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Rhiannon and her standardbred win international titles

By Duane Ranger

A horse who was told by top Australia dressage judges that he wouldn’t make it because of his standardbred breeding, is now a two-time International Dressage Champion.

Got The Life, who was sacked before he made it as a racehorse, was recently judged the 2019 Dressage On-line Overall International Champion. 

The 15-year-old Fully Loaded – Whipper Snapper (by Vanston Hanover) gelding also combined with three British competitors, won the 2019 Dressage Online International Team event as well.

Got The Life and his rider, Rhiannon Dwane, also were Dressage Online Runners-up in the 2019 International Rider League.

“It was just so good for him not to be judged by his branding. You can’t see the branding on video, and that way all horses are judged as equally. We compete on a level playing field instead of starting with a disadvantage.

“There is elite-ism in the dressage World. Not just in Australia but world wide. Many people think it’s difficult to train standardbreds that have raced all their lives. They are simply not classed in the same league as other more popular breeds. However we are hoping that this win will help change that stigma.

“Maybe that’s true, but they should never have pre-conceived ideas about any horse before any competition.

“’Jimmy’ (Got The Life) isn’t like that. He was bred by my friends Gary and Joedy Whitaker. He was going to be their ‘next thing’, but he kept playing up in the gig. Gary never persevered with him as a racehorse and Joedy convinced me he would make an awesome dressage horse, she kind of talked me into it, so I took him,” Dwane said.

The 37-year-old Wynnum horsewoman said the reason she competed online was to put Jimmy on an even playing field without being pre-judged - “that standardbred!”

“Standardbreds are the most beautiful, quiet animals to work with. Jimmy takes his dressage very seriously. He’s the only horse I have got, so he gets a lot of my attention,” said Dwane. 

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Dwane said on-line equestrian had become a very serious business world-wide.

“The travelling costs are the big killer in out sport, but it’s run very seriously with events being held regularly throughout the world.

“We (Jimmy) have our own professional coach in Germany. Her name is Nicole Weinauge. We train twice weekly with her via pixem robot live from Germany and our Australian coach Trish Braithwaite is never far away from the arena when I am training, she keeps a close eye on me to make sure I don’t stuff things up. 

“With online competition we record a test and then it is submitted to an international judging panel, we compete against competitors from all nations. Since we have been trained by Nicole our scores just keep getting better and better.”

When asked about her goals for next year Dwane said she would like to compete Jimmy at a medium level dressage test under the judge who told her Jimmy just wasn’t going to make it. She also has a title to defend now.

“Most of my spare time and money is spent on Jimmy, but I am always on the lookout for a new horse. I’d like an unraced standardbred. That would be perfect. Maybe I’ll go to the Yearling Sales this year and see what talent is around,” Dwane said.

Online success has come at regular intervals for Got The Life and Dwane in recent years. He’s a former Australian and British Online Dressage Champion and has won and placed at numerous other dressage events. 

“I prefer online. It’s an even playing field, but I do show Jimmy locally. He finished second at the Royal Show a few years ago. I will still compete in live events but there’s a bigger audience and etter prizes to win online,” Dwane said.

She said she owed a lot to the Whitakers for breeding and then passing on Got The Life to her.

“I also leased Fox Valley Appeal with Clive Palmer. I had him lined up to be my next dressage horse but he got badly hurt. Jimmy is such a wonderful little horse. He must be 15 hands by 15 hands - a real lil tank,” Dwane joked.

She also paid a tribute to her sponsor, Naomi O’Brien at Inline Equine and wanted to thanks Dr  Emma Bishop at Garrards Horse And Hound for keeping the champ sound.