jumping penalties or time penalties on the cross country. Shenae and Bold Venture can do that. They have proven it. Well, without her time penalties at Sydney she would have finished with a score of 28.1 penalties. She would then have been leading the Eventing Leaderboard. My goodness, this partnership does have the potential to be a medal contributor at the Paris Olympics. Anyway, this subjective conjecture is not part of our Paris leaderboard rankings and is the very tricky territory that the Australian selectors have to walk their way through when naming the final squad heading out to Paris. God help the selectors!

9. DAVID MIDDLETON AND WEC IN THE MONEY have 35.3 penalties from Wandin CCI4*S on 18 March 2023. David is the most amazing Australian competitor. His biggest battle is with himself and posting dressage scores that will allow both of his horses – WEC In The Money and WEC In The Breeze – to start a competition with a good dressage score. At the risk of repeating myself, David Middleton can bring a focus to bear that is beyond most people’s imagination. The pure drive of a pure competitor and two very good horses. Let’s see what happens here.

=10. OLIVIA BARTON AND HOLLYANDER HG have 35.5 penalties from Melbourne CCI4*L on 8 June 2023. Hollyander HG has never had a cross country jumping penalty in any of her FEI eventing starts. What an amazing statistic. This is Olivia’s second horse in the Top 10 and it will be fascinating to see if Olivia can whittle down her dressage scores on this horse. In recent times, Olivia has had her eventing horses out to straight dressage competitions and Hollyander HG was recently Reserve Champion Medium Level Horse at the Singleton Dressage Championships. Olivia and Hollyander HG are certainly trying.

=10. BILL LEVETT AND HUBERTHUS AC also have 35.5 penalties from Montelibretti CCI4*S in Italy on 9 March 2023. They are actually sharing equal 10th position on the Paris Eventing Leaderboard. Tenth position is sometimes referred to as the “death seat” because if someone comes in above these two riders, both of them get dumped. Of course, the real trick is for either Bill or Olivia to post an even better score and move up the rankings away from the death seat. Bill is well known to be capable of a really smart score. Six months to go so anything can happen. So, this rejuggle of the Paris Eventing Leaderboard means that we have now lost last month’s No. 10, which was Shane Rose and Easy Turn with a score of 35.8 penalties. Shane of course is still in the lead on our Paris Leaderboard on Virgil with a score of 28.5 penalties.

Right, now on to dressage…


1. SIMONE PEARCE AND DESTANO with a score of 73.217% at the Motesice, Slovakia, CDI-W on 4 November 2023. Last month Simone had slipped down the leaderboard from No. 2 to No. 4 on Immerdale. We pointed this out but also added that she had some aces still up her sleeve, and one of those aces was Destano who holds the Australian highest Grand Prix score ever in an FEI event, having scored 76.261% back in the day. Well, no sooner did we say that and out came Simone and played her ace card in Destano and immediately has rocketed into the lead. 73.217% is huge and it is hard to think that this score will be overtaken in the next six months. Having said that, we are seeing big scores being posted by all the Australians way beyond expectation and we still have another six months to go. There is huge momentum building here amongst the Australian dressage riders. Super, super exciting and back into the lead is the Australian Grand Prix dressage record holder in terms of score, Simone Pearce on Destano.

“Australian dressage is on
fire and it is super healthy.”

2. MARY HANNA AND IVANHOE with a score of 72.413% at the Australian Dressage Championships CDI-W at Boneo Park on 13 October 2023. I had thought it was possible that no one would come around this score in the next six months, but no sooner have I thought that and out comes Simone Pearce on Destano and takes over the lead. Australian dressage is on fire and it is super healthy. Can Mary Hanna respond to this challenge from Simone Pearce and Destano? Mary did compete at the Brisbane CDI prior to the Australian Dressage Championships. At the Brisbane CDI, Mary and Ivanhoe posted a score of 71.348%. So they improved by 1.065% in just four weeks by the time they competed at the Australian Dressage Championships. If they were to do that again by Willinga Park, which is our next CDI in Australia on 22-25 February 2024, then Mary would go back into the No. 1 position in the Paris Leaderboard. Is Mary Hanna on Ivanhoe capable of maintaining the momentum? I would suggest absolutely. Wow! This is really great spectating and certainly we are moving into a position where Australia could contemplate a sixth placing at the Paris Olympics, which would equal our best world ranking ever posted at the Sydney Olympics where we did indeed come sixth.

