MAR 2024

& ED

On a new high
Maddy Vallender,
Charlotte Dujardin's
Masterclass Charm


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MAR 2024
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A Few Words



Ryan's Rave



Para Equestrian
































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Jessica Dertell and Cennin competing at Dressage by the Sea. Image by The Blachat (Ashley Grant).

Our Olympic contention leaderboards will continue to change, but as far as I can see all of the top Australian riders now have a presence. Improving their positions is critical for selection on the Australian Olympic teams for Paris. We will now be noting on our Top 10 Leaderboards if a combination has satisfied the Nomination Criteria or not for Paris in terms of scores. The Australian Nomination Criteria can be found on the Equestrian Australia Website HERE.

So, first things first. Paris!


The Competition Criteria, which forms part of Australia’s Nomination Criteria for Paris, requires riders to (in short) have achieved two scores approaching or exceeding 69% in Grand Prix Tests at a CDI3* or above and demonstrated experience in a minimum of two Grand Prix Special Tests at CDI3* or above (between 1 January 2023 and 24 June 2024). Greater weight is placed on performances this year. (FEI MERs also form part of the Nomination Criteria, however the MER score is lower than the Competition Criteria at 67%).

1. Still ranked No. 1 is Simone Pearce and Destano who scored 73.217% on 4 November 2023 in Motešice, Slovakia. On 12 January this year, Simone scored 69.456% at Basel in Switzerland. The significance of this score is that it was approaching or better than 69%. That addresses the Nomination Criteria! Well done, Simone and Destano. However, this combination will also need to demonstrate experience at two CDI3* or above Grand Prix Special tests during the qualifying period in order to satisfy the Competition Criteria section of Australia’s Nomination Criteria.

Right, now for some extra commentary on Simone. She has left her base with the Ritzinger family and so for the moment left behind her Grand Prix horse Immerdale, who is ranked equal fifth on the Australian leaderboard – but this partnership may well be no longer and so this will affect the leaderboard later on. A word of warning… anything is possible with Simone so do not assume that she will not get the ride back. Maybe, maybe not.

“Mary and Ivanhoe are heading
to the northern hemisphere for the
part of their Paris preparation…”

2. Mary Hanna and Ivanhoe are still holding down the second position with a score of 72.413% from Boneo on 13 October 2023. Mary has satisfied the Competition Criteria section of Australia’s Nomination Criteria for Paris having also scored 70.413% at the Willinga Park CDI3* on 23 February 2024. The pair have also contested two CDI3* Grand Prix Special tests during the qualifying period.

Mary and Ivanhoe are heading back to the northern hemisphere for the final part of their Paris preparation. Things are getting very serious, and it will be fascinating to watch Mary go head-to-head with the northern hemisphere-based Australian riders.

3. Jessica Dertell and Cennin are still in third position with a score of 71.587% which they posted on 13 October 2023 at Boneo. This pair have just had the most successful competition at Dressage by the Sea at Willinga Park where they won the CDI3* Grand Prix, Grand Prix Freestyle and Grand Prix Special. The Grand Prix score was 70.435% and that means that Jess has addressed the Competition Criteria as part of the Nomination Criteria for Paris, as she has also contested two CDI3* Grand Prix Special tests.

Jess plans to head off to the northern hemisphere in April for the final part of her Paris campaign, and has just launched a fundraiser.

4. David McKinnon and Forlan are still fourth on 70.804% from Boneo on 13 October 2023. Dave and Forlan do not yet have a second CDI3* or above Grand Prix score. Forlan is entered for Dressage with the Stars on 22 March 2024. Dave and Forlan will need a Grand Prix score approaching 69% or better, alongside two performances in the Grand Prix Special, to satisfy the Competition Criteria section of Australia’s Nomination Criteria for Paris and so become eligible from the selectors’ point of view to be considered for the Australian team. To make things more interesting, Dave has also entered Estupendo in the CDI-W Grand Prix at Dressage with the Stars. This is a really nice horse owned by Viv Lipshut. So, a fascinating new development. There are also rumours swirling that Dave may well pack up his gear and go to the northern hemisphere to finish the selection process, which ends on 24 June. Wow, these riders are really taking the Paris thing seriously!

=5. Simone Pearce and Immerdale are in equal fifth place with a score of 70.717% on 29 September 2023 from Ornago in Italy. Simone does not have a second Grand Prix score on Immerdale, and with her moving base and momentarily losing the ride on Immerdale this is a developing situation which will need to be closely watched.

