Australia’s Hayley Beresford On “Gentle Trend” Of Success in Germany
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LAMPRECHTSHAUSEN, Austria, Sept. 3, 2017–Australian Olympian Hayley Beresford competed in an international Grand Prix Sunday for the first time in more than two years in the Big Tour debut of her nine-year-old Rebana W.
Hayley, based near Stuttgart, Germany and the Hanoverian mare placed third in the CDI3* on a score of 69.160 per cent, notching the first of three scores of at least 69 per cent required to qualify for selection events for the Australian team for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina a year from now.
The success at this Grand Prix held alongside the European Under-25 Championships came just two months after Hayley rode her four-year-old Diva Georgina to victory in the Landeschampionat Baden-Württemberg, the only non-German in the lineup of 27 starting combinations. The win sparked praise from German equestrian media.
The last time Hayley, 39 years old, competed in a CDI Grand Prix was in May, 2015 on Jaybee Alabaster, the Australian-bred stallion that Rachael Downs took to Europe as a 2012 World Cup finalist then turned over the ride to Hayley for the next three years.
“Really, really happy,” Hayley declared of her feelings after the Grand Prix on Rebana, a mare she found as a four-year-old for a customer and trained for two years. That training cost a premium when she bought the horse with help from friends and family in Australia. She competed the horse in the World Young Horse Championships as a five-year-old and then in a couple of shows at small tour in 2015.
“I’m very lucky to have support from home, to give me the loan to buy her and also to pay her off as I can as I build the business here. For this I’m eternally grateful. I’ve got a circle of friends and supporters that have really stuck by me to help buying Rebana and also to invest in the young ones together. I have a bit of security that I don’t have to sell her.
“Rebana is the very first horse in Germany that I’ve been able to have in 10 years for myself and to be able to hold her for myself–not that she has to be sold, not that I have to give her back to the owner. I’m a professional and that’s my job.
“But this horse is mine,” she adds, smiling, “this one’s mine”
She admitted she was “totally, completely” rusty after a break from Grand Prix competition.
“I’ve trained horses to Grand Prix for selling but there’s a big difference producing the exercises on the horse and actually putting it together for Grand Prix,” Hayley said.
She and Rabena made a couple of starts in Germany’s developing Grand Prix horse series, the Louisdor Prize, but the mare felt too green so the next year was spent racticing and building strength.
“When I came to this competition,” she told dressage-news.com said, “I felt she was ready. I knew she was still quite a baby. Even though it’s not a big show atmosphere-wise it’s kind of a tricky arena with the surface and the water and the reflection. But she gives it all. The mistakes today were mine, not hers. She did her best.
“We had a goal of 69 so we were stoked to make it.
“It’s a horse with a lot of potential. Even though we can have eights and nines for a lot of exercises on this horse in the future you still have to put it all together. When you’re riding the Grand Prix completely by the end of the test you do feel again she is young. By the first pirouette that was broken today I felt like, ‘her back legs are tired now.’ She gives it all.”
Hayley is taking the journey with Rebana “step by step.
“It could be worse, as Isabell always used to say to to me. I have a lot of good horses but this is THE horse of my life so far. I think that with all the work and the preparation for the Grand Prix I have a horse now that I can do the eight half passes that Isabell taught me.
“It’s not like whoa, whoa, whoa, I don’t know what to do with these front legs. She is mega. She wants it. She has the heart and ahe has the head and she has the power. She’s very hot. She has a very special chemi… she had it from day one. I love just to ride her. That’s why I get up in the morning. To be able to do the sport at the end is a bonus.”
Hayley originally moved to Germany to train with Isabell Werth. She was a member of Australia’s Olympic team in 2008 on the Brazilian-bred Relampago do Retiro.
Even with the successes with Diva Georgina and Rebana this summer, “I wouldn’t say it’s my year. Hopefully, we’re starting on a little bit of gentle trend now.
“I’ve been working really hard and picking foals. The four-year-old I picked out of the field when she was two and I had to nag and nag and nag to get the boys that owned her to sell to me.
“Each year the young ones are getting better as I’m able to invest a bit more. I can’t invest a lot of money but I’m trying to pick what I know will work for me at the Grand Prix at the end.”
Hayley is clearly much happier than five years ago when she was the center of controversy after protesting bungled Australian selection procedures for the 2012 Olympic Games.
“I have cooled down,” she said. “I was always fighting to stay in the sport, fighting to stay competitive. I lost a bit of the fun in it all.
“The break has been… it’s not been a break from work, we’ve been working harder than ever. I have a passion to build up the horses, to pick the horses. I’ve really got into breeding young horses as well. I love that. I’ve got my family of little Jack Russells and my partner and we’re just working every day to get better. We help each other. If we can come back into the sport at bigger shows and can afford to do it that would be pretty cool.”
The period around the 2012 selection “was very challenging,” but “I think a lot of lessons have been learned along the way.”
“I think it’s helped me now to become a better person. I also have put good barricades in my mind to protect myself. My goals are realistic and I channel toward my own future and not always being on a team.
“I have the attitude: if I’m good enough to be on a team I’ll be on it, and if I’m not I won’t. We all just have to be better and negativity helps nobody. We just have to get on with it.”
She has remained friends and talks often with Lyndal Oatley, her Germany-based compatriot and team mates at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, and expresses admiration for the talent of other horses being competed by Australians in Europe.
How about Tryon in 2018, Tokyo Olympics in 2020?
“I’d be silly not to try,” she said. “But it won’t dominate my efforts with this mare. I do believe she is a World Cup horse, she is a music girl.
“She’s only nine, not just nine but a big gangly long-legged horse I have to care for that. I’ll let er tell me what to do; if we need to take a break we’ll take a break. I’ve started now because we have to have three scores of 69 before we can contend head-on for Australia next year. I know what the policy is (she laughs). Tick the box.”
Making it into the Grand Prix Freestyle at Aachen, Germany, the premier show in the world, after qualifying through the Grand Prix and the Special to be one 18 combinations performing in the Deutsche Bank stadium is a goal with Rebana.
The next show for the duo is the CDI4* in Darmstadt, Germany in three weeks.
“I’m starting this early because here in Europe we have World Cup shows in the winter and I don’t want to overface her. I think that would be a mistake. We are green. If we add on top of that atmosphere and packed stadiums and music I think that’s a bit too much. This is a horse if she’s confident in me will give everything, but if she loses that confidence then the wheels can get really wobbly.”
A lesson she learned from 2012 is to manage her schedule carefully.
“With these three 69s in mind, I’m not traveling to the other side of Europe,” she said. “I did this in 2012. I had one horse going in one direction and another horse going in another direction.
“I really pawned myself. I was paying it off for months and months. I’m not doing that. If I’m good enough, I want to qualify at shows within the reality of traveling distance.”
After the pre-selection competitions, Australian riders are required to compete in final selections.
“I would like for her to get a bit of a rest before we have to do these four head-ons,” she said. “No horse can do the winter season and the summer season. So why should a nine or a 10-year-old be able to do it? If I have to go all the way through now and do the four head-ons I won’t have a horse at the end, anyway.”
Is this a “new” Hayley Beresford? she was asked.
“I think I’m the original Hayley Beresford,” she replied. “I’m happy. I think that’s the most important ingredient. I have a happy, balanced life, and healthy.”