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Parafed Canterbury Sportsperson of the Year!!!
Wow - very surprised and excited about this award. Thanks so much to everyone who has been part of my journey and made this achievement possible. Especially Hayley Beresford, Bella Robson & superstar Don!
Whoop Whoop - we are off to France!!
Don & I have been selected to represent NZ at the World Games in France this August! Such an exciting announcement for all involved and I'd like to extend a massive thank you to all who have made this possible - Bella & Hayley for giving me such an incredible opportunity, all of my family, friends, sponsors & supporters!! Stay tuned for updates and blogs when I head back to Germany in August!
Official ESNZ announcement
On the TV!
I'm currently in Germany training and competing, check out my blog for the latest news or follow me on Facebook - Anthea Gunner Para Equestrian - as we try to make the NZ team for the World Equestrian Games in August!
Typically this is right before I am off to Germany again and he will have an easy 4 weeks while I am away getting unfit again! It has been largely a quiet few months, only 1 competition on the 4th August where Mask did 2 nice tests and although the scores weren’t as good as I had hoped I was very pleased with the quality of his work, particularly when we had only had very limited preparation beforehand.
I had entered another show on the 8th September but unfortunately the lurgy caught up with me and I was home sick in bed instead!
I am also excited to have the support of Julie and Willowhip NZ who custom make the most gorgeous horse gear – all top quality and highly sought after! I already have some extra special treats to take over for Don and am looking forward to seeing Mask kitted out in his custom Willowhip gears when I get home! It’s really humbling to have so much support and I am proud to represent my fabulous sponsors.
I have also applied for an AMP scholarship, to help towards the costs of campaigning for WEG – a $10k scholarship would be a huge help that is for sure J You can vote through facebook so if you haven’t already go to https://www.doyourthing.co.nz/how-it-works/voting/ click the vote now button (which will take you to the facebook app) and search for me and vote! It’s that simple
And finally to finish – Aaron and I are finally getting married! Its only taken me nearly 9 years of engagement to get a date nailed down… so on January 4th, 2014 we will finally tie the knot at home with our closest family and friends in attendance. I was in a state of disbelief at first (at actually having a set date) but now I am getting excited and am frantically getting the arrangements underway.
Now to get Mask used to a skirt and veil…..
Stay tuned for more exciting news from Germany!
Well it if doesn’t rain again until summer I won’t be sorry – we have mud, mud, water and more mud everywhere which is severely restricting my movements around our farm. After a record amount of rain in June we are still recovering and my buggy is not built for those sorts of conditions.
We are no strangers to the wet – we have had it before and often it means we will be green for longer in the summer, but last time (2010 springs to mind just prior to all of the earthquakes) it was September that we were this wet – not July! So with 6 more weeks of official winter on the horizon I am well over slopping around in a water logged round yard (the arena is also waterlogged L ) and have had to move horses around so that I can access them on other means than the quad bike.
It seems that he has taken to jumping like a fish to water so hopefully he can continue to have a bit of variation between my boring dressage shows! Training wise he has come back into work well after his nice holiday while I was in Germany. My standards have gone up though and the poor bugger has had to suck it up and toe the line.
We have had some exciting new sponsors come on board looking to the World Games and beyond, I’d like to hugely thank David and the team at Bates Saddles who have supplied an Innova saddle fitted for Don through until WEG at least which is very exciting. I have been riding in Bates Saddles for years, early on in a Wintec, and since I have had Mask also in an Innova saddle as it provides me with excellent stability which is very important. In fact I only recently changed Mask’s as he is turned into a hippopotamus shape which was becoming hard for me to stay comfortable in! I’m thrilled to be able to work with Bates and promote their wonderful range of saddles.
I have also partnered with Louise and the team at Head 2 Toe Studio Massage Therapy – I’ve been a regular client since the business began some 10 years ago and am very grateful to Louise and Hannah for their support – I wouldn’t survive without regular massage as I insist on overworking my muscles! If you are in North Canterbury and need some work done or just a relaxing time give them a call!
I’d also like to wish all the very best to my good friend and supporter Debbie Biles of DB Muscle Therapy who takes such good care of Mask’s massage requirements. Debbie is enjoying a proper English summer currently and ties the knot with fiancé Ian this weekend – thanks so much Debbie and I hope all goes well – I will have a bubbles to celebrate from afar!
Thanks again for all of your support – the rollercoaster is just starting to get going! I have an exciting 12 months ahead as we try and make the NZ team for WEG.
Until next time – keep warm and safe
Anthea, Mask & Don
What seemed like a whirlwind trip to Hastings is now over and its time for Mask and I to recover and relax, for a week or so anyway!
