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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Young dressage riders hot on heels of today's champions

ABOVE: Interschool novice intermediate winner Zara Missen and Flowervale Sancierra. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG

WHERE not so long ago the show ring was the favourite playground of young riders, now, even diminutive seven-year-olds on 12-hand ponies are perfecting their circles and straight lines in dressage arenas.

What’s caused them to bypass the original route?

Two things, the first is seeing youngsters like Kate Kyros and Jessica  Dertell mixing it with the big guns, and the second is that unlike show horse classes, you don’t need a $20,000 pony to do well.

The price of children’s show ponies/galloways is totally out of hand, and rather than pay $10,000 for a show Shetland, (yep recent asking price for a show pony) a sweet-moving, plain-headed cross-breed can do very well thank you, at a vastly less price.

Also, there’s a seen lack of bias. You ride your test, get your mark, and work on improving. At least you get a work out.

At the Victorian Youth Dressage Championships at Boneo Park, there were classes for interschool, participation, para, pony and young riders, and with classes split into children, junior and young rider from ages from eight to 25 years.

It’s the same at every weekend competition.

These keen young riders can be found training or competing and they are getting every encouragement.

The future in dressage is bright, and there are three or four young riders who might very well find themselves on Australia’s team for the Brisbane Olympic Games.

ABOVE: Jessica Dertell and Syriana. Picture: DEREK O’LEARY

At the championships, one of these, Jessica Dertell on the former Mary Hanna mount Syriana consistently broke through the 70 per cent barrier to win the Grand Prix tour.Beth Rowley and Remi First Class did high 69 per cents in the young rider section and Morgan Cockerell at just 13, riding Ibn Ky Gold Rush is heading in the same direction.

Young para riders are also on their way. Maddison Cooke, at 23, won her section at the youth championship, once again riding over the 70 per cent wall in one of her tests.

“We get quite a few who have congenital impairments and have started riding with their disability,” Julia Battams, Program Manager at Equine Pathways Australia said.

“Some come through Riding for Disabled but some just start in mainstream sport and find their way to para just usually through word of mouth.”

For those with young horses, the winner of the novice section was Sara Leitch on Echoes Return, and in the preliminary, Ebony Linford riding Joys Diamond Dust.

As far as dressage is concerned, our current leading dressage lights will be looking over their shoulders, the youngsters are coming.


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