2019 Canberra Classic – Wrap Up

The Canberrra Classic this year was a smaller event with a number of riders in the team sitting this one out due to change overs in horses, demanding year 12 requirements.  So the whole affair was far more relaxed.

All the hard work for some of our combinations really paid off and it was lovely to see some riders registering some PB scores.

🤩 Maddie and Snoopy prepared strongly and took their best efforts into the arena, bringing home some wonderful results including a PB on the Sunday in the Preliminary 1C.

Oliver and Ringo have come such a long way in such a short period with a high light of the classic picking up a 2nd ribbon in the Novice 2C. I have no doubt like all the other great partnerships this one will continue to develop into Championship form.  Great work

Harriet and Mika showed good form picking up placings in both the Novice Championship classes, and Harriet in her own words was very pleased with Mika.  Big things to keep coming.

Katherine and Starry performed extremely well bringing home the Novice Championship in the Pony division.  All year they have built towards this result and it was lovely to see it all come together in the 2C scoring a 70%+ Well done!

The baby of the team, Fleur, Finders Keepers had a strong first Championship outing bringing home Reserve Champion Preliminary horse.  Huge thank you must go to Kaila who stepped in and rode beautiful Fleur after Amanda injured herself.

Thank you to everyone that came to support  #TeamGP especially the wonderful Zoya Patel that kept the crew calm and on track we were all very happy to have them there. 🤩

Plenty of concentrated effort and huge achievements we are very proud of our riders, there riding and there attitudes to learning and constant improvement.

Photo credit to the amazing Elizabeth Borowik Photography













Meet the #TeamGP Development Team – Audrey Brooke

Meet the #TeamGP Development Team

This week we are proud to profile the promising duo that is Audrey Brooke and her beautiful Candy.

Hi, my name is Audrey. I’m 12 years old and Candy (my horse) and I have been in the Gooromon Park Development Team since early 2018. 

I started riding when I was 6 and went on my first (of many) Gooromon Park school holiday riding program. From there I began structured lessons in the riding program at Gooromon Park, increasing my level and riding intensity until two and a half years ago I started riding Candy and fell in love.

I really love riding Candy— she’s a pretty and clever little Australian Riding Pony with a sparkly personality. Her Daddy was the amazing I was overjoyed when we bought her in the middle of 2018 and I began riding her exclusively.  It’s been a big growth year for the two of us. We’ve gone from lots of little “moments” in the test arena to placing second in one of our tests at the ACT Dressage Association Canberra Classic. Recently achieving some personal best results at the Young Regional Dressage Championships.

I love being in the Gooromon Park development team. It provides lots of opportunities to learn and extend myself. It also has fun and supportive teammates and we learn a lot from each other. We have two amazing coaches, Danielle and Mandy. They’ve given us their all this year and taken us such a long way from when we started.

One of the biggest things I’ve learnt this year is that hard work and resilience will get you results. Next year I want to do more competitions and work my way up to novice tests.

Audrey Brooke

Coaches Report Card:

Audrey trains weekly with Danielle Ffrench our Chief Instructor, so we asked Danielle to give us a brief snapshot of her.  ‘In the past months Audrey and Candy have taken leaps and bounds forward,  Audrey has developed exceptional tenacity for a young rider.  Lately everything has fallen beautifully into place, I am very proud of Audrey’s achievements and importantly the determination she is showing progressing her partnership with Candy. She is still on a wonderful journey with plenty of achievements to come.  Candy is full of cheekiness and sass and is a very determined little pony, she brings out the best in Audrey making her sometimes dig deep to achieve big.  The future is looking bright.

Danielle Ffrench 

FOLLOW our Journey:


How I coach to avoid bad habits in my riders

Developing correct basics in your riding is essential. Avoiding the development of bad habits early can save you time and more expended effort, trying to fix the little things.

So what are the ‘little things’ that I believe make a big difference in the long run when you first start riding?

Learn to ‘carry your hands’

You’ll often hear me saying to a beginner rider, ‘carry your hands, your horse is already carrying you!’ Of course, at that point I have explained how I want them carried. 

So what does correctly carrying your hands look like? That can be tricky, as each instructor may prefer slightly higher or slightly lower hands. As a baseline, it’s important that you create a line from elbow to wrist to the horse’s bit.

So in my opinion, carrying your hands too high can undermine this, and too low can pull the rider’s upper body forward, especially in a beginner. I like to see my riders carrying their hands no more than 10cm above the saddles D-Ring.

