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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Battle on this weekend for a ticket to ride at Paris Olympics

ABOVE: Dianne Barnes and Sorena. Picture: SHARLENE PHILLIPS/ONE-EYED FROG

THE dressage world is bubbling with excitement with the Olympic Games just weeks away and the final CPEDI qualifier in Australia begins this weekend at the Hawkesbury Dressage Festival at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre.

Once this is done, the selectors and EA high performance people will get their heads together to choose the teams.

The able-bodied riders in contention are now all overseas and while previous team member Mary Hanna is putting in good performances, there are other riders in contention.

Simone Pearce is trying for her second team position and Jayden Brown, who has been training with Carl Hester has been outstanding in tough competition with Quincy D. Add the young Jessica Dertell to the mix and it will be an interesting job for the selectors Maryjane Crabtree, Dirk Dijkstra and Lone Joergensen.

Back home, the paras had their second last tryout at the recent dressage championships at Boneo Park and will be out again this weekend in Sydney.

There are four places on the Olympic team and it has to be made up of at least one rider from grades one, two and three and not more than two riders from the same grade. There are several riders making strong claims for a place on the team and selectors Susan Chandler, Gary Lung and Veronica Steward will have an even tougher task to decide after the final competition.

There are several making their places felt right now.  Stella Barton and Lisa Martin, Sharon Jarvis, Mel Cannon, Victoria Davies, Bridget Murphy, Zoe Vorenas and Dianne Barnes are all highly placed in their grades.

ABOVE: Bridget Murphy and Penmain Promise. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG

The most experienced para rider, Emma Booth, has been training overseas but suffered a fall this year, fracturing her sacrum in two places, and her left trochanter.

She recently completed a qualifier at Hagen, Austria, with disappointing scores but followed that up with 70.178% and a sixth place in the freestyle at a three-star event in Hagan, Germany.

“We’ll keep fighting till the very end and enjoy the journey as it all unfolds,” she said.

“My body is still fragile at eight weeks post fracture and I can feel I’m not back to riding at full capacity. On the bright side, it’s very exciting to know there’s so much more left in the tank and hopefully we continue to improve from here.”

Alongside the paras, the Virtus riders are beginning to find a place in the sport.

Sport Inclusion Australia has announced that an Australian team of eight riders will compete at the 2024 Virtus Open European Equestrian Championships held in Winchester in the United Kingdom from July 15 to 19.

The 2023 Global Games gold medallists Andrew Driffield (NSW), Sarah Sherwood (QLD) and Sui Watts (NSW) will head the Australian team, which includes five equestrian debutants.

ABOVE: Sui Watts and Gem Park Guess. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG

Bel Dabic (WA) represented Australia at the 2023 Virtus Global Games in swimming and will return to Europe in her first equestrian team alongside Luke Purtill (WA), Chloe Karsten (NSW), Phoebe Roche (VIC) and Catherine Viney (SA).

Sport Inclusion Australia chief executive Robyn Smith said it had been a long wait for this group of riders to be able to represent their country overseas.

“Our first team of three riders competed at the 2023 Virtus Global Games in France achieving great success,” she said.

“It is so pleasing to now be able to provide eight riders with that honour and experience of representing Australia in international competition.”


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All images One-Eyed FROG

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