The large Kiwi contingent who headed to Adelaide expected warm and sunny weather, but Friday’s was just the opposite, with rain and cold temperatures for the dressage. Of course this wasn’t anything to upset the New Zealanders, well used to riding in wet conditions, and they went out and gave it their best shot.
Clarke Johnstone did a lovely test on Balmoral Sensation, both looking relaxed and confident, and went into the lead on a score of 45.9.
“I am happy with that, he was a good boy,” Clarke said afterwards. “He is so unimpressed by atmosphere, it just doesn’t faze him in the slightest. He is just lovely to ride. It is a windy day, the flags are flapping, I imagine horses are getting hot in there. In the walk he was a bit lazy – although there were no mistakes, it probably didn’t bring in the higher marks.”
The next best placed New Zealander is Samantha Felton on Ricker Ridge Pico Boo, both in their first-ever four-star event. Their score of 51.3 puts them in fifth after the dressage phase. Sam was slightly disappointed with the performance. “I wasn’t expecting that he wouldn’t like the cameras; he was really confronted by them so I had to manage that throughout the whole test. He had good energy, but I made some mistakes, which was really frustrating. I stuffed up my timing on a change, and I wasn’t clear enough on an aid up to canter. I thought it could have gone a lot better.”
When it was suggested she may be being a little hard on herself, she was adamant she wasn’t. “He is a very consistent horse and he just got a little bit more confronted by the atmosphere than I thought he would. He is feeling really fit and at least that is good for tomorrow.”
Donna Edwards-Smith was delighted with both of her horses. On DSE Mr Hokey Pokey (‘Yogi’), she is seventh with 51.9, and on DSE Tangolooma (‘Bones’) she is ninth with 54.1.
“Yogi was pretty cute, I have ridden him a lot today and wound him down a bit, but he really did try” she said straight after her test. The highlight for Donna was Yogi’s rideability. “He is just young and green, and he can be a bit naughty, but he grew up a bit today. I rode him four times today, as he is quite a hot-blooded horse, but he was really good.”
Donna was first to go on Bones (DSE Tangalooma) and the judges were obviously keen to get into their work: they rang the bell as soon as the pair neared the arena, so she had little time to get in much work outside.
“I was so proud of him,” said Donna. “He tried and tried and tried. My changes were late, we had that issue in the warm-up but rather than force that issue we thought we would go with a softness in everything else and try and make them work in the ring but no, not today. But overall, he was beautifully soft, relaxed and reliable. I am really proud of him.”
Donna has a big group of supporters at the event. They definitely contributed to the loud cheer at the completion of Yogi’s test but the locals also appreciated the performance. “I think it is the first palomino they have seen here for a while,” said Donna. “We have a massive team of people who have come over. Owners and supporters, it is really exciting and really cool that they have come over here and they are having a great time. I saw them after they had been to the wineries and they looked very happy!”
Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau are another combination having their first four-star start, and are in 13th place with a score of 58.2. “She can get a little hot and it wasn’t the best test we have got out of her, but at the same time this is much more atmosphere than she is used to. She held it together really well, considering, and I did get some good movements out of her, just not everything.”
Ginny was pleased with the trot work and overall was happy with ‘Paige’. “She tried really hard to keep a lid on it. My first two changes were really good across the diagonals. Anywhere I could put leg on she was really good. The walk was definitely not a highlight. Equally, she did try to contain it; she got there.”
Andy Daines and Spring Panorama are sitting in 18th place on a score of 63. “He was really good out here in the warm-up and then he got excited and tense, so it all just went to poo,” said Andy afterwards. “All of it felt a bit average compared to what he has been like. Overall I’m happy-ish with him but there is definitely big room for improvement.”
The cross country course
The riders certainly have a lot of respect for the challenge ahead of them tomorrow. Here’re their individual reactions:
Clarke: “I’ve walked the course a few times, it is a very fair course. Fence 8 is difficult – a wide oxer and then two corners on a bending line. I am fortunate to be riding a very experienced and very nice cross-country horse, so I’m hoping he should be up to the challenge. I personally think it is a little less difficult than last time I rode here, but then also it was his first four-star and now I am riding a horse that has done Badminton and the Olympics. The courses really look different depending on what you are sitting on. He was a first-time four-star horse last time and he’s an experienced four-star horse now, so it makes it look a bit different. It certainly is not a give-away.”
Andy: “It’s beautiful, it was beautiful last year but this year they have done an even better job. There are definitely some good questions out there.”
Ginny: “Oh-my-gosh, I am so excited! That is my forte so hopefully we can go out and show everyone what we are here for. There are definitely a lot of questions and they just keep coming, so hopefully we have still got lots of gas in the tank when we get home. It won’t be a dressage competition.”
Sam: “Nervous about everything but I think that is a good place to be going into your first four-star. I think 8a, b and c will be tough. Tonight I am just going to chill, I will walk through the course 100 times or so in my head. We have already walked the course three times, I might do another two.”
Donna: “It’s a good course, it’s a tough course. I think you can walk your lines so many times but I think it is going to be a little bit ‘ride how you land over b, to get to c’. It is a beautiful four-star track. I can’t wait to get out there. Time? It’s twisty, Yogi doesn’t pull, he has a beautiful mouth, I think just keep travelling on him; and Bones, I will just try to settle him in the first few jumps and then push on a little bit. I am going to be pretty lucky under the trees, I think I am on the shortest horses in the field. Everyone was worried about the trees. The plan is to cut corners and give them the best possible ride I can.”
At the press conference Clarke said that he had once been told about the trees at Adelaide. “If you haven’t got some trees stuck in your helmet, you did not try hard enough,” is the story, apparently.
Sonja Johnson, who is in second place going into the cross-country on Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison (score of 49.5), had some advice about the time. “Go as fast as you can, and then go a bit faster!”
Megan Jones on Kirby Park Impress is in third place on 49.6. Last year’s winner, Hazel Shannon on Willingapark Clifford is tenth on a score of 54.5.