It is always a mission to get there, we left lunchtime Sunday 10th March, to cross on the ferry late at night and then, after a few hours sleep in Wellington onward to Hastings the next morning. On arrival the horses were bright and cheerful, the crew who got them there less so! I have to say I was very pleased to get to the motel later that day and have a shower and sleep.
Mask bounced off the truck like he had just popped 20 minutes down the road and was straight into eating and drinking like a pro. I guess a flit to Hastings is nothing compared to some of his travels. We had lovely yards under the trees and the truck parked right in front which made life a lot easier. The down side was that we were miles from anywhere (funnily enough it doesn’t seem to matter where you are parked at HOY – you are still miles from anywhere) and I was very pleased to have bought up my buggy to help ease the burden on my shoulders and arms!
We had Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to recover and train, as well as check out the other disciplines and the shops. Mask worked really well, his accelerator still fully installed after Nicki came and schooled him prior to leaving home, and my elbows pinned to my sides as advised after a session on my position in the saddle with Massage Therapist and Biomechanic guru Debbie Biles! Funny how the position of your elbows impacts so many other components!
Friday dawned fine and I spent the morning with Mask showing in the large Pinto Breed inhand classes. Thanks to Courtney Barrett who I met only the day before for doing the legwork with Mask and she did a super job, placing 2nd from about 27 horses in the best mannered class. It was stinking hot that day and I was grateful for my umbrella.
Later in the afternoon Mask and I competed in our first test, which turned out to be one of our best, scoring 67.353% and all 3 judges in agreement. We received lots of positive comments and I was very happy with our start. We were lucky to be able to ride on the Pologrounds opposite the Show Ground, and the grass (yes there was some) had been lovingly irrigated for months to give a good surface for riding on – probably the only green grass we saw the whole way there and back.
Saturday morning bought test number 2, which was not quite as good as I had hoped thanks to some very distracting carriage horses near our arenas. Mask was particularly concerned with the one with squeaky wheels and had a couple of spooks, but my confidence from London came out and I was determined to get him to concentrate. So while he was quite tense we did finish the test and there were some very good moments, and a few not so good. However we still did enough to win on 65.286%.
Our final day on Sunday was another good one, the weather a fraction cooler after a week of glorious sunshine and it was trying hard to rain, but not being terribly successful. Mask had put his brave pants on and was much better with the carriages, although still a bit tense but did a nice test to music to win on 67.75% which gave us the Horse of the Year title for the 2nd year in a row. It was certainly light years better than the first time doing my new musical in Christchurch when he was an absolute horror!
The most nerve wracking part of the day (in fact probably the whole week!) was our prizegiving ceremony that was held in the main dressage oval. If I thought the arena in London was overwhelming, well this was a whole different situation again – the oval is quite close to the crowds and marquees, and also quite close to a few thousand spectators watching Show Jumping’s Olympic Cup – which is the one to win – and roaring their approval at the good rounds. Mask was very brave but got a bit flustered when the horse behind him played up, and from there it was tippytoes around the arena with Aaron walking beside me. Fortunately we made it round ok, and it was another experience to tick off the bucket list.
We didn’t muck about, packing up the truck and starting the trip home only an hour later, and finally arrived back home on the following Monday afternoon. It was the last big show for the NZ season and I was pleased to have finished on a good note, although we still have a couple of local competitions to come.
Also soon my sister and I head to Germany which I am getting very excited about, I’ve just bought the Lonely Planet guide and hopefully I can make a good go of reading it on the plane and somehow navigate us to the correct place at the other end! It is going to be a fantastic opportunity to train and compete amongst the worlds best, and I’ll be sure to be updating my website and facebook as we go.
Stay tuned for more exciting news from Europe!
It seems like a long time between updates, and that is mostly because both Mask and I have not been doing a lot!
National Champions - Photo courtesy of Libby Law Photography
After returning from England I was very aware of the fact that while Mask had been enjoying a nice physical rest in quarantine, he hadn’t had a decent mental time out since the middle of 2011. So I thought it was important to take it quietly and give him a chance to get used to being a kiwi horse again, and less of the superstar lifestyle.
So we didn’t start back into full training until mid December, and my Christmas ‘holiday’ was spent in the saddle, often in the blazing Canterbury sun sweating our way back to full fitness. Fortunately riding Heidi had kept me fairly fit so it didn’t take long to get back into it.
Mask has been training really well, I’ve had help from my 13 year old neighbour Jessica who has been working on Mask’s cantering with the goal of me being able to do it myself. He likes to leap into canter which is difficult for me to cope with as my balance goes out the window before I even start so he has been steadily improving and I’m ready to have a go myself. Just in time too as my goal is to compete in able bodied competition next month so we need to get cracking!