A great article to read that explores this further is this one on Dressage Today: https://dressagetoday.com/theory/where-should-hands-ideally-be-positioned-while-riding

Learning early in your riding to carry the weight of your forearms and hands, rather than leaning on the saddle, can help you avoid leaning on the horse’s mouth.  Coupled with the correct rein length (which I talk about later), this will also help you make your rein aids more effective, and in turn your horse more responsive. This all contributed to another concept we learn later in the riding journey, where we seek effective communication with our horses.


Thumb on the rein!

Admittedly, I have a few bugbears, however this is way up there on the list.  As a coach I spend a lot of time correcting rider position faults, and more importantly, hand problems.  So as I develop a rider from beginner level through to advanced, I always focus on ensuring they start with the correct hand position. Then, as any good dressage rider/coach would, I spend a lot of time reinforcing the correct placement of their hands to avoid any bad habits forming.

What do I mean when I say ‘thumb on top?’ Put simply, this is more about your forearm placement

than your hands. Your fingers should be lightly closed around the reins, with your thumbs on top of the rein (pictured left) and little finger underneath.

Each thumb should point slightly at the horses opposite ear. To start with I try to get my riders to simply carry their hands and point each thumb at the horse’s ears (e.g. left thumb to left ear), then I prompt with thumbs to opposite ears.

So far I have talked a bit about hands and arms – before you protest, yes of course RIDING is most definitely not all about hands and reins!  However, ‘good hands are constantly aware of the power they put into the horse’s mouth, and work hard to avoid being abrupt.’  And if we can balance them, and first place them correctly, then we start to develop good hands!


Crop across thigh!

Any artificial riding aid should be used by a beginner with caution, as it’s all too easy for a beginner rider to use the crop too quickly before using a proper leg aid.  Crops are usually purchased with a wrist strap, which should also NEVER be used, as it can create a hazard if in an accident, if the crop can not be dropped easily.

Why should the crop always be carried across the thigh? When we carry our crop down our horse’s shoulder (try it at home), we start to twist our wrist and have now broken the very important line from wrist, rein, to elbow – but more importantly we are holding our hands incorrectly.

Later, as we develop in our riding and if we decide to pick up a dressage whip, we will already have the correct positioning to be able to effectively use the whip.


Changing our crop/whip carrying hands – when we change direction!

Everyone has a weaker and stronger side this includes us and our horses, however as we develop as riders we want to be able to be as balanced as we can be to help our horses, as a balanced load is an easily load to carry.

With this in mind, as my beginners start to progress I always them to carry their crop on their inside hand. This is also when they change direction – therefore as they change direction, they change their crop hands and start their balance and themselves to be ambidextrous on their horses.


Correct rein length!

This is not really a little thing, but so often I see that this is taught incorrectly.  It’s instinctive for us to want to use our hands and arms to balance us and to steer, and this often leaves the beginner rider’s reins way too long, and then the rider has no control and is left feeling unbalanced, insecure and frankly out of control.

I totally understand that as a coach, it is a really tricky thing and takes plenty of practice for you to encourage the rider to take the right rein length, ensuring the rider is not pulling on the horse’s mouth or balancing on the horse’s mouth.

Firstly, I always give beginners a neck strap and request them to hold the reins and neck strap together, as this offers the rider balance which in turn helps the rider’s confidence. Then the cycle of more balance, greater confidence continues to grow.

The correct rein length is vital when holding a neck strap, and the length must be guided by an experienced coach as the beginner rider is not ready to make this decision.

I want my beginner riders to be able to carry their hands, hold their hands correctly and use their reins to communicate effectively without losing balance or pulling arms around.

I always start the conversation around rein length, and liken it to elastic topped pants – every child or adult has worn a pair of elastic topped pants, you don’t want the pants to be too tight as this hurts, you don’t want your pants to be too loose as your pants will fall down and we always have a little giggle around this one.  You want your pants to be just right – you can slide your elbow back and feel a little bit of weight but you’re not pulling your arm to the side or too far behind your body.

These ‘little things’ might start as little, but feed into so much more as the rider develops. These are just my bugbears – certainly as a rider develops we work through so much in each stage.








Happy Riding – Danielle Ffrench 



2019 Young Championships Wrap-up

Young Championships was yet again an amazing event. A record number of 300 riders, with over 1000 tests ridden I would say this event should be titled NSW Regional Championships.

