2015 Big Year Coming
15 February 2015 -
All of the main Australian riders for the Rio De Janeiro Olympics in 2016 will this year be getting their house in order and consciously building credibility with selection next year in mind. This is a fascinating process to watch and often occurs right under everyone’s noses but nobody sees it! Even more exciting is to be in the mix yourself and be implementing carefully weighed up strategies and testing yourself against the established Olympians. 2015 is the year where Rio De Janeiro Olympic hopefuls start dragging “dreams into reality”. This is a critical Olympic phenomenon or bridge that has to be crossed this year, like right now by Olympic hopefuls. It’s a big year this conversion of “dreams into reality” and a cruel year and there will be a huge population of potential Australian Olympians that for one reason or another are unable to meet this challenge of reality and the dream never becomes more than that – a dream. 2015 is Reality Dawning! Hopefully it is also the dawning of new Olympic Australian superstars and also the dawning of a journey that will see Australia win Olympic Gold Medals at Rio De Janeiro in the Equestrian disciplines in 2016.
The year before the Olympics is for me a very exciting year. Really this is what “Ryans” is all about. Both Rozzie and myself are about to launch our best shot at the Australian Olympic team. Just as important is our staff, who unlike any other staff perhaps anywhere in the world, are all in training with Australian Olympic representation the goal. Both Rozzie and I have been there and done that and so are very familiar with the realities of the year preceding the Olympics. This is a tough year and no matter how talented or how well trained you are it takes a toughness and focus. So following is a quick over view of staff at Ryans and just where each one is positioned with the Olympics in mind. Here at Ryans we do have an established reputation for producing Australian Olympians and so from this group of youngsters I am confident that at least two or three will in the future make an Australian Olympic team. Both Rozzie and I have put a lot of work into them and we do train on the coal face when most people are on holidays or having time off or watching TV. For instance Christmas morning traditionally starts at 5:30AM at Ryans with a group lesson! This is the only group lesson for the year. Never the less this is a very serious effort.
Hazel Shannon – Hazel started with us in 2010 and is a quiet achiever. Hazel is aimed at Rio De Janeiro in the eventing discipline. She is very focused, very steady under pressure and has a huge capacity to work. Hazel has a little chestnut Thoroughbred called Clifford who belongs to our next door neighbor Wendy Ward. Wendy insists that the value of real estate in the area depreciated the moment we moved in! Wendy is the best neighbor in the world and we have been based at Heatherbrae for the last 7 years and the gate between the two properties has never been closed. Staff on their day off can often be found over at Wendy’s having dinner or just chilling out and watching TV. Just one of those weird and treasured relationships. Anyhow Wendy’s sister bred and raced Clifford who was duly sacked and given to Wendy. Wendy handed Clifford over to Hazel and continued to pay all the bills. This is another topic for another column but Wendy does represent one of the most important under recognised populations in Equestrian Australia. “The Owner” whether they be Mum and Dad, your Husband, your wife, a commercial sponsor, friends, or the next door neighbor. Anyhow moving right along. Clifford is a particularly non-descript looking individual, being chestnut, 16.1hh and pricks his ears occasionally. He does have a brilliant temperament and is super dooper reliable. He has great over track in the walk, he has a pleasant trot and a nice enough canter. Over jumps he is kind of awkward especially the smaller fences but looks better when they get bigger because his big Olympic trait is that he always tries 110%. In the trying department Clifford is a freak. Clifford is careful over his showjumps and has a great partnership with Hazel and the pair of them are very likely to return a clear showjumping round at the end of the day. This is a huge plus. Cross Country Clifford is very brave and again does his 110% effort approach. Last year Hazel and Clifford moved up into 3* level (which is the level you need to compete at to qualify for the Olympics) and won two 3* competitions. At the end of last year Clifford and Hazel made their first bad mistake on the cross country which resulted in a nasty fall and Hazel breaking her pelvis in five different places. Clifford survived thank goodness without receiving any serious injury. Again a whole story for a different column. Suffice to say that for Hazel much of Christmas was spent convalescing. The first major competition where Hazel and Clifford will step out against riders from all over Australia will be Sydney 3DE which will be held in May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. This is a CCI or a 3 Day Event which is the type of competition that the Australian selectors will need to see results in before they get interested. The Olympics is a CCI competition. The next CCI competition after Sydney will be Melbourne on the 5th, 6th and 7th of June. If you get these big competitions too close together you do jeopardize the horses soundness so you do have to be very careful in putting your calendar together and not let desperation or over enthusiasm interfere with good decisions. A top rider has to protect his or her horse at all costs. At the end of the year the really big event is Adelaide 4*, also a CCI on November 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th. This will be a huge competition this year as everybody who is anybody will be there. Hazel and Clifford are likely to appear at Sydney and then at Adelaide. In between they will be doing ODE’s or CNC’s or CIC’s honing their skills and practicing running up against the established Australian Olympians. Real selection for the Australian team will happen next year however by the time 2016 dawns all of the main contenders will be well and truly out there and it will be just which 4 riders make up the Australian team. The group of riders who are putting their hands up for selection could be as low as just 8 serious contenders. Moving into that top group has to be done now in 2015. Here comes Hazel and Clifford. Nobody knows them today, hopefully it will be a very different story this time next year. Hazel is Sponsored by Karl Steiniger and his company Over the Top.
