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Road to Rio April Update

The last fortnight of March saw the execution of a whirlwind program, involving competing at two shows , on the opposite sides of the planet.

A little over ambitious….? I certainly had some moments where I was overwhelmed by the enormity of my plan, however by the end of the World Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden, I had a moment to reflect and felt satisfied that we had achieved our major goals.

To be able to qualify my young Grand Prix horse Boogie Woogie, alongside Umbro as a possible mount for Rio, it was essential that I compete in the PSI DWTS Grand Prix. To be eligible to compete in the designated European selection events he needed an average score of over 68% in two CDI’s before the cut off date of April 15th.

Mary and Boogie at DWTS, photo by Roz Neave

Since the following weekend I had to be in Sweden to compete at the World Cup on Umbro, I was left with no choice other than do the Grand Prix, and the Kür on Saturday evening with Boogie, and then without time to wait for the end of the competition, grab my bags and head to the airport to catch a plane to Germany. Fortunately we were able to tick all the boxes, by achieving our desired scores and making it to the airport on time. Every element of my plan went smoothly thanks to the help of my fantastic staff and friends, and the competition organizers. We had to start a little earlier in the start list in the Kür than the results dictated, but Boogie even so put in a great effort for his first ever Kür with over 70% and the best of the Australians.

Things were no less pressured when I arrived in Germany. Patrik (Kittel) had done a marvelous job in just a couple of rides on Umbro, who had arrived in Germany the week before. Carol Newby had taken great care of him during the trip over, and he seemed in great shape. Having already grown a winter coat he was clipped out, muscled up and ready to go.

Our next challenge was the trip to Sweden….. at least 15 hours in a horse truck, which is huge for a horse that had just completed a 40 hour flight from Australia. Luckily Patrik and Lyndal decided to break the trip with an overnight in Malmö. On board was Patrik’s mount Scandic, and Lyndal’s Olympic and WEG mount Sandro Boy. Lyndal was awarded a last minute Wild Card through her Western European qualification. This was brilliant news for Australia, as for only the second time in history we were to be represented by two Aussies at a World Cup Final. When you consider that there are only 18 competitors invited from around the World, this was a great achievement for Australia. It’s often quite a lonely experience coming from Australia as an individual, so it felt great to set off with three horses from one stable, and I think Patrik was quite proud of that achievement as a trainer too.

The horses travelled well, and Umbro felt very bright in my first training session.

The Scandinavium was a vast contrast to our show the week before. Perfect surfaces, huge atmosphere and massive crowds.

Although I had done two previous World Cups with Mosaic at the same venue, I was still – after the twenty-year gap- overawed by the amazing atmosphere when you enter the stadium. Luckily Umbro was not.

When we entered the arena for the Grand Prix he gave me a very good feeling, with good energy and connection. However surprisingly he saw a gremlin on the last centre line and made an uncharacteristic hesitation into the last piaffe. This was very costly, effecting the marks for both transitions and piaffe. Until then he was up to 69% but that pulled us back to a tick under 68%.

Having watched the previous tests, I was impressed with the overall quality of the horses and good riding. I know a lot of the top names were missing, but still to me there were so many well ridden beautiful horses. Lyndal did us proud with a clean test, and impressive piaffe passage tour. Patrik and Scandic showed their hallmark piaffe/passage which to me was almost faultless. He is a master of training these movements and gave a perfect demonstration of how to perform super transitions with the softest leg. He received incredible support from the home crowd, although the judges favoured fellow team mate Tinne Vilhelmson’s performance with a very extravagant front leg and polished performance. I was a little surprised with the eventual winner – Hans Peter (Minderhoud) and Glock’s Flirt. To me there was a lot of irregularity behind in the passage, and lack of bending in the hind leg, but still there were many beautiful moments especially in the extravagant half passes in trot.

In between watching dressage we were able to check out the showjumping. I am happy to say Chris Chugg was an absolute super star on both his horses, but the eight-year-old Cristalline was outstanding, and he did Australia proud on every round. Edwina Alexander-Tops also showed good form.

It was also great for Australia to be represented by two super riders in a World Cup Jumping.

The Kür followed a similar pattern in results to the GP. The good news was that both Lyndal and I pulled ourselves up a placing. Lyndal’s new Kür was impressive with both the music and choreography, and she pulled off a super performance without a hitch.

Umbro really felt settled and focused from the moment I entered the arena. In fact in spite of being such a big occasion by halfway through the test I began to really enjoy the ride knowing Umbro was trying his hardest. There was a little glitch on our centre line changes when he tripped, but overall I was very satisfied with his performance. I think my draw of first was a little unlucky, but I can only be happy that in such a huge atmosphere Umbro did not let me down and did his best to please. I feel with more lessons and training with Patrik there are more points and a big improvement to be had. In just a few lessons Patrik made a big difference, and I am looking forward to my training time ahead.

On our return, the arrival of Boogie Woogie and Calanta, both in good shape was a big relief. Now it’s time to knuckle down to training and prepare for our first big show with Boogie at Hagen. Three horses will keep me busy and focused as we continue our Road to Rio. Stay tuned!

– Mary


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