Brett Parbery and Victory Salute

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Brett Parbery and Victory Salute at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By SCOTT POLLOCK for the Sydney CDI3* April 27-May 1

Brett Parbery is Australia’s highest ranked dressage rider in the world. He is currently ranked 41st on the International Equestrian Federation standings and has achieved this while being based in Australia. Quite an achievement! To put this in perspective, Hayley Beresford (who lives in Germany) is currently ranked 98th. Brett still holds the highest score for the Sydney CDI Grand Prix with 70.340 per cent. This was achieved with Victory Salute at the Sydney CDI in 2009. At the Kentucky 2010 World Equestrian Games he came ninth in the Grand Prix Freestyle and ninth in the Grand Prix Special on the same horse. Victory Salute is bred and owned by another great Australian rider, Carolyn Lieutenant.

Brett has an interesting equestrian background. He was a professional rodeo rider for eight years and has now been competing at dressage for 14 years. I managed to touch base with him to see what his plans were. My first question was about his new horse Lord of Loxley.

“I have just got back from Europe to check on Lord of Loxley which is being trained by Edward Gal,” he said. When asked how Lord of Loxley was going, you could hear Brett’s voice change. “He’s fantastic! I went over there to get a better feel of him and I couldn’t be happier. He’s brilliant!”

When asked about the London 2012 Olympics, Brett said, “I’m very lucky to have two Grand Prix horses which are competitive at this level. It’s quite unique. At the moment, we are all waiting to hear from the FEI in regards to where our regional qualifier will be. This is very important as it will give Australia the chance to secure a spot for the games. The countries which will compete for a spot are Australia, New Zealand, Japan and, I think, Korea. There seems to be three options–it could be held in Europe, Australia or they could decide to fly judges around the world to assess the standard. If we’re lucky enough to secure a spot, then the process of who will ride will begin. It’s a long process but I’m looking forward to it.”

The Sydney CDI will be the last chance to see Brett and Victory Salute do the freestyle which placed him ninth at the WEG. Another routine is currently being planned for competitions after the CDI. The CDI will also be Victory Salutes’ first competition since Kentucky.

“He did a lot of traveling last year,” he said. “We competed at most of the main CDIs in Europe. At the moment, our main focus is to keep him fit and healthy and the best place to do this is to keep him at home as much as we can and only do a select few events. He knows his stuff so we are just keeping him ticking along.”

Another horse that Brett will be competing at the CDI is QEB Good as Gold. He owns him with Carolyn Lieutenant.

“Carolyn rang me,” Brett said, “and said she was thinking about finding a successor to Victory Salute for after he retired. She only wanted to buy an Australian-bred horse as she wanted to support Australian breeding. There was only one horse I knew of. I showed him to Carolyn at the Nationals. The stars seemed aligned so we bought him.”

Although QEB Good as Gold is doing small tour movements at home, they will be competing at Advanced level for the CDI.

In the last edition of The Horse Magazine, a letter to the editor mentioned that the world renowned show jumping trainer, George Morris, mentioned that Brett was his favorite dressage rider and that Australia was lucky to have him. Apparently, George said we could learn a lot from Brett when it come to quiet hands and seat. I did contact the lady who sent the letter and she confirmed this was said at a training clinic held in Victoria, Australia. When I asked Brett about this comment, it was the only time he paused before answering. “I have known George for about three years and he tracked me down at Kentucky. He complimented me on my riding and our performance. It was a great feeling only because I have such respect for the man.”

I had to comment, that although George said we could all learn from Brett’s riding, it seemed to me that his amazing hands and seat was something which was more about what was happening in his head and not something that could be learned?

“I think this comes from my years of competing,” Brett said. “I represented Australia in rugby and I also represented New South Wales in basketball, polo crosse and athletics. I’ve been competing for most of my life and I always aimed for the highest levels. All this competing gives you a good mindset. It’s the mindset that allows you to think on the go and stay relaxed. At some of the rodeos, there could be up to 30,000 spectators so as a result I have no fears about large audiences. I suppose it all helped.”

It’s also been a big year for Brett in the family arena. He and his wife, Melinda, now have an addition to the family and this time it has two legs instead of four.

“His name’s Jake, and his first birthday will be during the Sydney CDI. As he’s getting older, he’s getting a lot more energy. Melinda definitely has her hands full. She runs everything while I’m away. I don’t know how she manages everything but she does. I’m very lucky.”

Brett confirmed that the Sydney CDI is Australia’s premier dressage event. “All the other competitions do great things but the Sydney CDI is our big one. Toni Venhaus and her team do a wonderful job of organizing it!”