Competition wise we have only had a training day as a lead in to the ESNZ Para Equestrian National Championships. We were both definitely a bit rusty but it was great to get feedback on where we can improve and have a run through of the new international Para tests.
Nationals was probably one of the most exhausting weekends I have had in a long time, off the back of a very busy week at work I was already a bit jaded before we started. Mask was required to stay on the grounds for the weekend so it added a lot of hours to the day for me. It’s so much easier to be able to take him home and put him in a paddock!
He was a good boy on day 1, unfortunately I only had myself to compete against in my grade so I was more interested in the marks instead of the first placing. It was a solid start, 64.1% and some good marks and comments from our international judge for the event. It was great to see my colleagues from CourierPost in Christchurch come out to see our test and meet Mask.
CourierPost have been great supporters of my riding career and despite a few of them getting slobbered on it was a nice surprise.
With the team from CourierPost, photo courtesy of Libby Law Photography
Saturday’s test wasn’t quite so pleasing, Mask decided after warming up perfectly that he was going to redo the choreography for our new musical and was very naughty during the test. It left me having to make it up as I went along, desperately trying to remember the movement that I was supposed to be doing and by some miracle I remembered them all! As you get marked out of 10 for each compulsory movement it was very important to do them all to try and gather a few marks! We managed 55.7% and I was mostly pleased that I didn’t come unstuck!
With sponsor Deb Harley from Betavet Equine Herbals
Sunday’s test was a much better effort from us both, although I struggled a little at times with spasming legs which was frustrating but something I often have to deal with in the saddle. We scored a much more respectable 65.5% and I was really pleased to get over 68% from our international judge and 8’s from 2 of the judges for my rider mark.
After a couple of days off Mask, with my neighbour Jessica tried his hand at jumping for the first time since I have had him. What a star he is, no problems at all and he cantered around merrily jumping everything that was asked of him. Jessy did a super job and I think I’m going to have to make sure she doesn’t steal him to go Eventing on! He really is Mr Versatile and such a pleasure to have around.
My jumping star with Jessica Brechin
And just around the corner is my trip to Germany in April to train with the lovely Hayley Beresford riding Bella Robson’s lovely PSG schoolmaster DonCartier. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone over there and soaking it all in. I’m sure it will be hard work but that has never fazed me before and all fingers are crossed that I can do a nice job of riding Don and this will give me some options for competing over in Europe, to help me improve those medal chances!
I’m also on the hunt for an up and coming horse to bring on with Mask looking towards Rio Paralympic Games. There are lots of horses for sale and you can spend virtually any amount on them, but my must have list is pretty long and strict so it can take a while! Horses of the quality that I need also don’t come cheap so if anyone is interested on becoming part of the journey and owning a share in a potential Paralympic star please get in touch!
Meanwhile we will continue training and here’s to a safe and successful journey to Horse of the Year Show!
In some respects London is a distant memory, and in others it is still top of mind, as I am back busy with work, picking up horse poop and trying not to contemplate Christmas shopping! London is still lingering though, with a bevy of award dinners, end of year functions and many people still to catch up with after our adventures.
I was chuffed just to be on the stage alongside her and we came together once again at the Parafed Canterbury awards dinner last Saturday night, although we both came home with an award this time! I won the Most Promising Senior Athlete and was awarded an Elite scholarship for 2013 which will be a nice wee help toward our competition and training costs for the coming year.
Meanwhile at home I have been busy riding Heidi, she is such a lovely mare – completely ok with me gearing her up, changing rugs and grooming her from my chair. Being such a food orientated horse it didn’t take long for her to figure out that I was the food source so she was my best friend. She is much more sensitive to the aids that Mask, although mostly due to him knowing me very well, so it was a bit harder for me to adjust to riding her, not to mention she was much bouncier. My abs certainly have been working hard although I am proud that I could manage the bounce!
Mask arrived home finally on the 29th October, looking great too I might add! He was none the worse for his huge journey around the world, although is happy to be home, back in a paddock and with his handy personal groomer Frankie on hand all day every day. He wasn’t terribly interested in Heidi until he saw me riding her, then he was very miffed – how dare this girl turn up and take over his mother!
It was a very busy few weeks with both horses entered for the South Island Para Dressage Championships, in Christchurch. Aaron was very good letting me ride 2 horses in the same day, which was hard work I tell you. You need to be very fit to ride one properly let alone 2 or more. Both horses were going really well and it was very disappointing when the show had to be cancelled due to very low entries making it not viable to run. It was a particularly big disappointment for me and Heidi, as this was our sole event as a combination and I was looking forward to it very much. She has returned to her owners now, but who knows, maybe we will get to strut our stuff in the arena soon. Thanks again to Mel and Andrew Bruce for allowing me to have her at home. Their support is much appreciated and forms a vital part of my plan to reach the next level in my sport.
