Karen Spice - 'My Story'
on the trip to the National Dressage Championships

21-25th October 2015

Bridgetown, WA to Sydney International Equestrian Centre in Horsley Park, NSW.

Karen Spice took her Prix St george horse, Tudor Expectations, on the long journey to Sydney to compete in the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships, and wrote this 'blog' about the experience.

For us it was a three week turnaround! Not the best way to prep for a National Dressage competition, but in reality all we could afford to do! Next time, we will try to make it a longer trip, allowing more time for recovery from the travel and acclimatising to the very different weather conditions over in Sydney.
We took four days to drive from Bridgetown WA through to Sydney.

The first night stop at Frasers Range was rather eventful! Once unloading Hugo, (my horse, Tudor Expectations) and putting him in his little mesh wire pen in the middle of no-where, (best way I can explain it), giving him hay and water and then erecting the tent for some much needed rest, there was this amazing thunder and lightning storm, that went for approximately 4 hours, directly on top of us, I was expecting to find a fried horse in the morning, if we were lucky enough not to be fried ourselves. Hence horse or humans didn’t get a lot of rest!!

The last day into Sydney was another eventful drive. Managing to manoeuvre around hundreds of wild goats, kangaroos, wombats, and various other wild life after leaving Broken Hill, we were making good time. I had very cleverly set the Sat Nav for our final destination Wilberforce. Then we hit the Hills! The Sat Nav took us straight through the Blue Mountains, the SCENIC DRIVE, NOT recommended with a horse float and Nissan Patrol loaded up to the max.

On the way up the mountain, I kept saying to Brett, (husband and driver), “Needs more impulsion, needs to be more in front of the leg, not enough energy.” He told me to shut up and stop squealing because any minute we could be doing an un-required rein back. On the way down, we lost the ability to half halt, so upon arriving at our destination, the following day the Nissan needed the vet and was put in for new suspension and brakes!

Hugo fared a little better but not much. He was slightly tied up and very stiff from the travel. It was hard to manage as the weather was very hot and the humidity was a killer! He had 2 days to recover before taking him into SIEC (Sydney International Equestrian Centre). In this time the Nissan Patrol was repaired, and it was time to trek of to the Airport and pick up number one daughter, Bianca and number one strapper Danni Davidson! (She may only be 12, but she is amazing, the only person that can make Hugo Pee on command! I begged her Mum if I could keep her!)

Friday Night all, well nearly all that is, WA competitors caught up at the Wilberforce Pub for dinner. Jamie, Wendy, Indie, all our support crews and myself! Then we took a drive out to SIEC to watch WA riders riding in a dressage day held the Sunday before the National comp. They did great!

Once at SIEC, we settled Hugo in. The facilities there were amazing and the organising people where a great help! Tuesday was HOT! We walked Hugo around several times throughout the day because it was just too hot to work him. Then the weather changed! Sky was black, thunder, lightning, rain,so it cooled down a little.

Time to take him out for some light work…into one of the arenas! WOW, we are at the SIEC, nice buzz! Then more lightning, reality check, but all good!

I'm thinking, “ wish I brought a pen and piece of paper so as I could ask them for their autographs.”

Wednesday! Day before the Prix St George (PSG) was scheduled in Indoor Arena! Time for arena familiarisation!! So I asked officials when we could we book the indoor arena. They say all good, it’s between 1 and 4 pm. Silly me, I asked, do we just lead them around outside or what’s the go? No, ride any time, in or around the side.

In we went! AMAZING, we are riding around the arena with the big horses doing grand prix moves and I am thinking, “ wished I brought a pen and piece of paper so as I could ask them for the autographs.”

The warm up was interesting, a LOT of rain, and an underwater warm-up area, but hey we are here and we are doing it.

Day of Comp…PSG 1.29pm ride time. Morning was way hot and humid, took Hugo out for long walks and light exercise, then around 11 am, the sky got dark, the temp dropped, thunder and lightening followed. All the Parra Classes were cancelled till further notice, but the PSG was still going ahead as scheduled! Ok, the warm up was interesting, a LOT of rain, and an underwater warm-up area, but hey we are here and we are doing it! My girls worked so hard at getting those white socks white and now what white socks!!!

The Test…..
Ok, I was nervous, the test was OK, loved the ride, rider made a couple of mistakes, but hey, at the end of it, I was happy…judges were harsh, but fair! They didn’t do mistakes!!

Next Day was the Inter 1. That was in Arena 1A! Same arena that the Sydney Olympics where held in! What a buzz!

Again, I was happy with the test that we rode, considering all the travelling and complications that we had along the way. I can honestly say it wasn’t the best test we have ever riddene, but it wasn’t the worst test we rode either. Again, there were a couple of mistakes in the test, and the Judges were harsh…fair enough. It is the National Dressage Champs here!

Over all I had the most amazing time riding at the Nationals…I would have liked to do a lot better, and if I had the time again maybe I would change a couple of things, but that is what is so hard for those who live so far away. Exposure to these national comps is not always an option, as it is a long way away for us, travelling and time away from work, expenses, etc.!

Sunday was a great day! I got to watch the rest of our WA riders do their thing and cheer along! All our WA riders did a great job!! Well done to you all!!

We ended up with the presentations for the FEI team’s events and we came 3rd! Yay. What an experience! Hopefully when we head east again, we can do better for WA!

I am proud to be a WA rider! To have had this opportunity to ride at the National Dressage Championships and represent WA was amazing. The entire competition was inspiring, not only to compete, support and cheer (loudly) for our other WA dressage riders that had also made the trek across the Nullarbor but to watch and learn from some of Australia’s best dressage horses and riders.

Brett Parberry was an absolute stand out in my eyes and Mary Hanna’s Grand Prix CDI-W Freestyle was pretty awe inspiring too.

I would like to personally thank Brett, Bianca and Danni for being the most awesome support crew, grooms, gear cleaners and wine pourers. Big thankyou to Amanda, you drove us around, brought in food and drink and loaned her daughter to me for the week! And special thanks to Kristy Zabaznow who supported me and other WA riders like a true professional ....whilst she was meant to be on holiday. Every time I needed help or had a question she had it covered.

Also a very big thank you to my sponsors! Without these guys I couldn’t have done it!
Garry Johnson and all the Saddles Plus team , Nadine Merewether, Sue Dallywater –Elite, Sue Palermo,
Lyne and Kate Eiszele