A limited number of riders are offered sponsorship by SaddleFit Australia each year.
Our sponsored riders are great ambassadors, both for their sport as a whole and for our business. We’re delighted to welcome these four riders to the team and look forward to following their progress in 2016.
Deon is a professional Dressage and Event rider who made the move from Western Australia to Moss Vale, NSW in 2015.
“After lengthy discussions with the High Performance Team, we were advised that to make any teams etc you need to attend multiple CDI events. We don’t have any of those in WA, so the decision was made to move my team and business (Stokes Sporthorses) over to NSW. I have some good horse power and would like to give them the best opportunity to make teams, so I plan to base here in order to do that. I also decided it was too hard to continue to travel the horses to compete at this level as often as is required,” he said.
“I felt that I needed to be exposed to bigger competitions on a more regular basis. The people in WA are working hard to promote dressage in the State and the move is no reflection on the quality of the support, it is just a numbers game. There are no CDI comps in WA and those are the comps you need to be riding at in order to be considered for a team.
“The move has definitely been motivated by the horses I have and the goal of international competition. I want to be competing against the best in Australia on a more regular basis,” he said.
Stokes has quickly risen to prominence with several national championships to his name and a sympathetic riding style admired by many in the sport.
A winning partnership
His success with Kate Barton’s Narbethong stallions Royal Oak II and Bellario – an association he began in 2007 when he started training Royal Oak II for Barton – has given Stokes the necessary horsepower to make a genuine claim for future team selection.
Royal Oak II
In the imported stallion Royal Oak II (Royal Olymp/Welt Hit II), Stokes has his greatest chance of team representation for Rio.
“Rio is definitely a firm target for Royal Oak II. It’s what we’re working towards. He is still young though and if Rio doesn’t eventuate, he will be aimed at the next international possibility,” Stokes told us.
“Rio is now just one part of a very big plan in the future for our team of horses. Now that Deon is over where the action is and he has the opportunity to ride against other talented combinations, I hope that Royal Oak II will really shine at Grand Prix once he becomes established.
Hot on the heels of Royal Oak II is another of Narbethong’s imported stallions in Bellario, who at just 9 years of age has already amassed a tonne of wins including champion 5yo at DWTS in 2010 and National Medium Champion in 2012.
And while Rio might be too early for the Belissimo M offspring just yet, Bromont in 2018 looks to be shaping up nicely.
“Bellario’s ridability is his biggest strength – I have never come across a horse more honest and rideable than him.”
The third stallion to benefit from the Barton/Stokes partnership is yet another import for Narbethong, Don Dancier (Dancier x Hohenstein).
Purchased at the 2009 Hanoverian stallion licensing at Verden where he was awarded premium status, Don Dancier has already made his mark on the Australian circuit, taking scores of up to 73% at advanced level at just 7 years of age.
“He is an exceptional horse with fantastic basic paces and is extremely trainable,” Stokes said.
The magic formula
Despite being based in WA for a long time Stokes was able to consistently beat many of his east coast rivals each year. So what’s the secret?
“We work hard. I am always aiming to be better and I never rest on how I rode yesterday. I believe in my horses and I also believe in my training,” he said.
“I am fairly clear in where I want my horses to be so we are constantly developing them to make the right training progressions. We are very isolated in WA in terms of competitions, and this means that you need to be honest with yourself in training and competitions. I also kept track of judges here (WA) and there (east coast) so that I could make sure my scores were comparable.”
Eventing + Dressage
Also an accomplished event rider, Stokes combines the two disciplines at the highest levels, a balance he says is tricky but worth it for the benefits of cross-discipline training.
“It is certainly difficult to keep them both balanced but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the eventing certainly helps the dressage,” Stokes told us.
“It helps me think outside the box a little when it comes to training. My dressage horses do some jumping and a little track work and it helps that I‘m not afraid to send a horse a bit more forward. I don’t want to get stuck in slow – sometimes mistaken for collected – work.”
Excerpt from an article by Adam Fawcett for ozdressage dated 21/10/2014
Steph is a professional Dressage rider and trainer. She competes and rides full time for a number of clients based in the Swan Valley area.
A member of the National YR squad in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and a competitor at the National Young Rider Championships in 2007 and again in 2011 on Tallong Coral, resulting in the Reserve Small Tour National Championship win at this competition whilst working for and training with four time Olympian Mary Hanna. Thanks to Mary, Steph and Coral competed in CDI-Y classes around the country for 6 months.
In January 2011 she was selected for the Young Rider Derby team along with Elliot Patterson to compete in New Zealand for the Trans Tasman Derby. They brought home the trophy for Australia, Elliot finishing 1st and Steph 2nd individually. In need of a new horse, Mary generously offered Steph one of her Grand Prix horses Rambo. Together, they notched up a 5th place in the GP Kur at DWTS 2012, and a win in both the inaugural Under 25 Inter 2 and GP classes at the Sydney CDI, with a GP score that Rambo still holds the record for.
After coming back home to Perth, Steph was approached to ride a number of competitive horses. This encouraged her to make a career out of riding while she was still young and fit enough to do so. Not long after, she unexpectedly lost Rambo, leaving her young horse Redskin centre stage.
Her small frame enables Steph to ride horses and ponies of all sizes but in the future she hopes to focus increasingly on her coaching skills, as she feels that her extensive competition experience will add value in that area.
