NEWS > Dressage
Posted by Samantha Napier on 27/10/2017.
Simone James and Elladean Art Deco (Arty) at the Australian Dressage Championships 2017.
Equine Images Victoria

Simone James reports from the Australian Dressage Championships!

It is my greatest pleasure to report on my trip to the 2017 Martin Collins Australian Dressage Championships and the Mitavite Amateur Owner Rider Championships. However, first and foremost I must extend my thanks to SDA, our many sponsors, team members and support crew – without their support, guidance and assistance the trip would not have been possible. Our Chef d’Equipe, Sharni Radford did an outstanding job feeding us information and getting us organised, and she, along with Caitlin, undertook an incredibly demanding job to get all of us in the right place at the right time.

Initially I had no intention of attending the 2017 Nationals as the trip up to Sydney is a mammoth undertaking with a sensitive horse. However, when Boneo Park was announced as the 2017 venue, a little seed of ambition was planted to make the trip. Fast forward to July 2017 and the seed had sprouted; Antonello (Tony) was qualified at PSG and Advanced and I was committed to making the trip with him, albeit with some trepidation (for those of you who know Tony, he’s not the greatest at dealing with change and stresses about everything outside of “standard”, so allowing ourselves enough time to settle would be vital).

We’d booked ourselves on the boat, sorted accommodation and had leave approved from work. The pony Elladean Art Deco (Arty) was going to be competing at the Launceston Royal before Nationals in the novice classes, so the plan was to take ourselves over in the float afterwards as we’d miss the team truck by a day. Arty would do the AOR Champs for experience and Tony would compete at Nationals with 1.5 weeks of familiarisation. Sound plan.

A few weeks later, I was having a casual chat to my vet and was discussing my plans for Nationals. The outcome of that casual chat was that Tony should probably stay at home given his age, tummy and temperament – consideration for his health and welfare always come first over my competition goals, so I had lots of thinking to do.

I talked to the team Chef d’Equipe, Sharni, about my dilemma and she suggested I get Arty qualified for Nationals at Novice. It was August by now, so time to get qualified was short, and Arty hadn’t had a Novice start at that point – that was planned for later in the season. So, I bit the bullet and took Arty to a competition to achieve the required Novice tests in the first week of September (two weeks before entries for Nationals closed) and we decided that Tony would stay at home and Arty would make the trip.

Fast forward to the 9th of October, and Arty was on the Tasmanian Horse Transport truck with the other team horses and we all made our way across to Boneo. He lost a fair bit of condition on the way over, but settled in well and we made our preparations for the AOR champs on the coming weekend.

We were placed in Saturday’s Prelim classes at the AOR champs and I was pleased with how well Arty settled, although he was still very buzzy amid the atmosphere, but I was looking forward to Sunday’s classes. Unfortunately, we got sandwiched between some very big horses in the crowded warmup arena on Sunday morning which rattled Arty, and I was unable to settle him for his first test; coupled with a short gap between tests, the result was not as calm as I hoped for. Time to reflect and put aside Sunday and focus on keeping the pony brain calm and in good shape for Wednesday’s National’s classes and shift the focus from scores to being calm.

Wednesday rolled around and our National’s campaign began – it was a super toasty 30 degrees! After Sunday’s upset, all I was aiming for was a calm warm up and two calm tests. Despite some initial hesitation, Arty settled in the warmup, and produced two pretty, calm tests. Unluckily, a mistimed steward appeared around the side of the judge’s box in both tests, which also happened to be at the moment of both right canter transitions, and the resulting incorrect strike off really hurt the marks although the remainder of the test was pretty solid. So, despite not being in the ribbons it was a great comeback for him. We had excellent feedback from the judges and a majority of the test scored very well, with just the newer, less established work requiring a bit more strength, which we knew would be the case.

As Arty is a very green pony (the trip was his 6th dressage show), the purpose of the trip was not to win, but gain valuable experience and lay firm foundations for the future. The little guy soaked it all up, and despite being initially really rattled, recovered himself beautifully. Arty travelled home like a seasoned campaigner and has matured considerably. We learned a lot about ourselves and are a stronger partnership for our efforts with the rest of the season ahead of us to improve.

The experience of travelling with a team was invaluable. I’m so proud of everyone who travelled over to compete; so many of us achieved goals, and personal bests. The support within the team was fantastic, and it was heartening that so many Tasmanians made the trip to attend Nationals. Thanks again to all the wonderful people who made the trip possible for us: to SDA for supporting us as part of the State Squad; Chef d’Equipe Sharni and Caitlin; all my team mates; Mum for making the journey with Arty and I; Dad; my partner Kelvin; and, Candy and Sue who looked after the horses at home. Teamwork really does make the dream work.

Onwards and upwards and here’s to Nationals at Boneo in 2018. 

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