Sunday, July 15, 2012

No rest for the wicked!

They say there's no rest for the wicked… I must be a devil because life hasn't slowed down and it doesn't look like it will for a while! I'm working my backside off (literally) doing my best to keep everything running smoothly at David Marcus Dressage. David has now "officially" been named on the Canadian team which is so exciting, well deserved and I couldn't be more proud. (Stay posted on his progress here However, there are still clients and 20 horses in the barn at Campbellville in training plus my own competition horses. To stop myself from becoming overwhelmed, I remind myself that this is the path I chose and that I am in fact doing exactly what I set out to do. So complaining that there are only 24 hours in the day when I really need 27 hours is out of the question!

I made my Canadian show debut at The Cornerstone Farms Summer Festival of Dressage held at Palgrave. This enormous venue will host the 2015 Pan American Games and is potentially top class. The organizers were very friendly and accommodating and although the weather was damn hot (I mean Florida hot) they tried their best to suppress the dust and maintain the surfaces as best they could. The less than ideal footing was made up for by the friendly atmosphere and general camaraderie.

Robert Dover's Fiero HGF yet again performed like the rockstar that he is destined to be. We won both of the First Level tests scoring 74% and 75%. I didn't push him at all, and he in fact doesn't even have any shoes on. We took his shoes off at the end of the Florida winter season. He has such wonderful, tough and symmetrical feet and we are trying to keep him as natural as we can. He travels completely comfortably without shoes so we have decided to keep him barefoot again for a while. This horse never ceases to amaze me. There was plenty of atmosphere at the horse show and he just laps it all up. Water trucks, golf carts, semi trailers and loose horses don't phase him in the least but what astounds me is the ability to create such a positive nervous tension without creating any negative tension. Despite not fitting the typical dressage mould one would assume, Fiero HGF is a born dressage horse and I have no doubts that he will reach great heights in his career at FEI level. I know I go on and on about this horse that is just four years old but he is somewhat of a freak. He offers so much each day that I have to force myself to wait. His mental strength and enthusiasm still outweighs what he is not yet physically strong enough to offer and it's my job to keep him under wraps until he is ready. I can't wait until this horse is 7 years old and if you don't believe me, just ask his owner! See

After quite a hiatus, I got back into the Grand Prix arena with Tamara Gerber's PRE stallion, Sentimiento I. Wow, what a horse this is! He has been beautiful trained and has had a few Grand Prix starts already but I've been riding him only a matter of weeks. Anyone that knows anything can attest that it's not easy to get on a new Grand Prix horse and figure it all all in a short space of time. Together we won the Grand Prix and the next day we won the Grand Prix in the FEI test of choice each time scoring over 69%. I warmed up and rode both tests without a whip and am confident that with more time ( and a trainer present ) that we can easily improve and will create a very interesting and successful partnership. This horse has a superb work ethic and incredible talent, motivation and honesty in the piaffe and passage. Our weakest point is our deep understanding of each other that only time together will improve. What I find very amusing since my arrival to Canada is people asking me for advice on purchasing a Spanish horse. I really need to set the record straight and I am no expert but I am fast becoming an advocate. Both PRE stallions that I train and compete are an absolute pleasure to work with and I am completely confident in their ability to reach top level sport. I've ridden some seriously nice horses in my day and although, I'm not prepared to become exclusive, I am definitely a fan of and very proud to promote the spanish breed.

Just to prove to the Canadians that I don't only ride spanish horses, I also rode Deborah Kinzinger's KWPN mare Diaz in the First level at Palgrave. This mare is an adorable type by Stedinger out of a Gribaldi mare and it was her very first show. As I said earlier, there was atmosphere and distractions in abundance so I was very proud of Diaz' performances. She vastly improved day by day and placed in both tests narrowly missing out on 1st place with a 72%. This mare has a very bright future. Diaz is offered for sale to someone looking for a modern european type that looks as good in the flesh as she does on paper and can really perform with the best of the best.

