Photos & Words by Paris Hawken.
Over the weekend of the 11th and 12th of October, many of the state’s top dressage riders headed down south to compete in the annual Margaret River Wine Region Dressage Spectacular. The event, now in it’s 14th year, also attracts many local competitors and caters to all levels of expertise, from kids on their first pony riding walk/trot tests to Grand Prix performances.
Riders put in hours and hours of training and preparation prior to competing in this prestigious event. Memorising the movements of the dressage test. Spending vast amounts of money on coaching, travel expenses, and entry fees. Washing & shampooing an uncooperative horse till it’s gleaming, only to have it roll in the mud as soon as you put it back in the paddock. Plaiting the mane and tail the night before, only to have the plaits rubbed out by the morning. Saddling up before riding your dressage test, looking immaculate in your white breeches only to have your horse snort green slobber on you (or have I only had naughty horses that seemed to enjoy doing this to me). And after all of this preparation, sometimes you ride into the arena to perform your four minute dressage test and your horse decides that no, actually, they don’t really feel like doing what you ask today.
It does sound slightly crazy going through all of that now that it’s down on paper, but the joy that riding horses gives you just outweighs all the stress & things that can go wrong. You can usually look back and laugh on that time your horse upended a pot of black hoof paint all over you. Forming such strong bonds with a 600kg animal is a really beautiful thing, and sometimes you enter the arena & perform your test as though you were partners in a wonderful dance. When you do come away from an event such as this with success, it’s an amazing feeling.
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