All the hard work for our team really paid off and everyone did amazingly well!

🤩 Mohamad and Harry competed together for the first time, winning both the YR Prep A and 1A! We also saw them come home with the award for the highest percentage of a YDA member on Friday with an outstanding 76%, receiving the largest rosette any of us had ever seen for highest percentage!

Ceri and Occhie also excelled, placing 2nd in the YR 1A with a score of 75%!! They also placed 7th in the YR 2A, their first novice test together. More impressive was their 7th place in the Official Novice class on the Sunday!

Maddie and Snoopy worked extremely well together! It was great seeing them achieve some very competent scores across the weekend even though they have only been working together for a short period of time!

Audrey and little Candy showed bucket loads of improvement over the weekend scoring 66% in their YR 1A! Katherine and Starry performed extremely well coming 2nd in one of her official prelim tests with 73%!! The duo also continued to gain experience in the Novice division placing 8th great achievement for only very early days at this level!

Harriet had a great event, she took out the titles of Breed Limited Champion with a score of 71.618% in the 2B, CU Novice Pony Champion and placed 4th in one of her Official Novice tests with 70%!!

A huge thank you to team coordinator / helper extraordinaire

Caitlyn Adcock and also Maddy who travelled over to show her support to Team GP we were all very happy to have them there. 🤩

The weekend was full of laughs, plenty of concentrated effort and huge achievements we are so proud of our riders, there riding and there attitudes to learning and constant improvement.



Competition Top Tips – Jumping

Jump Club coach Katy Doak has created your five essential tips to help you ride your best show jump round.

1. Use your eyes! You must look where you want to go, always be looking for your next jump on landing.

2. Ride forward and straight! Your job is to get your horse to the jump on the best line at the best pace possible.  This will help your horse gain confidence from you and ensure the best possible outcome.

3. Be adjustable – When you’re warming up make sure your pace is adjustable, so your horse is completely responsive to your aids – lots of forward and back transitions!

4. Do over do it – Don’t over work your horse in the warm up, its better to save them for the competition arena. Plan your warm up and try to stick to it.

5. Know the course and make a plan – once you’ve walked the course, make a plan in your head for how you’re going to ride it. Only ride into an arena that you know you can ride in essence you’ve trained this height.


Meet the #TeamGP Development Rider – Harriet Hughes

Meet the #TeamGP Development Team

This week we are proud to profile the dynamic duo that has become our sassy stars Harriet Hughes and the beautiful Mika.

My name is Harriet and I’m 13 years old. My pony’s name is Mika and she’s an 11 year old Stock horse X Arab Palomino Mare. She loves liquorice, even though she’s not really allowed it! However, we can’t resist giving it to her.

I first started riding at Gooromon Park on my 6th birthday and then I never stopped! I love riding so much because of how you can always learn new things and it’s just about you and your horse, who I love so much! When I was 11, I got my first ever pony, Brownie, who was super cheeky but very cute and I learned so much from him. January this year I got Mika, and I’ve already developed so much love for her.

The Gooromon Park development squad has helped me improve my riding in many ways. The major thing that I’ve learned through the squad is how to take care of my horse and how to prepare and compete at all kinds of competitions and outings. We don’t just learn about riding, we also learn about first aid, horse care, feeding and so much more.

Before the development squad I hardly ever competed and was very nervous, however, now I am super confident and know how to ride a confident test, as well as knowing how to get the best out of my horse away from home.

I had a dream weekend at the Horseland Canberra Classic Dressage Championships/Regional Festival! We battled harsh weather, judges, health issues etc and the NSW and ACT ponies definitely made a good showing of themselves outnumbering the horses and AOR divisions, but the top quality horses were amazing to watch we managed to achieve the following:
So proud of Mika and still in shock but…
2nd Official Pony 1.2 with 71.77%
1st Official Pony 1.3 with 70.96%
Champion Overall Preliminary Pony

We went into the novice today not expecting anything at all and I am still shocked!
1st Official Pony 2.2 with 67.14%
1st Official Pony 2.3 with 65.96%
I cried when I found out
Champion Overall Novice Pony

My goal for the rest of the year is to continue to improve my training of Mika.  My favourite competition with the Gooromon Park development squad so far has to be Young Dressage Championships. I had so much fun spending time away from home with the team and I learned so much! It’s like being part of one big family! I really enjoyed competing at the Australian Interschool Championships with other members of the development team.  Another huge highlight was being selected to represent my state as part of Team NSW at Interschools.