3. JESSICA DERTELL AND CENNIN with a score of 71.587% at the Australian Dressage Championships CDI-W on 13 October 2023. Jessica is just 19 years of age and is part of Australian history in the making as the dressage scores keep breaking record after record after record. Jessica is of course very likely to launch from these historical moments of momentum which we are experiencing right now and carry on into the future, and hopefully launch a program heading towards not just team medals but individual medals as well. The timing is perfect for Jessica Dertell to reach a level of performance that allows her to be individual medal competitive at the Brisbane Olympics in 2032. This is a graph that Jessica is on right now and if maintained will produce scores around the 80% mark in eight years’ time. Right on the money for an individual medal contender at our own Brisbane Olympics. Nobody even dreamt that this could become a reality. Well, get used to it. Enjoy this unexpected and fast developing change in Australian dressage.

4. DAVID MCKINNON AND FORLAN with a score of 70.804% at the Australian Dressage Championships CDI-W in October. This was David’s first Grand Prix at the CDI-W level of competition. This was Forlan’s first Grand Prix performance at a CDI-W level of competition. Honestly, you would have to be excused if you are wondering that maybe this was just a warning shot from David and Forlan. Is it possible that this combination has a lot more up their sleeve with a little bit more experience. Well, that would be fairly logical thinking. Oh my goodness, what is going on here? So exciting.

5. SIMONE PEARCE AND IMMERDALE with a score of 70.717% at the Ornago CDI3* in Italy on 29 September 2023. Again this is the first CDI Grand Prix that Immerdale has ever competed at. Of course, the same considerations we have just weighed up with David McKinnon and Forlan are equally as likely with Immerdale. Immerdale is of course going to get better and better. Immerdale is Simone’s second ride in the Paris Dressage Leaderboard so a wonderful reserve for Simone; however, a rider can only ride one horse in the team. So from an Australian point of view, we do have to make sure that we have the other team positions covered and not make the mistake of thinking that Simone can have two positions. Don’t get me wrong, this is so, so good for Australia.

6. LYNDAL OATLEY AND ELVIVE with a score of 70.348% at Stuttgart CDI4* on 18 November 2023. So last month, Lyndal was in the death seat, position 10 with a score of 68.087%. Man, she did not hang around there long and has posted a magnificent 70%-plus score and has done it in Germany at a big show. A CDI4*. That is a very serious statement. We know that Lyndal and Elvive in the past have posted scores as high as 73.718%. Clearly Lyndal is on the up and up and if she and Elvive were to post a personal best they would go straight up the leaderboard into the No. 1 position. My goodness, we have so much strength all of a sudden in the Australian dressage riders and it is all bunching and finding form in the run-up to the Paris Olympics. Just the most perfect peloton effect.

7. JAYDEN BROWN AND WILLINGAPARK QUINCY B with a score of 69.804% at Hartpury CDI3* in England on 7 July 2023. Jayden seems to be doing less CDI dressage or international dressage competitions than most of the other riders in this Paris Dressage Leaderboard. In actual fact, Jayden does have plenty of time still as the selection period goes up to 24 June 2024. Historically Jayden did leave his qualifications for the FEI World Championships in 2022 until the very last moment. I guess everyone has their own approach and at the moment there is still plenty of time for Jayden and WillingaPark Quincy B to respond and move back up the leaderboard. WillingaPark Quincy B is very much a baby, and it is fair to expect a considerable improvement on his original score of 69.804%.

