Australian Dressage Championships - Judy Dierks is Back
Judy Dierks is Back
When you look back at the results of the major dressage competitions in Australia for the past 30 years there are only a handful of riders who have managed to stay on the podium for this length of time. Yes, there are always a few years where they seem to disappear but then out of the blue they are back on top showing their years of experience and expertise. One such rider is Judy Dierks.
I managed to catch up with Judyat the NSW State Championships to have a chat about her current horses and also her preparation for the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships to be held in late October.
Judy seems to be a very approachable lady with lots of energy and a never ending passion for her chosen sport, dressage. As mentioned previously, she has been riding at an elite level for over 30 years and in 1994 represented Australia at the World Equestrian Games in Den Hague. She is married to one of the best trainers in Australia, Clemens Dierks, and her daughter, Daniella, is now making her own mark in the Australian dressage scene. It was only recently, at the NSW State Championships, that Daniella was champion of the Intermediate II,Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special competitions. And all with impressive scores. Judy and Daniella may be mother and daughter but that doesn't mean there's not healthy rivalry in the dressage arena.
Judy has three top horses in training at the moment - Feramo K (owned by the Oatley family), Diamond Star (owned by Vicki Newham) and Highlight (owned by JanelleDuffy (Vic)). "Oh, I do have another one," laughs Judy."I've just been asked by Debra Court (Vic) to ride her horse, Sandro Star, at the Nationals. He will be competing Advanced and Prix St George. See, it changes every day. I really don't know how many horses I will be competing!"
As the National championships was only a couple of months away when I spoke with Judy, it was a worry to see that Diamond Star and Feramo K had been scratched from the State Championships. Judy explains. "Diamond Star who’s been a fabulous horse and an amazingly sound horse sustained an injury. It’s not good! It's very likely he won't be right for the Nationals as it has just happened." Judy is obviously disappointed. “And Feramo has some sort of allergy that we're trying to get to the bottom of. You know - different feeds, different beds, different shampoo. Hopefully he will be right by the Nationals."
After all the worrying things we got to chat about Highlight. Judy smiled. "Well, he's really come from the rear. I've had him for just over a year. Initially he was quite a difficult stallion so it wasn't till the beginning of the year that I could get him to a competition". Judy has done a great job. Highlight just won both Novice classes and was the champion Novice horse of the NSW State Championships with scores in the mid 70's. "He's got three great paces, very correct. He's also got lovely self carriage and a super look about him".
When you look closely at the event calendar for the year, it is evident that each competition leads to another and for some riders they end up competing at the Nationals. What is it about the Nationals or the Sydney CDI that makes them so important? "They're the pinnacle of the year," states Judy."You have to start early in the year to make sure you qualify. I fyou leave your run too late, you don't get in. You have to prepare yourself to ensure you get there, especially when you're riding other people's horses."
These bigger competitions are also beneficial for other reasons. "You get to gauge how you're going against other top horses. It keeps you honest, keeps you working towards something. The smaller comps have a purpose but you can't really gauge yourself compared to the Nationals. There are riders from all over Australia. The competition and calibre of horse is a lot higher."
Even though Judy has been competing at this level for many years she stills feels the pressure. "I always feel the pressure because 99% of the time, I'm riding other people's horses. Regardless of where I'm competing, I have to perform the horses to the best of my ability. It's my living, my bread and butter."
If all goes well in the arena, Judy still gets a buzz. "If you do something that's a hard task and you do it well, then there's always a feeling of satisfaction. It's never 'just another day'. It's about seeing how the horses react in different places - are they going to stay on your aids; will they cope with a number of different situations. If it all goes well, I'malways pleased and if we win well that's an extra bonus."
When Judy prepares for an event like the Nationals she tries not to change things too much. "My routine is always consistent, I'm sure the horses are happier that way. The only thing I may change coming up to the Nationals is I may start to add the figures I have to do in the test. So between the exercises and manoeuvres I occasionally add a test movement. I very rarely ride the test because in my daily training I'm concentrating on exercises, suppleness and keeping the horse interested. Ultimately this will improve the movements in the actual test ".
Judy looks fabulous. Excuse the cliché but she's 'trim, taught and terrific'. So how does she do it? "I'm quite happy with my stamina level. I'm not fit to do any other exercise other than horses. I force myself to go to the Gym twice a week. I have a personal trainer at the gym which I pay in advance so Imake sure I go. I also do a Yoga and Pilates class once a week. The young riders probably don't need to do this but I do! - I need to keep myself supple, balanced and fit."
