The Australian Dressage Championships, held at Boneo Park in Victoria from Tuesday, October 10th, to Friday, October 13th, were a pivotal event for Paralympic hopefuls. This competition marked the first of the four Australian Selection Events for the Paris Paralympic Games in 2024. With 38 entries, including 22 from EPA participants, the stakes were high for those vying for selection onto the Australian Team.
The opening day of the championships commenced with horse check-ins, followed by arena familiarization for athletes. All horses passed the crucial trot-up, a testament to the excellent preparation by the EPA team of grooms and handlers.
Day two blessed competitors with spectacular weather. The athletes delivered outstanding performances on the main arena, creating an international ambiance enhanced by marquees surrounding the venue.
A sharp contrast to the previous day’s conditions, competitors faced freezing rain as they readied themselves for the B Tests. Nevertheless, the athletes showcased their determination, performing admirably despite the inclement weather. Support personnel braved eight hours of rain to ensure each athlete received appropriate assistance and warm-up.
The final day of the championships witnessed yet more challenging weather conditions. However, the indoor arena provided a dry sanctuary for the freestyle tests, shielding the athletes from the elements. Supported by their teams, the athletes delivered performances that met expectations. Notably, the event attracted several participants who were not competing, volunteering as spectators or helpers, including a dedicated duo who travelled all the way from Western Australia to lend their support.
The Australian Dressage Championships have become a milestone event for EPA. Positive comments about the sport’s growth and the burgeoning talent displayed by athletes are heartening. There’s an air of positivity among participants, and the public is beginning to recognize and endorse their efforts.
In terms of the Paris Paralympics, several EPA athletes achieved a selection score of 67% in the 3*, marking a significant step toward their dreams:
- Stella Barton
- Dianne Barnes
- Kirsty van Loon
- Chelsea de Jonge
The Australian Dressage Championships showcased the dedication of the EPA athletes. As they progress on the road to the Paris Paralympics, their unwavering commitment and performances continue to inspire and gain recognition.