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.