=5. Jemma Heran and Saphira Royal 2 have launched into the rankings just moments before the release of this article, with a PB score of 70.717% in the CDI3* Grand Prix at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby in Florida. Saphira Royal 2 is a 15-year-old Rhinelander mare by San Amour out of Her Highness and has been with Jemma since late 2022. The pair have been contesting several CDIs in Florida this year, with a steady upward trend in scores. This Grand Prix result gives them their first of two scores ‘approaching or exceeding 69%’, as required by Australia’s Nomination Criteria. They have demonstrated experience at two Grand Prix Special tests, and in mid-February they posted a PB Grand Prix Special score of 70.319%. Watch this space!

“Jemma Heran and Saphira Royal 2
have launched into the
rankings with a PB score…”

7. Lyndal Oatley and Elvive are seventh with a score of 70.348% at Stuttgart on 18 November 2023. Lyndal is based full-time in Europe where it is very cold at the moment. Lyndal is entered for Lier in Belgium in the CDI4* on 1-3 March 2024. Lyndal and Elvive actually do have two Grand Prix scores approaching or exceeding 69% and have contested two Grand Prix Specials during the qualifying period. I am sure Lyndal will be trying very hard to increase her leaderboard standings with a score of 73+% which we know this combination is capable of. This would challenge the No. 1 position on the leaderboard.

8. Jayden Brown and WillingaPark Quincy B are holding down the No. 8 spot with a score of 69.804% at Hartpury, England, on 7 July 2023. Jayden has partially satisfied the Competition Criteria as part of the Nomination Criteria for the Paris Olympics with a Grand Prix score this year of 69.674% at Le Mans in France, however this combination still needs a second performance in the Grand Prix Special. Jayden will now try and close the gap between himself and the higher ranked leaderboard riders. I have to say though that a lot of this comes down to who blinks last. As you can already see, there are question marks around the fifth placed combination, and in amongst all the pressure of the Paris program unfortunately there are going to be more casualties. This is where life becomes mighty unfair and those with nerves of steel can prevail when all seems to be lost. Personally, I think Jayden is very handily positioned. Jayden is entered for Lier in Belgium on 1-3 March. This is shaping up to be a very, very interesting competition as far as Australia is concerned.

9. William Matthew and Mysterious Star are ninth courtesy of their 69.174% at Exloo in Holland on 14 May 2023. William and Mysterious Star have ticked off the Competition Criteria section of the Nomination Criteria with two Grand Prix scores approaching or exceeding 69% and two Grand Prix Special performances. They are entered for Lier CDI4* and will be looking to now improve their scores. William and Mysterious Star are challenging for the first time for an Olympic spot in the Australian team. William originally came from Western Australia and has pretty much against all the odds evolved into a budding superstar. We are all wishing William the very best of luck.

10. Jayden Brown on WillingaPark Sky Diamond is in tenth position courtesy of their 68.609% on 13 May 2023 at Hickstead in England. Jayden has not yet fully addressed the Competition Criteria section of the Nomination Criteria with Sky Diamond for Paris, but he is entered for Lier in Belgium this month. A good performance there has the potential to tick off that Competition Criteria with Sky Diamond for the Paris Olympics and also to move him up closer to the pointy end of this leaderboard.

11. Finally, Elliot Patterson and Del Piero ZF have maintained their position in the death seat, which is the No. 11 ranking (normally my rankings end at No. 10, but with the late edition of Jemma Heran we’re keeping Elliot in the picture this issue!) They scored 68.522% on 15 September 2023 at the Brisbane CDI3*.

Elliot and Del Piero ZF are entered for Dressage with the Stars CDI-W on 22 March, which could a) allow him to tick off the Competition Criteria section of the Nomination Criteria for Paris and b) move him up out of the death seat! Good luck with that, Elliot.

Del Piero ZF is by De Niro who is evolving as one of the sires who produces offspring with magnificent capabilities in piaffe and passage. Personally, I have watched Elliot and Del Piero ZF produce probably the best piaffe I have ever seen. To date Elliot and Del Piero ZF have only produced this astonishing work in the warm-up arena. Nevertheless, you have to be able to do that before you can have any expectation to produce world record-breaking piaffe in the competition arena. Watch this spot.