Sappho Ransan-Elliot – Sappho became part of Ryans in 2006 as a Pony Clubber from South Australia. Sappho like Hazel is focused on the 3 Day Event discipline. Sappho is a seasoned rider having previously produced two horses in the Advanced eventing disciplines and also having produced one horse to Grand Prix Dressage. Sappho has huge resilience, has an unusual talent for an overview and recognising just where she is in the big scheme of things. Sappho has amazing discipline when it suits her, is naturally very logical and methodical and also has an inner extreme talent for recognising distances when approaching a fence. To date none of Sappho’s horses have quite measured up to a level of excellence necessary for Olympic contention however she now has a youngster called Penhaligon which she bred who I feel is an Olympic contender. Penhaligon is called Pia at home, is a chestnut mare standing 16.2hh, is 5 years of age and is by Promise R who carried Silvano Bloodlines on his sires side. Silvano was on the Dutch Olympic Dressage team at Sydney 2000. Although Silvano was an Olympic Dressage horse he was initially bred to be a jumper. Promise R who is the father of Pia was out of a Flemmingh mare. Flemmingh did become famous also as a dressage sire however like Silvano he started his career as a straight jumping stallion. So for the astute genetic enthusiast it comes as no surprise for a horse with Promise R’s breeding to produce jumpers. On Pia’s Dam side she is out a Thoroughbred mare who is a full sister to True Blue Toozac who with Boyd Martin in the saddle won Adelaide 4* some years ago. Pia is brilliantly bred for the job. Pia is a lovely type, has very good walk, super trot and a beautiful canter. She has a steady temperament in competition but certainly does have an opinion and is not always naturally inclined to be compliant. Over fences Pia is perhaps the freakiest jumper we have at Ryans being very very careful over fences, having great scope and talent, having really nice technique and form when she is in the air, and also being brave. Right now Pia is very young and it is a matter of behaving and not asking too many questions for another two years. She already is competing with success having won a Pre Novice class some five days ago at the time of writing which is a 1.05 meter class. Pia will be ready for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo which will make her 10 years of age. This is young but as long as nobody gets over ambitious between now and Tokyo we should be able to do this easily. In the mean time I am sure Sappho will develop Pia’s dressage career simultaneously and interesting to note Pia already shows incredible talent for Piaffe. We teach this movement in hand and do it very gently. We have a very different take on these high school movements than most people and our emphasis is on the horses relaxed and natural interpretation. We do this movement as a warm up exercise, often before we get on and certainly never raise a sweat or disturb a happy or relaxed attitude. A bit of a greenie approach but it does work brilliantly for us and Pia is a complete natural with knees up around her ears! Anyhow the big trick is to enjoy Pia, school state of the art techniques and at all costs protect her soundness and attitude. Sappho and Pia will start to move up in to the higher grades in 2018. Sappho is Sponsored by Karl Steiniger and his company Over the Top.