As I write, I'm celebrating (or in my case not celebrating) my 30th (Gasp!) birthday sitting in Detroit airport on my layover to Lexington, KY. I am teaching a bunch of very talented young riders ( oh the irony! ) at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. For those that don't know, this is basically the Olympic Games for young riders and is a huge deal for those who mange to qualify and participate. I'll be teaching two juniors, Lian Wolfe and Jonah Freedman and a young rider Alexandra Reid (riding to another of my freestyles. See it here who will all compete at the Kentucky Horse Park, venue for 2010 World Equestrian Games. Fingers crossed for a great performance for all.

It is with sadness that I witness the great divide that has developed in Australian Dressage during the muddy Olympic selection. I have tried to stay a little removed but social media has made it difficult to ignore. I certainly believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and has a right to express it. However, I feel that with rights come responsibilities. The attacks on individuals linked to Australian dressage lack class but more importantly are not constructive in any way. Clearly the selection process needs serious reviewing and greater transparency. I believe that the slander against riders, selectors or the federation doesn't actually achieve anything positive but just adds to the divide. I certainly have an opinion on this myself but until I have come up with a constructive solution or idea to solve the mess, I'll keep my opinion to myself. I see very little point in complaining about a situation when one is not at all prepared to do something to help the situation. I just feel for the riders and their whole teams that have been negatively affected during this drama. Hopefully a clearer selection process will develop as a result. Ultimately, I wish the whole Australian team the very best of luck and look forward to personally cheering them on in London. Apparently (according to ANY Australian that I speak to) I've developed an offensive american twang to my accent. I look forward to catching up with some "true blues" during the Olympic Games and getting my Ocker accent back. I am from Finley after all…


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Oh Canada!

Hugo and Red Bull- My road trip friends

What a month! Much of my life has changed of late. I'm now living in Canada and working independently again. It was a tough decision to leave my mentor, Oded Shimoni and his beautiful base at Stillpoint Farm but I also felt it was the right timing. I have to admit, I was glad to escape sweating through another tropical summer with heat and relentless humidity. After I packed up my Wellington apartment Hugo, my French Bulldog and I took a pretty major road trip up the east coast. One speeding ticket, a sleepless night in a budget hotel, 26 driving hours and a few too many cans of Red Bull later, we arrived safe and sound and warmly welcomed at David Marcus Dressage.

DMD is situated in Campbellville, Ontario. It's a picturesque area on the escapement around 40 minutes north west of Toronto. To me, the landscape bares resemblance to Arcadia in the Hills District of Sydney, Australia where I was based for many years. The facilities can be viewed here at David marcus Dressage website

I'm such a proud Aussie. This mounted Australian flag really made me feel welcome upon arrival
A day later Fiero HGF, owned by Robert Dover arrived after being transported commercially. Despite a few paperwork issues with another horse at the border entering Canada, Fiero arrived fresh and feeling great. The weather north is significantly cooler than South Florida so Fiero, Hugo and myself all enjoyed the cool change.

Fiero HGF eased gently back into a program after the long trip however, I put myself to work immediately. With David focussing on selection for the Canadian team for London and planning on being based in Europe for much of the summer, I have taken over the training on some of his horses and students. This will likely include traveling back to Lexington, Kentucky (I was just there a few weeks ago as eyes on the ground for David at the CDI***) for the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships held in July. Some of my new rides include an incredibly talented (and for sale) 4 year old Stedinger/Gribaldi mare named Diaz who will start in her first competitions in Canada this summer and an exciting 6 year old dutch mare. See short video

I'm currently in Quebec struggling with yet another foreign language at CDI Blainville. This is the final qualifying event before the cut off date for the Canadians to qualify for the Olympic Games. Once again, I'm the eyes on the ground for David Marcus who is starting two horses in the Big Tour here. Chrevi's Capital who will do the Special Tour and Don Kontes who will do to Freestyle (to a musical program that I put together) I'm also overseeing two young riders who are chasing scores for the NJYRC.

