Brett's Diary Dressage with the Stars 2023Mar 31, 2023
Brett Parbery sent through a daily diary from Dressage and Jumping with the Stars, March 2023. In the video above you can watch Brett riding Johnny for the win in the Intermediate I Freestyle. Enjoy!
Brett's Parbery's Daily Diary Day One: Tuesday
It was a full day travelling today with horses Johnny and Darcy in the truck, heading from home in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, to Dressage with the Stars in Werribee near Melbourne, Victoria.
I have groom Natasha Lyall along for the trip, providing the horses with fantastic care throughout the trip and the show.
In the truck the horses have front boots only on, but bell boots on all four. Johnny also has a tail bandage and bag because he rubs his tail. I like to give the horses lots of room lengthwise in the truck bays, as opposed to width, so they have some support on each side and don’t have to balance themselves left and right all the time.
We give the horses 5-10 cm of shavings underneath them in the truck. When horses do long trips with shoes on, the pedal bone is suspended and they can get bruised with the vibrations and bumps and so on. The shavings fill the cavity and support the hoof through the long trip.
It’s around a nine hour drive altogether. We got the horses off the truck at the halfway mark for about an hour. In that time the priority was to get the horses’ heads down by letting them graze, drink, and wander around. We mucked out the truck and refreshed the hay.
Sometimes for long trips we’ll give a product to help prevent ulcers but these two are great travellers and have no need for ulcer prevention.
The lead up to the trip was straightforward. Darcy worked normally yesterday, while Johnny had a lunge with his neck down, following harder work he did on the weekend (we were filming content for the Gold Program, with Johnny the star of the show).
Dressage and Jumping with the Stars will be Johnny’s first major show at Prix St George, following a few smaller shows at that level. My aim for him is to achieve a mistake-free test. I’d like to see if I can get him really rideable and adjustable in the test. If we get in the placings, that will be a nice bonus.
Johnny and I are competing in the Prix St George Cup, in which you ride the Prix St George test, and the Intermediate I freestyle. The freestyle is a fantastic opportunity for us to train some of the Inter I work in a competition environment. In the freestyle you can incorporate the work however you like, on whatever lines work for you. I can try the 2-tempi flying changes and the pirouettes on lines that work for our training and progression.
Darcy is competing in the 5 year old young horse competition. Young horse classes can be tricky to predict, and I’m not sure if the judges will love him or not, but the most important thing is that I believe in him as a future high level dressage horse. The aim for the young horse classes is to expose Darcy to the big show environment while he’s still young enough to learn to accept it. If I can show what he can do at this stage of his training, I’ll be happy. A top-ten finish would be great, I have no other expectations.
When we arrived at Werribee we walked the horses for around an hour before setting up for the night.
Daily Diary Day Two: Wednesday
Everything is really nice here at Dressage and Jumping with the Stars. The facility is great, the surfaces are brilliant – brand new Martin Collins Australia arenas – and the weather has been good for us also.
Today was all about getting the horses settled in, and we always arrived with a ‘spare’ day because the horses are inevitably a bit fresh and with lots of nervous tension.
I went for a walk and run this morning, and I’ll keep that up during the show.
The horses are comfortable in the stables. Johnny has a lot of ‘traffic’ going past him, which might not be ideal for him but it’s all learning. Him learning, and me learning about him.
Johnny in particular felt the atmosphere today. He was the most ‘stalliony’ in behaviour than he’s been in a long time. That manifests as being inattentive, under reactive to some requests but then overreacting to others, holding his body and not wanting to move through the whole body as one. It’s fairly typical stallion behaviour. Stallions tend to be quite neck-up and back-down in posture, holding the neck very strong, and it can take a great deal of convincing to get them to let go of their body. When they hold themselves like that you can’t access their hind legs, and then you have no collection to work with.
The quality of his work is great, I’m really happy with it, it’s just about getting him really rideable in the tests so we can have smooth set-ups for the movements. Let’s hope tomorrow for the Prix St George he’s more relaxed.
So today Johnny had two rides today, both training rides but the second one was lighter and shorter than the first. I always ride in the pre-test day early, so if I need another ride in the afternoon I can do that. If he’d had worked the same as he does at home, I would’ve worked him only once today.
