Hi everyone! Sorry its delayed and a bit short but I am writing this blog from London as just after the conclusion of this year’s festival I jetted off to Europe for a couple of weeks off to visit family, get some retail therapy and relax.
I cannot deny that every year the Young Rider Festival is a highlight of my competition calender, however each year it is for different reasons. Last year Victoria hosted the Young Rider National Championships and it was a huge event. There were big classes, steep competition and the highlight for me was competing in the FEI Junior Championship. This year the competition was a whole new ball game for me as Danson Wolkenaction and I entered our first state championship competing in the preliminary and novice championships.
I was lucky and had great times for the whole competition which saw me not competing until midday Thursday (even though the event started on the Wednesday) and meant I could take my time preparing. After spending several hours on Wednesday morning gathering together the last rugs, saddle blankets, whips and other bits of tack required and then trimming, scrubbing and re-scrubbing Action, we were off to Werribee Park at around lunch time. Those who have ever travelled further than half an hour with me in a car are probably aware that I have a very bad habit of falling asleep. I am without a doubt the WORST road-trip company. Ever. I can sleep on a car, train, bus or plane in perfect comfort no matter what time of day it is. People have taken photos of me fast asleep and posted them on Facebook, thrown water at me and teased me without end to try and break the habit, however I would not be deterred. However, on this particular trip I fell asleep with my face digging into the seat belt and remained there for one and a half hours. When we arrived at Werribee I was forced to walk around with a big red line running down the right side of my face which no amount of makeup could cover and almost every person I said hello to mentioned to me – I think I may have finally learned my lesson!
So my new facial marking and I headed straight into Indoor 1 to watch the first round of the FEI Young Rider competition and were very impressed! The strong field performed some great tests and it was hard to predict who would be sitting where on the leaderboard. At the end of the competition Tori Stuckey, Emma Crocker and Morgan Duell were eligable for the freestyle and the rest of the field were allowed to ride h/c which was great as it gave everyone the opportunity to ride to their music and show their talents in this area of competition the following day. After watching this class I worked my own horse, showing him around the venue and letting him get a feel for the atmosphere. He was a gentleman and I was very impressed with how he took it all in – that is after he came to terms with the idea that spectators sometimes lie down on the grass, a very foreign concept apparently. I was fortunate enough to meet some gorgeous Tasmanian girls who had made the trip over to compete and it was great to speak with them about what dressage competition is like over there. Hats off to them and their support teams for the huge effort they put in coming over to Victoria to compete!
6:30am Thursday morning and my alarm was blaring. There are no sleep-ins at Werribee! I fumbled out of bed and went with Micky Bray to feed Action who was, apparently, absolutely starving, and her beautiful Acacia Ridge Vivaldi who waited patiently for his breakfast. After completing our morning routine of changing rugs, cleaning stables and filling up water we headed back to get ready for the day. Time for a serious tack-cleaning session followed by skipping around beside the float like I’m doing a dressage test, muttering to myself “lengthened strides”, “half halt!!” and getting lots of strange looks from passers by. My tests were very close together time-wise which meant we would need to be super organised and on top of what we were doing – good thing I’m an obsessive list maker and had made timetabled lists a good few days ahead!
The team looking super enthusiastic about the day of competition ahead of them
First up was the Novice 2C in the very spooky outdoor arena 1. I had never competed Action in this ring before and as it is the only one at Werribee with judges boxes I was interested to see how he would handle it. He was very well behaved and overall I was pleased with this test. However, a few rider errors pushed him a bit too much into the hand to score 62% and be out of the placings. With the help of Matthiew Sievers to hold Action for me I was able to jump off quickly between tests and watch some FEI Young Rider Freestyles. I was particularly impressed with Emma Crocker and her lovely Rolando who did a beautiful test and had some amazing results throughout the competition – well done Emma! Then it was time for a boost back on, a second gear check and the walk back to the warm up arena for Novice 2D. This test was a bit of a mixed bag – some great moments and some rider errors.
Although it’s easy to be disheartened by these moments, I am so lucky to have the support team I do. I was able to watch the video of the test taken by my mum multiple times and get a good idea of where my judgement was incorrect. My wonderful coach Jenny Bray talked me through where I went wrong and what we needed to fix to come back better tomorrow and in the future. Also, one of my judges was extremely supportive and spoke with me about my horse, where he’s at and how that test could have been improved. After all of this I was feeling great and finishing my first day of competition in a really good place.
I had the opportunity to pencil for Jill Sinclair in the Medium that afternoon which was great. I learned a lot about judging the walk, how to determine where a horse’s unevenness may come from and the finer points of riding certain movements such as the half pass to the flying change. That night was the pas de deux which is always a great highlight! We laughed, danced and sang along with some fantastic tests. The costumes, themes and music get better every year. The winners in the young rider section were Fern Wright and Allysse Smith who rode with an Arabian theme. Their horse and pony were in beautiful harmony throughout the test and it was truly captivating to watch. They scored a whopping 78% to top the competition – well done girls! In the parent-child section we laughed and sang along with Loretto and Erika Hoscking’s “it’s raining men” piece and just loved Christine and Matthiew Sievers’ Adams Family piece but it was Julia Battams’ beautiful stallion Westewind who captivated the entire audience from start to finish and she and her daughter finished in first place with their naval themed performance. Congratulations to everyone who competed – it was so much fun!
This year I had the pleasure of watching the pas de deux with Tyson Zootjens. Tyson used to work at Danson Dressage and knew Action before I purchased him so it was great to catch up with him and learn more about Action’s history. I was very impressed with Tyson’s dedication – travelling straight from a show to a clinic to the young rider champs and then back to South Australia for another show! Congratulations on some great results Ty and I hope we have the pleasure of hosting you again soon.
Friday morning it was up and at it again at 6:30 am for a slightly earlier start in the Preliminary Championships. Action and I were much more on top of things now after learning from my mistakes on Thursday and did some work I was really pleased with to win the Preliminary 1C – good boy Action! Sadly I had to leave the event in a hurry so my thanks again to the Ritchie family and Matthiew Sievers for collecting my prizes and bringing them home for me. Our win in the competition ring was not our only win and I was spoilt in the silent auction with a voucher for a new pair of Kyron Breeches from Horse in the Box Equestrian Clothing and Giftware and beautiful one-of-a-kind handmade whip from Elite Canes and Browbands! I am so excited to compete with these soon and will be spamming you all with photos when I can. Thank you to everyone who donated prizes for the silent auction and raffle as they were lots of fun and there were some fabulous things up for grabs making for steep competition!
Overall this year’s Hamag Young Rider Festival was a very different experience for me but a wonderful learning curve. I saw some beautiful tests, learned a lot about myself and my horse, had unbelievable support from those around me, met some great people and had a super time in general! Thank you to everyone who volunteered, sponsored, judged, competed, spectated or donated a prize or auction item. It is competitions like these which encourage young riders and give us something to work towards each year and talk about long after. I look forward to next year!