With no show to go to Mask and I were invited to do a demonstration at the Canterbury Dressage Championships, and despite being only ridden about 8 times since he had arrived home, he did exceptionally well, riding to Fleetwood Mac and a brand new freestyle floorplan that I had only ridden through once before. He loved having a crowd to watch and admire him, although not quite the 10,000 that he is used to!
For now we have a quiet run into Christmas, slowly bringing Mask into work again and starting to plan for the next adventure to Germany in April. Mask’s next event will be the Para Equestrian National Championships in Christchurch 1st-3rd February and maybe if finances permit we will also head to Hastings for the Horse of the Year show in March. Until then it training, training and more training!
Merry Christmas to you all!
Mask is on his way to London, via Auckland, and I only have 5 more sleeps left before I depart Christchurch as well. From here until we return I will be updating my blog (Journey to London) with news, photos and maybe even the odd bit of video so keep an eye out for regular updates.
April & May
Whilst I knew that Mask and I had met all the required criteria, I honestly didn’t think we would get to go this time around! So I floated up somewhere in the clouds for a week or 2, and now am very busy making all the arrangements and planning for our trip.
Mask has been bought back into work after a short break and I have had to adjust my winter training plan to become a good preparation for London! Things that we wanted to improve over winter have now become mission critical, and I have been having lots of lessons to make sure we are not letting any bad habits creep in when no-one is looking.
Training is otherwise going very well with my main coach Mary visiting over at Queen’s Birthday weekend for more training, as are the plans for our trip. Vaccinations for Mask are underway, flights are booked and the timetable is rapidly filling up as we get to less than 40 sleeps before we leave milestone.
Also well underway are fundraising plans, one of which being a Facebook auction starting on the 1st of June, we have lots of wonderful items that have been donated including 7 nights accommodation at the gorgeous Mangoes Resort in Vanuatu. We also have lots of different items, not necessarily horse related so if you are on Facebook join the ‘Anthea Gunner Paralympic Dream’ page and keep an eye on the auctions. Also if you or someone you know might be interested in offering something to be auctioned please let me know, all donations are gratefully received to help cover the costs of our preparation and support team travel.
Thanks very much for your support and keep warm as winter approaches!
April 2012 - LONDON BOUND!!
Holy Smoke! Mask and I are Paralympic bound! Our hard work and determination has paid off! Check out the press release from Paralympics NZ& ESNZ below, and the great article in the Christchurch Press on our Media page, and stay tuned for more updates as we prepare for this amazing journey!
March 2012 - Champions finally!!
As the competition season draws to a close I finally have time to reflect on what has been a best ever season for Mask and I with many achievements gained over the past 4 months.It seemed like no time had passed, and all of a sudden we were on the final big trip for the 2011/12 season, enroute to Hastings for the ESNZ PE National Championships and a couple of days later, the Horse of the Year Show.
We were lucky to be able to get on the ferry, being travelling just after the nasty storms that flattened parts of Taranaki on the weekend of the 3/4th March, and had a fairly smooth sailing across the strait. All of the horses travelled well and we also picked up our super coach Mary Longden on arrival in Wellington, as she had flown in from Melbourne.
Arrival in Hastings was fairly smooth, with the weather holding for a few days while the horses settled in, then the rain came and we were off on multiple trips to buy more tarpaulins for our gear and feed to stay dry. Fortunately by the time we had to compete the rain was gone and stayed away.
Our first test started off very well, with a win on an average of 68.8%, with a 70.4% from the international judge, which was our first on the scorecard toward selection for London Paralympics. Day 2 we were just 2nd by 1% on 67.3% and the final day we did a super musical test, but still finished in a disappointing 2nd place with 67.8% to give us reserve national champion. I was really gutted as I felt it was our best performances yet, but that is the nature of dressage!
We were very fortunate to have a couple of days off after that and the horses all enjoyed a break at Napier Riding for the Disabled, where they could stretch their legs and get dirty. As riders we treated ourselves to lunch at the divine Mission Estate Winery, which was expensive but a real treat after a week of hard yakka!
By the time we all returned to the Hastings Showgrounds the place was heaving with horses and trucks, with the 2600 horses entered for the various disciplines at Horse of the Year all jostling for the prime parking spaces. It was madness and we were pleased to have arrived earlier and gotten our parking spot sorted!
We started competing again on Wednesday 14th after passing the horse inspection the night before. Mask was very good again, although we were back riding on grass rather than all weather surface and it was a bit slippery so we couldn’t put the pedal to the metal as much as the previous week. The judges marks were mixed and we finished 2nd, although the 5* international judge had us in 1st place on a very pleasing 69.75% which was another for the scorecard!
