Horse Owners Help Raise the Bar at the 2012 Australian Dressage Championships

Wed, 10/03/2012 - 10:43
2012 Australian Dressage Championships

Many years ago most of the elite dressage horses competing in Australia where owned by the rider. Things are different now. These days, there are a significant number of riders campaigning horses which they don't own. This has helped the sport of dressage in a number of ways.

People who employ professional riders usually have the financial backing to buy or import horses of a high standard which improves the quality of horses competing. The professional riders have the opportunity to compete on quality horses which they may not be able to afford or if they could they may eventually have to sell. A lot of these riders would find it hard to make ends meet if they didn't have the income generated from this style of employment

These owners have become an integral part of Australian dressage. They help to keep the wheels turning. Their passion for the sport is apparent and they usually have many years of experience to ensure their horses are matched with a compatible rider and that their training and management is of the highest standard.

At the 2012 Australian Dressage Championships owners Julie Farrell and Carol Oatley have horses competing. Julie has Daniella Dierks riding Luxor 118 in Inter II and Grand Prix classes, and the newly imported mare, Furstin Friendship, competing in the 5yo class. Carol has Judy Dierks on Feramo K competing at Inter II.

There is one driving force which is similar to both owners and that is that both have daughters that compete in the sport. Carol's daughter, Lyndal Oatley, just competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games - what an achievement! Carol obviously felt the same. " Sandy and I were obviously very proud to have Lyndal compete for Australia at the Olympics. It's a huge responsibility to be part of a team representing your country in a sport to which you are devoted. Heath Ryan said to me when he and Rozzie were teaching Lyndal as a four year old - You know Carol, there is an international rider in there somewhere. I raised an eyebrow - as parents do - and returned to what I was doing. But those words always remained in the back of my mind....."

Julie's 17 year old daughter Kate has been competing in many different disciplines for many years and has helped develop the incredibly successful family business, Mulawa Arabian Stud. This family have been breeding Arabians for over 30 years and have a reputation that stretches around the globe. So how did they end up employing Daniella? "We have always believed the basis of riding is dressage. There are many capable riders but Daniella seemed to have the patience and capability to understand the horse's mind and the mechanics. You only have to look at the results to see how good she is."

Daniella and Luxor 118 recently won the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special (at the NSW State Championships) with scores around the 70 mark. And this was only with a couple of Grand Prix rides under her belt. As the owner, Julie couldn't have wished for more. "We were thrilled," said Julie. "Luxor has amazing presence and talent. Daniella always said he had the capability to be good at collected work, he started his Grand Prix training with Daniella when he arrived in Australia two years ago and has developed amazingly it is beautiful to watch them work - such harmony!" Julie and Kate have high hopes for Daniella and Luxor 118 at the Australian Dressage Championships.

Carol Oatley, like Julie, has also been involved with horses for a long time. She has been riding since she was 8 years old. "I used to work in riding schools in return for being allowed to ride the ponies. I was and still am totally obsessed with anything to do with horses. My mother still thinks I'll grow out of it but it is a lifelong passion. To me, owning a horse - any horse - is a great privilege."

Carol came into dressage by accident. In 1974, when looking for a horse to ride, she found herself being taught by Rainer Nist (Kristy Oatley-Nist's dad), and also by the legendary Kalman de Jurenak. It was then that the dressage bug kicked in! Later she was also significantly influenced by Clemens Dierks.

She then met her long suffering husband, Sandy (her words not mine); had Lyndal and Nicky and became a full-on horsey family. After years of competing at Royal Shows all over the country, they then travelled to Germany with Lyndal's, then trainer, Matthew Dowsley, to purchase a suitable horse for her. Feramo K was brought to introduce her to Big Tour competitions. Lyndal stayed on to train with Patrik Kittel who had sold them the horse. Carol laughs, "She fell in love, got married and re-located to Germany - with the horses! Not good for a horse-mad mother!"

Feramo suffered a serious injury in December 2008 when he fractured a pedal bone in three places. Carol explains, "We were told that he would probably have to be put down, but we persevered. Eventually he was able to walk a little, to trot a little - so we brought him back to retire in Australia where he could live out his days in a sunny yard at home. He then had some surgery to 'tidy-up' the injury - Sandy began hand-walking Feramo up and down, up and down and they both became much fitter. Feramo continued to improve (Sandy stayed about the same). We then took him to my friend and mentor Judy Dierks to see whether he would cope under saddle. We thought he might be suitable for me to ride - but he just kept getting better and better. He has competed successfully with Judy over the last 18 months and will be competing in the Inter II at the Australian National Championships. We'd love to see him at Grand Prix next year - but it's up to him. He's done really well and we are immensely proud of him."

Both these ladies are catalysts for making dressage in Australia improve at the rate of knots. Carol managed to put it very succinctly. " Dressage is, of course, relatively new to us as a nation, but in typical Aussie fashion we have jumped in at the deep end and are progressing rapidly. It's competitions like the Australian Dressage Championships that present a world-class opportunity for competitors and spectators alike. It's the culmination of many dreams and the inspiration for many more!"

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