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My love affair with dressage

“I probably could have really tortured both of us and just stuck with dressage, gotten a top hat and tails, and gone on to prix st George’s, but who wanted to spend that much time in a sandbox trying to look pretty? Life was still about galloping when you came right down to it.” Courage (The Eventing Series book 3).

Andrea and Nonie enjoying a gallop at the beach

I love a gallop just as much as the next person, ok maybe not as much as an eventer, as but I do genuinely love the feeling of thundering through the waves at the beach, the salt splashing up in my face. So why then do I ride dressage? Let’s assume that it isn’t because I am a glutten for punishment. Let’s also assume that it’s not because I have a type A personality.
As a young rider I participated in all disciplines (dressage, jumping, showing gymkhanas, I even tried my hand at team penning and camp drafting a few times) on my one horse. For the most part I enjoyed them all. But it was pretty clear back then that I wasn’t like the other kids who yearned for the thrill of the jump off or the all out speed involved in the gymkhana events. No my favourite event come gymkhana day was rider class. While I loved training cross country, my heart was never in it on competition day and show jumping could be fun when it all went to plan, but I knew that it wasn’t my jam. A few serious concussions and my fathers growing concern sealed the deal, my purpose in life was to be a dressage devotee.

Andrea and her horse Gilbert training cross country

 I remember clearly when I made the decision to put all my focus on dressage. My horse at the time Sullivan was a super warmblood x Percheron gelding. He gave me my first taste of sitting on a powerful equine. Some time later I was offered the ride on my coaches super sensitive but exceptionally talented mare Selesta. This is an opportunity that I will be eternally grateful for because the chance to feel advanced movements like passage saw me fall in lust with dressage. 

Andrea and Sullivan

Life. It’s about a finding that thing that makes you feel alive that sets your soul on fire. And those rides on Selesta had lit a fire in my belly and set me down the centreline chasing the ultimate – Grand Prix. But it wasn’t until many years later this lust developed into a true love for the sport of dressage. This love came from feeling the multiple incremental improvements that result in the most spectacular feeling. It’s knowing that the success you and your horse have achieved is the result of your hard work. It’s the pride that swells in your chest when you start to ride advanced movements on a horse that you have brought along from the beginning. But most of all it’s the ability to communicate and connect with your equine partner without so much as a word.

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Blast from the Past – Stepping up to Elementary

A year ago today Nonie and I had just completed our first official elementary dressage competition. In honour of this I thought I would share the first ‘blog’ post I wrote, which was originally posted on the Wilson Equestrian page. 

Walking out of the arena at our first competition of the year, reaching down to give Nonie a pat, you couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face. I’d had one of those great days where it all comes together, the lessons, the late nights on floodlit arena’s and the long trips to competitions.

In North Queensland we are a little slow to start competing, with last weekend marking my first dressage competition of the season. The event was held in Townsville, a casual 380km drive from home. Needless to say I was glad to have my partner Steve as my co-pilot for the trip. After loading up the ute and float (a feat which resembles a life sized game of tetris), checking my packing list about 3 times and putting Nonie on the float we were on our way. One coffee stop, a stretch for Nonie and five hours later and we made it to Townsville.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 12.03.18 pm

The balmy overnight low of 21° meant that Nonie only needed her stretchy hood to keep her plaits firmly in place and a rip-stop rug. I was excited to try my Wilson Equestrian stretchy hood and I was pleased to find that it sat really well on Nonie, in particular the extra-large eye-holes stood out to me – this meant that it didn’t creep up overnight and rub her eyes.

With the goal of competing at the QLD State Dressage Championships in mind, I had nominated for three tests, with the novice being up first. Despite less than ideal conditions in the warm up arena, including maintenance work on the adjoining BMX track, heavy machinery nearby and killer plastic tarps blowing about unpredictably, Nonie felt great! She was up through the shoulders, pushing forward and focussing solely on me.


Copyright Jordan Wicks Photography - JWP_5222
PC: Jordan Wicks Photography


This was my first time riding in the Wilson Equestrian super stick breeches and they did not disappoint! The material whilst being light and stretchy is substantial enough to cover even the brightest of bright pink undergarments, an accidental discovery on my part. I was really pleased with the test that we put forward, and the judges seemed to agree giving us a score of 68% which was good enough for fourth place.

Our next test was at 11.30 and I have to say that the Wilsons Equestrian long sleeved show shirt really came into its own, I felt cool in the light fabric despite a top temperature of 29°. This being our second elementary test and now having to ride the lengthened trots sitting, I was grateful to be wearing those exceptionally super sticky breeches. I know that I breathed a little easier once we got through the canter/counter canter three loop serpentines without breaking or changing – Nonie’s most recent trick is to pop a flying change in during this movement, but you just can’t be upset about that!

Copyright Jordan Wicks Photography - JWP_2579
PC: Jordan Wicks Photography

My final test of the day was the 3.2 for which I was determined to be brave in my riding. I achieved this goal and left the arena feeling that we had really nailed the test – I was on a high for the rest of the day. As an added bonus we scored a 7.5 and an 8 for the counter canters. I couldn’t have asked for more from my mare and can’t wait to see what the rest of 2016 brings for Nonie and I.

Posted in Equestrian Fashion, Product Review

Super Staples – Samshield Helmet Review

As one of my favourite instagramers @joful_dressage once asked, “Is it wrong to love an inanimate object”? Well I am not sure that she ever had that question answered, but I do know that I am in love with my new Samshield.


As anyone who knows me will attest, this is nothing short of a miracle. My life as an equestrian has been made somewhat less comfortable by my oddly shaped head coupled with my inability to find a helmet which works with this. I guess this is somewhat ironic as I am a huge advocate for wearing helmets, each and every time, all riders swing their leg over a horse.

The year before last, thinking I was onto a winner I handed over an ungodly amount of money only to find out a few months later that the helmet would no longer be ‘competition legal’ after December 2016 due to the updated safety standards in Europe. Early in 2017, I proceed to buy a second helmet of the same brand after being assured that the design had not changed. But alas it had changed rather significantly and no longer fit my head. So the search for my ‘Cinderella helmet’ began once again. It was on my recent trip down south that I found my perfect match – helmet wise that is!

Here’s what makes the Samshield is such a great helmet.

  1. Light weight. One of the first things that you will notice when you pick this helmet up is just how light it is. You could be forgiven for forgetting it is on your head.
  2. Ventilation. The first couple of rides I had in my Samshield were really windy days, the sensation of air swirling around was somewhat bizarre. However after a few weeks riding in this helmet, including a few mid afternoon rides, and removing my helmet without my hair being plastered to my head with sweat was rather refreshing. I know that moving into summer in a much cooler helmet will make riding a lot more pleasant. But don’t worry if you live in a colder climate, there is a warm liner option too!
  3. Elegance. In matters of style I’ll take elegance and simplicity over flash any day of the week, as such it is no surprise that The Samshield is right down my alley. All of the Samshield helmets have beautiful lines, from the line over the top of the helmet, to the harness of the helmet.
  4. Velcro chin strap. This is a feature that I initially thought looked a bit odd, but having ridden in this helmet for a few weeks, I realise that this feature is nothing short of genius. If I had a dollar for every time I had to tighten the chin strap on any other helmet, I’d be rich! Hmm not quite… Nonetheless, I love the fact that the strap holding the helmet on my head does not budge!
  5. Countless options for customisation. While I went with the Navy Shadowmatt sans Swarovski crystals, a quick browse of the My Samshield page highlights just how many options there are to customise these already beautiful helmets.


It’s safe to say the next helmet I buy will be a Samshield.