22 February 2024

Olympic hopefuls hot to trot at Willinga Park's Dressage by the Sea

| Katrina Condie
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Dressage by the Sea returns to Willinga Park this month. Photo: Amy-Sue Alston Photography.

Competitors in this year’s Dressage by the Sea event at Willinga Park will be vying for a place on the Australian Olympic team.

As the excitement builds for the Paris 2024 Olympics, the stakes are high for a group of talented dressage riders gearing up to compete in the event to be held at the Bawley Point venue from 22 – 25 February.

Over the course of four days, top Australian riders, including Jessica Dertell, Charlotte Phillips, Suzanne Hearn, David McKinnon, Caroline Wagner, and Mary Hanna will showcase their skills, vying for a coveted spot on the Olympic dressage team.

Willinga Park owner Terry Snow said spectators would have an opportunity to witness world-class dressage at the highly anticipated 4CYTETM Dressage by the Sea CDI 2024 event set among the breathtaking gardens of Willinga Park.

“With a record-breaking 753 entries, this year’s competition promises to be the largest yet, highlighting the abilities of more than 290 horses and 190 riders,” he said.

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To qualify to be considered for Paris 2024 and be recognized by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), riders must achieve a minimum eligibility score of 67 per cent or above on two separate occasions in the grand prix at a CDI3* competition or above.

“With their eyes set on Olympic glory, these riders are prepared to deliver stellar performances and demonstrate their potential to represent Australia on the world stage,” Mr Snow said.

“Australian selectors will be looking at competitors who score an average of 69 per cent or more under the eye of a level four international foreign judge.”

Dressage, often referred to as “the highest expression of horse training” showcases a variety of movements, and Mr Snow said spectators could anticipate a show of harmony, precision and athleticism of both horse and rider at Willinga Park.

Official competitions across various skill levels, as defined by the FEI, will take place in the world-class arenas from 8 am to 6 pm each day.

The program will showcase a comprehensive list of competitions, from the prestigious CDI 3 and CDI 1* events to categories specifically tailored for young riders, including CDI Children, CDI-Junior, and CDI Young Rider. The CDI Under 25 competition also provides a platform for emerging talent to shine.

The event will feature Official Novice to National Grand Prix competitions, allowing riders to progress and compete at various levels as well as freestyle to music, ranging from Advanced to Grand Prix, providing a captivating display of skill and creativity.

Horse and sculpture

Visitors can explore the magnificent gardens and sculptures that adorn Willinga Park. Photo: Amy-Sue Alston Photography.

Visitors to the event are invited to explore the enchanting gardens and sculptures that adorn Willinga Park’s sprawling landscape.

Spanning more than 10 hectares, the gardens boast a stunning array of native Australian flora, complemented by more than 30 large-scale sculptures crafted by renowned artists from Australia, New Zealand, China, and Japan.

“Sculptures by Phil Price, Jeff Thompson, Virginia King, and others create a captivating atmosphere that invites guests to wander and discover,” Mr Snow said.

“Whether you’re a dedicated rider or an enthusiastic spectator, our trade stands will offer a unique opportunity to explore leading brands and engage with knowledgeable vendors. From essential supplements to fine equestrian jewellery, top-quality saddlery, stylish apparel, and everything in between, there will be something for everyone at the Trade Village.”

The Bunker Cafe will be open throughout the event from 11 am, serving lunch and dinner, along with a selection of beverages from the bar. And from 8 am, spectators can also indulge in the culinary delights from food trucks.

Willinga Park Vet Hospital invites riders and spectators to explore their state-of-the-art facility; from advanced medical treatments to expert care, the hospital sets a new standard in equine health excellence.

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Tours of the facility will be held on Saturday at 11 am and 2 pm, and again on Sunday at 11 am, with no booking required.

Mr Snow said Willinga Park offered an “unparalleled experience” where the beauty of nature, stunning sculptures, and architectural excellence converged to create an “ambiance unlike any other”.

“As the host of Dressage by the Sea, we’re proud to showcase the sport of dressage in a venue that truly exemplifies sophistication and innovation,” he added.

“Our state-of-the-art arenas, both indoor and outdoor, provide the perfect stage for riders to showcase their talents and for spectators to witness the pinnacle of equestrian athleticism.

“Every rider participating in our event feels a sense of validation, knowing they are competing in a venue that honours their dedication and skill.

“We extend a warm invitation to everyone to join us at Willinga Park and immerse themselves in a world of equestrian excitement.”

Dressage by the Sea 2024 will be livestreamed on Willinga Park TV, ensuring that equestrian enthusiasts worldwide can be part of this extraordinary celebration.

For more information and updates, visit www.willingapark.com.au

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