The Morning After Equitana Melbourne

With Equitana Melbourne over for another two years it’s time to recap some of the highlights of the huge four day show that involved hundreds of horse and rider combinations, trade stalls and experts in all things equestrian.

A huge part of an event like this is the opportunity it provides to meet some of the real ‘superstars’ of our sport and this year was no exception!

On Thursday whilst picking up my media pass from Equestrian Life I was thrilled to have the chance to talk one-on-one with eventing legend Mary King after she had finished signing copies of her new book for excited fans. Mary is one of Britain’s most decorated eventers with a career including two World Championship Gold medals and Silver and Bronze Olympic medals. Most recently, she was part of the British team who took the silver medal at London earlier this year. I spoke to Mary about her stay in Australia and what she would be doing at Equitana as well as her training schedule and how she finds travelling full time as a professional event rider. Mary was extremely humble and generous with her time and from what I have heard this continued throughout the show. She was kept busy with demonstrations, master classes, book signings, photo opportunities and a private dinner with the Equissage Victorian Young Rider Eventing Squad – what an amazing opportunity for these young athletes! This is what having riders of this calibre in our country is all about and I was so happy to hear that the eventers were really making the most of it!

On Thursday afternoon I watched local Grand Prix dressage rider and Mayfield Farm stud principal Kerry Mack ride in a demonstration on the sitting trot with Kyra Kyrklund and Richard White. Kerry rode her beautiful young horse Mayfield Limelight and did a fantastic job. Richard had a lot of top advice about leg position and weight placement in order to gain the perfect position in the sitting trot and Kerry demonstrated these really well. After the demonstration I had the chance to speak with Kyra and Richard briefly about their experiences at Equitana and the development of young rider dressage. Again, these two international equestrian celebrities were so generous and friendly and I was so grateful for their time.

Continuing the theme of superstars, on Sunday came what was without a doubt the highlight of my time at Equitana: whilst passing by the Horse Zone stand with Jenny Bray we saw Joann Formosa, Australian para-equestrian dressage champion who stole the hearts off all Australian equestrian fans when she and her beautiful horse Worldwide PB won the gold medal in the individual test at the London 2012 Paralympics! Joann was allowing people to touch her medal and after making my way through the crowd of excited fans I spoke with her personally. She is an incredibly inspirational person, full of smiles and advice and infectious enthusiasm about the future of Australian dressage! Joann let me wear her beautiful medal and even pulled out her trot up jacket for me to try on! In speaking with Joann she mentioned that she will be coming out to Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre for the Saddleworld Dressage Festival in December and was enthusiastic about meeting up again to further discuss young rider dressage and how we are going about training and mentoring our young riders in Victoria. This woman is just amazing and brings so much energy and passion to our sport. I can’t wait to meet with her again and continue absorbing some of her wealth of knowledge.

I’m sorry if this looks and sounds a bit like a Michaela Glass meet and greet session but part of the purpose of Equitana and other events like it are to be able to be up close and personal with these personalities and I wanted to share with you all a little of what they had to offer.

Aside from these huge international superstars, Equitana was also an opportunity to catch up with some of the stand owners from great Australian companies.

On Thursday morning I spent some time on the Horse in the Box stand helping them to finalise their setting up and then speaking with various clients and looking at all the new products. I had so much fun chatting to some really enthusiastic people including dressage riders from Queensland who knew the family Ellesby Chief Invader was sold to, a campdrafting champion and a wonderfully friendly driver! All of the people including the staff and customers were buzzing with that famous Equitana ‘vibe’ and this was a great way to kick off the show.

I also spent some time at the Reiter.M stand on both Thursday and Sunday looking at their new Nathalie line of breeches as well as their exciting range of saddle blanket colours and Kerrits and Reiter.M brand clothing. Monique and Michaela were working very hard throughout the whole show to keep the stand looking outstanding and it was great to catch up with them briefly whilst browsing the store.

