Australia’s Dressage Re-Evaluation: International Rider Views–Heath Ryan & Brett Parbery

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Editor’s note: Australian dressage is undergoing re-evaluation after teams at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were mired in controversy. With the World Equestrian Games set for Tryon, North Carolina in 2018, a major issue is selection of teams with prospective riders based on three continents–Australia, Europe and the United States. Dressage-news.com sought the views of four riders, two based in Australia, one in Europe and one in the United States, all with extensive international experience.

Heath Ryan on Greenoaks Dundee at the 2008 Olympic Games. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By HEATH RYAN, an international competitor in dressage (2002 World Equestrian Games, 2003 open European Championships, 2008 Olympic Games, 2009 World Cup Final) and eventing (1990 World Equestrian Games), coach of Australian teams as well as sport horse breeder. He has competed more than 300 times at an international level in both Olympic disciplines. He is based about 100miles/165km north of Sydney

Going head to head in final selection trials whether it be for Australian Olympic selection trials, some Australians based in the northern hemisphere whilst others are based in the Southern Hemisphere, or New Zealand, Japan rivalry for World Cups is an inherent nightmare and at present seriously inhibits the selection of the best representation.

Without doubt it means the best representation is not selected.

There are options like traveling the ground Jury or judging from a video recording, etc.

Still awkward answers.

At the moment the system does end up selecting our richest riders.

When riders who are not well resourced make a huge effort to get to final trials in different countries under the current system it does tend to be an unhappy experience and leaves finances and jobs and careers looking like a train wreck!


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

By BRETT PARBERYa former rodeo rider who switched to dressage to become successful at home and on the international circuit and rode for Australia at the 2010 World Cup Final and the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky as well as numerous premier events in Europe, including two Olympic selection events in 2016. 

To be honest, I’m at a loss as to what is the best way.

At this point, performance by our team at world events is a secondary issue.

The state of the industry here in Australia is the primary issue and I think any selection strategy needs to consider the affects it has on the industry here.

I know that a selection process here would boost interest and crowd support. It would create incentive for locally based riders and state-based high performance programs to aim for Olympic selection, which is otherwise not an option and only available to a select few.

We need to go through a rebuilding phase here in Australia and it needs to span over two Olympic cycles.