It's fascinating and also a little heartbreaking watching the process of Olympic dressage team selection. I'm seeing it close hand for the Canadians and USA riders and following as closely as I can for team Australia. What is interesting for me is observing the three incredibly different selection processes each country uses and I'm still not really sure which one is the fairest! Australia in a similar fashion to the USA, had two final selection trails where each combination competed head to head. Australia had eight combinations (although one of the combinations missed the first trial and I believe is still in considerations for team selection) and the USA has 15 combinations (with Steffen Peters not being required to start with his best horse Ravel) The Australians competed twice in different countries with a different panel of judges and the USA riders compete at Gladstone, back to back weekends riding the GP and GPS (no freestyle!?) where at least six combinations will head to Europe to further prove their form. The USA riders are currently half way through these back to back selection trials with Steffen Peters leading on his number two ranked horse, Legolas. 

The Canadians have an entirely different process altogether and one that I feel is the most taxing on their horses if one is really wanting to safely secure a place on the team. The criteria requires a combination in the last 12 months before June 17, to gain two CDI scores at Grand Prix and two CDI scores at Olympic Grand Prix Special over 67%. The combination must have an average score of over 68% and these scores must be secured in at least three different shows. This sounds simple enough except this means a rider only has to produce one score in 2012 and can rely on previous huge scores from within the 12 month period. No matter how many disastrous scores a rider gains at CDI's, only their four best scores are taken into consideration. To me, his really doesn't reflect a combinations consistency and forces riders to keep starting their horses at CDI's to make sure they aren't overtaken by another rider. For example, David Marcus and Chrevi's Capital were unbeaten in the GP and GPS at Milton and Kentucky CDI but in order to make sure another Canadian doesn't overtake them, they are basically forced to start again at Blainville CDI. Currently ranked number two in Canada behind Ashley Holzer doesn't actually secure them a team spot. David and Chrevi's Capital can technically have their worst performance ever here and still make the team, providing that the Canadian riders ranked below him fail to raise their average scores to be ranked above him. However, if a combination that has previously always scored below David produces just one crazy high score that raises their average, David can lose his position.

Anyone following the Australian selection process (or ANY of the previous Olympic Australian selections for that matter) will be well aware of the drama and scandal and rumor mill that's clearly in overdrive. What I find disheartening is that fact that only three riders make the team, I know most of these riders personally and I know how much they have sacrificed to get to this point. Many are going to be left disappointed and off the team fighting a valid argument that they deserved selection. What has been interesting in observing these three different selection processes, is that a combination left off the Australian team may well have been selected under the criteria of the USA or Canada and vice versa…

It's an exciting and nail biting time for all involved and I wish everyone the very best of luck.

Don't forget, it's the journey, not the destination (still, it's a bitter pill to swallow if the destination is London, one of my favorite cities!)



Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm one proud owner!

Jayden Brown and Lacoste F. Together they placed 4th with 74% in the young horse test at Prarg in QLD, AUS

Lacoste F is my latest purchase. He was found and will be produced in Australia by Jayden Brown, a top young professional rider. Lacoste F was purchased after the sale of  our Lagerfeld F to New Zealand and both horses carry a similar sire line. He is the full package combining good looks with trainability and movement. He has started his competition career with success having recently received high scores in young horse classes. Lacoste F looks to have a very bright future. To follow his career, go to Jayden Brown's website

Monday, May 7, 2012


For those of you that don't know, Nicholas Fyffe Dressage is relocating! I'll be spending the summer in picturesque Campbellville, Ontario. Yes, that's right, Canada! Nicholas Fyffe Dressage will be based out of David Marcus Dressage from June 1st until my return to Wellington, Florida for the winter season on December 1st. 

I'm very sad to be leaving my mentor, Oded Shimoni and the beautiful Stillpoint Farm. I will however, make it a point that Oded continues to have a strong influence on my riding career (if he ever returns from Africa!) I hope to bring Oded to Campbellville  for clinics to help me maintain a high standard of riding with his systematic approach. Six time Olympian, Robert Dover already has established clinics at David Marcus Dressage which is a great thing because his horse, Fiero HGF is coming with me! I will have some vacancies available to take horses for schooling, competition and sale as well as offering training/clinics for riders at all levels. Please feel free to contact me to discuss you goals.