Wed, Nov 1, 2023 10:40 PM

Dressage delight … from breaking a leg to breaking through


Peter Jones

What a difference a year makes.

On October 16, 2022 Melissa Galloway’s dressage future looked bleak. Kicked by one of her young horses, the impact breaking the bone at the top of her tibia, she lay in hospital watching a dark cloud hover over her immediate dressage prospects.

However, exactly 12 months later, to the day, she was back at the top of her game.

The Tua Marina-based equestrian and top mount Windermere J'Obei W [aka Joey] illuminated the 2023 Australian National Dressage Championships at Boneo Park in Melbourne with a series of stunning performances, their NZ record-setting CDI-W Grand Prix routine underlining their dominance of Australasian dressage. The duo capped that off with a personal best score in the CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle, putting them firmly on track to represent NZ at the Paris Olympic Games next year.

Qualifying for and competing at the 2024 Olympics has been a long-term goal for Melissa and her efforts in Australia have taken her another step closer.

Although not officially confirmed, her percentages in Melbourne should have earned New Zealand the regional spot for Paris, the “first piece of the puzzle” according to Melissa.

“It’s not fully guaranteed until the end of the year but we are fairly confident that we will have it. From there we will have to meet the NZ Olympic Committee’s criteria, which is a potential top 16 finish at the Olympics. They want you to be able to show that you could achieve that.

“That is a 74 percent score at a Grand Prix or Grand Prix Special and so far I have had three scores of 73 point something, so I am literally half a percent off,” she added with a chuckle.

Her next chance to break the 74 percent mark will come at Takapoto Estate in Cambridge on November 24, which is qualifying event for the forthcoming World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

If not, she and Joey plan to return to Europe and link up with her coach Anne van Olst. From their base in Belgium, the duo will contest some European events, aiming to reach the required mark before the NZOC’s May cut-off.

Melissa and 'Joey' after another successful routine. Photo suppled.

“So we are close,” said Melissa, “we are very, very close … as close as anyone’s been.”

Their efforts in Australia recently showed just how far the duo have come in recent times.

They scored an eye-watering 79.865% to convincingly win the freestyle by 3.255% ahead of multi-Olympian Mary Hanna aboard her Paris Olympic hopeful Ivanhoe.

Melissa’s score was a personal best, surpassing her own New Zealand record of 77.035 percent set in Taupo in February.

“[The freestyle] is so much fun to do, I loved that part of the competition.”

The previous day she and Joey won the FEI CDI-W Grand Prix with a score of 73.152 percent, with Hanna second on 72.413 percent.

While that was just below her GP best, she was happy to get top marks across the board from the Dutch judge, who had officiated at top-level European events.

“It was the toughest competition I had faced in Australasia, by far,” said Melissa.

“The whole trip, from start to finish was amazing, just so smooth. There are so many things that can go wrong taking horses to Australia … travel is huge, organisation is mental and you need to have horses sound - but we had no hiccups at all.

“The next few hours after we had won the freestyle with a record performance … we all just couldn’t quite believe it. It was unreal and made it all worthwhile.”

Adding to the family’s enjoyment was the fact Melissa’s younger horse Elmo, which was bred at their Windermere Farm base, won the Prix St George title.

“That was also very special,” added Melissa. “The trip was a bit of a whirlwind and afterwards it was like, wow, did that really happen?”

Marlborough App Logo
Marlborough App
Marlborough App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.