Harriet Hughes

Coaches Report Card:

Harriet trains weekly with Danielle Ffrench our Chief Instructor, so we asked Danielle to give us a brief snapshot of her.  ‘Harriet is a resilient young rider. Lately everything has fallen beautifully into to place – she sure has made her dreams come true, don’t be deceived this duo work hard together to always improve.  They ride their highs and lows like Champions which is why they become Champions. Harriet has worked hard to be the rider she is today and so much has changed in just the past year.  Even as a 6 year old she was a determined little rider, I am very proud of Harriet’s achievements and importantly the grace she shows in her lows. She is still on a wonderful journey with plenty of achievements to come.  Harriet and I always have fun in our lessons and at comps she’s got just the right amount of cheekiness and sass. She should be very proud of herself and of her beautiful pony Mika. Well done girls!’  Danielle Ffrench 

FOLLOW our Journey:


Meet the #TeamGP Development Team

In January 2018,  Gooromon Park introduced the #TeamGP development team to help our young riders develop their skills and gain the experience needed to attend equestrian competitions and offers guidance on competition days.

Over the past year, the team and I have developed a team ethos. We discussed our personal goals – that while we support our team members, that horse riding is also a partnership between horse and rider and that our own personal goals and journeys are vital to making us happy, productive members of the team.  Our ethos centres around the importance of being in a constant state of improvement and together we developed a code of conduct which sees us treat everyone with respect and courtesy.

Our mantra being  ‘We will aim for the stars, continually try to improve ourselves, while keeping our feet planted on the ground.’

To say I am proud of this team and the development and improvements they have made in such a short time is a huge understatement. They have shown dedication, resilience, shone with the stars, overcome hurdles and disappointments and each member has achieved personal goals and successes through hard work.  It is only the start – we are only one year in with plenty to still come.

It seems timely after the hugely successful year that we have had as a team that I introduce the team members:

  • Audrey Brooke – Candy
  • Ceridwen Fennemore – Occhie
  • Harriet Hughes – Mika
  • Maddie Baldwin – Snoopy
  • Katherine Stewardson – Starry
  • Maddie Bowman-Smith – Dana (back from injury)

As a team our riders have continually supported one another, they have formed lovely friendships and achieved great success in the competition arenas.

I am extremely proud to welcome two new riders to the development team, already our and about with us both boys, both have beautiful grey ponies.

  • Oliver Thomas-Mitchel – Ringo
  • Mohammad Awad – Harry

Stay tuned for big things from the team in 2019.

Danielle Ffrench – Chief Instructor




Meet #TeamGP: Ira Davies

At Gooromon Park, we love our team of instructors and stable assistants. Every member of #TeamGP is passionate about equestrian, is highly skilled, and absolutely loves supporting you on your riding journey.

We would like to give a big #TeamGP Welcome to our newest Instructor Ira Davies, to help you all get to know Ira we asked him a few key questions before he started.  Drum roll please – we are pleased to introduce you to Ira Davies!

When did you first start Horse Riding?

I started horse riding while living in Indonesia, as a 13 year old.

What’s one thing you love about working at Gooromon Park?

We shall see, but I can say I am looking forward to starting!

Who is your favourite GP Horse/Pony? 

I like Rupert for looks and Mardi to ride

What music gets you motivated for the day?

Iggy pop can get any day started.


What do you feel is your best attribute that you will bring to the TEAM?

I am pretty patient and laid back in general, which I think is a helpful attitude to have around horses. Or at least I think I am.

What is something special about you most people don’t know?

As a younger man the plan was to become an Academic. I thought I might like teaching and writing about philosophy. Working with horses quickly put an end to any aspirations I had to work indoors.

What is one of your fondest horse riding memories?

Galloping on a beach in Bali, very early on in my riding journey and much to the dismay of my parents. I was hooked after that.

What’s one thing you’d like to achieve in your Riding or Coaching in the next year?

I would like to get my level 1 coaching accreditation.

What’s one tip or insight you’ve learnt on your horsey journey that you’d like to share?

Horse riding is a long game, and while it is rewarding to have a good ride, your talent as a rider is not determined by any particular ride, good or bad. Being a good rider is an on going process, and to be good rider is to be forever becoming a better one. Does that make sense?

List three great qualities you admire in a GREAT coach?