It was only last month that I read an article by Roger Fitzhardinge where he quoted Judy as saying - You can never be too thin, too rich or have too much ‘collection!' What a great sense of humour.
The Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships will be held at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre from the 25th October to the 28th October. This will give all dressage enthusiasts a chance to see Jud ychallenge the best riders in Australia.
For more information on the Championships visit: www.dressagensw.com.au/nationals
Photo: Courtesy Franz Venhaus
12 October 2012
Australian Dressage Championships - Victoria Welch
One of the best parts of writing articles on competitors of the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships is that you discover that there are numerous up and coming riders who have the credentials and proven track record to become one of Australia's elite. Time and time again Ihave seen the name, Victoria Welch, appear on countless 'Result Pages' and also appear on numerous National Squad lists.
In2005, this young rider started to win numerous Australian Championships in competitions from Novice to Small Tour. Itwas in 2010 that her results at the National Young Rider Championships was outstanding; winning the National Young Rider Championin the Novice, Elementary and Intermediate I,not to mention the freestyle competitions or the Highest Scoring combination awards. Shehas represented Australia twice in the Trans-Tasman Derby, won an Australian Qualifier for World Young Rider Championships (CDI-Y), and the list goes on.
Shewas on the Australian Young Rider Dressage Squad from 2005 to 2010 and more recently was on the Australian Youth Development Dressage Squad for 2011 and 2012 - pretty impressive for a
23 year old! A lot of this has been made possible because Victoria is lucky to have a mum (Libby
Welch) who is an accomplished FEI competitor and trainer. Shealso has lessons with Leonie
Bramall and Andreas Schoffner when they come to Australia.
With such an impressivehistory of competing, Iwas interested to know what she felt was her biggest achievement? "Winning the 2009 Youth Olympics Individual Dressage Gold medal and Team Silver medal was pretty cool," said Victoria with a grin from ear to ear. "Actually, 2009 was a great year, Iwas also the recipient of the Que SeraHanoverian Young Rider Challenge. This year’s highlight was winning the 2012 Advancedtournament at both Brisbane and Sydney CDI on Glogau."
At this year's Australian Dressage Championships, Victoria will be taking two horses - Bentanus (8 year old Gelding (Brentano II/Whoopy K) who will be competing in the small tour classes and Glogau (Australian bred, 9 year old mare (Gymnastik Star/Kinnordy Grunau) who will be competing in the Advanced competitions.
As Australia is such a large continent, it's amazing the effort people go to to compete at events such as the nationals. Victoria has travelled from Queensland to Sydney a number of times. "We always have a lot of fun going to Sydney. The trip is long but we have a routine that we follow each time. The most important priority is to get the horses to and from Sydney safely and in good health. Ittakes us two days to make the trip, stopping every 3-4 hours to unload the horses and let them graze, rest etc. We usually take 2 friends to help groom, plus Lola the dog who likes to be part of the fun."
For 25 years, this family has run the very successful, Beechwood Stud, which specialises in performance horses as well as thoroughbreds. Although it is imperative that Australia imports high quality dressage horses, it is still great to see Australian bred horses doing well. When Iraised this observation with Victoria, she had the best answer - "We've always had the saying “A good horse is a good horse no matter where you find them”.
Victoria has been lucky enough to train overseas. "Itrained with Jorne Kubelke for a month in
2008 and Leonie Bramall for a month in 2009 in Germany which was fantastic. Ihad a ball! Hopefully I'll be able to do it again in the coming years.”
There are a number of horses that Victoria has trained to FEI level but this year is the first time she has trained a horse all the way through to Grand Prix - BJKaneto Casablanca. This horse won't be competing at this year’s Nationals but I'msure he will be in the years to come.
From our brief conversation it was apparent that Victoria has no delusions of grandeur. "Iknow everyone says it but Ireally do want to thank the wonderful team of people behind Beechwood Dressage Horses, none of this would be possiblewithout them."
Time will tell but it certainly won't be a surprise if this young lady becomes one of Australia's top international riders in the years to come - she's already doing so at a national level. Ilook forward to see what results she adds to her already impressive resume after the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships.
All information on the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships, including ticketing, can be found at www.dressagensw.com.au/nationals
Victoria Welch and Brentanus. Photo courtesy: Downunder Photography
5 October 2012
There are less than four weeks to go until the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships.
Emerging dressage talent will challenge seasoned horses and riders from all over the nation. Book your tickets soon. Enjoy the latest video (above to get you in the mood for what is ahead).
27 September 2012
Time Draw Released
The time draw for the 2012 Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships is now out. Please visit the Dressage NSW website:
Tickets for Saturday can be booked on-line from the website.