It was great to also see a familiar but unexpected face in Rae Ansell from Global Horse Tours. Rae is a very experienced horse woman and has been involved in all facets of equestrian sports in Australia for many years. She was at Equitana representing her company Global Horse Tours who provide exciting horse riding holiday opportunities on six continents! I was able to watch one of Rae’s demonstration videos and it was AMAZING what is available on their safari holidays. Contact Rae via her website at www.globalhorsetours.com.au to see for yourselves!

A final familiar face I was thrilled to see was that of Veronica Ray from Helmet Hiders. Veronica is an amazing woman and the innovation and creative mind behind some of the most amazing silks going around Australian cross country courses! Veronica made my very first set of silks which I wore with pride whilst eventing and still cannot bare to part with and I was thrilled to see that the store has expanded rapidly since my eventing days and some of her new designs are just unbelievable. New fabrics and techniques for creating more technical sports clothes have brought the options so far in the past few years!

Aside from meeting and greeting, Equitana did provide the opportunity for some great shopping! Whilst I managed to restrain myself most of the time, I did splash out on a beautiful blue Hamag patent leather Swarovski crystal belt. This is definitely my favourite purchase of the show and I loved it so much I couldn’t keep it for my breeches and wore it on Sunday with my jeans where it was commented on a number of times! The belt also comes in a lovely deep red and pink and can be ordered from http://www.hamag.com.au/.

On Sunday night, young riders shone in the Hamag Young Rider Squad Quadrille which was part of the Equitana Showcase. The team of six riders did a great job in representing the squad and the crowd were very involved in their fun performance. Other highlights of the showcase included some daring trick riders in breathtaking costumes, a part of the War Horse production and a great reining vs. dressage showdown! All in all it was a great show and a fun way to finish up four wonderful days in at the Melbourne Showgrounds!

I hope everyone who went had a great time and for those of you who didn’t that you were able to get an idea of what was on offer through my blogs.

Happy riding!

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Equitana Count Down

Equitana is fast approaching and with under a week to go it’s time to start getting your plan-of-attack ready!

This year there is going to be so much to see and do you will have to be organised to get it all in! So, for all the dressage enthusiasts out there, here is my must-see guide for what promises to be another spectacular Equitana:

Thursday 15th:
Get your shopping in early! If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Equitana over the years, it’s that the good bargains are always snapped up in the first couple of days. Go to http://www.equitana.com.au/, print off a map and view the exhibitor list now. Make a list of the stands you want to see first and their locations so that you don’t have to waste time reading endless pages of maps, getting lost, being distracted by food stalls and ultimately getting into a panicked argument with your co-pilot. This means that once you’ve been to your must-see stores you will have more free time to hunt around for some of the wonderful unexpected bargains that Equitana is famous for!

This year you can’t afford to miss a visit to Reiter.M’s trade stall where they will be launching their new line of products! They have been posting some previews of their gorgeous new line of apparel online this week and I can’t wait to find out what else they’ve been hiding in their ‘suitcase’! This will definitely be one of my first destinations on Thursday morning. Their new line is taken from the Nathalie Brand Premium Riding Apparel and has been created in conjunction with Princess Nathalie zu Sayn Wittgenstein of Denmark. They marry posh with performance with modern designs and high-tech fabrics – “fit for a princess, built for an athlete”. Don’t miss out! You can find their friendly and helpful team at Epsom Pavillion #432. To have a sneak peak, vist http://www.reiterm.com.au/ and for photos of the Princess Nathalie jodhpurs go to their Facebook page.

Another one of my pit-stops will be at the Horse in the Box Equestrian Clothing and Giftware stand where they will be displaying their Equi-Theme clothing and accessories, Kyron breeches, Kerrits riding tights, and Ledo handmade whips. They will also be showing off their brand new lines of Lotus Romeo embroidered shirts and competition jackets, B Vertigo clothing and lightweight helmets with sparkle accents which are all super stylish and perfect early Christmas shopping! You can see some of these products online at www.horseinthebox.com.au/ and be sure to stop by their stand at Epsom Pavillion #562.

