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News from Vicki

11 June 2012

My lovely week in France now seems to have been ages ago, but I have been home less than a week..

Very interesting to observe our last Selection Trial, as opposed to being part of it, and I am very comfortable that the Team selected is the best possible one picked under any system.  And at least our system does, I think, give everyone a 'fair go' as much as possible, in that those that win their way there through the performance criteria, are there totally objectively.  Julia still lacks experience and some skill in her riding, but VEDOR is a fabulous horse, and their methodical, no expense spared approach to the whole exercise gained their very deserved position.  Just a bit disappointing in their acknowledgements that the horse that really started it all for Julia, RIVOLI PANTHER, produced by Jenelle Waters, and bought by us for Julia, was not given any credit.  He pretty much took her from 1.15 level to 1.40, with one of her last performances on him being 3rd in a strong Mini Prix at a World Cup show in Queensland, as well as taking her to Royal Show Young Rider level.  Also SNOWSHOES (although this is going back a bit further) who gave Julia such a lot of confidence after mother Lesley's original purchase MONTE CARLO proved most unsuitable for the then green, but very keen junior.  Ironically SNOWSHOES was considered 'out of their price range' when Lesley was originally looking for a suitable horse, pretty amazing considering the very pricey later European purchases.  However I do feel that I taught Julia that one needs to have a lot of guts and hard work to get to an Olympics..

Not short of guts and hard work are Edwina Tops-Alexander and James Paterson-Robinson.  Edwina's position now maybe pretty salubrious, but I know how hard she has worked, and how tough, talented and committed she has been to get to the level that she is at now, that of unquestionably our most successful jumping rider for the last 10 years. She most definitely earned, and deserved, her pre selection for the team.  We have not had a rider for the last 20 years (Jeff McVean is the only other one I can think of) who has broken into the Top 10 of the Rider Rankings, let alone been able to stay there consistently.  I am totally in awe of her achievements.  James also, is just a legend; he has been in Europe for about 15 years now, and also done lots of hard work, in environments that are often inhospitable and lonely.  His ride in the Grand Prix at Bourg en Bresse was fantastic.  For sure not the best horse in the class, James still found a way to get the job done and win, with the huge pressure of the Olympic selection as well.  And he has done this time and time again for us.  So awesome to hear the National Anthem not once, but twice (he won the 7 year old class that morning also) on the Sunday of the show.  Also great that his mother, Fay, who has supported his career since he was a wee boy, was also there to share in his success.

There were great performances by the other riders as well, Matt showing all the skills and steely nerves acquired by overseas experience and appearances in the last Olympics, and more importantly, being able to jump a crucial clear round in the Nations' Cup in the last World Games.  His horse VANGELAAR is not that easy, but is a super quality horse that is improving all the time in Matts' capable hands.  Amy was just fabulous in the Friday first Qualifier, a super clear, then a really gutsy, but beautifully ridden clear jump off to gain 3rd place, and qualification for the Grand Prix.  Then on Sunday, the tension seemed to come in.  Where James and Matt could lift their performances on the big occasion, it seemed there were too many outside influences affecting Amy's.  But her day will come, as this is a sport for those with experience, the before mentioned guts and the ability to get up and have another go and learn from when things go wrong.  Not that Sunday was a disaster for her, but 3 rails down was one rail too many for the automatic selection, over a track that did see only 4 clears from 50 starters.  Also for Paul, leading the pack for the automatic qualification coming into the show, but a bit of tension in the Friday Qualifier saw 2 rails down, which meant he had to do the Saturday Qualifier in order to get a start in the Grand Prix.  In this, he and NICKLAUS were superstars, Paul rode beautifully, and should be very proud of the ride, over a course that was big enough, with very tough lines, that garnered them 7th place and Grand Prix qualification.  The Sunday Grand Prix saw a bit of the tension back, and 3 rails meant that while still oh so close, not quite close enough.  But what was lovely was the enormous dignity with which Paul, and his trainer Maree Hewitt, handled the huge disappointment of yet again not quite making it.  They gave it their best shot, and, as we said after the event, "Things could be worse, we could be living in Syria!"  Things have to stay in perspective...

For Harley and Danielle it was a big learning curve.  Danielle is green as grass at this level, but now has had some great experience for the future. TWINS BIG HIGGS showed, at 19, what marvellous creatures good thoroughbreds are by looking not out of place as a jumper among lots of fancy European breds.  Harley has a super horse in CASSIATO, but showed his inexperience in the European environment, and why we need to take our riders out of their 'comfort zone' for selection for these major Championships.  Had he had his time over again, I'm sure Harley would have done things a lot differently to produce a better performance, but as with Amy and Paul, this is still possible for him in a sport that allows us to compete at a high level for a very long time!

Just to finish a serious report, I was very saddened to learn during my brief absnce, of the death of Lenny Mc Vean.  Jeff's dad and Katie's granddad, Lenny was a stalwart of our sport who performed many adminstrative roles for EA (then EFA) in a long and distinguished career.  My great condolences to the extended McVean family, another of the good guys gone...

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