Emma Bishop – Emma worked at Ryans for some 12 years before going out on her own. I could not get rid of her however and she continued to base with us, steal my clients, and gazump my horse sales! Emma has won Grand Prix dressage as well as World Cup Eventing. For me she is perhaps the most exciting rider in Australia at the moment however she never seems to have a top horse at the right time. Right now she has Pendragon who is a straight thoroughbred by Brilliant Crown. Known at home as Pidgeon. Pidgeon is 16.2hh, dark brown, 11 years of age and already an established 3* horse. Pidgeon has nice dressage although not easy to ride in this phase, is the most sensational cross country horse and is a careful showjumper however his confidence in this phase is everything and so occasionally does have a not so wonderful round. Pidgeon has been plagued with soundness issues and so really has not appeared on the Australian scene with the impact due his talent. He is just back in work from a year out and if this has resolved the soundness issues we are about to see a totally unexpected player come rocketing into contention for the Rio Olympics. Behind Pidgeon Emma has a really nice 7 year old mare called Issy Miyake. This mare is known as Rosie at home and is by the sensational Salute eventing stallion Staccato who is based with Prue and Craig Barrett. Rosie is out of the 4* eventing mare Isabella Rossellini who was considered a freak with Kadi Eyekamp in the saddle. Emma and Rosie are currently about to start at 1* level. They have been unbeatable in the lower grades and Rosie is aimed for the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Montreal, Canada.
Breanna Tillitzki – Bree has been with us at Ryans some 10 years. Bree is a straight dressage rider and is a born competitor. She is very clever in the dressage arena and very difficult to beat. Bree is a born worker and is the rider she is today through her courage to work and practice at skills which perhaps came more easily to other riders. Bree is currently competing and winning Grand Prix Dressage on Fiji R. It is Rozzie’s and my opinion that Fiji R is not going to go to the Olympics. We suspect that in the early days Fiji broke his pelvis and although fully recovered he is somewhat inhibited in some areas and the lack of inhibition in his youngsters has taken our breath away. On studying his pedigree the movement that he is obviously capable of throwing should be expected. Never the Less Fiji R is the most beautiful horse, long suffering, always tries, and never lets the side down in terms of temperament. Fiji R has been Bree’s ticket to Grand Prix and the pair of them have formed the most wonderful partnership. Because Bree is so clever in the dressage arena she always has lots of horses to ride as there are always lots of owners asking Bree to school their horses or campaign their horses through the early years. This is very flattering but has backfired a little bit in that she has been so busy that until now Bree has not had a superstar of her own in work aimed at Olympic Games. Mind you riding Fiji R at Grand Prix sure is the most magnificent platform from which to launch an Olympic program. Anyhow better late than never. Bree now has the 5 year old BZ Rafael who is a black gelding by Regardez Moi out of a Jive Magic mare who is carrying the Salute bloodlines who goes back to Londoner. Londoner was the Australian Prix st George and Intermediate 1 Champion when he was just 6 years of age. Today 6 year olds are not allowed to compete at Prix st George level. Londoner went on with Mary Hanna to win Grand Prix at a very early age. Anyhow BZ Rafael is just so majestic and moves with breath taking power. BZ Rafael and Bree are focused up on 2020 being the Tokyo Olympics. Bree is Sponsored by Michelle Cunningham who owns the local Saddleworld stores at Heatherbrae and Maitland.
Bronte Buttel – Bronte has been here at Ryans since June 2012. Bronte was always a little different to the rest of the staff in that she was very interested in reading, very interested in movies, theatre productions and Science Fiction. Bronte is good with a computer and took over the stud section at Ryans which involves hours of record keeping, collecting and transporting semen all around Australia and liaising with the vet. Bronte has a background of Pony Club and working for Showjump rider Ben Netterfeild however today she has focused up on straight dressage and to that effect has purchased a very exciting horse. There is a bit of a story here. We at Ryans have some 70 foals a year when we are in full swing and that means a lot of youngsters need to be broken in each year and schooled and sold. All of the girls here at Ryans are involved with the breaking in program which is done gently and without any bucking or wild man antics. At least we try to make it happen that way! Bronte is involved in this program like everyone else and indeed was responsible for breaking in and the initial training of our young stallion Questing R. Anyhow some time ago Hazel was breaking in a youngster called Rocky Road R who had been through some three auctions as a baby and nobody wanted him. We couldn’t sell him. He was a windsucker, had one testicle so is partially a Rig, and was nice to look at but plain and chestnut. Hazel was pretty well finished with the breaking in of Rocky and spoke to Bronte saying that maybe she should consider the horse as he was the best ride she had every day. Now I would like to point out that this conversation happened between Bronte and Hazel to the exclusion of me. So you can see what happened. Bronte approached me and inquired whether I would sell the windsucking Rig that nobody wanted to her. I should have had warning bells going off in my head but I couldn’t sell him quick enough and struck a very special deal with somebody who works here of course! Well I was had! This windsucking Rig is the most beautiful horse, he is bred magnificently being by Regardez Moi out of a Jive Magic mare, is growing into the most majestic individual, has the best temperament that was ever given to a horse, has an unbelievable work ethic, is so supple that folding together into collection and the perfect frame is effortless and once on the bit has produced to die for paces. Bronte is not my most experienced rider and even less experienced in the competition arena but has already returned scores of 80% and walks around with her bottom lip out if she scores less than 75%. I was ripped off. On the upside Rocky Road R has scored a wonderful owner and has a program carefully mapped out for Tokyo in 2020.
