Story – Shannan Makauskas
Photos – Roz Neave
The famous mother and daughter duo of Australian Dressage – Judy and Daniella Dierks – stole the show at Dressage with the Stars on the weekend. I caught up with them to get the story on their rides and their plans for the future.
Judy has been at the top of Australian dressage for more than a decade, taking several horses to Grand Prix level and representing Australia at the World Equestrian Games in 1994. She’s also no newbie to DJWTS, having won the Champion of Champions title in 2005 on the then five-year-old mare, Donner Carina. That same year, Judy also won the six-year-old class on PSI De Caprio.
This year Judy showed the five-year-old gelding, Diamond Star (Diamond Hit / Parole D’Honner), who was imported from Germany in November last year. As the winner of the five-year-old class, scoring up to 8.5 for canter and mid 7’s for trot and walk, Judy was delighted with the horse, bought not for his paces, but for his temperament:
“He’s been really easy to train because he has such a good temperament. Daniella and Clemens had gone to Germany for the Aachen horse show and to look at a few horses, when Allen Newham happened to say to Clemens, ‘Do you think I should buy a horse for Vicki?’ (His wife) Well Daniella and Clemens had seen Diamond Star on their trip and they told Allen they’d seen the perfect horse for Vicki, so Allen bought him sight unseen and it’s worked out very well.”
Judy has been training the horse since he arrived in Australia and plans to ride him in the young horse class at the Sydney CDI in April: “He’s only ever been to a couple of shows at Clarendon, so he’s been thrown into the deep end quite quickly, but because of his temperament he’s managed very well. Vicki will certainly be riding him more in the future, but I’d say I’ll be training him for the rest of the year, there’s no set plan as yet.”
It would have been a treat to watch Judy and Daniella ride against each other for the Champion of Champions title, but Judy had made other plans: “When Vicki wanted me to take Diamond Star to DJWTS, I was already committed on that Saturday afternoon to go to a very big wedding in Sydney, and Vicki arranged for me to fly home as soon as the class was over so I could do both. Well, you can’t count your chickens before they hatch, so we hadn’t planned to make it into the Champion of Champions. When he won, we decided Daniella would ride him in the big final.
Judy is proud of Daniella’s success: “Daniella and I compete against each other all the time, but we get along well, so it’s healthy competition. She did such a great job, she spoke so well on the microphone and everybody commented on how well she rode, she really is riding well.”
While Judy trains horses from various clients at the family property, Daniella works full time for Mulawa Arabian Stud, owned by Greg and Julie Farrell, who own the Champion of Champions, six-year-old Revelwood Donatello (Don Ramiro / Morning Air xx), and second place getter in the four-year-old class, Sugraloaf Sirhara (Sir Donnerhall / Belcam Cynara).
It’s a rare occurrence for a horse bred in Australia to win the Champion of Champions title, the fact that Revelwood Donatello was hooning around at Pony Club just over a year ago makes it even more remarkable. Daniella told me his story:
“A friend of mine from school, Sarah Lumsden, used to have lessons with Judy, and we helped her buy Revelwood Donatello as a two-year-old from Revelwood Stud. Sarah ended up doing some novice level dressage but he was more of a fun all-rounder for Sarah to learn on and do pony club with.”
When Daniella gave Sarah the odd lesson, she saw the horse had talent: “I got Greg and Julie Farrell to purchase the horse as a prospect for their 15-year-old daughter Kate. Since then we’ve ventured overseas and bought two horses from PSI, one of which Kate is competing, so I still have the ride on Donatello.”
Revelwood Donatello’s dam is a Thoroughbred: “Morning Air’s bloodlines include Lunchtime, a stallion which is very well known for breeding a lot of hacks and some dressage horses, all very pretty and with good temperaments.”
The breeding of Sugarloaf Sirhara, Daniella’s other ride at DWTS, has some Arabian blood from the dam’s side: “Since I’ve been working for Greg and Julie at Mulawa Arabian Stud I’ve found all the part Arabs I’ve been riding have showed exceptional trainability and temperaments.”
Sugarloaf Sirhara was purchased from Lyn and Malcolm Gilbert of The Riders Shoppe: “We went there to have a look at her mother when she was offered for sale. While we were working her down on the bottom arena we saw Sirhara just standing there quietly, tied to a fence post up at the stables, and Lyn mentioned she was also for sale, so we decided to have a look at her. We couldn’t believe how quiet she was for a yearling and we were so amazed by her balance and movement. She was extraordinary, not gangly at all, and so engaged in everything she did, so we bought her instead.”
Not only was it Daniella’s first time competing in the young horse classes at DJWTS, but she rode Sugarloaf Sirhara in the jumping class as well: “As a baby she had a habit of occasionally jumping out of her paddock, which was pretty big, so we started doing some free jumping and cavalletti work with her. The height has never been a problem, for her it was more getting over the scary looking jumps, so we thought we’d develop it more. I wouldn’t have suggested to jump her if she looked like she couldn’t cope with it, but she’s always been such a strongly built horse.”
Daniella finds jumping to be a useful training tool for the young horses: “When we first break them in, once they’re going through and I’ve got control of them, I’ll do a bit of jumping work to keep their minds interested. It’s proved to be especially useful with Sirhara, being such a quiet horse, it helped get her more forward thinking.”
It was a thrill for Daniella to see Ingrid Klimke ride the horses in the final: “It was really super to have that opportunity, it’s the most exciting part, because you don’t normally see a rider of that calibre on your horse, and it really shows you what the horse is capable of.”
The new Stallion at Mulawa – Aber Hallo 29 (Photo by Stuart Vesty)
The other horse purchased by the Farrells from PSI, on Clemens and Daniella’s trip to Germany, was the Westphalien licensed stallion, Aber Hallo 29 (Amidou / Riminis Queen). Daniella was disappointed she didn’t get to take him in the six-year-old class: “He doesn’t turn seven until June, but because of the breeding seasons when they arrive in Australia they gain a year, so we couldn’t take him in it.”
The exciting stallion placed 5th in the Bundeschampionate as a five-year-old and won at Elementary level on the Sunshine Tour under his former rider, Stefanie Kerner. Aber Hallo 29 is yet to make his Australian debut: “He’s now training Prix St Georges level, but I want to have everything well established and have him really confident before I take him out.”
Meanwhile, Judy has been bringing on her next FEI prospect, Feramo. Owned by the Oatley family, whose Germany-based daughter Lyndal represented Australia at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, Feramo has been out of action for nearly three years. After he broke a coffin bone in his hoof, the Oatleys brought him to Australia to retire. But Judy managed to bring him back: “He’s such a lovely horse we decided to persevere with a lot of rehabilitation work, with farriers and vets and walking and everything else, we’ve managed to get him sound.” They have since competed at Prix St Georges level, scoring over 68%.