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The year of the dressage pony

 Glenhill Divine Classic and Alison Gill at the 2024 Sydney CDI. Image supplied.

Glenhill Divine Classic and Alison Gill at the 2024 Sydney CDI. Image: Simon Scully Photography.

 

The year of the dressage pony

By Equestrian Life

Taking a glance at dressage results from the first few months of 2024, you could say it’s looking like the year of the pony. Not only are the scores across young pony classes on the rise, but there are also ponies competing against the horses… and more than holding their own.

Hosted by Willinga Park in February, Dressage by the Sea is usually the first major event on the Australian dressage calendar. This year the show saw huge entries across all levels of competition: especially in the Young Horse classes, where both ponies and horses were combined and judged against each other. In the 4YO class (amongst a field of 27) young pony mare ‘Glenhill Divine Classic’ stepped out with the horses to win round one with a whopping 88% – the biggest score across all age classes in that round – before also placing in the 4YO Young Horse Final.

Ridden by Alison Gill, ‘Glenhill Divine Classic’ (Numerus Clausus x Divine Essence) is owned by Glenhill Sporthorses and is proving herself to be a rising star of the Australian dressage scene this year. ‘Peach’, as she is known, is a German Riding Pony (GRP) whom Glenhill purchased as an embryo in utero from Vicki Chidgey at Freeman’s Lodge.

In March, Dressage & Jumping with the Stars saw ‘Glenhill Divine Classic’ add further accolades to her early competition career, claiming the 4YO Young Pony Championship on 85.6% before going on to be named the overall Pony Champion of Champions. The mare’s score was higher than the 4YO Young Horse Champion, at an event where both classes are judged against the same criteria and by the same judges.

 

Glenhill Divine Classic and Alison Gill at the 2024 DJWTS. Image: Simon Scully Photography

Glenhill Divine Classic and Alison Gill at the 2024 DJWTS. Image: Simon Scully Photography.

 

Also at DJWTS, Glenhill’s licensed GRP pony stallion ‘Glenhill My Hollywood’ (Movie Star x Aester El Nino) claimed the 5YO Young Pony Championship on 75.8%, while the Champion 6YO Young Pony saw Toni Webb ride her own ‘Salient Park Once Again’ to a fabulous win on 75%. Both were scores that would have seen these ponies place well in the finals of the equivalent young horse age classes.

 

Riley Alexander, Alison Gill and Christan Trainor with Glenhill Mr Hollywood at 2024 DJWTS. Image: Equisoul Photography

Riley Alexander (who rides Glenhill's Warmbloods), Alison Gill and Christan Trainor with Glenhill Mr Hollywood at 2024 DJWTS. Image: Equisoul Photography.

 

This month, the Sydney CDI saw the rise of pony power continue. Pony Queen Alison Gill rode all three young pony age winners: Jan Smith’s 6YO ‘Miss Moneypenny PP’, 5YO ‘Glenhill Mr Hollywood’, and 4YO ‘Glenhill Divine Classic’, with the latter once again crowned overall champion with a score of 80.2%.

For Christan Trainor, founder and owner of Glenhill Sporthorses, the recent success of dressage ponies here in Australia has been incredibly exciting – especially considering she’s only been involved with breeding and producing dressage ponies for six years.

“I feel like the judges have been bold enough and confident enough to reward the ponies with the same scores as the horses when warranted, and I take my hat off to them. It’s super that they feel the quality is there,” she says.

“Our entire goal at Glenhill when we set out on this journey was to breed ponies that were just like Warmbloods, but in a smaller package. We feel like we're on the right track and the judges are backing us up with that, because even if these ponies were to go over height they'd still be just as competitive in the horse classes, which is great.”

 

Christan Trainor, Alison Gill aboard Glenhill Mr Hollywood, and Riley Alexander. Image by Simon Scully.

Christan Trainor, Alison Gill aboard Glenhill Mr Hollywood, and Riley Alexander. Image by Simon Scully Photography.

 

Christan is quick to point out that it’s not just Glenhill’s ponies that are achieving podium finishes. In the CDN Grand Prix at Sydney CDI, Wendy Lorincz’s pony ‘Hilkens Denali’ beat 13 horses to win the class with Alison Gill once again in the saddle. The pair has been solid at Grand Prix for some time now and consistently challenging the Warmbloods for the top placings – Sydney was where a well-deserved win finally came together.

Alison also partnered with Emily Mackintosh’s pony gelding ‘Seawynd Colorado’ in the CDN Small Tour classes, placing in big fields of horses with scores as high as 70%.

“There are plenty of ponies out there. There are ponies down in Victoria that are a little bit over height and are in the horse classes, and they're winning. These ponies are not limited in what they can achieve, and it’s fantastic to see competition results that reflect their quality.”

This year, Glenhill Sporthorses is eagerly awaiting five German Riding Pony foals via embryo transfer. Three are out of Glenhill Divine Classic, by stallions FS Mr Right, Golden Daim, and Glenhill Mr Hollywood, while the other two are out of Glenhill Matinee by stallions Cockney Cracker and FS Next Diamond. You can find out more about Glenhill’s 2024 crop of foals here.

This article was written in conjunction with Glenhill Sporthorses.

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