Finally, it’s always important to stop at the Hamag stand. This year they will be showing off their new range of gorgeous colourful patent leather gaiters and belts as well as their Swarovski crystal products, classic leather gaiters, scarves, handbags, number holders and much much more! They have just the thing for any Christmas present – from that ‘statement piece’ to perfect stocking fillers. Find them at # 346 or online at http://www.hamag.com.au/.

Thursday night will see the World Cup Show Jumping which is always thrilling and a real crowd pleaser. Pre-purchase your tickets now to be in on all the action!

Friday 16th:
Friday is all about soaking up more of the atmosphere of Equitana and taking in the sights; recovering from the mad-bargain-dash of Thursday.

Get into the showgrounds early to watch the Be the Influence Equestrian Grand Final CDI-W Grand Prix at 9:15am in the Grand Pavilion. This is a once-a-year opportunity to watch some of the country’s best dressage riders in action in the midst of all the Equitana hype which no dressage enthusiast can afford to miss! If you’re new to the world of dressage or compete in another discipline, it’s a great opportunity to watch the best of the discipline and get a feel for what dressage is all about.

At 4:00pm in the truck and float arena there will be a Carriage Driving interactive giving the audience the opportunity to try this fantastic sport for themselves. I admit my knowledge of carriage driving is very limited but I for one will not be missing this wonderful chance to give it a shot!

Saturday 17th:

Saturday for me will be all about the Kyra Kyrklund Specialist Dressage Clinic! From 9:30am – 12:30pm this international dressage queen will be sharing her wealth of knowledge with us whilst teaching a variety of horses ranging from young horses to grand prix level and this promises to be a thoroughly worthwhile morning.

Kyra Kyrklund has successfully combined both competing and training students in top international competition for more than 30 years. She has successfully trained and competed 15 horses in international Grand Prix dressage, has taken part in 6 Olympic Games, won a silver medal at the World Equestrian Games and has taken part in 6 World Cup finals. Kyra’s training method encompasses treating the horses with kindness but firmness and using a logical and consistent system to obtain excellent results. This woman is a true hero of our sport and the chance to see her in action is one to be jumped on! If you haven’t got your tickets already book now to ensure you don’t miss out.

Sunday 18th:

By Sunday everything will be starting to wind down but that does not mean there’s nothing to be seen!

First up in the morning on Sunday is the Way of the Horse Australian Horsemanship Challenge Final. This event it always spectacular and year after year presents amazing demonstrations of horsemanship, skill and pure courage that amaze and inspire audiences. If you have never watched a Way of the Horse before do not miss this! Perhaps one of the most popular events at Equitana and if you experience it yourself you will certainly understand why.

Sunday is also the day of snapping up any last minute bargains and ensuring that you visit the Breed Village before everyone packs up for an early finish. There are also the ‘Mary King – Training for Eventing’ and ‘Dressage Types’ demonstrations starting at 2:00pm and 3:00pm respectively in the John Deere Demonstration Arena which any dressage enthusiast should attend. Mary’s experience with horses is exceptional and she will provide a fascinating insight that is valuable to both straight dressage riders and eventers. And who doesn’t like to know what judges and breeders are looking for in the dressage horse these days! Update your files with this half hour run down on the dressage type.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon in the Equitana Showcase the Hamag Victorian Young Dressage Rider Squad Quadrille will be performing. This group of talented girls ranging from 15-19 years old are all exceptional young riders and have been working extremely hard to put together their performance for the showcase. A quadrille of six horses will be performing to a fun and funky soundtrack which promises great entertainment and a display of the talented young riders we have coming through the ranks. I have watched their rehearsals and can’t wait to see what they look like on the day! Good luck girls (:

So with that in mind everyone, go and get yourselves organised! Preparation and planning is key in ensuring you don’t miss any of the fun, bargains, entertainment and knowledge on offer at this year’s action-packed Equitana. Be organised to rule out those stressed screaming matches with your co-pilot and get the most out of it!

