Judith Matthews Receives Kay Fissenden Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Contribution to Dressage NZ

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 05:50
Judith Matthews and Kaye Ashram on Decadence MH winning Elementary level at the 2014 FEI World Challenge
Photo © Libby Law
Hanoverian Breeding News

Judith Matthews of Matthews Hanoverians was the very worthy 2017 winner of the Kay Fissenden Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Contribution to Dressage NZ. Judith has been involved with dressage for many years and her contributions cover every aspect of the sport.

Receiving this award comes at a truly exciting time for Dressage New Zealand and Judith & Peter’s stud, Matthews Hanoverians. As most dressage enthusiasts will know, Dejavu MH, bred by Matthews, has just completed a very successful competition season in Europe, earning many placings and scores which indicate true international capability and potential for more. Judith is thrilled with DJ’s results and it is this aspect of her contribution to dressage that much of the dressage community is most familiar with. Matthews Hanoverians are arguably breeding many of the best quality horses in the country, and you need look no further than the Horse of the Year placings to see how influential her breeding programme has been.
Judith was an early visionary in NZ horse breeding. She initially wanted to breed a good horse for herself and imported the mare St Pr St Wel Kantje as a three year old. Ever the pioneer, Judith is one of the first breeders in the country to use embryo transfer and this produced Adelheid MH. Fast forward a few years and Adelheid produced a leggy black colt, Dejavu MH (by De Niro). How exciting to know that this mare is in foal again, this time to the famous Totilas, so we all wait with bated breath for spring.

Judith credits a large part of her success as a breeder down to selecting good mares to breed from. She’s meticulous about the mares she uses, importing some from overseas as well as retaining a number that she has bred herself. Matthews Hanoverians use fresh and frozen semen to access some of the best bloodlines in the world for their carefully selected broodmares who produce horses that are talented, trainable and world-class.

The quality and improvement of dressage in NZ has been massively influenced by the introduction of these bloodlines. The natural cadence, power and trainability of Matthews Hanoverian progeny have changed the face of dressage competition in NZ, with other breeders following Judith’s example and accessing world-class bloodlines. There’s no surprise that the maturation of these breeding programmes coincides with our emerging success on the international scene.

“A well-bred horse still needs a good rider if it is to meet its potential” notes Judith. This is another area in which her contribution to the sport is invaluable. She has had three riders based at her stud to compete her horses; each began as a novice in dressage, but under her watchful eye they have all developed into competent dressage riders. Judith is quick to note that each of the riders had a natural talent and ability and says that although she doesn’t coach her riders, she does offer a judge’s eye on the ground. Matthews also frequently host the best national and international coaches at her property – a service she opens up to locals too.

Dressage judging has been on Judith’s repertoire for a number of years. As a List 2A judge she has travelled to Australia, as well many local and national assignments. Her comments are always positive, encouraging and constructive and many riders have noted how helpful her comments are. The judges of our sport have a huge influence on how riders present their horses and Judith’s deep immersion into all things dressage, international experience and interest in breeding mean that in her role as judge she has contributed to the increasing improvement of all riders and horses in NZ.

“I think my involvement in the breeding and training of horses from scratch has helped my judging as it has made me more aware of the difficult movements and the process of taking a horse through the grades”. This empathy is certainly reflected in her marks and comments.

Her contributions to breeding, rider development and judging, more than qualify Judith for the Outstanding Contribution to Dressage NZ Award, but her involvement in dressage does not end there. She has been a long-term sponsor of dressage nationally, currently sponsoring the Level 2 Super 5 League, and in 2017, sponsored the Grand Prix class at the National Championships. At local level she has been massive supporter of grassroots dressage, on the Northland dressage group committee, an area delegate on the national committee, and sponsor for local shows and circuits.

As I talk to Judith, I recall a large glossy rosette for placing 4th in the Matthews Hanoverian’s Northland Circuit being my first taste of success and I know this boosted my confidence to continue working through the levels. Judith can often been seen at local competitions rushing from the judge’s car to a spot arena-side to watch her own horses compete and then back to the office for official duties. A loyal and tireless supporter of local and national level dressage – an outstanding contribution.

The Kaye Fissenden Memorial Trophy was donated to Dressage NZ in memory of former Dressage Chair Kaye Fissenden from South Canterbury. Kaye was Chair from 1991-1996

By Melanie Dougan for Dressage NZ Bulletin

Photo © Libby Law

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