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Roger Fitzhardinge reports from day three of the NSW Dressage Championships

Matthew Dowsley and AEA Prestige, winners of the GP Freestyle with a national record of 75.78% - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Matthew Dowsley and AEA Prestige, winners of the GP Freestyle with a national record of 75.80%.

 

Words and photos by Roger Fitzhardinge

So the third day of the NSW Dressage Championships was one hell of a competition day and what an amazing class of horses ridden so well from the start to the end of the field.

Probably what was so great was that all day were Freestyles in the indoor arena and what a fabulous group of competitions to watch. From the Advanced through to the Grand Prix, and to be able to sit and enjoy the top of the classes perform a Freestyle and let loose was quite inspiring… not to mention entertaining!

The Advanced class saw a win for the in-form David Mckinnon and the chestnut mare Woodside Lady Loxley by Lord Loxley and bred and owned by Mark Dowling from the Southern Highlands. This bright and breezy mare scored 72.01% to be the winner and she has an elegant and active way about her step and as always David sitting in an immaculately balanced position making it look effortless as it should be. A deserved win, but room here for improvement when the mare becomes more consistent through to a more constant and rounded outline. The music had a Spanish influence and fitted well with the mare.

Nina Boyd and JMH Roknroyl owned by Jami Hurley from Melbourne scored 68.56% to be second and the difference between the two was in the music – for Nina it was a little hectic with many changes and phrases that interrupted the fluency of the overall test, ans the genre of the music lacked continuity so perhaps the artistic section were a little less impressive. Helen Macaskill was third on F1 Sonny Bill, using acoustic guitar and the horse and rider had great harmony but lacked the expression of the other two – but a very harmonious test.

The tests were interesting and well put together but on talking to the judges yet again the problem that often is seen is that the riders do NOT make the lines and the discipline in showing the movements. Half pirouettes aren't a third or three quarters, they are half!! Shoulder in is to be clear, and yet again the difference between extended and collected walk needs to be obvious so the judges aren't left guessing. A great competitor and great test music and choreography, but it all just needed a little more discipline in the way it’s put together.

The Small Tour Freestyle was won by none other than the fabulous look at me PR Firenz ridden by Rodney Martin and again winning by over 3% with 74.16%. This cute horse danced his way around the indoor effortlessly with that expression of “what is next for me to do?”. He is not a quitter and always has his eye on the prize and the harmony between Rodney and Firenz is delightful. It was truly what Freestyles are about. In second place was MI Sirtainly Sir and Riley Alexander, riding for Mulawa. A score of 71.45% was pleasing and a very flowing test, but perhaps lacking the roundness and strength as yet – but a younger horse at this level and Riley has not been riding him for so long, and at this level it takes time to really get a partnership and this is a combination with a lot of potential and talent and they cruised around the test without problem. In third was Michelle Baker and Bradgate Park Puccini, showing great extended paces and a forward thinking attitude just being behind Riley on 71.16%. It was Rodney and Firenz that were Small Tour Champions, and Bloomers Simply the Best for Gordon Pratt the runner up. Two fantastic riders and horses with international quality.

The Elementary class was quite something and the Champion went to the elegant bay mare Challenger Florencia R ridden by Rochelle King-Andrews.

On speaking with Rochelle on her rides she said: “She is only 5 years old and established at this level now. She is such a trier that it’s hard to hold back. She is an utter joy to ride and has a sassy attitude with a burning will to work. Being a mare needs that woman’s understanding! She loves to trail ride and jump to mix her work up and keep her very intelligent mind on track and fresh. She loved the day’s competition and was interested and on the job as always. She inspires me to ride better to keep up with her. I couldn't be more happy with an Elementary Champion at these hotly contested championships.”

This mare by Fiji gained a 73.26% to win the 3.2 and a second in the 3.3 with a 69.94%. Robbie Mckinnon rode the runner up Elementary horse, Hollands Bend Rococo by Royal Classic; they gained a first and a third and again a great horse and so beautifully ridden by Robbie. Quite a class and every horse worthy of praise.

There is a very great feeling amongst the now well-educated riders owners and coaches that the judges are seriously holding back in giving marks. These tests are a long way from Grand Prix, and to see the quality and depth in this class of 25 horses and only one over 70% is disappointing. It was the same in the Novice classes when there were good tests that could have been 80%, but no a 73%. Seriously 7 is simply “fairly good” and 8 is “good”… there is still 9 and 10. The standard here at these championships is as good as it’s ever been and yet the marks on the scoreboard for all and sundry around the world to see appear modest in relation to the quality and improvement in the past five years in Australia.

The Amateur Owner Rider (AOR) classes were extremely well attended, big classes –  as there were in the Pony classes that are becoming well represented, popular and very strong. The classes are now endless and for a full list of the results follow the link at the end of the article. From Preliminary AOR and Pony Preliminary and Elementary today, as well as the Elementary AOR with 18 entered.

 

Riley Alexander aboard the stalliom Aber Hallo 29, winners of the Medium Tour Freestyle - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Riley Alexander aboard the stalliom Aber Hallo 29, winners of the Medium Tour Freestyle.



The Medium Tour Freestyle saw a win to the Mulawa stallion Aber Hallo 29, ridden by Riley Alexander with a cracking score of 72.15%. This elegant brown stallion has plenty of cadence and power combined, and a beautiful test to classical style music. This horse has fabulous expression in the piaffe and passage tour and at this level it is imperative to have a handle on these movements to be competitive. He sometimes tries too hard and some moments of tension spoil the bigger marks. Second was the super buckskin imported pony, Cheval De Luxe ridden by Sara Price with a score of 68.95%. What a great effort with some super moments in passage, and all the work looks well confirmed now and just needs a little more energy to see the bigger marks and the music was so much in keeping with the pony and mood he sets.

