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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

On their way - dressage team qualifies for Paris Olympics


ABOVE: Simone Pearce and Fiderdance at Herning. Picture: LIBBY LAW

FOR the first time since Sydney 2000 there is a strong feeling of optimism among dressage fans.


The team at the World Championships at Herning, Denmark, is a mix of experienced and new and, in a very strong field, finished eighth from a field of 19 teams.


It means Australia has earned a place in the dressage competition for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.

The young horses found the atmosphere on the second day overwhelming, with Simone Pearce and Fiderdance scoring 72.584 per cent, impressive considering they have only been a combination for two months.


"This is my third show with him so hopefully we live and we learn and we improve for next time,” she said after the test. “He was a little bit overwhelmed by the atmosphere and not himself today. We did the best we could. Working with horses that's how it is, some days it is good and others it is challenging.”


Lyndal Oatley’s grey Eros was the darling of the dressage world after his first day’s great performance. The fact that he’d begun originally as an event horse, and then was mount for a disabled rider before he came to Lyndal, charmed the crowd and the media, and he qualified for the Special at his first World Championships.


Unfortunately he was belled off by the judges on the second day who felt he was lame. Examined back at the stables by the Australian vet he was fine, and his rider said she felt he had been overcome with nerves by the occasion, and was tense throughout, whinnying twice for his friends.


“I don’t think anyone ever goes in there expecting to have that feeling and this is the first time ever for me so it’s very surreal, and a bit of an odd feeling,” she said afterwards.


“At the end of the day the horses always come first and ‘Ross’ is my little dream pony. I literally left everything and ran with him down to the stables. Thankfully, he looks to be fine. The vet has gone straight over him. We’re very lucky, we have a great team vet, We checked everything, his trot-up was fine.


“For him, this is still early days and I think he put his heart and soul into yesterday, and today the tension was a bit too much. But then you never know (whether) what you’re feeling, and what it looks like, could be two totally different things,” she said.


“The judge did the right thing for sure and the horse’s welfare must come first.”

Jayden Brown and Willinga Park Sky Diamond missed 70 per cent by a whisker, which would have been easily made except for a few inexperienced mistakes. He finished with 69.674 per cent, which was a great debut for a young horse and rider.


"I have been riding him for two years,” he said. “I took him on when he was just coming out of Prix St Georges and have taken him into Grand Prix. This is only his fifth international Grand Prix, so he is pretty inexperienced but he makes up for it in his good temperament and he is a real trier.”


Mary Hanna’s Calanta chose the absolute wrong day to go lame, but Australia’s most experienced dressage rider held her disappointment back and was there to cheer on the team.


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