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A great day out at the Queensland Festival of Dressage

Tor Van den Berg riding the lovely Lauries As - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Tor Van den Berg riding the lovely Lauries As.

© Roger Fitzhardinge

The Queensland Festival of Dressage - Masterclass Series, sponsored by C4 Belts, was again a highly successful event being run by an independent committee in conjunction with Queensland Dressage for the 11th time.

The equestrian venue at Caboolture (QSEC / Queensland State Equestrian Centre), a forty minute drive from the Brisbane Airport, is an ideal venue with plenty of seating and 35 ringside tables of 6 for the gold ticket holders. For those lucky to secure gold passes, the food was wonderful and plenty of it. The day starting off at 8.45am with a great Pas de Deux featuring Tor and Mel Van den Berg riding the two black Grand Prix horses Cougar (by Carbine) and Lauries As (imp, by Londonderry) respectively. A great way to start the day!

Invited guest Gareth Hughes (UK) had been at Caboolture for the two days before the Festival coaching and choosing the appropriate horse and rider combinations for his masterclass. The 4 x 45 minute sessions started with the young horse, and went through the levels to Grand Prix. Gareth was born in Britain but grew up in Queensland, competing in Western classes, showing, in-hand classes and dressage, and at the age of 23 moved back to Britain and his dressage career blossomed. He has won many small and big tour classes internationally and was a member of the silver medal team in WEG Normandy 2014 for the Brits.


Gareth Hughes delivered a fantastic masterclass - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Gareth Hughes delivered a fantastic masterclass.

© Roger Fitzhardinge

His insight into the sport is remarkable and the coaching demonstrations he gave were calm, deliberate and informative. The final demonstration for Gareth was with Aristede and Shannan Goodwin, and what a fantastic horse and rider and how proud were the crowd to enjoy the culmination of a journey from a wobbly Prelim horse to an Aussie combination who almost represented their country at the last WEG in Tryon. Her first dressage horse, and what a fantastic achievement to show this horse with such a beautiful attitude to the appreciative crowd.


Shannan Goodwin and Aristede - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Shannan Goodwin and Aristede.

© Roger Fitzhardinge

At lunchtime there was a great fashion parade put together by the trade stands, of which there were many and well stocked, and a real plethora of fabulous clothing modelled by riders and professionals and a great time was had by all.

Roger Fitzhardinge gave an interesting demonstration with a Novice/Elementary horse ridden by Jordan Jolly and a Small Tour horse ridden by Elouise Devlan. Roger encouraged riders and judges alike to be open minded and to continuously look at the overall picture when assessing a mark and not get hung up on minor problems that blur the overall impression… it’s not fault and out!! As always, Roger was passionate and enthusiastic with plenty of interesting anecdote-backed advice to help understand balance and self-carriage, and ways to recognise these important traits in a dressage horse — as well as understanding the importance of preparation.

One of the highlights and a great horseman and presenter were three sessions with Dan Steers from the Double Dans. Dan is a seriously talented rider and foreman, and his ability to get in the mind of every horse he touches is quite amazing. He is a seriously talented man with a lot to offer every rider and trainer no matter the discipline. His work with his three liberty horse was inspiring stuff, as was the his tutoring and handling of a foal with her mother who was herself a liberty trained horse. To see him sit the mare on a bean bag and then get the foal to calmly and confidently sit next to her on the bean bag at the end of the session was quite incredible. He also chose to take an FEI imported horse he had never seen before nor touched or ridden that had some determined behavioural issues, and showed ways to combat and defuse them — this was also quite fantastic! His demonstrations kept the whole dressage discipline back to the simple basics of understanding and enjoying the horse.


Dan Steers in action with Stefan the dummy rider - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Dan Steers in action with Stefan the dummy rider.

© Roger Fitzhardinge

The finale was Dan and his liberty stallion with a dummy rider strapped on to a dressage saddle in dressage clothing!! He is usually a western rider called “Steve”… but this day he became “Stefan”!!! The dummy voice was Kim, a vet from Tamworth, and didn't Dan and Stefan have everyone in stitches — it was such a funny performance and clever!!

The day also included raffles, a silent auction and lucky seat prizes, and all the proceeds are turned to the benefit of QLD Dressage. All in all, a fabulous event that was a true credit to the organisers and all involved!







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