When I was contacted by Marion Fieldus and asked to
judge at the 2002 Wagga Wagga Dressage Championships, I sensed that the difficulties that
most club secretary's experience in finding judges was magnified greatly being situated
half way between Sydney and Melbourne. The problem was augmented for the officials
by the fact that just last week the CDI was held in Sydney, and next weekend there is a
big championship in Young NSW - just 2 hours away, leaving many enthusiasts feeling a
little 'dressaged out'. In response to Marion's call I was struck by a desire to
help ... and decided to go up and enjoy the country hospitality, judge some dressage
and do a story about a place from where there is not much feedback.
I left Melbourne early on
Saturday morning and flew with Kendell Airlines. There was a gloomy and very sad
feel about the Ansett terminal at Melbourne Airport, which we are used to seeing a
buzz with people coming and going. The small Saab plane was staffed by friendly
attendants and the flight was just as I like it - uneventful.
German born Marion Fieldus
collected me from the airport and I had a lovely guided tour of the district.
Charles Sturt University is the main focus of life in Wagga Wagga and the grounds along
with the various educational activities that the university is involved in is quite
something to behold. Marion explained that the centre is very big in the area of
distance learning and many students study from home and come to the university for
practical sessons and exams. I was interested to learn that Olivia Bunn is studying
Viticulture at Charles Sturt as her dad Peter has an interest in a vineyard. (Olivia
is currently competing in Kentucky USA) Marion is involved in the Food and Wine area
and had some interesting work related stories to tell. Marion's husband Glen is
involved in the University's IT department in particular UNIX systems security.
We drove to the competition
venue which gave me a chance to see where the competition was to be held. I am sure
that Marion was keen to make sure that the grounds work had been done and everything was
ready to go.
Equex Park is a huge expanse of
land which was donated to the Wagga Wagga council for the development of an equestrian
sports facility in the area. The dressage Club has contributed all their spare funds
and now have a huge expanse of sand upon which the club had set up 4 arenas. The
footing was excellent, and drainage good. Marion explained that other sporting clubs
had become involved in the development of the area and playing fields with club rooms and
amenities would also be part of the finished complex.
To the horror of this club, a
week or so earlier, and without consultation with the Wagga Wagga Dressage Club, local
workmen involved in building a swimming pool had dumped the dirt and clay in the shape of
many small mountains all over the grass warm-up area around the sand competition area.
Not something that can be easily or quickly rectified and a great shame for the
championships. Even so the club members are very enthusiastic about the future of
Dressage in the area when this complex is more functional. It seems that there is a
Wagga Wagga 'Horse Festival' being planned for 2003.
Back to Marion & Glen's
lovely home. A meeting with the two dogs, who are definitely a very important part
of the family - and a bite of lunch, wonderful home made bread. Later that day I put
on my 'grooms hat' and helped Marion plait up her horses in readiness for the next day's
competition. She had already worked them, but needed to do those last jobs that all
competitors have to get done. Back home ... a lovely dinner and some Charles Sturt Muscat
- nicely wooded - delightful!
Sunday morning was an early
start, as Marion had her competitors duties to do as well as delivering the judge to the
venue. We got to the horses at about 7.15 and arrived at the competition at 8.15.
Equex Park was the hive of
activity one expect to see first thing in the morning of a competition. Cars,
floats, horses being unloaded, warmed up and groomed. The facilities are still quite
a way off being complete so the hospitality area was a tent with tables and chairs.
The many happy faces made it a very effective 'hospitality' area. Hot coffee - just
the thing at that time of the day.
Arena one where I was judging is
an L shape off the main sand area. It is intended that eventually a roof and
grandstand will be erected to make a first class facility for day or night-time shows and
festivals. The mini mountains of dirt did spoil the look and feel of the ground, and
did nothing for the backdrop of my pictures. I am sure it will be much improved next
time I visit Wagga.
Like so many Dressage
competitions - the flow of the day was spoiled by the large number of scratchings.
As a competitor, I know that horses will be horses and things do go wrong that prevent
them from being able to take part in the big day. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of
everyone that I met and their keenness to be part of this Dressage competition.
From my observations and
questions there does not seem to be enough opportunity for good instruction in the area,
which is a shame as the University has a lovely big indoor arena. Most of the riders
were self taught ... and considering this, they did a pretty good job. All of
the tests that I saw lacked the preparation and 'ring craft' that makes for a more
polished performance and better marks.
I sincerely hope that the
completion of Equex Park will bring along some enthusiastic interest in the development of
the sport of Dressage so that this lovely keen group can get some valuable guidance which
will enable them to improve their dressage skills and shine.
I will let the pictures tell the
rest of the story.