When One Door Closes, Two More Open

This afternoon I received my certificate of graduation from high school to acknowledge the official completion of my 13 years of primary and secondary schooling and it caused me to reflect on the whirlwind that has been the past two months.

Celebration Evening, the official end of classes, muck up day, SWOTVAC, using a whole packet of blue pens in three weeks, typing three hundred pages of psychology notes, completing over fifty hours of practice exams, twenty five hours of exams and then finally Valedictory Dinner and most likely the last time that I will ever sit in a room filled with the Class of 2013 again – the final stretch in the marathon of high school was by far the hardest but most wonderful part of all. Despite the stress, tears and (although I hate to admit it) late night and early morning cramming, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to apply myself to something so grueling and to come out on the other side celebrating with a group of wonderful young people.

Valedictory 2013
My amazing mum and I at my Valedictory Dinner

With my IB completed, I’m now going to take a ‘gap year’ to embrace all things horsey before beginning my University studies. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to ride two exciting new horses who will help me get the most out of this year and the future. After borrowing Rebecca Thaller’s little mare Duchess Royale for the Australian Show Jumping Championships in September, we fell in love with her and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add this super horse to the team.

Fergie and I at Shep
The ‘pocket rocket’ Duchess Royale

It has become apparent to me that horse riders are very unfamiliar with the concept of ‘down-time’ and, in sticking true to this, the day after my final exam we were packing the float and taking Fergie off to the Shepparton World Cup Show. The sun was out and so was the competition with many of the classes having over one hundred competitors! We jumped clear but a little slow in the 1.05m class on the first day to finish in the top third of the field. A few rails down due to rider error in the 1.10m classes over the rest of the show pushed us out of the placings but overall I was very happy with how we went and I learned a lot from watching and talking to other riders. The show was a great opportunity to get out in the sun and away from my desk, catching up with friends and enjoying just being around horses again like a child in a lolly shop! My congratulations go to the organising committee for managing such a huge number of horses and competitors over three full days of competition.

Shepparton WC Shepparton WC Shepparton WC
Shepparton World Cup Show – Photos by Oz Shotz Photography

Fergie and my next outing was the Hygain Young Rider Squad Show last weekend (14th and 15th December) at the picturesque Boneo Park on the Mornington Peninsula. One thing I’m coming to learn about show jumping is that I’m hopeless at predicting how long classes will take. Whilst I thought my first class probably wouldn’t start until mid Saturday afternoon, we pulled into the driveway at Boneo to the news that there were only two riders left in the class so I had roughly ten minutes to be on and ready to ride. With the help of super-groom (mum), Tori Stuckey in the warm up and Paul Williams at the gate for giving me a few extra minutes, we managed to just make it and jumped clear to be through to the jump off. A clear jump off saw us placed fourth. What can we learn from this? I should never again to be trusted to make the timetable. On the other hand, perhaps no warm up is the best warm up? Rider errors in our other rounds saw us pull a few rails – sorry Fergie! – but I was very grateful for the opportunity to jump a number of rounds and learn more about how to improve my jumping. This show included a qualifier for the Youth Olympics in which twelve riders obtained their certificates of competancy – hats off to Angus Wright-Smith for winning on both days to be overall champion.

YR Show
Very happy with our fourth place at the Young Rider Squad Show

My second exciting new ride is Michaela Bray’s beautiful ‘Bon Amee.’ ‘Annee’ is a 13.2hh Dutch riding pony mare. I must admit I was a bit nervous about riding her as she is both the smallest and youngest horse I have ever ridden. My first ride was a little defensive and tentative however within five minutes all my fears were washed away and I had fallen in love. She is very clever, willing and has talent I’m very excited to work with! I can’t wait to continue her training under the eye of Jenny Bray. I have a serious soft spot for her and can definitely see why pony dressage is so on the rise – quality ponies like this are very very exciting!

Annee and Elsie
Young Elsie and I bridling Annee

And so it is with these two new faces, as well as my beautiful Action Man, that I close one chapter and begin another. Bring on the future with this team of super red-heads (the Chubby Chestnuts, as they’re fondly referred to at home)!

Happy riding!