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Working her way to the top

There’s no doubt about it, Working Equitation is on the up and up in Australia, and at the forefront is this month’s Young Rider Poppy Douglas, who spoke to AMANDA MAC about her love of the sport.

Working Equitation, which originated in Europe, has been growing in popularity in Australia over the past decade or so. Designed around the riding skills used during fieldwork, the competition includes four phases: working dressage; an ease of handling trial in which horse and rider negotiate everyday obstacles such as bridges and gates; a speed trial using similar obstacles; and cattle handling.

And in the thick of it all? That’s where you ™ll find Poppy Douglas!

Fifteen-year-old Poppy, from Gulgong in New South Wales, is a dedicated and very determined young rider. Perched on a horse’s back from before she could even walk, Poppy comes from a horse-loving family.

My step-dad has a Quarter Horse and occasionally comes along to Working Equitation, Mum has a Master’s horse and ¯a Consagrados horse both competing, and my 11-year-old sister recently moved her pony up a level, she explains.

Poppy, who loves the variety that’s integral to Working Equitation, was introduced to the sport when her mum became involved in 2013: What drew me in was the huge versatility, plus it’s a lot of fun.  I love all aspects of working cattle and became intrigued by high level dressage, which I love training and performing in, she said.

And then there’s Clancy of the Overflow, the 13-year-old buck skin Quarter Horse cross Stock Horse who’s a competition-winning testament to Poppy’s skill as a rider.

I’ve had Clancy for five years now. He’d been broken in very late and when we got him he’d been doing a bit of cattle mustering but was very green he really didn’t know much at all. He was also very sensitive and nervy. So I started him from scratch. We took him on plenty of trail rides and desensitised him to his surroundings. I did a lot of fitness work with him and fed him up and just gradually brought him up through his fitness levels, she says.

It took Poppy a good year to get Clancy competition ready, but that turned out to be time well invested. In 2018, the pair qualified for the victorious NSW State Team (Poppy was the only young rider in an all adult team), and in 2019 won 1st place in the Open Maneability Sweepstakes. They took out the Australian Junior Champion and the Junior Rider Horse of the Year in 2017, 2018, and 2019; and also won the 2019 Consagrados One Handed Horse of the Year.

Not one to rest on her laurels however, Poppy trains daily: I spend one week working on dressage movements as well as Clancy’s fitness. Then the following week I train for roll backs, fast work, and cattle work. Both weeks include trail rides.  I also go to local shows and compete in their dressage events for experience. Last year I won the dressage at the Mudgee Show.

But there’s more: I have another horse that I’ve just finished breaking in. Her name is Get Rhthym and she’s a four-year-old Quarter Horse cross Thoroughbred. I’d like to get her to Masters and competing at the level Clancy is at, she says.

And for the future, Poppy has the US in her sights: I’m looking at moving to the US basically to train and learn from some of the best clinicians there so I become a better rider. It probably won’t be for some time, so I ™ll just see how things play out.

When I ask her who she’d like to thank, Poppy chuckles: That’s easy! Mum, aka my riding instructor and only coach, and my step-dad aka Mr Fix It, for driving the truck everywhere and putting up with me and my horses.

If her past achievements are anything to go by, we have no doubt that we ™ll be hearing plenty more about what Poppy Douglas does next.  Congratulations Poppy, and very best wishes from the HorseVibes team.

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