Dressage with the Stars 2013 – What a Show!

They always say to prepare for all four seasons in one day when competing at Werribee Park and I have a theory that every year at Dressage and Jumping with the Stars it pours and blows a gale on the Thursday to get rid of all the fair-weather riders and then is perfectly pleasant for the rest of the show. I just don’t know why people say you can’t predict anything in our sport – my guess was spot on once again! Thursday saw us all hanging onto our hats, tying down our horses’ buckets and watching show jumps fall down left, right and centre without horses even in the ring and yet I found myself wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses for the other two days. But weather aside, it was a fantastic show and a great exhibition of some of the talent making its way into the competition arena these days.

This year my involvement in DJWTS was very different from anything I have done before and it was a great learning curve. As young ambassador I was asked to work in the Performance Sales International (PSI) tent, hosting Ulf Moller, Emile Faurie and the rest of the VIPs in attendance. This was a fantastic opportunity! Not only did I have a number of star-struck conversations with Emile about training young horses, what to look for when riding an unfamiliar horse and the experience of training overseas; I also learned a lot from the PSI team about their stallions and how their enormous operation over in Germany works. My ‘job’ was made all the more exciting with the cutest PSI team members – PSI Elvis and PSI Hi-Five the Rex rabbits, now famous on Facebook, who were perhaps the most asked after animals in the whole show. It was so much fun getting to talk about some of the best stallions in the world whilst playing with adorable rabbits and mingling with VIPs from Europe and Australia! I am very grateful to Lady Susannah Clarke for organising this for me.

PSI ElvisPSI Elvis and Rhiannon PSI Hi-Five

Ulf and Emile were very generous with their expertise and in addition to speaking with many visitors to the PSI tent, judging and riding the horses, they made time for a meeting with the Victorian Young Dressage Rider Program members. This was great as it gave the young riders a chance to speak with some of their idols in a comfortable, friendly environment and ask any questions they had without the pressure of a huge audience. Topics discussed included how you go about riding unknown horses, the language barriers for us as English speakers wishing to ride in Europe, the role of pony dressage in Europe and the use of spurs as a training tool. Ulf even offered the riders a position at the PSI stables if they were looking to work and ride in Germany! This is a wonderful proposition and I hope some of them do follow this up in the future. My thanks go to Jan Smith for co-ordinating the meeting and Horse Deals Magazine for supporting it. I’m sure it was a highlight of the show for those who attended!

Meeting Emile Faurie Victorian YR Program Members, Emile, Ulf
Meeting Emile Faurie The Victorian YR Program meeting Emile Faurie and Ulf Moller

I had a very busy time as in addition to working in the PSI tent I was also riding, grooming, spectating and hitting the trade stands – a most important responsibility! I took my own horse Danson Wolkenaction down to Werribee for the duration of the show to ride around although we weren’t competing for him to soak up a bit of the atmosphere. This proved to be a great experience for both of us and by the last day we were both much more comfortable with all that was going on, giving us a confidence boost for when we next hit the competition arena. I’ve been told that nothing is better for your riding than hours in the saddle and I believe the same stands for inexperienced horses – nothing is better for their competition education than hours in the competition environment.

Riding Danson Wolkenaction at DJWTS

I must admit, I have never actually ventured out onto Bruno’s Lawn at DJWTS to watch the show jumping so being involved grooming for this side of the competition was a big first for me! It never ceases to amaze me how different the disciplines are. Although we’re all fundamentally horse people and we share the same passion, dedication and love for our sport, there is such variation between what each of us does. Whilst I don’t think I’ll ever feel the urge to jump over obstacles as tall as myself in the middle of gale force winds with trade stands flapping all over the place down the long-side, I have so much respect for those who do. The jumping is a whole new ball game from the dressage and it was great to learn how their young horse competitions work whilst being able to watch some of the best horses in the sport strut their stuff. I saw some very brave riders and some even braver horses! The thing that struck me most about the show jumping was that they present an award for the best presented horse and rider combination. This is one thing jumping has which I’m sure the dressage riders wished we had! Although we may fight for the title a lot harder than they do.