There are a limited number of tickets available for the Saturday evening Dinner.
24 September 2012
Making it Happen
The world of dressage is changing at such a quick rate. Gone are the days that only a few horse and rider combinations dominate the podium. This is not only at the international level but also at the national level. Across the globe there are now at least half a dozen combinations that could take the blue ribbon. Australia is no different!
In the last couple of years a number of riders have moved from the shadows into the limelight. Two such riders are Amanda and David Shoobridge. While doing some research on this couple, I became exhausted just thinking of the logistics to make it all happen. They not only compete at an elite level but they also own and run one of Australia's most successful studs, Revelwood, which includes embryo transfer, fresh, chilled and frozen semen services, training, competing and sales. And to top it of they now have a two year old daughter which I'm sure needs quite a bit of attention as well. Amanda is a qualified veterinarian and David has a degree in business.
The first foal bred at Revelwood Stud was in 1997. Amanda bought a mare in foal and was bitten by the breeding bug! The business is now 15 years old with major growth and developments over the last few years. David is obviously proud of their achievements to date. "When we moved to our Somersby property in 2002, we had no idea we would grow to the size (& diversity) we have today. We constantly look at our business model and make adjustments accordingly. It's not easy to make a living in the sport horse industry so our attention over the developing years was always to be prepared to adapt with change and market demands."
It's always interesting to know how these sorts of partnerships started. "Amanda and I met in 1998 when I was about to start second year Bachelor of Business and Amanda was about to start first year vet science," said David. "We both were competing at a warmblood show and realised we both had young stallions by the same sire and wanted to check out each others horses." David, who's known for his big smile flashed his pearly whites and laughed, "we ended up checking out each other instead!"
Fourteen years later, they are still competing but at a very different level - Amanda and the beautiful chestnut stallion Ferrero Rocher (Florestan I / St Pr St Waimea) are placing in most small tour competitions and David on 00 Seven (Rubinstein/Gelbria) has just won the Grand Prix Freestyle at the NSW Championships with a score of 72.575%.
In just a month's time both these horses will be competing at the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships. They will also have the next generation coming through. The Ferrero Rocher daughter, Revelwood Florentine, will be competing as well as a number of other horses by one of the seven stallions they have standing at stud.
As Ferrero Rocher has always been one of my favourite stallions, I wanted to find out a bit more about him. From Amanda's response I have a feeling that she hasn't lost that wonderful 'teenage love' for horses - she has such a great energy. "Choc (Ferrero Rocher) is such a dude. He's a funny character and I love him to bits. I have never had a horse that tries so hard all the time- it’s great! He always steps up to the mark at comps and never lets me down. His favourite is to come into a packed indoor arena with the noisy crowd clapping. He is so pumped up, he knows all eyes are on him and he just loves it! He is definitely “my” horse. He likes to make a point of it by not letting anyone else put his bridle on but me which frustrates David no end! He can do all the Inter 2/ GP moves (although the 1s are still a work in progress!!) but its just trying to put it all together! I hope to have an Inter II start by the end of the year."
David's ride, 00 Seven (what a great name), is currently blitzing most horse and rider combinations in the Big Tour competitions. "00 Seven has been an amazing opportunity for me as a competition horse and also for Revelwood as a breeding stallion. When we first got him there was no thought of competing Grand Prix. He'd been very successful in Europe as a small tour horse and more recently had a GP start but really his career was mainly small tour. We did quite well in the small tour and thought it was time to try the Grand Prix. When you have an opportunity with a horse at this level, you never know how long you have... you just can't take anything for granted! We hope to have a successful couple of years in GP... That's the goal! I have learned an immense amount from him as he's the first horse I have ridden at this level.
What a way to learn the ropes!" It will be interesting to see the results at the Nationals.
When you own a stud like Revelwood, events like the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships are very important. "We get a real buzz out of seeing horses we have bred, grown or produced, qualify for such an event," explains Amanda. "We will definitely be looking at the program to see what Revelwood horses or horses by our stallions have qualified. It's a super feeling when we do a comparison to other breeders and note that we might have the largest selection of horses from one breeder or one stallion. We see this as a measure of success as we don't actually breed a huge number of horses each year... There are many breeders who breed way more foals than we do.... we just do our best to ensure the quality is as high as possible." I too will be very interested to see how this powerhouse of a couple performs at the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships.
Come along for the ride!