I hope to see many of you there,
Happy riding!

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The Hamag Young Rider Squad Quadrille Rehearsing

Photo compliments of Cas

Where it all Started

I read this today and it really resonated with me, thought I might share it with you all:

“Somewhere behind the rider you’ve become; the hours of practice you’ve put in; the coaches that have pushed you; the hard falls you’ve taken; the money you’ve spent; the long distances you’ve hauled; the “normal” things you’ve given up; the strides; the sweat; the tears; the blood; the blisters; the ripped clothes; the leather boots and gloves on 35 degree Summer days; the lame horse; the crazy horse; the “are you serious?” horse and everything in between. Somewhere behind all of this is the little girl who fell in love with the sport, the horse the idea, and never looked back” – Anonymous

Thank you to the horses who have put up with me, the competitors who have challenged me, the coaches who have picked me up and dusted me off, the sponsors who have supported me and above all my beautiful parents who fostered the dreams of a little girl who fell in love with a pony.

Young Rider Squad Weekend, October 2012

October 27th and 28th saw Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre flooded with enthusiastic young dressage riders from across Victoria and South Australia to meet for the last full training weekend of the Hamag Victorian Young Dressage Rider Squad for 2012.

The clouds were rolling in on the morning of the 27th but that failed to deter the thirty odd riders, their families and of course the group of dedicated coaches, lecturers, caterers and organisers who were all looking forward to what promised to be another fantastic weekend. On the 27th, the coaches were Christine Sievers, Marg McIver and Samantha Bartlett. The special classes for the day were public speaking and sponsorship with Winter Olympian Stephanie Hickey and saddle fitting with Malcom Byrne.

Stephanie’s class was super fun with everyone getting involved, asking questions, learning new skills and being inspired by not only a fabulous athlete but also a wonderful role model. I know I learnt a trick or two about media interviews and speaking to camera and am sure I speak for all of the squad members when I say this was a very beneficial class! Danson Wolkenaction was lucky enough to be the demonstration horse for one of Mal Byrne’s saddle fitting classes which was extremely insightful. Mal showed the riders a number of different saddles on Action, describing how each of them fit and showing common flaws such bridging so that riders could identify these quickly in their own saddles. Mal also showed us a variety of different types of saddle trees, how to fit the saddle for the horse quickly before riding and how different saddles fit different riders. He is such a wealth of knowledge on this subject and it was so great to have his time and expertise!

On the night of the 27th the young riders and their families headed into Werribee to go bowling for a bit of fun. This was a highlight of the weekend with laughter, singing, dancing and a bit of friendly competition running wild through the groups. Whilst I learned that I should probably stick to horse riding, some of the riders showed some fantastic technique and pulled in some amazing scores! Matthew Sievers, Allysse Smith and Rumer Aldous were all very strong competitors to name a few. The night was Halloween themed and everybody enjoyed relaxing and checking out some of the fantastic costumes that staff and fellow bowlers had brought out for the night.

On the morning of the 28th everyone got up bright and early and headed into the University of Melbourne Veterinary Clinic and Hospital for a guided tour, organised thanks to Sherryn Smith and Jade Woodhead. The tour was unbelievable and we were all blown away by the state-of-the-art facilities the hospital has on offer. The MRI machine and getting to go inside the theatre and x-ray areas were definitely highlights of mine and I’m sure everyone feels much more comfortable now knowing that there are such wonderful facilities available to the equine industry. Also, for aspiring veterinarians like myslef, it is very exciting to see how advanced veterinary science is becoming and gives us great hope for the future of our sport and the animals we all love!