Lachlan Brennan at DJWTS
Lachlan Brennan riding Snowy River Offsider

Whilst back in my comfort zone watching the dressage horses I kept finding myself thinking how much the quality of horses is improving. Our young ponies now look like small warmbloods with beautiful hock action and self-carriage which I was nearly bouncing out of my seat wanting to ride! Special mentions here go to Flowervale Boginov who was just beautiful to watch in the masterclass on Thursday night and the champion of champions pony Double S Dark Sun. The champion of champions final for the horses was very interesting to watch with three lovely mounts presented. I drooled over the four year old winner and reserve champion of champions Remi Frangelicca, the half-sister of my yearling filly, who was so free and easy in her movement and looked incredibly rideable that it was a dream to watch. However, hats off to the winner SS Dante who is a stunning horse and captivated the entire indoor with his great presence. It was a great end to the young horse competition!

Kylie Burton riding Flowervale Boginov
Kylie Burton riding Flowervale Boginov

Young horses aside, the FEI classes again demonstrated just how much we are improving as a sport and I saw some established combinations perform better than ever tests to really put the pressure on each other. In speaking with my friend Caitlyn Hulme who was competing in the Prix St Georges, I learned that the difficult weather conditions on Thursday were making for an interesting competition. Poor Caitlyn had a plastic bag fly into her and actually hit her and her stallion Beanie as she was competing – every rider’s nightmare! However, she was still all smiles at the end of the day, demonstrating her great sportsmanship. The Inter 1 freestyle was very exciting to watch and it was a close finish with Aber Hallo 29 and Adlanta Rose as the last two horses both performing beautifully. However, it was Brett Parbery and Aber Hallo’s night and they finished in first place overall – a very classy, exciting pair to watch.

Adlanta Rose
The beautiful Adlanta Rose, photo by Natasha Rogers

The FEI CDI-Y was a very close class with all starters qualifying for the freestyle. For many of the competitors this was their first CDI-Y and if this is how they go now I can’t wait to see them in a few years’ time! These young riders are very impressive in what they have achieved and should be commended on their hard work. DJWTS ended for another year with the Grand Prix Freestyle and wow – what a way to finish! I can genuinely say every combination has improved so much since I last saw them all together at the Saddleworld Dressage Festival, December 2012 and the marks reflected this too. The penultimate combination, David Shoobridge and 007 from Revelwood Warmblood Stud, were clear crowd pleasers and had the entire grandstand dancing away with them to score 73.575% and take out the class – congratulations! 007 is a real pleasure to watch and is featured in this month’s Horse Deals if you wanted to read more about him. I was sitting just a few seats from David in the stand as he received his score via Equiscore – which was a saviour throughout the show – and it was so refreshing to see his genuine elation and obvious love for his mount.

David Shoobridge and 007

My final important activity at DJWTS was carrying out a thorough inspection of the extensive trade village! It was great to catch up with Erika and her team from Horse in the Box, especially at their VIP sponsored riders’ event on the Friday night, and to see that they were always busy with lots of happy customers. Also, Angela Donaldson looked fabulous representing them in the Fashions on the Long Side event! My next port of call was with Michaela and Monique at Reiter.M who are always fun to catch up with. I was very excited by the new bling Nathalie breeches and to hear about all the wonderful ideas Michaela has to be revealed shortly! Also, welcome to the newest member of the Reiter.M team Ben Terry. I am very excited to announce that Skye Park Rugs are now supporting Action and I and that he looked extremely smart in his new rugs – thank you so much to Jess and Diane for this wonderful opportunity! We have been long-term users of their quality products and are very flattered by their offer to support us. The last stop on my trade-stand tour was at Redgum Saddlery, the Australian stockists for Fleeceworks. Fleeceworks have a beautiful range of merino products from saddle pads to noseband protectors and Action was very spoiled with a new halfpad and girth cover which are both irresistibly soft – thank you Kylie for all your help explaining how your great system works!

Action in his Skye Park rug
Action looking very smart in his wool Skye Park show rug

Every big show has its challenges and successes and Dressage and Jumping with the Stars 2013 was no exception. Although we all returned home exhausted, dusty and very excited to get into our own beds again, I had a wonderful time and am grateful for the opportunities I was given. Thank you to everyone who came and visited me in the PSI tent – even if it was just to see the gorgeous rabbits! To Briony, Lady Clarke and the organising committee – congratulations on another fabulous show. To all the young riders who competed – your sportsmanship and standard of riding was great to see. It was refreshing to be able to soak up a big competition without actually competing, although I’m looking forward to being back in the white breeches myself very soon.

Happy riding!