Equestrian Life
BLOG: Willinga Park wrap-up!

Emma Booth and Zidane on their way to sixth in the Medium - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Emma Booth and Zidane on their way to sixth in the Medium.

© Roger Fitzhardinge

 

By Emma Booth

I’m not entirely sure where to start with this write up about my time at Willinga Park’s Dressage by the Sea. Everyone is most likely aware of the incredible, world class facilities of Willinga Park — this alone could give me enough to talk about for an entire article. Terry Snow really has put together a dream property for riders in Australia to bring their horses to compete — ‘world class’ is definitely the phrase to use to describe the facility, there is no doubt about that.

I always like setting myself goals in order to stay motivated and push my limits. Several people have asked for a while if I would consider competing in open events against able-bodied riders and for a long time this didn’t happen due to Zidane and I being so focused on competing at an international level in para dressage. After the World Equestrian Games in Tryon — where I so closely missed out on a medal in both events — it took me a little bit of time to bounce back and establish where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I know that I want to represent Australia at the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020, but I decided with this still being a little while off, I just wanted to use this time to really enjoy my horse, my riding, and ultimately have fun at an event held at an amazing venue, with no real pressure on results. When I was asked to come to Willinga Park for a demonstration ride during the first weekend of the event, for me it was a no brainer if I was to then compete in the open classes in the second week, since we were going to be making the trip with Zidane anyway. So that’s what we did.

 

Emma Booth and Zidane finished sixth in the Medium - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Emma Booth and Zidane.

© Roger Fitzhardinge



Our demonstration ride was honestly so much fun. Zidane got to strut his stuff in front of a sizeable audience, showing off some of our tricks including canter pirouettes, half passes, flying changes and even some piaffe and passage. I was able to explain to the audience using a head set microphone while riding how I communicate with Zidane, what my injury is, how this affects my riding, and also my ideas about the importance of enjoying ourselves and the sport. We often get so focused on competing and results that I think sometimes we forget the passion and love behind what we do and why we actually do what we do. Getting such an amazing response from the audience at this point was really uplifting and made the whole trip worthwhile. Not to mention being able to use the incredible facilities and ride in such a wonderful arena.

We then had a few days to train at the incredible Willinga Park, enjoy some time with other dressage riders from around Australia, and prepare for my first ever open competition as a para athlete. I entered Zidane and myself in the medium knowing that we hadn’t ever done a huge amount of work with the canter or half pass, but I knew Zidane would try his absolute best for me, and wow, did he ever! Our first test was super, with only a few little mistakes in some of the work, our renvers could have been more expressive, one of the walk pirouettes was grounded, and I had one rider error (oops). Overall though, he was such a star and I had so much fun pushing ourselves in trying something completely new, different, and challenging. We ended up with a score of 64% and came 14th in a large field of highly competitive riders. I was seriously thrilled with this result and had such a fun time.

 

Emma Booth and Zidane in the Medium where they scored over 67% - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Emma Booth and Zidane in the Medium where they scored over 67%.

© Roger Fitzhardinge



The next day we rode the Medium 4C and Zidane was amazing!! We felt so together as a combination, he was with me every step of the way, trying his absolute heart out, and for that I couldn’t love this horse any more. Our half pass felt great, both flying changes were correct, our walk was good, the extended trot felt super, the extended canter great, and I came out of the test with the biggest smile on my face! He just blew me away and I was so pleased. We came away with a score of 67.3% and ended up in 6th position. To be in the line-up of such incredible riders at the presentation that evening nearly brought me to tears. Getting a ribbon in our first ever attempt in an open competition, I simply couldn’t believe it and was so happy. It reminded me about the love I have for the sport and definitely made our trip worthwhile.

 

Place getters in the open Medium class - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Place getters in the open Medium class.

© Roger Fitzhardinge



So there you have it, our time at Willinga Park was absolutely incredible and the facility is unlike any other I’ve experienced (photos and videos simple do not do it justice). I can’t thank Terry and Ginette Snow enough for this wonderful experience. Also, an enormous thanks to Tim Dreverman for organising my demonstration and hosting Zidane and I for the two weeks of competition. Thanks to the event organisers Cathie Drury-Klein and Lindsey Stewart, and also the sponsors of the event, without whom the event would not be possible.

Zidane is home safe and sound (thanks to Dirk Dijkstra for bringing him home) and will now have a little bit of time off before we regroup and get into gear for our Tokyo campaign.

 

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