Photo Caption:  Caroline Hooper on Becks Gold II.  Photo credit, Roger Fitzhardinge

Article by Roger Fitzhardinge

Caroline Hooper was the youngest rider in Australia to ride to grand prix on a part Arabian called Merrifield Zia at the age of 18 in 1985. Caroline came from a totally non horsey family and managed though passion and dedication to make a big go in the dressage world! It’s a great life and journey thus far and another nationals and perhaps a super star in the making…Time passion, patience and dedication will see it through and check her out in the elementary and medium competition.

Zia was a small grey gelding with a huge heart and with the help of her parents Bill and Val who bought Zia. Caroline’s dedication and talent and with the help of top mentors and coaches,  Clemens Dierks and Carolyn Lieutenant, took the young combination to Grand Prix scoring consistently in the mid 60s. She has made many more good horses since and has now returned to Australia after living,  coaching and riding in New Zealand for the past 10 years where Caroline was the high performance dressage coach there for the Institute of Sport winning the Prime Ministers coaching scholarship.

Caroline is now riding the bay imported gelding Becks Gold II, (Ben) He is by Balesteros by Bellissimo M from a Sandro hit Diamond hit mare.  This horse is 17.3 and a very elastic and metronomic mover with expression and ease. He comes into this competition at the end of his pointed time in Elementary and probably one of the most fancied horses on performance history.

Caroline is ever grateful to Rebecca and Anthony Skinner for the chance to ride this horse and it is also a two way street as the owners simply love to be a part of their journey.

Rebecca and Caroline went to Europe to look for a suitable young dressage horse. Rebecca rides often when she gets the time and enjoys the training, and the competition is simply part and parcel of the journey not the other way around. Being a country girl at heart and having a great property in Orange and in Sydney, the chance to get out to ride at Caroline’s, and watch Ben worked is days she treasures. Caroline’s property is near Wilberforce at the foot of the Blue Mountains where she is a level 3 NCAS dressage specialist coach and coaches and rides and agists. After looking at many many horses, they settled on Becks Gold. He was only 4 and big and kind with a good engine. He was elastic then and powerful and delightfully rideable for such a young one. His conformation was good with that look that made us feel that here was a rough diamond in the making and perhaps we may be able to polish that diamond up and of course fitted the budget and passed the vetting… all stumbling blocks along the way!!

He arrived in Australia in late 2016 and has been with Caroline ever since and she absolutely idolises the ground he walks on.

I asked her what makes this horse so special and makes you always smile?

“His enthusiasm makes me laugh.  He is always so keen to do his work. He loves to be pampered and is in no way boring yet quirky and sometimes opinionated but always is a genuine fighter to get to the right way and tries do the right thing. By the same token he is such a beautiful horse to sit on and he is so light to ride and a real ladies horse as he produces his own impulsion through natural elastic rhythm and forward desire all I have to do is direct that in the correct way. He is not one to argue at all but if he finds something hard. You need to realise that’s the problem and find ways around it. He makes me ride with my mind and a good feel and position. He is fantastic. I love him (as Caroline laughs).”

What does competing now do for you and how do you keep the ups and downs in perspective and especially with great owners?

“I often drink champagne, she says with a wry smile, it helps!!!  From experience it’s not always ups and as long as everything is along the right path, we are all very happy. Things happen and you can’t control everything, so I keep it all in perspective. It’s not for me about winning and of course that sounds corny, but for me to simply have a good ride in competition I am elated. The marks are of course important, and the comments welcomed for further assessment but who you beat and don’t beat is irrelevant. Everyone works just as hard and some have good days, and some don’t.  That’s life and we enjoy the competition but as we think I train to compete not compete top train! By the way I love to win all the same!

For Rebecca and Anthony they are very logical and I try to educate them along the way and it’s a learning curve and to keep it in perspective as I explained is all you can do…Then drink more champagne…that always makes the downs go up!”

The sport of dressage is one which can be so interesting and involving for owners.  At the nationals, the owners get privileges that are welcoming and the opportunity to be part of the event by mixing with the riders, judges and guests in the “Nationals Hub” area. The Hub offers great viewing, comfortable surroundings, access to food, beverages and great company.

For those young riders out there who perhaps find this story interesting but think is all too hard, Caroline has put a few quotes together that she believes in and thinks you should too

1.. Every great dream begins with a dreamer

2.. Dream, Imagine, Believe

3… Courage can’t see around corners but goes there anyway