I returned back to my horses after a great Christmas break. It was nice this time to get through border control without any glitches, armed with my Olympic visa. Carol, my groom, was not so lucky coming back to the UK, with the horses. Even though her visa was also in order they still gave her a hard time. UK customs are really not very friendly. It will be interesting to see how they treat people coming in for the Olympics…
While I was home, Carol, with some help from Richard and Kyra, kept the horses lightly worked, so from my first ride back they both felt great. Carol has done such a great job with them. Considering it’s mid-winter their coats look fantastic, and they are fit and healthy, even after so much travel. Fingers crossed that they stay that way.
After settling into the work again, we decided it would be good to do a national show, to check our training was going in the right way. Kyra and Richard suggested a National show at Addington. I was thinking it was a good chance to go and try a few things that we had changed in training, thinking no one will know about it so I can experiment a bit. Absolutely wrong! Except for the actual team riders, most of the major players were there, and it was a much bigger show than I anticipated. However, it was good to experiment a bit and try new things. I was very happy with Sancette, who put in a solid 68 + %, with a much more steady frame. We changed the bit on Umbro, which caused a few glitches, but otherwise I was fairly happy with his steadiness and the way his trot is developing. The all-important selection shows are not far away now, so a bit of fine-tuning is very important.
Vidauban, in the South of France, will be our next show, and it is lining up to be really interesting. Apart from Lyndal Oatley’s Potifar, and my own horses, there will be some new up-and-coming stars. Brett Parbery will be there, with Lord of Loxley, who is just moving up to Grand Prix, and he may also be presenting a new Holsteiner stallion, Liostro 51, who is a bit of a mystery horse recently acquired for Brett to campaign. He is a 12-year-old by Linaro, born in Germany, but standing in Switzerland. When I last talked to Brett he was just tidying up the details, so let’s hope that works out for him. Brett is pretty good on the catch rides ,so stay tuned.. .Lyndal will also be presenting a new Grand Prix ride, with her lovely Sandro Boy, by Sandro Hit, the same sire as my own Sancette. Lyndal and I must both have a thing for quirky horses, as we both now have a Jazz and a Sandro Hit. They certainly are a bit special to deal with.
Hayley Beresford will be bringing several of her young Grand Prix horses, and will be back in the running after her recent tragic loss of her wonderful Reli. It is great for Australian Dressage to see some depth in the Grand Prix horses vying for spots. When we add in the already proven performers about to embark from Australia, it looks like the selectors will have quite a choice of good horses. From my point of view, there is no room for being complacent. The pressure is on to really have my horses at their peak when the selection events come round in May.
The competition venue at Vidauban is one of my favourites. Set amongst beautiful vineyards, with a backdrop of mountains, the facilities are world class, which is why in only its second year, it has attracted so many good competitors. It was also our place of exile, after we were rejected from the UK, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Dressage rider, Bernadette Brune, who owns the magnificent Domaine Equestre des Grand Pins, was so welcoming to us and our horses, what could have been a lonely exile, was in fact a wonderful experience. I guess that was as close as I will get to “A Year in Provence”, but the bonus of having my horses and husband with me made it all the more fun. Now I am really looking forward to returning there, and the next weeks will be busy preparing for the long trek down to the South of France.
Mary and husband Rob with Sancette