We competed again on Thursday 15th, which was probably our most disappointing test, after Mask tripped up in the warm up on the very uneven ground and fell on his nose, firing me out the front door and into the grass. Fortunately we were both ok and I had the muscle of our ESNZ CEO Jim Ellis to help me back into the saddle. Certainly wasn’t part of our plan and Mask was a bit unsettled during the test, which we only scored 65.7%, but still achieved 68.8% from one of the internationals so was another nice surprise for our Paralympics criteria. We finished 2nd and I was looking forward to a couple of quiet days to recover.
Friday bought inhand showing with my sister competing Mask in the Pinto section, which is for coloured horses. He was a real trooper, even in the pouring rain to finish 4th of 23 horses in the Best paced class, and 3rd of 12 in the most suitable for dressage class, which both showed how much progress we have made with our training over the past 12 months.
We both had Saturday off to shop and enjoy the show, and Sunday bought another interesting day, where I found out that Mask had hurt himself during the night after hijinks outside his yard, and he had 2 swollen back legs on Sunday morning. Panic stations ensued, and fortunately he was not lame, so we just had to reduce the swelling. We were lucky to make progress and thanks must go to my sister Rebecca who walked and walked him until she had to leave for her flight home to ensure that the swelling went away.
He went on to do a lovely test, I didn’t ask too much as the ground was very hard and uneven, not ideal for top notch dressage! I had resigned to being runner up again, and was most surprised to find that we had actually won the test and as a result were overall Horse of the Year Grade 2 Champions! We achieved a personal best freestyle score of 72% from the visiting 5* international judge which was awesome and I have yet to wipe the smile off my face!
It was a mad dash back from Hastings to Wellington, with only 3hrs sleep to be had before getting on the 6am ferry Monday morning. We were lucky to have a very smooth sailing and missed all the bad weather that has held up a number of other SI travellers. Mask is now back home in his paddock enjoying a couple of weeks off.
Now we await word from our selectors as to who, if anyone is to be nominated to fill the 2 spots we have qualified for the London Paralympics. Either way, I have been so proud of Mask and all that we have achieved this season, I set out to win a Championship and have done that, and have also learnt a heap more since our trip to Australia, resulting in more confidence in each other and better performances.
A huge thank you must go to everyone who has helped us in our success, Aaron who patiently puts up with me taking up all his time at home with training, my sister Rebecca for being a fabulous groom and support, my super coach Mary Longden for yelling at me at just the right time, my wonderful team of sponsors, without whom none of this would be possible, thanks CourierPost, Betavet Equine Herbals, Tasman Agriculture, Kaiapoi New World, C1 South, Circle M Quarter Horses and Parafed Canterbury for believing in us. A huge thank you to Jacq from Head to Toe Studio Massage Therapy who has kept me functioning over a hectic few months, as she does all year round, and to Debbie Biles of DB Muscle Therapy who has kept Mask in peak shape too, (and fixed me on occasion!) to ensure we put our best feet forward. Finally to my family, both 2 and 4 legged and friends who have made the past few months so enjoyable – thank you!
Our next few months will be taken up with training at home, so we come out firing next season to scoop all of the titles,
Well i'm not sure where the last 2 months has gone but as I am writing this its nearly March and Mask and I start our journey to Hastings for the ESNZ Para Equestrian National Championships and Horse of the Year show next week.
We both enjoyed a break after Australia, and have come back into business as usual mid January, with me pondering how fast it is to lose fitness, and how long it takes to get it back! We are back on track now and Mask felt great after nearly a month off.
I received some great news in that Betavet Equine Herbals are sponsoring Mask and I some of their great products to help us both be in top shape for National Champs and Horse of the Year. Support from companies like Betavet goes a long way toward helping us achieve our goals and i am very proud to be able to promote and use their great products. I have already had a chance to use them and am really pleased with the results! Check out their website http://www.betavet.co.nz/ for a look at their awesome products.
Our next key event for the season was the South Island Para Dressage Championships, held alongside the able bodied South Island Dressage Champs at the beautiful McLeans Island National Equestrian Centre in Christchurch from the 3rd to 5th of February. I had the feeling that both Mask and I were raring to go and I was very pleased with our performances at the event, with good improvements on our Australian performance and the percentages were heading right where we need them to meet the ESNZ & Paralympics NZ selection targets for London.
The only hiccup over the weekend was Mask seeing a bogeyman right before the bell went for my musical test, and he did a massive spook that i was completely unprepared for, and i ended up having a fairly graceful dismount (well it felt that way at least). Fortunately there were plenty of helpers handy and they chucked me straight back on and we went on to do a lovely freestyle test. I must work on my zoning in technique before my tests though!