Shoshona Newman – Shoshona started here at Ryans in February 2014. Shoshona like Bronte is also an unexpected character here at Ryans however very different to Bronte. Shoshona is very outgoing and a classic drama queen. She speaks and acts with enthusiasm and wit and humor as if she is on the stage and is not the sort of personality that one would expect to dig in once the glamour and initial excitement of being amongst such outstanding horses and people wore off. Well that seems to be also part of Shoshona’s makeup, a tough astuteness which seems to penetrate difficult moments and allows her to hold true to what she wants to achieve. Shoshona has been here no time at all but very quickly grasped the fact that to perform at the top a plan needed to be made and then acted upon. Shoshona comes from the classic Australian show ring background and so looks very beautiful on a horse which is a wonderful start. Shoshona moved quite quickly and has bought the dressage youngster Jose R who is by Jive Magic out of a Regardez Moi mare and who does look very special. Jose R is a bay gelding standing some 17hh, he does move really well, naturally has a great frame and folds through the poll with super ease. Shoshona has done her first dressage competitions in this year gone past and she has just about won every start. Jose R is a 6yr old and there is no doubt that we are having a close look at the World Equestrian Games in 2018 in Montreal, Canada. This will mean that Jose R is incredibly young being just 9 years of age in 2018. We will be very quick to move the goal posts back to 2020 if this program starts to put any undue pressure on Jose R. Shoshona is a real mover and has already secured some sponsorship from North Coast Tack Shop which is operating through Facebook.
Gordon Bishop – Gordon has worked for me at some time in the distant past but has been based with Rozzie and I on and off for the past 30 years running his own business. Gordon breaks in commercially and campaigns competition horses. Gordon has produced a number of Advanced eventers which have been shortlisted for Australian teams but has never actually made the team. Gordon has specialized up in riding horses that maybe other people would not have and taken them to the top. In hindsight this has probably back fired and the horses have not been capable of stepping up for the final selection results. Gordon has also trained and campaigned a number of horses to FEI dressage level. Today Gordon has an 8yr old called Moves like Jagger who is by Regardez Moi and who will step up to 3* this year. Moves like Jagger is called Dennis at home and does have a good dressage test in him, is reliable cross country and is becoming more and more careful in the showjumping arena. Certainly Gordon will be in the Australian trials for the World Equestrian Games in 2018. For me Dennis does need to move up another gear before being a serious threat to the Australian team. He just might do that. Behind Dennis Gordon has something that is really special in Advantage Hill, which is a 5yr old Chestnut mare standing 16.1hh called Evie in the stable. Evie was born on Christmas Eve and so the name Evie. Evie is by Rudolf who in turn is a Regardez Moi/ Sir Tristram stallion out of Sugar Hill which is by Sprite who is a Salute/ Agricola Stallion. Evie does look super fancy being very good on the flat, a spectacular jumping horse and exhibiting a steady temperament. For me this is probably the best young horse Gordon has ever owned and I think we will all see just how good this horse is when the trialling starts for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Dean Ryan – Dean started here at Ryans in July 2014. Dean is very much a beginner and has a lot of learning in front of him. Many of our most successful riders in the past have come as beginners and the advantage is that you do not have to undo policies to make way for more state of the art ideas. The less skilled working pupils are very much like a “blank canvas” and they do respond very well. Dean has visions of being an eventer and has bought the most sensational little Thoroughbred mare from Hazel who is the sweetest and most long suffering horse I have seen in a long time. Her name is Decorde or better known at home as Dannie. Dannie is a super little jumping horse, is very creative in front of a fence and is careful and bold. She also has a beautifully balanced canter rhythm that she will maintain throughout a jumping course. She is worth her weight in gold. At this point in time we do not have an Olympics or World Championships targeted. Right now there is no replacing the long hard miles in the saddle necessary to train the mind and the body. It’s called hard work. 2015 has already seen Dean launch his competition career having his first dressage outing in early February followed a couple of weekends later with his first jump club outing. The beginning of a journey.
