So much has been happening but there is still so much more to do!

It was very exciting to be named as New Zealand’s first equestrian competitor in Dressage for the London Olympics and I’m grateful for that early selection as it means I can start planning to get over there.

We had a great weekend at the New Zealand Dressage Nationals where AJ (Bates Antonello) and I won all our classes – the grand prix, the freestyle and the grand prix special. It was my birthday while I was there and I was presented with a beautiful chocolate cake decorated with the Olympic rings and a flag. Friends acting as torch bearers carried balloons of the Olympic ring colours as they brought the cake in.

As good as our results at nationals sound, I felt my tests had a lot of areas where we can work on improving and getting the percentages I know the horse is capable of. It made me realise we need to be out there competing week in and week out – we need more mileage. AJ needs to be exposed to different atmospheres and to learn to adjust from the work arena to the competition arena... and just to be sharper in the ring. I don’t think we coped that well this weekend with all of those situations. To be fair, we had absolute extremes in weather conditions – from huge winds to rain and everything you can imagine. The wind made him very hot (feisty) and I just don’t think I had given him enough electrolytes before the grand prix the follow day so consequently lost him a bit when we went from the working arena to the indoor competition arena. He actually threw in a few things that I have never had to cope with before – like when I asked him to piaffe and nothing happened! It was interesting for me to actually see that I don’t know him well enough to know what to do to cope with those different kinds of situations when in a test.

As a result, I felt our marks were a little mediocre. I know we should be getting much better percentages, although I was happier with the freestyle than I was with the grand prix. The grand prix special was better, although I made a pretty silly course error!
It all made me realise I have to keep going.... we need to be out there and getting better and better all the time. It’s time to get out of the training mode and into full on competition mode. It is always hard shifting from training mode to competition and especially for an indoor competition like we had at the nationals because we always work outside. In those few minutes it takes to move from outside to inside, you can lose you horse considerably and just be faced with a completely different horse in a competition environment. We need to learn to adjust a whole lot quicker.

After nationals I had a great few lessons with Jeremy Steinberg – the United States Equestrian Federation national youth coach. It just gave me so much more confidence.

So now I am in Hawke’s Bay, awaiting the start of the NZ Horse of the Year Show. The event is one of the biggest sporting events in the Southern Hemisphere – which starts on Tuesday but I don’t compete until Friday. Andreas (Mueller) will be here to help me before and during the show which I am really looking forward to. He’s been my trainer for years but I’ve never had him at a competition like this before so it is all good for us as we work towards London.

AJ loves his own stable at home but he is slowly getting used to being more adaptable and the whole travelling thing. He’s already lost a bit of weight, and we’ve only just got the weight back that he lost in Australia, but he is learning to cope better. You could say he is a little highly strung!

At this stage I am planning that we fly to the UK on March 30 – just 10 days after the NZ Horse of the Year Show. From the UK we travel for a few days by truck to get to my coach Andreas Mueller’s base in Germany where we will stay a couple of months competing and training. There is a big competition in Munich in mid May which I would like to do, but there are also lots of little ones every weekend.

It’s amazing what people do for you. I had to sell my horse truck because I just couldn’t afford to keep on running it, and yet my great friend and supporter Jill Flyger, whose husband builds beautiful trucks, drove us all the way from Auckland to Feilding for nationals before flying home to her family. She then flew back to drive us to Hawke’s Bay and is now back with her family in Auckland. That it is pretty nice. Other friends have the whole fundraising initiative for our Olympic campaign underway too. My long time sponsors Bates and Coprice have both donated prizes to help with it all. It is quite humbling really. Even Jeremy Steinberg gave me a donation towards it. He was so genuine – amazing really!

While we wait in Hawke’s Bay for the big show to start, I have time to think about where we could have gone better at nationals, and areas we can improve on. I have my little team with me – mum Jenny is here along with fellow rider Resa van der Ven and Cate Wilson, who will be doing her first show with her new horse from Australia. It’s great to have that sort of support around me.