Our highlight was winning the Championship test on Sunday, it was a lovely smooth test and more great scores! We finished up Reserve Champion once again but i get the feeling that we arent far away from the Red ribbon. I will keep aiming for it!
After a few days off we have carried on finetuning and working on developing more 'ping' in Mask's trot. As well as this we have been able to have quite a few road rides which has given us both a nice variety and Mask enjoys not having to do boring schooling every day. I am planning to continue this as much as possible.
In amongst all of this has been the 1 year anniversary of February 22nd and the devastating earthquake that took so many lives here in Christchurch. Watching all of the coverage really bought home how lucky we are to still have our family and friends around us, and to have a safe home to live in.
Here's aiming for a successful National Champs and Horse of the Year!
It’s hard to believe that the year is nearly over, or that my much anticipated trip with Mask to Australia is over and we are both back home for a break and the silly season.
The Kiwi horses arrived happy and well in Melbourne and settled in very quickly. We were very lucky to have great facilities not only for the horses, but also for ourselves and a huge thank you must go to my coach Mary Longden and the Hocking Family for having us for the first week.
We headed to Werribee Park the on the 5th December, after news of flooding and miles of red mud from the previous week, evidenced by lots of big ruts in the dirt! The weather held and we were able to settle the horses in quickly to the new venue. One interesting ride I had was my first training session there, where I had to try and keep Mask’s concentration with half a dozen other horses being ridden around me and a polo game in full swing at the other end of the arena. We managed ok and I figured that surely it can’t get much worse than that!
All of the New Zealand horses passed the veterinary inspection in the blazing sun and 37 degrees on Thursday afternoon, we quickly bought all of the cooling neck wraps from one of the trade stands and they became part of our uniform for the rest of the week.
Friday dawned fine again and Mask and I did a lovely relaxed test, the nerves were helped by the meditation sessions we had the previous week, enabling me to focus on myself, Mary and Mask and nothing else except my water bottle being passed into the ‘bubble’ when required. We finished 4th on 62.302% in the Team Test which gave us our ‘Certificate of Capability’ that we required for the 2012 Paralympics.
Saturday was a day of two halves, I was in the last class of the day, and we were interrupted by a massive electrical storm at lunchtime, which got so dangerous that all competition was stopped until it cleared. We started again at 3pm and Mask and I were all dressed and ready to get on when away it went again. Thunder and Lightning was right above the grounds and it was absolutely pouring down, flooding our tack room and the horses stables very quickly. Eventually the organisers decided to postpone my class until Sunday. However the drama was not over yet with us having to move our horses at 9pm Saturday night as they had 3 inches of water on the stable floor.
Then there was the news that the organisers could not fit in an extra class the next day so it was decided that my grade would ride the Championship test which was a qualifying test, and not the Freestyles which do not count for Paralympic Individual or team qualifications. This was really disappointing as we had all put so much work and effort to compete and the musical tests are the most fun, and I had redone my music and was keen to give it a whirl. However it was better than riding in an electrical storm so we had to move on.
We had the chance on Saturday night to watch the top Grand Prix riders in Australasia compete towards their own Olympic qualifications and we were thrilled to watch the sole Kiwi combination of Louisa Hill and Antonello do a stunning test for 3rd place. It was a great opportunity to observe the best in the business.
Sunday was fine although much cooler, and Mask and I did another super test helped by the fact that Mask was so relaxed and focused which allowed me to be able to ride well, not just keep him going and concentrating. We finished in 3rd place on 63.809% (2nd place was 63.889%!!!). Sunday’s test was probably one of our best tests ever, and what a place to do it in front of 3 of the top Para Equestrian Judges in the world. We received some lovely comments and good marks in regards to the harmony between horse and rider and my riding which was very encouraging.
So from here we have cleared one of the hurdles towards selection for London in achieving our certificate of capability which means we have met the international eligibility criteria for the Paralympics. However we still need to increase our marks over the next 3 major competitions, South Island Champs in February, and PE Nationals and Horse of the Year in March to meet the Equestrian Sport NZ and Paralympics NZ Nomination criteria, before we can be selected to actually attend the Games. Nominations are not made until late March, so there is still plenty of hard work to be done before we can plan a London visit!
I would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who made this trip possible, in particular my sister who ran round after Mask and I all week, my team of sponsors and supporters, my family and friends for all the moral support and good wishes.
I also received some great news on my return, that I had been successful at the Parafed Canterbury Annual Awards, and was awarded the Graham Condon Scholarship, as well as an Elite Athlete Scholarship for 2012. This is a huge boost towards our 2012 campaign and I really appreciate the support I have received from Parafed.
I hope you all have a happy Christmas and New Year, and have a chance to relax and enjoy some sunshine. It must be due to arrive soon!
