NEWS > Dressage
Posted by Samantha Napier on 08/11/2017.
Pip Cassidy & Voltaire (Hugo) competing at Boneo Park

Philippa Cassidy reports from the Australian Dressage Championships!

I’ve been thinking about this report for a while.

Having read the reports written by other members of Team Tasmania, I can only add my voice in thanks and praise for the effort, enthusiasm, encouragement and thoughtfulness given to all of us so generously by our fabulous Chef d’Equipe Sharni Radford, and her just-as-fabulous assistant (and daughter!) Caitlin.

I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive about going to Nationals as part of a team. Hugo and I have done our travelling as a couple, mostly just the two of us. On this trip I joined forces with Bert and Peter Gibson, and Hugo had a travel buddy in Bert’s beautiful Neversfelde Raphael. Right from the start, everything fell in to place. The horses travelled beautifully together, the trip across the ditch was relatively smooth, and our stop off at Werribee was a welcome break for the horses to stretch their legs before heading to Boneo Park. 

The facilities at Boneo Park are astonishing, the staff are friendly and helpful, the Riders Retreat is the best thing ever, and the atmosphere everything you could want (in spite of the weather). I won’t go on as this report isn’t a travel diary, but enough to say I am thrilled that the Nationals will be at Boneo again next year.

Any concerns I had about spending 2 weeks with a group of people as obsessive about their horses as I am disappeared within minutes of settling into our stable aisle. I have never laughed so hard! I have never been helped so much. Hugo has never been given so many treats... Tania, thanks so much for the cups of tea in the mornings. Mandy, if Hugo is a sugar addict I have you to blame. Steph, thanks for walking down the alley with me in the pouring rain to get to the indoor. Ellie, thanks for being assistant chef. So much more to add but I will run out of room.

We were lucky to have Peter Fischer on site for lessons. Hugo had settled well and had a couple of rides out to commune with nature in the wetlands that surround the equestrian centre. I felt that our first lessons went well and we did the Prix St George on the Saturday competition of the AOR Championship. It was generally felt by me and my knowledgeable spectators that Hugo and I did our best canter work in that test. A small mistake in each of the flying change sequences, and canter pirouettes that more or less came off. A pretty good score and a creditable 5th placing.

Now, I take my dressage pretty seriously. Note the words in the above paragraph. Small Mistake. More or Less. To accept such things is to accept mediocrity. At Nationals, small mistakes not only cost you a placing, they relegate you to the bottom of the field and unfortunately that’s what happened. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

So what to do? It seems to me that I have 4 choices. Give up. Buy a new horse. Accept that Hugo and I are amateurs and be content and finally, work out what we need to do, and then do it. The first option might make my bank balance healthier, but not my liver or my mental health. So cross that off. The second option might be the go if I had absolutely no self awareness. But I can’t honestly say that our failure to perform was Hugo’s fault and the comments from the judges indicate that they pretty much felt that way too. So cross that one off. The third option is tempting... But my goal, the dream that gets me up at 5:30am every morning, is to ride Grand Prix at National level. It’s a big dream and will be a win for determination over athletic ability, but I’m holding on to it with all my might. I have so much belief in my super horse, and in my wonderful coaches, and yes, there is even a glimmer of belief in myself. So on to option four.

One of the really valuable things about going to a major competition like Nationals, is that you get to see the professional riders and some beautifully trained and talented horses. What you start to notice about those combinations that are beautiful to watch, is that every aid gets a reaction. That the horses are ridden to be expressive. The riders can be bold because the horses are responsive. To get to that level, I need to ride my perfect nervous middle aged ladies horse in a state of positive tension. There is no doubt that I will be pushed out of my comfort zone. Quite likely he will be too. Our best trot needs to become our default trot. Our best flying change needs to become every flying change. I’m sure you can all see where I’m going with this.

I’m lucky I have such wonderful support – my family, my coaches, my friends. I hope that in small ways I give that support back to those who, like me, are trying to be the best they can be in this demanding, frustrating, time consuming sport that brings me so much joy. Onwards and upwards!

Other Top News