17hh+ 8 year old Liver chestnut warmblood gelding by Regardez Moi out of a Jive Magic mare called Jellybean, owned by the Spencer family.
Redskin is currently competing Advanced, aiming or Prix St George next year. I have been riding Redskin since a 3.5 year old when I was working for Mary Hanna (who owned him at the time) and we purchased him when he was 5 years old. He moved home with me to WA in May 2013 and is loving the Perth lifestyle-particularly because everything revolves around him. Redskin has 3 state championship titles to his name and was the Masters Series Medium winner in 2014 and Advanced winner in 2015.
Rockit is a stunning 3.5 year old, 15.3hh mare who is hopefully going to grow and mature into one of my next superstars. We have owned Rockit since she was 6 months old, with thanks to Bluefields stud for their sponsorship of this talented but slightly quirky little mare. I am going to take my time with this sensitive little soul as I believe that with her, slow and steady will (hopefully anyway) win the race. I hope to have her competing next year.
Her thoughts on saddle fitting
Steph gets her saddles fitted every six months or anytime she feels there is a problem. With young, growing horses in particular, she thinks it is essential to be on top of their saddle fit, as this is the only way the rider can help the horse to remain balanced.
If the saddle is too tight, out of balance or the wrong size, the horse can be upset to the point of behaviour changes that may become bad habits or result in structural damage. Finding a saddle to fit the horse AND the rider can be a long process but Steph encourages riders to take their time finding the right match with professional help, to enable both to reach their potential.
Based in Waroona, Katlin is a riding instructor and horse trainer, who teaches a broad range of practical skills in a relaxed setting, to improve confidence, safety and overall enjoyment through the education of both horses and riders. She also produces a limited number of quality, well bred, well handled warmblood horses and performance ponies, to suit smaller riders.
Katlin trains with Nadine Merewether and selected visiting instructors from Australia and overseas. Since 2011 Katlin has been travelling to Germany on an annual basis to enhance her skills and knowledge.
Among her favourite competition moments include winning the 2004 WA Dressage Novice Horse of the Year, Prelim/Novice/Elementary WA State Dressage Championships and 4 & 6yo WA Young Horse Championships; the 2005 Pony Club Nationals Individual, Team and Pas De Deux Championship and the NSW Young Rider Championships with Challenger.
A particularly special moment, was watching Sunday Morning KDH competing in Germany at the Oldenburg Rastede and DKB Bundeschampionat.
KDH LORD CROMWELL
Crumpet is a 15.1hh 6 year old German Riding Pony/ Part Welsh gelding, currently competing at Novice Dressage, training Elementary/ Medium at home. Owned and bred by Katlin, Crumpet has a number of Dressage first placings with scores up to 74%, and good results in Part Welsh breed classes.
SUNDAY MORNING KDH
SM is a 16.1hh 6 year old Warmblood Mare, currently competing at M Level, Training S Level and above (PSG) in Germany with her rider and trainer Birgit Wellhausen Henschke. She will continue her Dressage training in Germany until her arrival in Perth next year. Her achievements include:
- Oldenburg Mare Performance Test – Premium Grading
- Oldenburg Rastede 4yo Dressage Horse Champion, first qualifier, 1st2, 2013
- Oldenburg Rastede 4yo Dressage Horse Champion Final, 1st5, 2013
- 4yo Local Dressage Competition, 1st0, 2013
- Bundeschampionat Warendorf, 8th in first and second qualifiers, 2014
- Hambergen M Level Test, 1st 8.3, 2015
KDH Lady in Waiting (Honey) – 5 year old 13.2hh Bay German Riding Pony/ Part Welsh Mare.
KDH Fifth Avenue (Coco) – 4 year old 16hh Black Warmblood Mare
Her thoughts on saddle fitting
Katlin’s horses, especially the young ones, have their saddles fitted regularly by Lou.
Katlin feels that there is no specific timeframe that should dictate when you have your saddles checked. With work and growth, horses are constantly changing, so their saddle may need attention at irregular intervals.
She believes that a poorly fitting saddle can be responsible for significant changes in a horse’s movement, temperament and attitude, making preventative maintenance in the form of regular saddle fits, time well spent.
Rachel has a wide range of experience with horses. She has trained, instructed and competed in Eventing and Dressage, before focussing more recently on Dressage. In particular, Rachel is interested in correctly training young horses to establish the basis for success at higher levels.
Based at Hodgson Park in the Swan Valley, also home to purebred buckskin Morgan stallion Wilga Park Conquistador, Rachel has bred a number of quality warmbloods. Her aim is to breed quality horses with outstanding temperaments to benefit both performance and pleasure riders.
Her current horse
Wilga Park Conquistador is a 5 year old, 16hh buckskin, Morgan stallion. His breeding is RanchBoss Cortez x Mt Tawonga Natasha. Conquistador currently has 3 foals on the ground who are all showing his amazing temperament, trainability and movement.
Her thoughts on saddle fitting
Rachel believes that saddle fitting is an integral part of looking after her horses. She asks them to swing freely over the back, bend through the rib cage and lift their front end. Without a correctly fitted saddle none of this would be possible. This means that not only will the horses work incorrectly, but they will become sore and unhappy in their work. As horses grow and develop, it is important that the saddles are adjusted accordingly. For this reason she gets all her saddles checked regularly.