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Report from the Sydney CDI Grand Prix Freestyle

Sydney CDI Day Three ©Roger Fitzhardinge 

By Roger Fitzhardinge

The culmination of the Sydney CDI was the freestyle on the final evening, and the stands were totally filled. The stage was set for something special and with Mary Hanna out to prove a point - it is said that where there is smoke there is fire - this class had intrigue as well as plenty of sensational talent, including young ones that are so talented and are on the way up. It was going to be a closely fought affair.

Early out in the draw was John Thompson on Bates Antonello and what a good test but it was unfortunate that John’s enthusiastic attitude of to always be thinking of the crowd got in the way of a better tests than the marks show. Towards the end of the performance - that was full of solid work - he rode a passage with one hand and when this work is done, the hand that is free should be by his side, but it got a little out of control and above his head! It went several times encouraging the crowd to start clapping, and of course they did!! Antonello obliged to the noise and performed piaffe and passage even better. Unfortunately this is frowned upon, and if you ride one handed the other cannot insight cheering or chanting, as this is seen as an outside influence and as a consequence marks were appropriately deducted. It may be all good fun but you can’t get the crowd and the noise to help with your horse’s excitement as it’s about the influence the rider has over the horse, not from outside help and stimulation. You aren’t allowed a whip, so why should you be allowed to be encouraging clapping and exciting the horse through rowdy behavior.  This test didn’t need the crowd to help as he was getting good marks without that help.

Tacita and Fiona Selby showed some fabulous work and good piaffe and passage and changes and the were up the list to an overall eighth. Penny Castle and Magnus Spiro from NZ did a great piaffe and passage tour but he lacked a little in the pushing and carrying capacity in the collected paces - perhaps the trip and big competition work had made him a little weary - but still a good test with piaffe and passage a highlight.

Dimantina coped really well, and the mare danced through the test with ease and the music in keeping with great changes of tempos and good crescendos to gain Maree the early lead with a 69.3%. Regardez Moi was next to go. The music was great fun, inciting a great feeling of enjoyment, and was good freestyle music that mirrored what the movement was about. A 69.4% put them in the lead at the time but by the end a creditable 5th place. Next out was Julie Brougham and Vom Feinsten and this athletic little chestnut pocket rocket was on fire, but too many small mistake to get a score as they did and the NZ Horse of The Year show where the gained and whacking 76%. Needless to say a 69.4 to end up 6th .  Next out was Luxor 118 and Kate Farrell and again, new leaders scoring 70.25 % to take the lead. This combination makes it look easy and supple yet forward and ground covering. Kate looks as if she seriously owns that arena and he has all day to get around… this combination oozes class.

Umbro was next out and Mary Hanna, who was fair dinkum wound up, was about to explode. Contained she was and the test was for sure technically better than in the Grand Prix and she went in to the lead with 72.55%. This was a great score for the test. No mistakes and expression, yet taking time to own the arena and use it to the utmost. Could anyone top this score?!

Next out was the Vicky Newham owned chestnut gelding, 9 year old Diamond Star, by Diamond Hit. Judy Dierks has ridden this horse pretty well all along for Vicky and won at DJWTS and then championships through the ranks, and is now competing big tour but only since the beginning of this year.  This test was their initiation to GP Freestyle and their first Grand Prix was only 3 months ago!

Daniella laughed that it was really her win as she helped her mother warm up and through this influence a win was obvious! The test was fantastic and it all fell into place. Diamond Star looked at home from the moment he entered the arena and once he went through the gate and up the centerline it was easy to see the confidence grow. Jude rode a great test with feeling for the music and great rhythm and was rewarded with a 72.78% to go in front of Mary Hanna simply with Brett Parbery left to go. When you think that this 9-year-old gelding only had his first grand prix start a few months ago it was an exceptional percentage. The piaffe and passage tour was expressive and the transitions seamless and for a new GP horse, his confidence was exceptional and it shows that the years of training and being partners paid off with trust and respect on both sides. It was a first for both the one tempis and the two tempis to be clean and this has been their Achilles heel but tonight, quiet and confident and not a hint of a mistake.

Last to go was Brett Parbery and DP Weltmieser who had won the GP and the GP Special and looked a favorite. Brett had ridden so many tests and it was at this stage 10.45 and he had been in an Inter II test with Good as Gold at just after 8 am so it was nearly 15 hours later, and I am sure they were just not quite on the game plan with a third day and so late and it looked a little that way. It’s hard to stay focused and ride so well and hard over three days to be as sharp as ever at that time. Needless to say a great job but with a minor balance mistake in the canter pirouette right it was enough to lose that winning edge, and it was down to 4th place, but that was no disgrace.


So ended the Sydney CDI to the dulcet tones of the entire stadium singing Happy Birthday to Judy Dierks (she just turned 32) as she enters the arena at the presentation. It was a fabulous result for Judy and the entire team, especially for Vicky Newham and that’s what the sport is all about; being pleased and happy that you have done a good job and the placings are very fair and easy to understand.

So brought to a close the Sydney CDI 2015, and no question it was a well run event, great end results, intrigue, quality horses and performances, and as always, differing judge’s opinion, but that’s part and parcel of dressage.

As everyone winds their ways home it will be time to reflect and put all the judge’s comments in a logical perspective and get better from this experience.


Check out Roger’s beautiful photos from the third day at Sydney, here.

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