What Went Down the Centre Line

By the time you read this I will have completed my second dressage competition and first attempt at FEI with my new team mate Remi Rockefella. We won’t have won or placed. There will be no blue ribbons for us today and no chance we will be coming back for the final on Saturday – but I will complete my final halt, drop my reins and give that horse the biggest hug possible to thank him for the opportunity to be a part of one of my favourite classes on the Australian dressage calendar. If I know myself at all there will be tears of joy and relief; and then we will go home and go back to the drawing board and see where we can do better next time.

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My biggest shout out to my super-human mother through this whole thing! Photo by Gone Riding Media

As I sat down and thought about everything that goes in to taking a horse to compete in the prestigious Aachen Challenge, I decided that the best way to describe the journey is to look at everything that will be cantering down that centre line with me: from top to bottom.

The Helmet:

Purchased at CHIO Aachen on my recent seven and a half month long European Riding Adventure, my Uvex helmet represents for me an incredible opportunity I was given and a horse show that changed the way I saw competitive horse riding. When I was offered a position as a working student in a German stable a year ago I never could have imagined where it would take me. In June this year as I stood in the world-famous Aachen stadium and watched the best jumping and dressage horses in the world compete at this most prestigious event I understood what it was all about – this crazy dream. The reason we get up at 5am and fall off and get back on and fail over and over and over again without ever doubting if this is what we want to do. There is something magic about a horse and a rider in perfect union that tugs at the heart strings and captures the imagination for life.

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The tails:

Given to me by my dear friend Simone Pearce – these trusty Pikeur tails have competed in some of the biggest shows on the European calendar and seen Simone right up to Grand Prix. Their buttons have been moved and changed a number of times and even the colour of the points has been altered, but when I ride in them I picture Simone on her trusty Little Lion who I had the privilege to ride whilst in Germany and I’m filled with a sense of pride to wear them and gratitude at knowing that I have great friends behind me every step of the way in this trying dressage journey.

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Photo by Gone Riding Media

The stock:

Hand-made for me as a gift from Veronica Ray of Helmet Hiders, my stock reminds me of the years I spent eventing as a teenager. From when I was twelve to sixteen I dragged my poor, ever-suffering mother to countless one and two day events with my super little stock horse ‘Wilson.’ At each event we would do an okay dressage test, then I would try and kill myself by throwing myself at solid obstacles I was terrified of before finishing off with a usually-messy show jumping round. Needless to say – eventing was not for me. We retired Wilson to dressage, competing him up to FEI Junior level, and he has since been sold on as a show horse.

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A flashback to my eventing days

Whilst eventing didn’t work out for me, it was an incredible way to meet people and many of my good friends now I know from this time. Veronica is one such friend. Mum and I met her at Wandin Park when I was about twelve and she made my silks for me when I was fourteen. We saw her at countless events and she became a very dear friend to us over the years. This stock was made for me when I was riding as a professional young horse rider in Adelaide and was so homesick it hurt. I would talk to Veronica about her experiences with her daughter riding dressage horses in Canada and the stock is a little piece of home and my eventing background which I cherish no matter where in the world I find myself.

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Photo by Gone Riding Media

The breeches and gloves:

White Kyron full seat breeches and Like a Glove white gloves, both from Horse in the Box. The first time I went to Horse in the Box I was fifteen and looking for a smart pair of breeches. I had been selected onto the Hamag Victorian Young Dressage Rider Squad, was completely out of my depth and knew I needed to present myself a little better if I was going to fit in. Erika (the owner) could not have been more helpful and put together a smart outfit that made me feel one million dollars without the price tag. One year later I was short listed for Young Dressage Ambassador of the Year and we went back to Erika for another outfit. Kyron breeches are without a doubt the best fit, quality and price on the market and I have never looked back. Horse in the Box became my first sponsors in 2012 and have continued to dress me in the most current, comfortable and stylish European Fashions. I can’t thank them enough for their support and it is fitting to be wearing them in this special competition.

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Photo by Shannon Fiesley

The shirt:

Equiline, purchased whilst I was living and working in Holland. The time I spent in Holland was beyond incredible. It developed my understanding of how to train a dressage horse, introduced me to the idea of training for grand prix, opened my eyes to the standards of international competition and, above all else, I met people and horses who made Europe ‘home’ to me.