 

Cheval De Luxe and Sara Price, the Medium Tour Champions - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Cheval De Luxe and Sara Price, the Medium Tour Champions.


Cheval De Luxe was awarded Medium Tour Champion and a deserved rig to boot. To achieve the championship you need to do the Inter A and B as well as the Freestyle and some of the horses did not compete in all three sections – but the pony did indeed, and a well deserving champion. He was fabulous to watch and certainly shows a great talent with all the movements out of the Grand Prix… so here is another Grand Prix one ready to fire and away he will go with such a generous and easy attitude. Third was Breanna Tillitzki and Fursten Hit on 64.85%.

The final Freestyle was the Grand Prix and 13 horses in the indoor to cap off such an amazing day. First to impress was Mindarah Park Raphael for the talented young rider Mary Warren and what a positive professional. A home bred gelding by Mary’s other Grand Prix ride Mindarah Park Ramadan. The harmony and understanding between Mary and Raphael… totally harmonious and obviously on the same page. The test was forward and very steady in the frame, balance and contact. They scored 67.55% that put them just ahead of Challenger Jacaranda and Rochelle King-Andrews, fresh from her Elementary Championship win and first ever Grand Prix Freestyle for them and a great score with a lot more fuel in the tank yet to be used.

 

Challenger Jacaranda and Rochelle King-Andrews in their first GP Freestyle - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Challenger Jacaranda and Rochelle King-Andrews in their first GP Freestyle.



Leslie-Anne Taylor’s expressive and impressive gelding by Abanos in Amicelli Gold showed some exceptional parts in their routine but there were also some serious moments where Amicelli Gold simply took over and carted Leslie-Anne to parts of the arena that were not expected and the opposite directions to what was desirable. Unfortunately the SIEC arena has never been a favourite for this horse and with the heavy beat of the country and western music he just was overwhelmed and didn't cope tonight. A super talent but this was not his night!

PPH Zeppelin owned by Helen Batson and Brett Parbery and tonight ridden by David Mckinnon (as Brett, who always rides this imported, enormous chestnut gelding by Tolando is away in the states with DP Weltmieser preparing for the WEG dressage). David did a great job and the horse looked more at ease than ever and a great score of 71.92% is for sure a personal best for this horse and a great ride by David, who only took over the reins a few weeks ago. The combination has gelled and looks great.

Next in to the arena was CP Dresden for Alycia Targa and what an energetic horse and what a difficult test she has put together with the owner Jane Bruce… entry halt to twos on the centerline, to a double pirouette then again a centreline with ones to the double pirouette. Twos and ones on the twenty metre circle and passage half pass and pirouettes in piaffe – and all done with ease and no stress. Great music from Kung Fu Panda and Moulin Rouge set the scene. A score of 69.65%, but scores ranging from 73.4% to one at 66.58%. Quiet a large difference but needless to say a great test and very well executed by the seriously talented Alycia, who always remains modest in her riding and always makes it look easy and effortless and so the harmony score a high one for sure.

Robbie Mckinnon handed in yet another crowd favourite test with Robali Razzamatazz. This test exudes expression and presence and Robbie makes the overall impression one of ease and simplicity. A few mistakes in the sequential changes, but Razz always manages to get so far off the ground he gets too slow to keep the sequence and so the odd balance orientated mistake creeps in. Such a shame, as he is fantastic and Robbie does a great job; they scored of 70.27%.

 

Robali Razzamatazz and Robbie Mckinnon scored 70.27% to be 5th in the GP Freestyle - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Robali Razzamatazz and Robbie Mckinnon scored 70.27% to be 5th in the GP Freestyle.



Rozzie Ryan is the mistress of the Freestyle arena and this night did not disappoint. The test was correct and so well in keeping with the music and the transitions and the highs and lows always spot on; a 71.96% for third.

Freestyles are not Judy Dierk’s favourite thing, but they are getting better and better. There was a seriously costly mistake in the half pass right when Diamond Star broke to canter and decided that he had no idea how to get back to trot!!!! All the same, a deserved mark of 72.52% and when he is better experienced and focused on the job, for sure he will be the best of the horses out of Australia.

 

Judy Dierks and Diamond Star gained 72.25% to be second in the GP Freestyle - © Roger Fitzhardinge

Judy Dierks and Diamond Star gained 72.25% to be second in the GP Freestyle.



With only one left it was AEA Prestige who was out to win and Matthew had that steely look of ambition in his eye and he rode the same. This combination could well have been on the team for WEG, but Matthew’s idea of the sport is not to be at every dog and cat fight but to pick the bigger shows and prepare for that one show and that they did. Winning the Freestyle tonight by just over 3%, with 75.795%!!! An Aussie record I believe and it's the highest mark ever achieved in Australia for a GP Freestyle class. It was amazing and what a score. The harmony shone this evening and the athleticism fantastic. Such harmony and control as such are a rarity, and a test that was fluent and easy to follow. A seriously great way to finish the day’s competition. What a fantastic test and Matthew winning, 3% ahead of the next horse. First to Matthew and Prestige; second to Judy Dierks and Diamond Star; third for Rozzie and Jarrah R; and then Dave Mckinnon and PPH Zeppelin, followed by his wife Robbie and Razzamatazz; then Alycia and Dresden; and Mary Warren with Raphael. They was serious tests and worthy place getters!

What an amazing day’s competition and with one more day to go; to watch the enthusiastic competitors that come from around NSW has been inspiring. The NSW Dressage Championships have certainly seen some fantastic tests and it is only through competitions as this that seasons horses here for big events in the future. Great weather, great people, great horses and spring has sprung!!!! What a fabulous day and a star in the making in  AEA Prestige… so watch this space!!!!

FULL RESULTS HERE.

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