Equestrian Life
BLOG: From Werribee to Sydney and back again!

Words and photos by Abbie O'Brien


Abbie O'Brien blog


What a busy few weeks it has been! It began with Dressage and Jumping with the Stars (DJWTS) at Werribee in early March. It is such a fun show with a great atmosphere and really draws the crowds. I decided to take just Rajah for the Prix St Georges Cup which involves doing the PSG test and then hopefully qualifying in the top 12 to do the Inter 1 Freestyle.  My young mare Revelwood Fleur was qualified for the 6yo class but I wanted to give her a little more time to really solidify the flying changes so she stayed at home. I think this is the right way to treat young horses – some are ready and able to do the young horse classes - others need a little more time to develop and cope with the requirements.  They are all individuals and need to be treated as such.


The weekend prior to DJWTS Rajah thought it would be great to injure his hind leg. Initially it appeared to just be skin off but it quickly began to swell and was deeper than first thought. This close to the show I didn’t want to give him any medications or anti-inflammatory drugs that may swab so I began the process of hosing it and dressing it twice a day until the swelling started to go down – luckily all was good a few days before the competition! 


Competition began with the Prix St Georges test. While I was very happy with the test with no major mistakes the judges were divided. The joys of dressage! We finished ninth out of twenty-seven combinations so were into the freestyle.

I went into the freestyle the following evening with a determination to just ride my best and give Rajah confidence in the indoor arena. He is quite a spooky character as alluded to in my previous blogs and we were on in the arena just as the sun was going down. There were a few random squares of light on the ground from the open doors so during the performance I did slightly adjust my floor plan on the fly to avoid the patches! It paid off and we cracked over 70%! We came third behind Matthew Dowsley and Brett Parbery – couldn’t let the boys have all the fun!  It is amazing to be in presentations next to riders of this calibre – a few years ago I would never have imagined it!


It was back to work the following week at Wagners Saddlery while Pete and Caro travelled to the Sydney Royal Easter Show with the trade van for two weeks. They would then head to the Sydney CDI in April as would I.  It has turned out to be quite a busy time of the year with the two big shows being close together – in between working and riding I also do pilates twice a week and work at the local golf club on weekends.


The week came of the Sydney CDI. Lucky for me, mum arrived one day before we were set to leave for Sydney to pack the horse float while I worked. We weren’t quite ready to go though. We were due to leave on the Tuesday morning so on the Friday prior I decided to get my car serviced to make sure we were set to go for the big drive from Boneo to Sydney. My car wasn’t due to be serviced for another 2000kms but better safe than sorry. Dropped the car off at 8am and picked it up after work at 5pm only for them to tell me I desperately needed new rear tyres especially if I was going to be towing a float to Sydney.  GREAT! They neglected to call me earlier in the day to ask about ordering my tyres and of course nowhere locally stocks those types and sizes and being 5pm everywhere was now closed!


8am Saturday morning – spent the morning on the phone seeking two tyres. Luckily for me one place had ordered two tyres due to arrive off the truck on Monday afternoon. Monday afternoon and the new tyres were on within half an hour – AMAZING! (Big thanks to Tyrepower Rosebud!) Now we were ready to leave Tuesday morning!


Everything went very smoothly – arrived in Sydney on Wednesday morning after overnighting at Tarcutta, had the health inspection and passed trot up. We had a lesson with my coach Lone which was luckily in the indoor – Sydney had turned on the weather for us with a very balmy 36 degrees.  Rajah doesn’t cope well in the heat as we discovered at the CDI last year and can forget to sweat if he gets too hot so it becomes a management issue to get him cooled down quickly and rehydrated correctly.  Thankfully as he was out of the direct sun he was sweating like a trooper but it was still unpleasant for everyone riding in the outdoor arenas.  We were ready to compete against an amazing field of horses and riders. I went in with the goal of improving on last year’s performance.  We did a solid Prix St Georges test on Thursday afternoon for sixth place (we were thirteenth last year) which was very pleasing and encouraging for the next days competition. Into the Intermediate 1 on Friday and another solid, calm test with a few minor mistakes for fifth place (eleventh last year). That was the business end of the show over and overall extremely happy with the progress we have made and also Rajahs behaviour. He felt totally confident in his work and in the indoor arena which is a really fulfilling feeling to have and all I could have asked for.


The top 15 horses moved into the freestyle on Saturday afternoon. It was time to debut our new freestyle. Our original Inter 1 floor plan was basic and a good confidence builder for Rajah when I was just starting out at this level but it was time to ramp up the calculated risks and make it a bit more interesting. We wanted to keep the same style of music as it had always received good comments and scored well so we had it reworked to suit the new floor plan. The two new music disks arrived via another rider competing at the show. The music had been completed very close to us leaving for Sydney so we chose that this was a safer option as the post would most likely have not arrived in time before leaving Boneo.


On the Friday night prior to the freestyle we went to the music test. Oh dear…… it was the wrong music. Mum got more than her fair share of exercise running back to the indoor from the stables with the other master copy disc! Put it in with fingers crossed….. Yep - Wrong music had been copied to both discs. Stressed feelings! On the phone to my music composer who lives in Scone… She would be in Sydney at 9am the following day to sort out the dilemma! 9.15am Saturday morning we test the new music CD in their player and hallelujah it works and is the right music! This is forever to be a reminder to myself why I must never miss an opportunity to listen to your music at the music test – even if to make sure there are no scratches on the CD etc.


Saturday morning we still had one more issue to fix - 9.30am in the car to take poor Bailey my golden retriever to the vet who had eaten something he shouldn’t have and had gastro symptoms for the previous 24 hours. We really needed to get this sorted before driving for 11 hours back to Victoria the following day and thankfully with medication he was feeling much better quite quickly. What a morning!  What a preparation!


Finally, after all of that it was time to focus and ride. Talk about winging it! I was way over excited (nervous) and got in front of the music – this can be a problem if you don’t know it well enough to figure out where to take a bit more time. Anyway, Rajah was a lot more relaxed than his rider and did a really super job and got us to just under 70% with lots of room for improvement. Not knowing all the scores we cracked a bottle of champagne and had a well-deserved drink whilst waiting for the final results.  


What a cherry on top it was when we found out that we had come second! Now that is a buzz! Imagine if we had gotten everything right! Really though, I was more than happy to come second to the amazing Brett Parbery. 



Abbie O'Brien blog



The highlight was definitely cantering around the indoor arena at presentation on our special horse. If my parents hadn’t believed in me as a young girl at fifteen years old then we would have never taken a second look at the gangly, orange, four year old Rajah. We were both so scared once. Rajah of the world around him and me of not being good enough.  But there we were cantering around in great company together. The confidence we have instilled in one another as a partnership with the help of everyone around us is so important and treasured.


On the Sunday with a very early start from Sydney we made it safe and sound back to Boneo Park without Bailey having any accidents in the car and Rajah being happy to be out in his paddock with an hour or two of daylight to spare! Fleur was fresh after her days off and also rather hairy but certainly glad to see everyone! Here comes the glorious Victorian winter! 



Video of Rajah’s freestyle at the Sydney CDI 2016!


© copyright. Equestrian Life. Friday, 29 May 2020