I fell on my feet when I arrived in Holland. With no understanding of just how lucky I was at the time, I can’t thank my mum enough for suggesting the stable and to Johan and Penny for giving me a chance and working tirelessly to train and mentor me. Without the months I spent there I would never have been able to ride an elementary/medium level horse in a Prix St Georges competition with our eyes set on CDI-Y in the New Year. I can hear them both in the back of my head as I ride this test : “Keep your legs still” “Is he reacting?” “Can you trot?” “Can you walk?” “More chewing”

This chapter of my life will forever remain one of the most precious and the countdown is on until I can come back and keep learning!

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Sharing a Magnum with my favourite horse in Holland – Aluna

The saddle:

Last September as I packed up my belongings into the back of my car and headed off to my new job at the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre, I never could have imagined what awaited me. What was going to be a temporary position to fill in some time turned into life-changing experience that has opened more doors for me than I can name. Working at Dr Andrew McLean’s AEBC I learned how to ride and train ethically, how to retrain many behavioural problems and to work WITH a horse, not against it. I broke in my first horse, made beautiful friends and began to understand who I want to be and how to get there. Without the things I learned in my time at the AEBC and their continued support (and this saddle, which I purchased from them whilst there), there is no chance I would be cantering down this centre line today.

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A view from ‘the office’ when I was working at the AEBC

The bridle numbers:

Hamag, given to me as a present from an eventing friend when I was fourteen. These trusty bridle numbers have seen EVERYTHING. From pre novice eventing to the FEI Junior at the Australian Young Rider Dressage Championships and even being borrowed for the Grand Prix show jumping at Dressage and Jumping with the Stars – these versatile little numbers (pun completely intended) have been there done that and never let me down. Not too much bling but not too boring either, they’re an essential and it’s impossible to leave for a show without them.

Top boots:

Given to me for my eighteenth birthday from a group of friends putting in so that I could be a real dressage diva with my very own pair of boots (up until then I was using a borrowed pair). They took me weeks of deliberation to design and it was an agonising few months as I waited for them to come from Holland but when I opened that box and put them on for the first time I was in love. They remind me of a very exciting time in my life and the friends who shared those milestones with me.

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Photo by Shannnon Fiesley

The Horse:

Remi Rockefella, affectionately known as ‘Rocky’ or ‘The Rockstar,’ is one of the sweetest, most giving little horses I have ever had the privilege to ride. Rocky’s owner Jane Veall has been a friend of the family since my pony club days. When I came home in October and said that I would really like a horse to ride in the CDI-Y competitions in my last year as a young rider (2016), Jane offered me the ride on Rocky. The only catch was he had never competed above elementary level dressage and had spent the last few years as a champion show hunter so was ‘a little rusty.’

We made a deal: I’ll ride him once. If I can get a flying change we’ll give it a crack. I think he must have been listening that day because the little trooper warmed up for ten minutes, came across the centre line and popped three perfect  changes. “Okay!” I said, “Let’s enter.”

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Photo by Gone Riding Media

If only things had continued to be that easy…as it turned out we didn’t get sequence changes again until the last ride before the Aachen – nothing like the last minute to bring out your best! Yesterday we had our last ‘test run’ and I couldn’t believe the transformation in this horse. Perfect changes, good half passes and a real crack at the pirouettes. What a little champion!

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Photo by Gone Riding Media

Whilst I know our test will be far from perfect and things are bound to go wrong, I can’t thank Jane enough for trusting me with her beautiful horse and supporting our progress together on the bad days as well as the good. We have come a long way and this is only the beginning – look out Rocky! You might just have to keep doing ‘this dressage thing’ a little longer my dear.

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With Jane after it was all done and dusted – Photo by Gone Riding Media

Evidently a lot has gone into bringing one horse to do one test – thank you to the super horses and people who have made everything possible for me. The bigger the dream the more important the team and I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

Rocky Aachen Pat
Photo by Shannon Fiesley

Wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy New Year.

Happy riding!

Rocky cuddles aachen
Thanks little man xx you’re the greatest
Photo by Shannon Fiesley

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