Since my last column there has been no international events either here in Australia or in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere. There have been events in Florida in the USA but this time around we don’t seem to have any Australians making an impact on the leaderboard. So below is the listing of the Top 10 Australians as we see it leading into final selection contention for Paris. If you would like to see a more detailed explanation of each rider’s performances and a little bit about each rider, here is the link from our December 2023 column with a comprehensive report on the Top 10 eventers.

What you have to keep in mind is that to date none of these listed riders are yet fully qualified (as per the FEI’s Minimum Eligibility Requirements) for Paris. Each rider has to have at least one qualifying performance in 2024.

As per the FEI MER, which forms part of Australia’s Nomination Criteria:

“Combinations may fulfil the MER at different competitions at the following levels;

1. One (1) qualifying result at a CCI5*-L; OR

2. One (1) qualifying result in a CCI4*-L AND 1 qualifying result in a CCI4*-S; PLUS 

3. One (1) qualifying result in a CCI4*-S or CCI4*-L or CCI5*-L to be obtained after 1 January 2024 and on or before 24 June 2024 (the ‘Confirmation Result’)”

Here is the unchanged list without scores and commentary (which can be found on the link above).

1. Shane Rose & Virgil
2. Andrew Barnett & Go Tosca
3. Kevin McNab & Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend
4. Andrew Cooper & Hey Arnold
5. Olivia Barton & Henrik APH
6. Sophia Hill & Humble Glory
7. Sammi Birch & Finduss PFB
8. Shenae Lowings & Bold Venture
9. David Middleton & WEC In The Money
=10: Olivia Barton & Hollyander HG and Bill Levett & Huberthus AC

Potentially there is a very good Australian Olympic Team in amongst this Top 10 group of riders. Keep in mind a very good Australian Olympic team means a team very likely to end up in the medals. Apart from Shane Rose, it is a group of mainly less experienced international riders which is a huge shift in the Australian dynamics. In a way this is a very good thing and invariably had to happen, however I cannot help but feel a little nervous.

Also, I cannot help but feel that there is one or possibly two riders out there who have not yet featured in the Top 10 and who do have the potential to come in at the last moment. The Dressage Top 10 does seem to have settled down and the front runners are looking really impressive. The best Australia has ever had.

The Eventing Top 10 feels like there are still unexpected fluctuations to come and the pecking order has not yet settled down. It is like a peloton with lots of talented riders all having their own little charges as they try and break away from the main pack. For me it’s just a little unsettled and pretty intense. I think this group of riders is going to keep intensifying as we get closer to the final selection announcement, which will come after the qualifying period finishes on 24 June 2024. Great for a very high standard but certainly puts a lot of stress on riders and horses. At the end of the day a sound, happy horse will be everything at Paris.


As you can see from the recent results in the Dressage Leaderboard, last weekend was the Dressage by the Sea CDI at Willinga Park. I was there as well riding Bronze Boy R in the Grand Prix and he was a little megastar. For those of you who don’t know, Bronze Boy R is my four-star eventer and has won four-star eventing and Grand Prix dressage events. He is a fabulous horse and I love him. It is really unusual for the same horse to be able to take part in the top end of two Olympic disciplines simultaneously.

Anyway, I was walking back from an arena familiarisation and had to wait for a busload of spectators to cross the horse path. They were an average of 50 to 70 years of age. There were 40 of them. One elderly gentleman eyed me cheekily and at the top of his voice said, “Are you going to ride your horse in competition in a mankini?” I burst into laughter and at the top of my voice said there was no way in hell that I was going to ride any horse in anything even resembling a mankini. Well, the whole busload of 40 people, including the driver, doubled over laughing with tears coming down their faces.

There was a great feeling of camaraderie, and everyone wanted to know my name and asked when I would be competing and wished me lots of luck and promised to be cheering for me and then they moved on. I headed up the hill on ‘Bucky’ chuckling away. It was funny. I didn’t know any of these people from a bar of soap, however what we all had in common was the mankini story brought to life by Shane Rose at the Wallaby Hill Extravaganza.

Just going back a step, Shane Rose – who is preparing for the Paris Olympics and is rated number 1 on our Eventing Leaderboard with the Olympics in mind – rode in a mankini in a fancy dress show jumping class at the Wallaby Hill Extravaganza Show on 11 February. It was the most amazing spectator success and went viral on social media. However, after receiving a complaint, Equestrian Australia took it upon themselves to reprimand Shane and stand him down, which meant he was not allowed to take part in competitions while they investigated – which is of course potentially career debilitating in the final stages of a preparation for the Olympics.

