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My Road to Rio – August

Returning to Germany is always a double edged sword. I am always torn between the opportunity to improve my riding skills, and be with our like minded friends, and the gut wrench of leaving all I love In Australia. I treasure the time I spend at home with my wonderful family, and good friends, and love running my dressage business, teaching and training. The last six months my horses at home have been so good to me, giving their best and achieving many great scores and wins. Umbro especially tried his heart out for me for some great results. However if I am to pursue my Olympic goals, and push myself to a higher standard, I must return to my trainer, Patrik Kittel, at Outstanding Stables, and re-establish my partnership with Boogie Woogie, and Sancette. Sadly the day I arrived back in Germany, even after the great care and effort, my groom Carl Newby had put in, Sancette became lame, and after a lot of investigation, we decided the best we could do for him, was to send him home for some well deserved paddock time. As I write this Sancette is in quarantine and when I return to Australia in September, we will reassess his chances of returning to competition. Boogie Woogie, has made great progress in his training, and now we are working hard together to make a good partnership for our debut in International Grand Prix classes. If the Australian team is to be successful in Rio we need to have at least an average score of 73% plus. That means every rider has to push hard to improve both the quality of our horses, and the level of our performance. While I truly believe Boogie has what it takes for a mid 70 ‘s score, to achieve this will take some serious and dedicated work. I really believe if any one can take me there, my trainer Patrik Kittel can do the job. We have a great rapport, and he is so positive. Already with Sancette, he helped me achieve above and beyond what I thought was possible. His skill and understanding of Sancette helped me break through to consistent 70% plus scores, and this carried through when I returned home to compete with Umbro. With his other students I see a constant improvement, and Australia is so lucky he teaches three of the contenders for Rio. I know other potential team members also have great trainers, and I see this as one of the most positive things ever for the lifting of Australian dressage to a new level. To make my first international start on Boogie it is necessary to compete first in National competition here in Germany. My first attempt was sabotaged by some extraordinary weather. I was all pumped up and ready to compete at a local GP competition, only to find the competition cancelled, due to the 38 degree temperature. In Germany this is pretty unusual, and wisely the event was cancelled. I was relieved although disappointed. Having seen the devastating effect of heat stress on horses first hand, I would not liked to have put Boogie’s health in danger, for the sake of a qualification. Our next competition was a total contrast. Pouring rain, gale force wind, and an arena that was a quagmire by the time I got to ride at 7.00 in the evening. Fortunately the warm up was indoors. Boogie warmed up nicely, and bravely stepped out into the maelstrom. I really didn’t know what to expect, having never ridden him in such difficult conditions. Through the puddles and into the slosh he went, with little hesitation. The tent on the side looked like it was going to take off like Mary Poppins at any moment. However Boogie kept his focus, and for our first ever Grand Prix I was super happy. There were quite a few mistakes, missing the ones and twos. However I felt all the mistakes were mine. I lacked competition practice, and made some stupid rider errors. The judges however tried to give points wherever they could, and we had lots of 8’s for extension, changes, pirouettes and passage. My mistakes were very expensive, but when I get my act together, I can see a 70 plus score. I need more work on my changes, and the miscommunication with some transitions. However when I think back on my first Grand Prix starts on my other good horses, I think Boogie made a great beginning to the big tour for us. Now I just can’t wait to get out and have another competition. Meanwhile we have a new horse in the stable. Riding only one horse a day, is not enough to keep myself fit and in form, so we have purchased a very nice 8 year old mare by Johnson, out of a Goodtimes mare. I will tell more about her in my next blog. Cheers, and Happy Riding Mary


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