After returning to WPNEC, the riders checked on their horses before heading off to either their riding lesson or filming of their video on the training scale (the group ‘projects’ that the squad members have been working on all year in groups of around nine riders, to be presented at the showcase day in November). The filming was a fantastic experience and I think everyone learnt a lesson in patience, time management and organisation but much fun was had by all and the laughs and smiles coming back from this session were evidence of yet another great learning opportunity.

The afternoon saw editing of these videos and a class on goal setting with an Olympic rower before everybody headed home tired but extremely happy with all of the things they had learned and the fun they had shared in their last training weekend for the year.

The Equitana Quadrille was also rehearsing over the weekend with the help of Jade Woodhead. The quadrille, consisting of Emma Crocker, Morgan Duell, Michaela Bray, Emma Copely, Arkie Daddo and Hannah Bathen will be performed at Equitana this month during the Sunday afternoon performance (18th November) at Melbourne Showgrounds and is a not to be missed event! The girls are all looking fantastic; their test and music are coming along well; and they are putting the finishing touches on what promises to be an unforgettable performance.

I am pleased to report that this weekend was another personal success for Danson Wolkenaction and I who rode out in our new Reiter.M Dressage Boots and Fleece Bell Boots for the first time. Action was a true gentleman and once again took everything in his stride. After a brief panic attack that the polo ponies, arabians and pony club horses might eat him, he was very brave and showed how far he has come with his relaxation in new and exciting environments. This was only Action’s third squad weekend and he would have passed as a seasoned campaigner both days. I couldn’t be happier with his progess at this point and am pleased to report that after my exams this November he will be heading back out and about in the competition scene.

Overall, the weekend was a smashing success with little wins all-round and what a great way to end the year!
Happy riding!

Never a Dull Moment in Kinglake!

Yesterday I received a lesson in keeping everyone on their toes; proof that there is never a dull moment where horses are involved! If you ever want to get all your friends’ attention, here’s a how-to guide based on yesterday’s events:

Step 1: Make sure its a thirty degree day in the middle of a really busy week and you are surrounded by people in a hurry and under the hammer. Have your afternoon dressage lesson with Jenny, clean your horse, its gear and your boots and pack everything back into the car. Load the horse onto the float and leave for the ten minute journey home.

Step 2: Make sure that your friends’ phones are out of reception and that Jenny leaves to pick Micky up from the bus stop just a few minutes behind you.

Step 3: Lose the wheel off your car. Not just the tyre but the whole wheel.

Step 4: Somehow steer the car and float with your very large horse on board to the side of the road. Stop the car, put the break on, put your heart back in your mouth.

Step 5: Get out of the car. Stop yourself from shaking. Start looking for your wheel in the state forest extending out beside the road.

Step 6: After rumagging through the bushes, getting your legs covered in prickles and trying with all your might not to fall over, find your wheel half way down the hill and carry it back up to your car.

Step 7: Check that your horse is still in the float, alive and calm. When you know that all is well, run for your phone and call everyone you can think of.

Step 8: Get onto Jenny, tell her what’s happened. Send her home to get backup, her float to put the horse on and some much needed chocolate.

Step 9: While waiting for supplies to arrive, catch the attention of a very good looking local excavator on his way home from work. Let him proceed to re-attach your wheel to your car. Of course, it will be necessary for him to use an excavator to do so.

Step 10: When Jenny arrives with the float, take the horse off the float, put him in hers and send them to your home to return the horse.

Step 11: Eat much needed chocolate. Call your family. Try not to cry. Thank the excavator profusely as he still battles away with your wheel. Eat more chocolate.

Step 12: When the wheel is back on the car, the horse is home and there is no chocolate left, thank the excavator AGAIN, organise for a thank-you present to be dropped at his house, get back in your car and limp it home.

Step 13: Once in the shelter of your home again, crawl into bed and thank god you’re safe and sound!

So there you have it, a step-by-step guide on how to get everyone’s attention and make life a little more interesting! Based on an, unfortunately, true story.

Thank you to Raenor Priest for never failing to shake things up a little bit!

For proof that the above did actually happen, photos coming soon!