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!