Thanks also to Julie Wilson Photography for the lovely photo of Mask and I in action (above), check out Julie's website http://www.jwep.net/
We are counting down the weeks before Mask and I head off to Australia to compete at the Paralympic Qualifying event at Werribee Park, south of Melbourne, which is set to be our biggest ever event and certainly the most significant.
Our preparation has been going really well, with lots of training over the past month and more to do, consolidating on the improvements we have made over the winter. To have your coach say to you ‘i’m so impressed with how you have improved him’ was a great boost, and I am hopeful that we can show some great performances over there.
Our last ridden show has been and gone, with just the South Island Pinto Show Inhand classes to come on the 12th November, before Mask and all his gear are packed up and shipped to Auckland. Now the massive task is cleaning all his gear and fitting it in the bag!
This whole trip would not have been possible without the amazing support we have received from not only our current sponsors, CourierPost & Circle M Quarter Horses but also some new, and I would like to extend a huge thank you to Tasman Agriculture, Kaiapoi New World and C1 South for backing us in our paralympic goal. We were also the lucky receipents of a ‘Making it Happen’ grant from the Canterbury Community Trust, which will be very helpful towards the cost of Mask’s flights.
We have also received lots of support from many friends and family, including Clare Naden Equine Art, NZ Pinto Horse Society, Head 2 Toe Studio Massage Therapy to name a few. I have been overwhelmed with all the good wishes
I depart on the 26th November, and meet up with Mask the next day to continue training, before heading to Werribee Park on the 5th December for the competition. If you are on facebook look me up for updates on how things are going, and we will try very hard to get some emails and photos out as quickly as possible.
Thanks again, Mask and I are looking forward to making you all proud in Aussie!
Daylight savings is upon us, which is making riding after work much more pleasant, I never miss losing feeling in my fingers on those crisp Canterbury winter evenings!
Mask and I have had a strong start to the season, and are on target for a stellar showing this season. We have just competed at local events so far, and are aiming for Australia in December. Fundraising is progressing nicely, and I am hopeful that Mask can make the trip with me.
Our sincere thanks must go to Circle M Quarter Horse Stud who has joined our stable of sponsors, along with CourierPost, their support goes a long way to making our Australian trip possible. I am looking forward to promoting both of my sponsors as much as possible over the coming season. We are also holding a Fundraiser Dinner at Addington Raceway on the 21st October, tickets are just $40 per person, a portion of which goes straight in the travel fund, so let me know if you would like a ticket!
Mask and I have been training hard at home, although our scheduled lessons for August were cancelled thanks to a week of snow, sleet, hail and pouring rain. Call me a blouse if you like, but sometimes a line has to be drawn between sensible riding weather and insanity!
We have had some great results and some great comments from the judges over the last couple of months, and have also been competing in able bodied competition, and achieved our first grading point in early September thanks to our improvements in cantering.
My sister also entered Mask in an inhand show which was a fundraiser for our local pony club, this was just after all the abysmal weather, and Mask went from mud covered monster to sparkling show pony overnight, and won Champion Coloured horse as a result. I do think it took most of a bottle of purple shampoo!
Well we are right into the thick of winter if the frost on the ground is any indicator. Mask has had 2 hair cuts so far this winter, on account of being part woolly mammoth I think, and is nearly ready for a third. Training is the major focus at this time of year, usually in the dark, with just my eyes showing under all the layers of clothes.
The highlight of our training so far has been to get a handle on cantering, which is something I have found difficult since my accident, mostly due to being a bit of a blouse when it comes to going fast! However I am pleased to report that it is coming along nicely, and I am looking forward to competing against able bodied riders in the spring, and being very competitive.
Mask and I also travelled to Blenheim for coaching with international judge and trainer Mary Robins. Mary is a kiwi who spends a lot of time in the UK, and is now judging Para Equestrian as well as Olympic level able bodied dressage. Her knowledge is extensive and Mask and I have really benefited from her expertise, and the improvements have been impressive. Mary is back in NZ in August and we are looking forward to continuing working with her.
Competition wise we have just been to local events, with so far heavy frost and heavy rain playing part in the days. Here’s hoping heavy snow is not a factor this winter! Our best performance was in the pouring rain at a competition just 5 minutes from home (where it was not raining!) where I managed to channel Mask’s displeasure at being out in the wet and cold into some really good quality trot work, resulting in our best ever technical score of 69.52%. Coming up we have the final Winter Series at the McLeans Island Equestrian Centre, where we will compete able bodied and ride our Para Musical Freestyle test. I'm aiming for 70+%!
The dates for the coming competition season are emerging and it’s going to be a busy time, the highlight of which is Werribee, Australia in December for the Paraylmpic Qualifying event. I would dearly love to take Mask with me, which costs another $10k, so the fundraising is already underway in an attempt to make this happen.
