Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shaken but not stirred

The journey home from WEG was longer than anticipated as Melbourne was fog bound and the plane sat on the Sydney runway for an hour or more before flying on to Melbourne. It is always a pest having to have all horse gear disinfected at immigration. Invariably my riding boots shrink and the stitching rots.

Four days at home went far too quickly. Longdencorp sponsored the Grade 3 classes at the HRCAV (Horse Riding Centres Association of Victoria) at Werribee. Our 'booth' next to the score board looked great.

The weather was marginal with lots of water around and intermittent cold showers. This German shepherd did not seem to mind sitting in the water next to one of the jumping arenas.

I felt really sorry for the people who picked up poles in the soggy arena.

Then it wa off to Christchurch, New Zealand, and a mixture of riders including Para Equestrian riders.

Coaching riders with severe disabilities is always nerve wracking. I had an added dimension - after shocks from the huge earthquake. I had been told that they happened all the time and so did not bother much when i was at my computer and the house shook for more than a few seconds. Later I heard that it was at least a 5 megaton earthquake. Luckily I was not teaching at the time. Horses seem to be fine when outside but when the noise of the earthquake and the vibration of the indoor arena happens, the horses become exceedingly spooked and tend to gallop off. They react before we can hear the earthquake.

Its so easy and fun working with good horsemen - so stress free. Shane Carrick is a star and produces lots of performance horses as well as retraining everyones difficult rides. This particular horse, Owen, is no exception and has a great future as a show jumper or eventer.

This lovely 5 year old, ridden by a very talented young coach Emma, was most interested in the horse in the mirror. Hopefully he will be available for the next WEG for a Para rider.

Now I have finished coaching and luckily aftershocks only occured when we were outside. There have been over 2,000 aftershocks since the major 7.2 earthquake on September 4th. Lots of people lost their chimneys and the sewage system has been badly affected as the manholes on the roads have risen and they have had to be build up around them so driving on these roads is a little hazardous.

Tomorrow my New Zealand physio friend Vicky Melville and myself fly first to Auckland and then on to the 11+ hour flight to Tokyo. We then drive 2 hours to the mountains and the therapeutic riding centre Hello Hippo.  We spend 10 days running coach and therapist training courses and working with riders with all kinds of abilities. Working as a team with Vicky, the horse and the rider creates a positive outcome for everyone. The energy that is produced is channeled in such a way that all can go forward from the clinics.

Email is always rather dicey when in Japan and particularly in the mountains. I will update the blog when the land gets flatter.

Monday, October 11, 2010

WEG ends - long journey home begins!

Chilly mornings warmed up to be hot days. Madison warms up McGuire for her freestyle test where she rode a personal best. His walk has improved enormously over the past few weeks.

Pretty happy mother Natalie.

Eleonore's 7 year old coped very well with the atmosphere.

Australian Kate Doughty did a pretty flash freestyle. Here she is working in.

Driving the golf cart has been fun.

So now WEG has finished. The property looked spectacular.

Goodbye KHP.

Miles of lovely fencing between the Horse Park and Lexington.

On the way to Cincinnati to drop off team members for their early flights home we passed this travelling dog.

 No doubt I will run into other Ozzies making the long hike home via L.A.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Another Fun Filled Day At WEG

Its really exciting when riders do personal bests. Our team had several of these today. After the Grade 2 class and working with the Grade 4 riders who are competing tomorrow, three of us nipped across to the final driving marathon obstacle at the water.

I had seen the Australian Boyd Exell winning in Aachen earlier in the year. I know nothing about driving but he is clearly a brilliant driver.

His skill is evident.

Not sure where the fourth hore is!
Caught up with the photographer Julie Wilson who I am sure will have wonderful 'professional' photographs. We were amused by this Dutch photographer having cross-legged lunch at his little mushroom-like table.

It was quite interesting to be amongst the 'professionals'. Everyone seemed to be vey friendly until the horses were seen in the distance and then it was a free for all for the best view. As the horses came across the water before going through the starting flags half the photograhers were lying on their stomachs. This of course gave me a perfect view. Then they were all up again and jostling for position. Us amateurs barely had an inch to see through!

Between competitors the stewards tried to make the corner less slippery.

Then it was back again to the Para Dressage. Ashley was pleased with Andrea's warm-up. There is a huge skill in warming a horse up so it is doing correct dressage, but is able to be ridden correctly by a rider with specific disabilities.

Off to the competition ring for a super ride.