Bryce Russell – Bryce has just left school and is passionate about horses. Bryce actually lives a couple of properties down from Ryans and in the past has ridden his horse along the levee bank, which borders the Hunter River, and 10 minutes later is at our indoor school. Bryce and his dad had a vision together and fell in love with the modern Friesian and so through Dunstan Park Friesians organized to import Markus V from Holland and here he is. Markus V is a beautiful black stallion standing 16.2hh, has a wonderful temperament, is fairy tale magnificent to look at and under saddle is super soft and easy to ride. Some how people find out that Markus V is here at Ryans and they just turn up asking to see Bryce and his new Friesian stallion. Most people leave promising to buy a service fee. Before Markus V Bryce would ride an ex trotter called Red who did struggle somewhat with the canter but never the less was genuine and generous. Bryce does go from one extreme to the other. This will be a fascinating story. To date Bryce has done some competition with Red which included Dressage, sporting, team penning and showing. Bryce is not going to be allowed to do sporting or team penning whilst he is here with us! Markus V will however embark on his dressage career with Bryce very soon. Watch this space!
Sofie Bondeson- Sofie hails from Jönköping (anybody who can pronounce this correctly has to be a Swede- phonetically- Yon sherping) in Sweden and initially came to Australia in 2012 as a student to study at Griffith University on the Gold Coast in Queensland. On completing her studies she stayed on for another year before heading back to Sweden. Now Sofie is back and has fallen in love with Australia and as a qualified Engineer is looking for work and sponsorship with a view to Australian citizenship! One of Sofie’s hidden passions is Dressage riding which she pursued in Sweden. Half our luck she found us and she works really hard and rides well and we are very happy. During the year we do have a number of overseas students who will spend a short time with us and sometimes the short time turns into a longer time. For me this is just the most brilliant opportunity for the staff here to hear about other parts of the world, different viewpoints and the opportunity to make friends with people they would otherwise not meet. The Sofie’s of this world are one of the really nice things that happen here at Ryans.
We have wandered off the topic a little bit and 2015 is all about maintaining and promoting a program here at Ryans aimed at launching our young riders into Olympic teams and further to challenge for Olympic medals. Perhaps one of the most common terminations of a rider heading towards the Olympics is the “plateauing phenomena”. Plateauing is completely normal and the main reason for mediocrity. Plateauing has to be hunted down continuously for the program to keep moving forward. Initially the vision of going to the top is fairly graphic and easy to see simply by following the grades. i.e in dressage you start at walk trot, progress to Preliminary, progress to Novice, this you should be able to achieve in a year, then to Elementary, then to Medium, this you should be able to do in the following year then progress to Advance, then to Small Tour as in Prix st George, This you should be able to do in the third year and finally progress to Grand Prix which you should be able to do in the fourth year. There are similar grades and time frames in eventing and in showjumping. So as long as you have a plan it is relatively simple to spot “plateauing”. Interestingly enough winning as you go up through these grades is seriously over rated in terms of achieving the top levels. In actual fact emphasis on winning can in some instances be detrimental to progress and actually promote “plateauing”. Once you reach the top grades then your performances almost become a competition against yourself where you recognise your score and endeavor to slightly improve the score each outing. As soon as you start to produce a score that is the same competition after competition then this is “plateauing”. Whilst on this inner journey to produce a better and better score in the top grade reality will respond in terms of your results against the other competitors starting to improve and you become competitive. Without being silly and taking a lunge at winning and all the while prioritizing the wellbeing of your horse then this is the journey that will produce gold medals. No “plateauing”.
Big year this 2015. It should produce some wonderful stories and an exciting Australian future.
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