Following our sponsorship of the Mane Show class 'Dressage Divas', we are delighted to announce the winners....
How I judged the entrants:
It is so hard to capture the essence of a horse and rider combination from just one or a couple of photos and so what I was looking for was a horse and rider combination that looked like they had a really balanced and harmonious relationship, no resistance in either the face of the horse or rider, no over bending and evidence of an independent seat that was not relying on the reins to hold up the contact/outline. Incidentally, the presence of an outline was not actually a deal breaker, just a horse that looked like it was balanced and forward and above all just looked happy.
The type of horse or its' suitability for dressage was irrelevant as a good rider can bring out a 'Dressage Diva' side in any horse and of course the heavier the build, often the harder this is.
I was torn on many levels as the competition was a stiff one and there were clearly some really good riders, but I just stuck to my guide lines and I hope people feel I have made good choices. I could have spent hours detailing each rider and horse combination and giving tips and help but sadly I could just choose 6, so if you are not in that number and you would like some feedback, check out my lessons page on my website www.olivantsequine.com and get in touch as I have lots of tips.
One thing I have learnt from this competition is actually how much a photo can show!
1st place : Jane Flack and Jay
What I really liked about this combination was that in every picture Jane just seemed to be 'with' Jay. There was a kind of harmony that they seemed to share and although not every picture showed Jay in a perfectly correct poise, her position seemed supportive and balanced throughout, even when he looked like he might have gone a bit on the forehand. Jane doesn't appear to be pulled forward in her position in these moments, her rein contact is consistent and he really looks like he is just focussed on concentrating and trying to please her so they can only get better! I am really looking forward to helping this pair and giving them some exercises to lift and open Jay and help him to balance himself a bit more. I also have a few little positional tips up my sleeve for Jane to get this combination reaching their full potential. I really felt that these two personified 'Dressage Divas'.
2nd place : Jessica Hare and Toby
Jessica and Toby look like they have a great relationship. Judging by his shape (being a slightly more robust build) he is less likely to find going forward in a good, balanced shape easy and as such they stuck out because Jessica's position looked uncompromised by the fact that one would imagine she was working for what she was getting. I like her position, he looks happy and willing and I thought they made a great team. Lovely work!
3rd place: Iska Walker and Sam
I just love the expression on their faces - they are both smiling! Sam looks relaxed and supple, Iska has a good position and her rein contact suggests she is not stifling him through the move. The whole picture looks positive and I just had to place them, they are a partnership to aspire to :)
4th place: Pauline Sandland and Stowbrook Topaz
Good position Pauline, balanced, stable, and yet with yielding hands.Topaz looks forward, focussed and concentrated without being tense. I felt this rein contact looked appropriate as Topaz is tracking up and the combination is balanced. Any more rein contact may have caused resistance or over bending so it is a perfect reaction to this moment in time. Very pleasing picture!
5th place: Emily York and Lunsdale Mohawk
I liked this combination, particularly as 'Mohawk' is proving that a bit of feather doesn't mean you can't excel at dressage!
He is making a lovely shape and looks calm, relaxed and like he is focussed on his job. I like the level of rein contact, no sign of heaviness here and I think there is scope here for this partnership to do good things!
6th place: Joy Irvine and Balklands Cherry Gold
What made me choose this pair was that they just looked like they are doing everything right! 'Cherry' seems really contented and happy and, though not your typical dressage type, she is encapsulating what we should all be looking for in terms of simply going forward without resistance and finding a naturally balanced and unforced head carriage. This is an important stage in any horse's training and a lot of people try to fast track a horse by holding the head in, but that just leads to problems. Joy is clearly conscious of letting Cherry find her balance without interfering in the head at this stage and that deserves recognition and will pay dividends in the future - good work!
I hope everyone is pleased with their results and also that those who were not placed do not feel down cast. It was so hard making a choice as there really were positives in everyone's photos and collectively a very high standard across the board, which everyone should feel proud about. Big pats on backs and extra carrots all round for those gorgeous equine divas! ;)