All information including the competition program and ticketing can be found at www.dressagensw.com.au/nationals
17 September 2012
Interstate rivalry ramps up at the Nationals
Interstate rivalry will be in full swing during the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre from Thursday, 25 to Sunday, 28 October 2012.
Like all National Championships, cross boarder pride is on the line with Victorian and Queensland contingents heading for the ultimate showdown and NSW riders determined to keep the glory at home.
The Sydney International Equestrian Centre will be the battleground for horse and rider combinations travelling across the continent. Some states have teams and some only individuals competing, but strong Teams have already entered from Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales whilst those states that haven’t enough athletes to make up a Team have individual athletes bringing their own vocal supporters.
Inspired by the recent Olympic spirit, Australia’s finest dressage riders including Olympians and World Equestrian Games riders will come together to compete for the national titles from Novice to Grand Prix level.
Prue Spurrett (President of Dressage New South Wales) loves the healthy rivalry. “Australia is a huge country and there’s a long distance between most states. This makes the rivalry more relevant.”
The Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships gives all dressage fans and riders the opportunity to see the best in Australia and at the same time support their favourite horse and rider combinations.
For more information on the Championships including on-line ticket bookings for Saturday can be found on the website.
Tickets are still available for the Saturday Evening Dinner but to be sure not miss out we encourage you to book soon. www.dressagensw.com.au/nationals
16 September 2012
Behind the Scenes of the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships
The Australian National Dressage Championships has become a great event for all to enjoy - the riders, the spectators and hopefully the horses. Like all sport events it has taken years to evolve and is now one of the highlights of the Australian dressage calendar of events. It attracts riders and spectators from across our large continent and judges from around the world.
Before, during and after the event, a number of articles are published in magazines and websites. 'Tweets' and 'Statuses' are spread across social media sites. Videos are made and we even have live streaming, thanks to Equestrian Life.
Most of the 'talk' is about the riders, the horses, the results and occasionally the judging. For this reason I thought it was time we had a look behind the scenes and discover what it takes to organise the 2012 Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships.
The first question I needed answered was how did Dressage NSW (DNSW) get to be the organisers of the Nationals? The President of Dressage NSW, Prue Spurrett, clarified this. "Post Sydney 2000, the Australian Dressage Championships were run in Victoria in 2000 and 2001, they returned to the Sydney International Equestrian Centre (SIEC) in 2002 and 2003 and back to Victoria in 2004. DNSW was asked by the then EFA Dressage Committee to consider holding the Australian Dressage Championships on a regular basis. It made sense for equestrian sport to have a long term ‘home’ after the financial commitment put into the development of SIEC for the Olympics. The infrastructure and grounds were at that stage unique to Australia as was the concept of an equestrian centre purpose built for ongoing International events, not just an Olympic ‘one-off’, so from 2005 we have run them in NSW."
At the helm of this competition is the very competent, Toni Venhaus. Toni's job is not only to do most of the work but to also ensure that all the components come together for the event- not an easy task! The 'Action/Task List' is six pages long. It covers all the areas which need organising. I won’t go into all of them as that too would take six pages but to give you an idea:
• Official appointments – International Judges, Stewards, Vets, Farrier, Appeal committee, Doctor, Stabling Manager, Gear Steward and Marshalls
• Administration/Secretarial – competition planning, schedules entries, draw, rider information packs, camping allocations, volunteer roster, hiring of office equipment, First Aid, Judges - invitations, confirmations, flight bookings and accommodation, gifts, transport shuttle services
• Sponsorship - Majors, minors, funding applications, invitations to functions, thank you letters
• Trade Village - site allocations and infrastructure
• Hospitality - catering, wines, ticketing, flowers, catering for all volunteers, judges and media
• Promotion/Advertising - brochures, program, flyers, art work, distribution
• Financial – budgets, funding applications
• Ceremonies and presentations - trophies, format, prize money, sound system
I'm going to stop there as there's not a lot of enjoyment reading lists and believe me, the list goes on!
Toni is seasoned at organising such an event. She has had the reigns in her hands for many years and has been the Event Director of numerous events which have won awards from Equestrian Australia. Like all of the people behind the scenes, Toni is only focused on making sure that the Saddleworld Dressage Championships is a great showcase of what is being achieved in Australia in regards to dressage. "We all work extremely hard to make it happen but the main focus is making sure our horses and riders get a chance to gauge their performances against the best in Australia and at the same time, in front of international judges. It's a great stepping stone for them to reach their goals. Although we do a lot behind the scenes, it's not about us, it's ultimately about the horse and rider."
