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Road to Rio July

After our first selection trial at Odense, our position did not look particularly secure. Although we were in fourth place on scores I really felt I had to work very hard with both horses to firmly secure a place on the team.

I read and re-read my papers and analyzed where I had lost marks, and repeatedly looked at the videos of my tests. There was so much I could do to squeeze out some more marks.

Umbro at Odense had hit that point where the horses often become a bit flat after travel, and his performance lacked the calm energy I needed. Boogie, although full of life was still making lots of green mistakes, especially expensive ones in the changes.

After discussions with Patrik (Kittel), my trainer, we started to sort through the problems and I daily analyzed my progress on videos of my lessons.

By the time we were due to leave for Rotterdam I felt we had made some good progress.

Umbro was to start in the CDIO, as I was not able to ride two horses in the CDI 3*. All other Australian riders competed head-to-head in the three-star.

There was quite an atmosphere in the main arena, which provided an extra challenge. In the trot work and piaffe passage I felt Umbro was really with me and he scored well in that section, but by the time we started the canter there was a bit of tension creeping in, and I had to work hard to stop him dropping the bit nd rolling up. His final centre line felt really energized, and he completed his test with a nice piaffe and passage to his final halt. His score reflected an improvement on Odense so that was a nice start to the show.

Boogie worked super well the first day of training. Normally it takes a couple of days to settle him so I was thrilled at his progress with handling the show environment. On entering the arena he felt a little tense but made a nice start to the test. All was going well through the trot work and piaffe/passage tour and he picked up some very good marks. An untimely pop of a Coke can being opened right beside him caused a big spook just as we started our canter. Sadly that caused an expensive mistake into the twos, but after that he settled down to his job and pulled of an improved score with 68.00%. There were still many areas to gain more points, but his costly green mistakes are becoming less, and he really shines in the piaffe/passage tour and trot work. He has quality in all his paces, and he is gaining strength and confidence. It’s so exciting to have a horse with such potential and personality!

Mary Hanna and Umbro, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding: 66.920 and 67.300 for 134.220. Photo: Kenneth Braddick

It was a relief to realize after a few quick calculations that I had not only qualified one, but both of my horses, and my dreams of going to Rio had become reality.

It was a show of ups-and-downs for the other Australian competitors. My heart goes out to those who didn’t achieve their dreams. I know every rider has put heart and soul into their individual campaigns. Kelly, Brett, Maree, Sue, and I have all had to face the huge challenges of traveling our horses vst distances and keeping the horses sound and healthy. The huge stress this places on our horses can never be under estimated. This was really bought home to me after losing my beautiful Limbo to travel sickness after Athens Olympics. Great challenges are still ahead for all of us, and I pray that I can make the journey to Rio and back and still have a healthy horse.

In conclusion I must say I felt very upset when I read Chris’ article on the THM website: “Another Dressage Selection Farce.”

While many of the points he makes are factually true, I find it totally out of order to take swipes at individual riders. We are all busting our bums to do the best we can, and dragging up past issues with individual riders does nothing to support and promote our team. The riders do not make the selection policy. The EA did however publish the policy well ahead and no member of the public or rider complained to my knowledge. The path to selection was clear… the selected riders fulfilled the requirements and were duly selected without any appeals. I like the format of a performance based selection.

I think next time it would be better to have three events, but have to compete at only two. Also it would be better if Selectors were present at selection events to observe the competitors in training, trot outs and competition. Given the possibilities of getting into shows and not over-traveling the horses, and taking into account what shows would accept 7 riders, there were not a lot of options. Yes you do have to pay if you want an entry to any big show for that many riders. Quite simply you cannot please all the people all the time. If you want head-to-head you have to go to small shows. If you want to go to big shows you will have the riders divided up into two classes.

I wish our riders at Aachen all the very best. At the end of the day I trust that four sound ready horses will be on the plane to Rio.

The main point is, pulling the riders and the EA down does nothing to help or support the Australian Dressage team. I implore the Australian public to get behind the selected team, and show solid support. We will be trying our hearts out to make you all proud. Remember how great it is for a country such as Australia even be able to have a team at the Olympics. We are a small dressage country amongst so many giants, and just to qualify a team is a huge achievement.

– Mary


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