NEWS > Dressage
Posted by Heather Stewart on 14/01/2015.

Abbie O'Brien reports from Dressage Festival 2014

After working right up until the day we left for the 2014 Saddleworld Dressage Festival I was feeling somewhat unorganised about taking two horses and a dog away for five days. Luckily Dad arrived on Tuesday afternoon and packing comprised of throwing pretty much all the horses gear and rugs in the float, loading up hay and feed and Dad stating “Whatever we don’t have, we can buy!”.

As we were heading to Werribee, we had to pack for every single possible weather event. Coats, jackets, long sleeve shirts, t-shirts, hats, sunglasses etc. Again, “Whatever we don’t have, we can buy!” We arrived at Werribee at about 10am on Wednesday morning.

After unpacking I had a lesson on Rajah at 11.20am in Outdoor 1 which went very smoothly – it was a beautiful warm and non-windy day at Werribee. All good, nice confidence boost for “Bozo” as mum calls him. Also had a lesson on Fleur in the indoor at 12.40pm and of course she was a superstar.

First up on Thursday was the first round of the 5yo Young Horse and what can I say… We NAILED IT! On an absolute high and managed to win the class with a score of 77.600% ahead of some very experienced riders (including our Aussie Olympic representative Mary Hanna!).

Then it was time to calm down and concentrate on Rajah (Fanta-Pants!) – first attempt at an open Prix St Georges at a state championship. He warmed up beautifully and I was feeling pretty chuffed with my horse so off we went around the arena to present to the judges.

Werribee was windy that day and yep…. Couldn’t get him anywhere near the judges boxes with the big hedge of blowing agapanthus. Excellent, this will be fun! A few encouraging kicks later I managed to trot him past the agapanthus and the judges. Bell rings and up the centreline I go. His neck gets shorter and shorter as I make my way up to X. A rather wobbly latter half of the centreline towards the agapanthus and around the corner and away we go in possibly the most massive extended trot he has ever done in his life. I grit my teeth, hang on and hope he stops at the other end – which he does thankfully! The test was fine except for some costly mistakes and tension which were all up that “spooky” end of the arena. 17th out of 35 and just under 63%.

Friday was Fleur’s day. First up we had the final for the 5yo and I chose not to warm her up too much as I also had to take into account she had two novice tests to do later on. She is rather fit so she was a little tense in the arena which showed in her walk and a bit in her demeanour. We scored 71.8% for equal 4th. A small break then off we went to the 2.3 where we had one glitch in a counter canter loop but other than that she was really good. Ended up with 66.983% and 6th. The last test she was starting to get a little tired so I really motivated her in the warm up and she came out with just enough go juice. Really nice flowing test for 67.5% and 3rd. Overall in the Novice Championship she was third out of 35 horses in division 1 which is pretty cool for a 5yo!

On Saturday I had to wait around all day until 1pm before my Aachen Challenge test on Rajah which is at PSG level and for riders under the age of 25 – the first prize is a trip to Aachen in Germany.  I watched many of the first combinations go and I really started psyching myself out. The test was in Outdoor 1 which was where our PSG did not go so well a few days prior. Luckily I had earlier taken him for some more arena familiarisation but that didn’t settle my nerves – he can be rather unpredictable! Again he warmed up beautifully and then off I went around the arena holding my breath.

MASSIVE sigh of relief… Canters straight past the judge’s boxes and the agapanthus!!! Down the centreline in a much more forward thinking manner and apart from minor details here and there we got around in a rather obedient and calm fashion for 67.773%! I was so happy I did have a little teary to myself walking back to the stables. The trust that we have developed over the last four and a half years is tremendous. He will always be a spooky horse but it is such a reward to be able to ride such a nice test with him feeling so confident. At last year’s Dressage Festival in 2013 he only competed in the Medium; an indication of how far we have come. We placed seventh but there was just over 1% separating the top 7 combinations so it was a very close race to the top three.

A little spell now before competing in our first ever small tour championship at the Boneo Classic in January. Can’t wait to ride my new freestyle! Fleur will also give the 5yo Young Horse a crack and we will try our best, as always!

Enjoy your horses, I know I am!


Abbie, Rajah and Fleur 

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