This humble opinion of one’s self seems to be abundant. I spoke with the Treasurer, Judy Wilson. “I have a “back room” job at the Nationals. I'm mainly concerned with the financial aspects – paying judges, making sure people have change, counting the takings – all pretty boring stuff!" I had to ask if she thought the competitors were aware of what is involved. Judy grinned, "I very much doubt it unless I fail to pay their prize money; which does tend to grab their attention! I've been doing this role since the early 2000s and I enjoy being involved. The worst part of the job is finding parking and the best part is getting to watch some great dressage!"
Like all events, it doesn't always go to plan. Prue Spurrett shared one of those moments. "One of our earliest events at SIEC saw bucketing rain, gale force winds and the enduring memory of the late Anne Honner hanging on for dear life as the wind howled around, shifting the judges box at C in the main arena sideways – risk management definitely hadn’t taken nature into calculation!" Don't you hate Mother Nature!
So, there is now another reason to go and support the Australian Dressage Championships. It's not just about the horses and riders, it's also about the army of volunteers that make it happen. Hope to see you there.
The Saddleworld Dressage Championships run from the 25th October through to the 28th. For all the information visit www.dresssagensw.com.au/nationals
5 September 2012
Australian Dressage Championships - Stepping Stones
The majority of elite dressage riders started riding under the same circumstances as all horse enthusiasts. At some stage in our life we climbed aboard a horse for the first time and were excited about the experience. Initially, for most, it was a matter of hanging on by the mane, leaning forward and hoping we didn't hit the deck. As time moves on we then found enough balance and control to walk, trot and canter by ourselves. This is when it got exciting. Going for a trail ride, feeling the wind in your face while being carried through a variety of landscapes.
After years of trying different disciplines, some eventually discover the beauty of dressage. For some, they are happy to compete at a lower level, but for others they find the challenge of climbing through the ranks exhilarating. Then one day something happens that inspires them to aim for the Olympics. It was only recently, I read that Lyndal Oatley was inspired to be an Olympian while watching her cousin, Kristy Oatley-Nist compete at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. And we all know the result of this.
But how can this be achieved, what are the stepping-stones to make it happen? There are obviously many components involved to achieve such a result; the right horse, a great trainer, dedication, commitment and the team supporting the rider the list goes on. What some of us don't realise is that when these riders get to a competent level, they are in desperate need to assess where they are in comparison to those who have already reached a higher level. The only way to do this is to get in amongst it.
The Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships, along with the Sydney CDI are great vehicles to do just this. These competitions not only give these riders the opportunity to ride against the top dressage riders in Australia but they also give the riders a chance to be judged by international judges. There is no better way to compare your performance with horses from around the world.
Another facet that is beneficial to these horse and rider combinations is the atmosphere. Yes, Australia has a long way to go before being compared to the bigger European competitions but being able to compete in front of a huge crowd on Saturday night is a great start.
Now that the London 2012 Olympics is behind us, there are many arenas around Australia with motivated riders training hard and hoping that they too may represent Australia at the Olympics and the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships provides a pathway to help riders achieve their goals.
The Championships will be held at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre from the 25th through to the 28th October. This will give all dressage enthusiasts a chance to see our next Olympians in the making.
For more information on the Championships please visit www.dressagensw.com.au/nationals
26 June 2012
Saddleworld increases support of Dressage
Dressage NSW is thrilled to announce that Saddleworld is the naming right sponsor of the Australian Dressage Championships.
“Saddleworld has been the key sponsor of the Victorian Dressage Festival for many years. We are delighted that Saddleworld is expanding its support of Dressage to the national level to include the Australian Dressage Championships. We look forward to working with Saddleworld over the next few years and appreciate their support”, said Event Director Toni Venhaus.
Saddleworld is proud to announce this partnership with the Australian Dressage Championships.
“Saddleworld is thrilled to be associated with a national event like the Australian Dressage Championships. It is our desire, at Saddleworld, to continue to support dressage in Australia and Australian riders through prestigious events such as this. We look forward to a long and successful association as the major sponsor of the Australian Dressage Championships”, commented David Sharp, Business Development Manager, Saddleworld.
The 2012 Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships will take place from the 25 to 28 October 2012 at the magnificent Sydney International Equestrian Centre.
Competitors from all Australian States and Territories will compete for Australian titles at the various levels of competition from Novice to Grand Prix.
A CDI-W (FEI World Cup Qualifier) and a CDI-Y (Young Rider World Cup Qualifier) will be held in conjunction with the Championships. The Championships also hosts the Equestrian Australia Prix St Georges Challenge Final.
Dressage NSW conducts this event on behalf of Equestrian Australia.