Early start tomorrow on the last day of competition. I will be watching the Show Jumping finals on the FEI channel on my computer in my hotel room, and cheering for the Canadian Eric Lamaze.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fun to be at WEG

The police thought they were being helpful when they put metres of this plastic 'crime scene' tape around the road crossing area where the Para horses had to pass before entering the indoor competition arena. I stayed with Sally a few years ago when she was living in Singapore. Lots of fun. She is a steward and nearly got arrested as she took down the tape as it was blowing in the wind and frightening the Grade 1A horses.

The policeman came up to her and told her it was 'a Federal offense to move the tape'. She replied that it was dangerous and could not be used. He just repeated that it was illegal to move it. She won and the tape stay down!

We finished early today and some of us stayed to watch the Show Jumping. The top 30 horses from the previous three days of competition jumped in two rounds. The top 4 riders ride their own and each others horses in the finals tomorow night. It is a unique format for World Championships. The riders are Philippe Le Jeune (Belgium), Rodrigo Pessoa (Brazil), Eric Lamaze (Canada) and the 28 year old Abdullah Al Sharbatly from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi's are also staying at the Marriott hotel so I hope I can get to sleep before the partying gets too noisy!

Between the two rounds we stayed in our seats as we were in the Riders stand and did not want to lose our places. Watching the course being changed and 'dressed' was most entertaining. So much micro-management!

When the gates were opened for the course walk for the second round we could not believe the number of people who surged through the gate.

All these people for 25 competitors. Nobody paid any attention to the announcement asking non-competitors to leave. I do not know how the riders could work out their exact lines.

Modern courses at major competitions look spectacular. So much attention to detail.

In the first round the setting sun was a bit of a problem to some of the horses. The second round was under lights. The camera flashes did not seem to upset the horses. The audience paid no attention to the commentator requesting flashes be switched off.

Too late - the partying has begun downstairs. Early start again in the morning. We have 4 riders competing and then, hopefully, watch and support Eric Lamaze in the Show Jumping.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who needs legs to ride with?

Legs are a bonus but not essential for riding! What is interesting is that lots of horses hate strong leg aids.

Dr. Angelica Trabert, Germany, has been a very successful competitor in the Para game for many years. Those that were at the opening of the Aachen WEG would have seen her ride there. Stinna Kaastrup (Denmark) is just old enough to be at her first World Championships. A wonderful aspect of dressage is that age is no barrier.

After 9/11 I was stranded in Vancouver and stayed with Elizabeth Smith and her husband for nearly 3 weeks before I could catch a flight. She has just become an FEI Para Equestrian steward. All the stewards at WEG wear pale blue.

It was fun to catch up with Ayako Tanaka who is here as a journalist. She has been my interpreter in Japan on many occasions.  

We had some very focussed Canadian riders.

Sharon Buffitt is a teacher from Quebec.

Sandy Mitchell owns Ashley Gowanlock's horse DonnyMaskell.  We were all really pleased with her performance. Ashley with coach Andrea and Fionna.

Sandy Mitchell, Bermuda, had a personal best score after a particularly good warm-up session.

He is already planning for the London Paralympics in 2012!

Medal winners Ricky Balshaw, Great Britain, and Stinna are two of the youngest competitors. Bright stars of the present and future of the sport.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Well done Sharon Jarvis for winning a bronze medal for Australia in the Grade 3 Para Equestrian Championships.  She had a fourth placing in the Beijing Paralympics. Rozzie Ryan has been helping her in Sydney, and also here with Julia Battams the team coach, and all Sharon's hard work and dedication has paid off.

We have had a little time to watch show jumping.

Outside the main stadium is a bronze of the American eventer Bruce Davidson. Its dramatic from all angles.

When I have nothing else to do Kev (Sunbury Park Voodoo) and myself go for a stroll and a pick of grass. This morning we had to avoid the frosty bits. The days have mostly been warm but the early mornings are very chilly.

Busy day tomorrow as 5 of the Canadians compete in Grades 1A, 1B and 2, and Sandy Mitchell rides for Bermuda in the 1A.

Watched the Team Show Jumping. The FEI site on my laptop with a group of friends was a good alternative to getting back to the hotel late and tired. Matt Williams, who was brought up in Tonimbuk, had a faultless clear round. Have bumped into Matt and his father Paul a couple of times in the competitors dining room. I always meet someone I know. 

The Canadians have a great 'team' spirit which is lots of fun to be with. Still hard work and long hours but I am thoroughly enjoying my involvement with them.