My plan for tomorrow is to get in a quick ride in the early morning, just 10 min walking and trotting with him over the back to work on the nervous tension and find some relaxation. Then I’ll get on around 10am for a 10.40am test.
Darcy the young horse was really great today and proved why he’s a great prospect for the future. At his first big show, he concentrated perfectly, and worked really well. Like I said yesterday he may not be the typical ‘young horse class’ horse but his behaviour and training today were just perfect. He had just the one ride today.
Tonight, groom Tash Lyall and I will cook dinner at the truck. We’ll take the horses back out this evening for another walk, then we’ll just chill.
Tomorrow I’m planning for some quiet time before my test. I like to focus, take the time to be centred and not have my energy going everywhere.
Ps to answer a couple of questions from yesterday, the halfway stop for us is the Equestrian Centre in Albury.
Regarding the horse boots in the truck, we have bell boots on all four legs to protect the coronet bands if they step on themselves. We have the front travel boots on to protect when they’re pawing, and these horses don’t kick so we keep the hind boots off as we want to have as little as possible on them in the truck in an effort to keep them cool.
Daily Diary Day Three: Thursday
Johnny felt so much better today! I hopped on him just in the snaffle bridle this morning at 7am, we just walked around and tried to find the relaxation and calmness.
He then went back to the stables, we put the Activo-Med rug on him, and plaited him up ready for the test.
We had 20mm of rain before the competition started, so the warm up in particular was far from ideal, with water all the way down one side. So we kept the warm up quiet and easy with lots of walking.
I felt it was some of the best trot work we’ve done. The walk was fine and the canter was good, the pirouettes were fine. He did get tight in the changes though, we need to iron that out for more marks. All in all, we had no mistakes and for our third Prix St George together, I was very pleased. We ended up on 73.33% and second place.
I only caught a couple of other tests. Dave McKinnon’s winning Prix St George test was very good with excellent accuracy. Mary Hanna also looked really nice in the Prix St George, she did a great job. Elliot Patterson looked great riding in the 4 year old class.
I’m about to hop on Darcy now. We’ll have an easy training ride and give him a look at the indoor arena. We compete at 8.20 in the morning in the 5 year old class.
Daily Diary Day Four: Friday
Darcy, our 5 year old, has been super good at this show, really relaxed and easy. He has been the coolest dude! He’s never been to a show like this before and he’s handled it so well.
He competed this morning in the 5 year old class. I thought he did a great job, but we didn’t get the big marks.
Riding it, I thought it felt like a 77 or 78 test but the end result was 74.8.
Yesterday, I was asked to explain what it is about Darcy that I think makes him a solid prospect for a future high level dressage horse. Well it’s so much about attitude. He’s super trainable, he can switch on and off quickly and easily. That turns into a Grand Prix horse who has loads of expression, then calmly halts and walks off on a long rein.
He has a hind leg that bends really well in all of the joints. When a horse can bend like that, they have the ability to transfer the weight back and collect, so that’s what I love about him.
Interestingly, I rode a mare at this show in 2019 and she won the Young Horse Champion of Champions. I love that mare, but I actually prefer Darcy for a future prospect, and he didn’t make it to the second round.
At the end of the day you want a horse that will come back, happy and sound, year after year and show progression each year. We'll post a clip of Darcy if we can get one after the live stream finishes.
I’ve got a 12-hour break (!!) between tests today so I’ve been helping some other riders, and groom Natasha Lyall and I have been getting Johnny out of the stable regularly to keep him moving through the day. We’ll keep that up and increase it as our Intermediate I Freestyle time of 8.45pm approaches.
With the freestyle, I’ll use it for training and test the quality of my half halts, and try to get the changes more relaxed. Of course, I’d also like to do well!
I have a basic freestyle that I usually use with all the horses, so I just need a quick refresher and we’re good to go.
The silver lining for Darcy not making it through to the next round is that we get to head off first thing tomorrow and spend Sunday with the family.