It was time for a breather, and Mask was given a month off, however I wasn't that lucky, having a horse arrive on trial a few weeks later, with the hope to compete alongside Mask the following season. Unfortunately it didn't work out, with Piper not really enjoying a dressage only home.
Mask was pulled back into work for a couple of local shows, which he was a complete toad at, and we travelled to Blenheim for lessons with a new coach, Mary Robins late May. It was a great weekend, with Mask and I making huge progress, with only a few small adjustments. Thanks again to Ilona and Daniel for their hospitality!
With the thick of winter approaching, we were spending lots of time training (in the dark usually) with just a few local shows to tide us over. We have been working on cantering, and I am slowly getting more confident, and we also competed in the pouring rain in the Para Championship test for a new personal best score of 69.5%. It made up for getting drenched!
We are also looking for sponsors towards the coming season, with the goal of competing in Australia in December, and Horse of the Year in Hastings again. Thanks must go to Icebreaker NZ http://www.icebreaker.com/ for sponsoring a super warm merino jersey, Fiber Fresh Feeds http://www.fiber-fresh.com/equine/index.html for the Fiber Pro Voucher, and the ongoing support from Hygain Feeds http://www.hygain.com.au/ Parafed Canterbury http://www.parafedcanterbury.co.nz/ and CourierPost http://www.courierpost.co.nz/. Also huge thank you to the Canterbury and Northern Equestrian Groups for allowing me to run a fundraiser sausage sizzle over their winter competitions. Everyone's support is greatly appreciated!
We had a couple of days to settle in, absorb the huge atmosphere, and prepare for the inaugural showing of Para Equestrian at HOY. We had a prime parking spot, overlooking the Dressage warm up and showing arenas, under the shade of a huge tree. This was a lifesaver, as the weather was stunning all week - so much for packing the winter rugs! Competition started on the Wednesday, Mask was a bit sceptical about all the show ponies in the ring next door, but did a nice safe test, for 64% and 2nd place. He becomes a bit introverted in the big atmosphere, so I need to work on pushing him a bit harder!
Thursday bought the Freestyle, and he was very good, despite me being a nervous wreck prior to the test and having to have a shot of sauvignon blanc prior to getting on! It was our best effort to date in terms of getting everything right, with a score of 66% overall, as a result of a wide difference in marks.
On the Friday my sister showed Mask in the Inhand Pinto Section, there were huge classes, and it was only our 3rd time showing Mask in hand, and the poor sod had half his winter coat already. We were thrilled to be placed 2nd in the best mannered class, out of over 20 other exhibitors, and some of the top pinto's in the country! I was very proud of him and Becky. Mask got the rest of the week off, and we had a safe trip back to Christchurch. A huge thank you must go to my wonderful sponsors CourierPost, for making my Horse of the Year trip possible. http://www.courierpost.co.nz/
We started off the month with more training with Mary Longden, in the howling norwester, who had very kindly offered to stay for 2 weeks to help us prepare for the National and South Island Championship Shows.
Mask was going well, and we were off to a good start, scoring 64.7% in the Novice test, and 64.4% in the Teams test, the highlight being that Mask was handling the atmosphere like a pro, which sure made my life much easier. It was a really great show, being amongst the best able Dressage riders in the South Island and a great opportunity to showcase Para.
The Championship test was a game of two halves, with a stumble, spook, stumble where there should have been a medium trot dropping us down, and then we scored a 9 for medium walk later in the test! I was gutted with the final 60.4% as we are usually pretty good in that test. The freestyle however was another story, a staggering 30 degrees at 8.30am meant that conditions were going to be trying, and I was pleased to be on early! Mask was a star - with our best ever score of 69.25% and we took the win over Fran Dick, who was having a great show. Our championship test result meant we finished up Reserve Champions, but I was thrilled anyway.
I also rode Murphy in the Teams test for 62%, she was a bit of a tart, having a standoff with me in front of the judge at C over whether she was going to trot or not.
Mask also competed in the teams test for 2nd place and 67%, which was his first test trying the double bridle, as I was having trouble keeping his focus on the job at hand. It worked! We also finished 2nd in the Championship (67%) and Freestyle tests (69.875%) for 3 new personal bests, and the reserve champion sash once again.
Not long after we returned from Blenheim, Christchurch was hit by the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22nd. I was at work near the airport, and it was terrifying to say the least! Fortunately our building was fine, and we all evacuated safely, and all was fine at home and with our family too. This unfortunately was not the case for many in Christchurch, and it didn't seem right focusing on riding, when there is such devastation on your doorstep. But it had to be done, as Horse of the Year was fast approaching.