8. WILLIAM MATTHEW AND MYSTERIOUS STAR with a score of 69.174% at Exloo CDI3* in Holland on 14 May 2023. William Matthew is very much in keeping with the bottom half of this leaderboard in that it is still early days for these partnerships at the CDI competition level. It is very difficult to predict, but to have less experienced partnerships to start improving and then improving some more and then start giant hunting and becoming a very serious team contender is a very reasonable scenario. We will just have to wait and see. There is still time.

9. JAYDEN BROWN AGAIN AND WILLINGAPARK SKY DIAMOND with a score of 68.609% at Hickstead CDI3* in England on 13 May 2023. As I pointed out with Jayden in his No. 7 slot, it seems that both of his horses are at this moment doing less CDI dressage competitions than the other ranked riders seem to be doing. Jayden and WillingaPark Sky Diamond were on the Australian team in 2022 at the FEI World Championships at Herning, Denmark. It is always very interesting to observe the different tactics being used by different riders.

10. ELLIOT PATTERSON AND DEL PIERRO ZF with a score of 68.522% at the Brisbane CDI3* on 15 September 2023. Elliot and Del Pierro ZF are so inexperienced it is unbelievable. Of course, this combination is only going to get better and better and better. As I keep saying, there is still plenty of time and these mostly less experienced combinations in the second half of the leaderboard are seriously capable of responding very positively in the next six months. We have never had such a promising and on-the-move group of Grand Prix riders and horses vying for an Olympics or a World Championships. Right now, we are watching history in the making. We are all very privileged spectators.

So, as these scores keep going up and up amongst our contenders, just what does this mean in terms of possible Olympic outcomes? At Paris, a dressage team is made up of three riders only and a reserve who does not get to ride unless one of the team horses is deemed unfit for competition due to an injury or a lameness.

At Herning, which was the FEI World Championships in August last year, the average team scores looked like this. There were 19 teams from all over the world competing and Australia came eighth:

• Denmark 78.483%
• Great Britain 78.074%
• Germany 76.930%
• Sweden 75.714%
• Netherlands 75.207%
• USA 73.333%
• Spain 71.936%
• Australia 71.775%

So, eighth out of 19 teams means Australia is well and truly in the top half of the world.

If we were to average the scores of our top three riders on this leaderboard heading into the Paris Olympics, we are right this moment averaging 72.405%. So, we could argue that we have nearly moved up a full 1 per cent since the World Championships in 2022 (See above where we averaged 71.775%). So theoretically, we have moved up another placing in the world ahead of Spain and are clinging on by the skin of our teeth to seventh place in the world. The best we have ever done was sixth at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

The Paris Olympics are still eight months away and it may be hopeful but not unreasonable to suggest that Australian dressage riders are very much on the move and could well improve yet another full percentage in terms of our team average. So let’s say that right now we have the potential to post 73.4% as a team average at the Paris Olympics. Definitely not impossible. This would arguably put Australia in sixth position which would equal our best result in dressage at the Olympics, ever!!! Goddam, we are so close to our best dressage performance ever. This is really tough going and everyone is going to need nerves of ice, but we are really close. To reinstate ourselves in sixth position in the world in dressage would really position us up to move forward with record breaking performances heading into the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.

We so need our dressage riders to dogfight our way forward with a view to the impossible journey. A dressage medal at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. Almost impossible but not! Dressage medals at the Brisbane Olympics, that has to be where Australian dressage is throwing every effort at achieving.

Sixth place for our Dressage Team at the Paris Olympics 2024… that would be a brilliant, brilliant performance!

PS: It’s Christmas …

A friend recently sent me this: I think everyone needs to remember to properly spoil their horses this Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Heath EQ


Peloton Builds on Road to ParisEquestrian Life, November 2023

Pressure Builds in Olympic Stakes – Equestrian Life, October 2023

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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