Daily Diary Day Five: Saturday
Yesterday as planned groom Tash got Johnny out of the stable for walks during the day, and we popped the Activo Rug on Johnny around 3pm. We tried to keep everything quiet and low-key. At 5pm we gave both horses dinner, and Tash plaited Johnny while he was eating.
In hindsight, I should have ridden Johnny yesterday mid-morning for a stretchy ride because when I got on to warm up for the Intermediate I Freestyle in the evening, he’d gone back to being a strong stallion again and was very very sensitive on the leg, he was ultra hot.
The other thing I’ll do next time is try a noise reducing bonnet for him. As much as he was wonderfully expressive, he was extremely difficult in the warm up and I don’t think I got any changes there because he was so ultra sensitive. I need to figure out how to reduce some of that really stalliony quirkiness.
In the indoor, he just wanted to leave, and I just wanted to get in the arena. I knew once I got going, I could settle in him there by putting him in the corners, in the movements. In the arena, he knows what his job is!
In the test, the extended trots were really strong because that’s all he felt like doing! The rest of the trot work felt good.
The walk was useful time, to see what he would do. I normally do collected walk then extended walk but I thought I’d do the extended walk first to help calm him down. In the moment I decided to make that adjustment.
I changed the trot half pass lines in the moment too. I made them steeper, more sideways, to get him working through the body. Normally I’d ride them shallower and covering more ground. I thought that’d help to get the tension out of the body so I changed that during the test.
When I picked up the walk to put the canter aid on, he wanted to passage, so I let him for a moment, a little compromise to keep him from blowing up. If it’d made him stay and take canter from walk, well I wasn’t sure how that’d work. The most important thing in the moment was to get into canter one way or another.
The first canter movement is extended canter, and normally I’d ride that to a flying change at the end of the diagonal. After the warm up, however, I decided to ride the most minimum number of changes I could do, to get the job done. So, I rode to A and turned right inside of doing the change at the end of the diagonal. I think if I stuck with the original line it would’ve been very problematic, and invited more tension again. I wanted to get into the movements that would make him wait and accept my leg, like the half passes and pirouettes.
I came out of the thinking there were some good parts. I was just happy to get the changes, not that I nailed them, just that they were in the right sequence.
I was happy with the score (75.058% for first place). I knew it’d be a good score, we got everything required in the test and showed the judges clearly each movement they need to see. We made it easy for the judges.
I mean honestly I was thrilled to get through it, given the warm up!
Today Tash and I were up early, fed the horses, packed up and now we’re heading home.
Darcy will have 2 or 3 weeks off now, and he’ll stay home for the rest of the year to train and learn all the medium work. He doesn’t need to go to any shows now, he was so great.
Johnny will have 2 weeks off then we’ll come back into work for the Sydney CDI. After that he’ll have a break from competition until the State and National Championships. He’ll probably do another season in small tour next year, we’ll see. It’s hard to know, when you’re competing all the time, how things will progress. At some stage you have to stay home and train up the levels.
I’m super super happy for Dave McKinnon McKinnon Sport Horses and his horse’s owners, winning the Prix St George cup. Also Robbie McKinnon was awesome in her 7yo class win, as were Elliott Patterson in the 4yo, and Serena Ireland in the 5yo Pony.
Congratulations to all the riders, owners, and grooms, and thank you everyone who’s supported us at the show and here online.
Thank you Johnny and Darcy's groom Natasha Lyall for her expertise and hard work, and to Mel and our team at home.
Big shout out to the riders in my Performance Riders Gold Program for coming along to cheer us on, thanks for being an amazing supportive community!! 👏👏 Let's go through these test videos soon and break them down! 🤓
- Brett Parbery
Johnny (Iresias L) is owned by Sarah Hanslow / Sansar Equestrian
Darcy (Cooramin Despacito) is owned by Rob Topfer / Becky Sparks / Parbery Family / Boambolo Pastoral Company
Video Clip purchased from Horse and Country TV. Commentary by Spencer Sturmey.
Thumbs-up photo purchased from Angie Rickard Photography.
Brett rides in a Custom Saddlery NSW saddle, uses Sprenger bits and spurs from Chaballo, Royal Mane products, Activo-Med rugs from Animal Therapeutics Online, Schockemohle Sports clothes and gear.