Adelaide 4*: Improved dressage the key for Kiwi eventers

November 16, 2009

from Stan Henderson in Adelaide

From a New Zealand perspective the performance of the riders at the weekend's Adelaide International 4 star three-day-event provided some definite positives and also confirmed some expected weaknesses.

The most competitive Kiwi dressage test came from Clarke Johnstone and Oakley Vision; however their score of 55.7 still saw them in 16th place in a field of 30. The remaining Kiwis were 17th, 20th and 23rd.

Jenna Mahoney and Santos.
Brilliant riding from the Kiwis over the testing cross-country course and the demise of some leading Australian combinations saw them move rapidly up the leader board.

Although this is reminiscent of a typical NZ performance in the now defunct long three-day-event format, if we look at recent four-star events in Europe and the USA we would struggle to find an event where the cross-country has had as much influence.

To be competitive we will need to improve our dressage scores by at least 12-15 penalties and to be able to produce consistent performances at this level.

Eric Duvander and his team have already identified this and are working hard with all squad members to help them reach the level necessary to be competitive on the world stage.

Overall this was an excellent performance by an inexperienced New Zealand team.

We can now add two more riders and three more horses to the list of squad members who have successfully negotiated a genuine CCI 4*.

The experience of the travel, the heat, the competition and the overall team experience will stand the riders, grooms and officials in good stead for the challenges ahead.

• There was plenty of tension yesterday as the 17 horses that remained in the 4 star competition jumped off in 40degC temperatures.

Course builder Richard Bruggeman produced a technical track with several changes of direction and related distances.

The showjumping started in controversial style when Stuart Tinney, riding the beautiful mare Panamera, missed a fence late in the course and was eliminated.

Although there were no further errors of course, it was a true four-star test that demanded accuracy and a forward going rhythm to achieve the time allowed.

The three New Zealand riders rode positively and were pleased with the performance of their horses after three testing days of competition.

First in for the Kiwis was Blair Richardson on Spend Up, lying fifth overnight. Although he jumped freely the huge crowd and atmosphere saw Spend Up become a little tense through the middle section of the round and they finished with three rails down, dropping them back to 9th.

Next in was Clarke Johnstone on his individual ride Orient Express. Johnstone established a good forward stride and the pair negotiated the course confidently. An unfortunate rail and three time faults saw them complete with 93.9 penalties and sixth place.

Jenna Mahoney and Santos were the last Kiwi combination to go. Lying in 7th place overnight, like all the Kiwi horses, Santos looked full of running at the morning's trot up and brought this to the showjumping ring. Mahoney rode positively and gave her mount a good ride. Two rails and two time faults saw them complete in eighth place on 94.6 penalties.

The big mover in the showjumping was Megan Jones and her Olympic mount Kirby Park Irish Jester. An uncustomary refusal at the angled brushes at fence 10 on Saturday's cross-country saw the combination slip to 9th going into the showjumping.

Jones produced the first clear round within the time to put the pressure on those above her on the leader board, including herself on her second ride Kirby Park Allofasudden.

A rail and 2 time faults on Kirby Park Allofasudden, while good enough to hold second place, gave Stuart Tinney and Vettori some breathing space.

Tinney and Vettori demonstrated that they were no strangers to riding under pressure and gave a foot perfect display to retain their first position and take out the CCI4*.

It was a popular win for Tinney, who has campaigned both in Australia and in Europe over the past few years. This win stand both Tinney and Jones in good stead with the Australian selectors, who will soon be faced with the task of choosing a team to contest the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky next August.

This event has seen a shift in form of some leading Australian-based combinations and as a consequence we may see the Australian selection panel looking closely at the performances of their European based riders over the next six months. Australian based riders will have limited opportunity to impress prior to selection. With only a handful of CCI4* events held globally each year they are faced with international travel and considerable financial investment if they want to impress.