It was the craziest EA decision and done without an inquiry being put together first. What happened to being innocent before proven guilty? I have never seen Equestrian Australia show less loyalty to its members than in the so-called “mankini incident”.

Shane competed in this fancy dress competition on Sunday 11 February. EA stood Shane down on the following Friday 16 February and promised to investigate and determine Shane’s fate by the 22 February.

Shane posted on Facebook an apology on 18 February for his actions, saying that he rode in three different fancy dress costumes in the fancy dress class. Shane stated the aim was to provide light-hearted entertainment for those in attendance at Wallaby Hill. He was truly sorry if he offended anyone as this was never his intention. He promised he would never again take part in those types of events. Shane stated that Equestrian Australia had suspended him from all EA competitions and all EA-related events while they conducted a review of the incident. This apology was later removed from social media.

The repercussions triggered by Shane and the mankini and his apology – and the EA so misreading a situation and “standing down” one of its most valuable members – was profound. Never have I seen a Facebook post which attracted so many heartfelt messages of support from leading equestrian identities and riders from all over the equestrian world. The incident did not just catch the attention of the equestrian world but indeed the general public all over Australia like never before. It went all over Europe and to countries as far away as Finland. It went viral.

The EA is famous for reading the room badly, but this was a world record. EA CEO Darren Gocher confidently fronted the media on 18 February and announced that EA had not in fact suspended Shane – but that he had been “stood down”. This was the day that Shane had posted his (later removed) apology on Facebook. Social media roared into life in support of Shane and dismay at the lack of support the EA had for a very significant EA member who makes an enormous contribution to the sport – not just as a competitor but as a past chairperson of NSW Eventing, chairperson of the Sydney 3-Day Event and a chairperson of the Camden Horse Trials, and the list goes on and on and on. TV, the press and radio have all been fascinated by the incident and without exception they were bewildered at the way the EA managed the situation. The spectators at the Wallaby Hill Event where Shane competed in the show jumping fancy dress class loved the performance and were falling out of their chairs laughing. The sponsors of the Wallaby Hill Event were Bowral Kubota and they have promised to give every spectator a mankini next year and double up with $100 cash for any spectator who is brave enough to wear it!

On Shane’s Facebook page after he posted his apology, the support from fellow riders great and small has been unanimous and I personally have never seen so many passionate comments and solidarity supporting Shane and recognising how much he has contributed to the equestrian world in Australia. Realistically, for us equestrian riders, it has to be the most positive publicity that has ever been. Really remarkable.

It was, however, eventually recognised by EA that Shane had not broken any rules for a fancy dress competition. Shane did not post the photos on Facebook that were used to authenticate the complaint. So, he had not breached social media restrictions on High Performance riders.

Finally, EA did have this to say after their review:

“Equestrian Australia has today concluded its review following public concerns being raised regarding three-time Olympian Shane Rose. As is standard practice for Equestrian Australia, Mr Rose was stood down from competition while the review took place. The Equestrian Australia Review Panel met on Monday and found that Mr Rose did not breach the code of conduct at Wallaby Hill on 11 February. The Panel took into account the community event that Mr Rose was competing at, and that Mr Rose had already made a public apology. 

The following recommendations were handed down:

● For Equestrian Australia to work with clubs and stakeholders to assess minimum dress standards for future events.
● For Equestrian Australia to review the education modules for the High Performance program to ensure they’re fit for purpose.

Equestrian Australian CEO Darren Gocher said: Equestrian Australia has an obligation to look into any concerns of this nature that comes from the community,” Mr Gocher said.

Having now thoroughly reviewed the incident and spoken to relevant parties, Equestrian Australia has confirmed that there was no breach of the code of conduct by Shane Rose.”

The way the EA handled this situation – which should have been a storm in a teacup – is of serious concern. Keep in mind that, as far as I can see, there was just one letter of complaint, and it was from a person who was not at Wallaby Hill. Surely the above EA review recommendations should be 100% focused on protecting our EA riders from irresponsible troublemakers. Protecting our members just isn’t an EA thing at the moment.



This Year is All About ParisEquestrian Life, January/February 2024

Paris Peloton Moves Go Crazy – Equestrian Life, December 2023

Peloton Builds on Road to Paris – Equestrian 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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