Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Equitana 2010

The last couple of weekends I have been well entrenched in horseland, not bikeland. (and I am not talking shops either). Around 10 days ago, I sat my final exams for the Equine Myofunctional Therapy (EMT) certificate part of the Diploma of Equine Naturopathy. I am assuming I passed, despite one or two stupid answers provided during exam-mode brain fades. Now I have 30 hrs of log book to complete and I am a qualified EMT, ready for business.

The weekend just passed was the long awaited Equitana. I went with my superpass in hand, allowing me access to EVERYTHING!!!!. Frankly, it was huge. Last time I went was about 8 yrs ago, when it was small enough to be contained by Jeff’s Shed. Now it sprawls across 3 pavilions and an outdoor arena at the Showgrounds. It was a great way to get back up to speed with products, some old acquaintances, and who’s doing what in the dressage scene, after a 5 year hiatus.

The highlight for me was Steffen Peters, who in the flesh is an even better rider than the youtube footage of his bronze medal WEG ride a month ago shows. Sensitive, diplomatic, thoughtful and allowing (“That’s ok, he is entitled to his opinion” as Shiraz Black shies yet again at the boogieman corner). His humour, tact and considered approach in teaching both rider and horse in his masterclass were absolutely delightful. He is now a new addition to my short list of dressage heroes. Later when I rode Mr Moon, I was channelling Steffen,  as in What Would Steffen Do?. I just wish some of our “top” riders did, in particular Lawnmower Lady who absolutely refused to STOP leaning backwards like the proverbial Pisa Tower no matter how many times Steffen politely reminded her that it was preferable to not to stay in that position after applying an aid. In the end, he kept repeating: stop leaning back, stop leaning back. She still didn’t get it. And later that night in the dressage freestyle, it was obvious none of Steffen’s advice had connected with her, as she rode a heavy test, which for some reason, the judges thought was worthy of third place.

One rider who did impress me greatly was young man from Qld: Jayden Brown, riding Furst Freidrich in the Masterclass. Quiet, sympathetic and absolutely responsive to his horse and Steffan's instruction. More like him please, and Australian Dressage is well on it's way to international recognition. With the likes of Jayden as the New Skool, I have strong hopes for horsepersonship and riding in Australia.

The Way of the Horse Competition was the antithesis of this however, with three trainers selected to take a young stockhorse each, from unhandled paddock condition to a display of riding through an obstacle course with 2 or so hours of work only. Way of the Horse is a major misnomer, and the competition lends itself to be called The Way of the Ego. Chad Brady managed to beat his baby steed into submission on Day 1, using a swimming pool noodle and some blue tarp. Apparently that kind of work looks impressive. He  managed to stress his horse out majorly, and no wonder the baby humped his way around the pen with Chad on board,  whilst Steve Halfpenny and Adam Sutton quietly went about introducing their babies to the halter. In the end, Adam Sutton "won" for which I am relieved and pleased. I didn't see the second half of this comp on the final day, the entertainment of the first round was bad enough.  I don't see any value in this event, particularly not for the horses involved, not for the trainers involved, and it should be dropped from the program. It cannot showcase the good work that all three trainers are very capable of. How can it with such time constraints? Horse training is not formulaic. I am yet to hear or read any favourable comments about it, so why the Equitana programmers continue with it I have no idea. It's rather ironic when there were many posters around stating "Cruelty to horses will not be tolerated". Unless of course, you include a competition in the program that sanctions it.

I came away from Equitana with 6 pages of notes from Steffen’s masterclass, some new clothes, some goodies for the ponies, and a whole lot of motivation, ideas, opinions, thoughts and impressions about our local horse industry. Will I go again in two years time? It depends on who is the Masterclass presenter....

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