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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Dressage was not always the popular sport it is now

ABOVE: Caroline Wagner competing on Penny Hill Park Sophia. Picture: DEREK O'LEARY

DRESSAGE is a major equestrian sport in Australia, but it wasn’t always so.

The first competition was held at Royal Melbourne Show in 1950, but really wasn’t taken all that seriously.

In fact, when Scottish judge A.G. Baxter came to Royal Melbourne Show in 1947 and attempted to show the locals what dressage was, someone in the crowd skitched a dog on to his horse. Mr Baxter left the show in a rage.

The gold medal win by Australia at the 1960 Olympic Games turned the equestrian Olympic focus mainly on to jumping events and it was not until 1984 when Margaret McIver rode down the centreline at the Los Angeles Olympics that we had our first dressage representative.

The Victorian Dressage Club was founded in 1969 and continues to be a pioneering club supporting dressage riders.

ABOVE: Dressage trailblazer Margaret McIver and CK.

It was one of two groups formed that year that have had a real influence on equestrian sport in Australia. The other club, The Melbourne Showjumping Club, is also in existence and active.

Looking at the list of the original Victorian Dressage committee, it was no wonder it was successful. The people named on it would brook no nonsense, and were a determined group.

There are some real pioneers listed: Geoff Whitaker (Chairman) Mac Greaves, Lyn Lewis (Mrs Lyn McCallum) Gail Hogan-Taylor, Ernie Barker, Fred Biesbrook , Eleanor King (Mrs Eleanor Russell) S. Telford and Sandra Hammil. Those riding at the Victorian Dressage Club’s club’s winter competition at Werribee Park last weekend have probably never heard the names or the early history, but they owe them a lot.

Amy Bachmann riding Dancing Floretta took out the preliminary championship, where the highest placed pony was Owendale Beesting, ridden by Sienna Wright. It has taken a while, and again with determination and strong representation, for ponies to be now valued as dressage mounts, and like the development of the bigger horses, the same track is being followed, with specific bloodlines being developed for dressage type and paces.

In the novice championship, the winner was Justine Wedlock and Don Lui and the pony winner was Emma Turnbull’s Long Park Lucky.

In the elementary championship, Madelon McDonald and F1 Soliloquy won, with the reserve going to Javais Ham and Mayfield Fez. There was no pony award.

Kirsten Wood and Sandrella took the medium championship in a close finish from the reserve, Diane Humm and Rosanaya DDS. In the advanced championship Karen Blythe and Sonic K continued to score well. The reserve went to Amber Evans and Royal Rouge.

The medium/big tour championship was combined where Isabelle Luxmoore and Hill Cottage Jazmira won from Kerry Mack and Mayfield Limelight.


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