Deep knowledge, sharp eyes and charismatic communication.

Meet our #TeamGP Rider: Bridget Clark

At Gooromon Park, our Riders become part of the #TeamGP family.  All our Riders are on a different equestrian journey, but they all have one thing in common they’re passionate about horses, and we absolutely love supporting their riding journey.

We are excited to be introducing you to some of our #TeamGP riders through our blog – today, meet Adult Rider, Bridget Clark.  Bridget started riding in South Africa she has been working or riding horses since she was 8 years old.  

Tell us a bit about yourself – how would you describe yourself to someone you have just met?

Hi, my name is Bridget, I am an adult rider at Gooromon Park. I own a beautiful Clydie x TB Gracie. She is agistment at Gooromon Park Riding School. I am married with two daughters, Candice and Samantha, who are both married, and they are also competitive horse riders. I am currently studying Psychology at Uni. We lived in the Middle East for 5 years. My husband’s company relocated us to Australia in March 2017, so we are pretty much newbies to Australia. We are hoping that we will be able to call Australia our home in about eighteen months when we will be eligible for permanent residency. Before relocating to Dubai, from South Africa our family owned a riding school/agistment yard of 25 horses on our property. Sometimes, I miss having my horses at home, but at the same time I have realised the benefit of having Gracie agistment at Gooromon Park.

When did you start horse riding, and what made you want to give it a try?

I loved horses before I could understand that I loved horses. I started horse-riding lessons in South Africa when I was eight years old. My best friend was given a horse for Christmas and she let me ride the horse as she was scared to be the first to ride it. I volunteered to be the first one to ride her new horse. I was always game to be the first one to ride a new horse! I have been working with horses and riding horses pretty much since then. I have always had a keen interest and deep love of horses. I find riding, grooming and just spending time and being around horses incredibly therapeutic.

What has been a highlight of learning to ride with the instructors at GP?

The instructors are EA qualified and most of them compete at a high level themselves, in dressage, eventing and show jumping. This means that as a rider we receive top level instruction from well qualified and highly skilled coaches who understand and can empathise with riders when things don’t go so well or as hoped either before or after competing or even after a lesson. At the beginning and the end of each lesson time is made for constructive feedback, debriefing, feedback, encouragement, what I need to work on and what I need to change from the instructor’s observations and point of view. Every lesson is different, it is structured and well planned with the horse and rider in mind. The school horses are well schooled, they have super temperaments, and are well looked after.

What is one thing you learn at Gooromon that you didn’t know before?

Everyone is on their own riding adventure…with their horse and their riding goals. We all experience the ups and downs of riding at times, however, more importantly it is about learning from our mistakes, breaking bad habits and creating more mindful moments during our riding lessons to become better riders.

What are your riding goals for the year, or something new you would love to learn ?

I would like to work towards completing at a low level ODE in 2019 and participate in one Preliminary dressage show.

Who is your favourite riding school horse and pony?

If I had to choose a favourite school horse, it would be Jamokea, but Gracie (pictured to the right) wins hands down as an all-rounder (I am biased I think )

What would you say to someone thinking of trying equestrian for the first time?

As an adult rider …I would highly recommend giving it a go! It is a great way to get fit and stay fit…and get the joints moving – I was always told by a great instructor many years ago…remember motion is lotion as we grow older. Horse riding is a skill you can learn and have the most amazing trail rides as a family when you are on holiday. It’s a fantastic way of bonding as a family.
Give it a go you have nothing to lose. 🙂 

Why Horse Riding and Yoga?


Body and Muscle awareness, Breathing, Core Strength, Flexibility and Mental Focus sound familiar?  Here at #GooromonPark we’ve been talking about some of the key ingredients to becoming a better rider.  So Why Horse Riding and Yoga?

Yoga is one of the absolute best ways for riders to become more supple out of the saddle in a way that will directly translate to actual riding. Yoga builds strength, endurance, and flexibility – plus, it reduces stress, and helps you improve your mental focus.  All key ingredients to improving your riding.

Yoga promotes the same core position as riding. Practising yoga strengthens the muscles that elongate the spine and allow us to stand straight. The core muscles are constantly at work when the body is seeking balance and are vital for balance while riding.

We’ve teamed up with dance and certified yoga instructor, Joanne Kavouras, for a weekly class, you don’t need any flash gym gear and you can even join us in your jodhpurs!  Joanne will be focusing on yoga moves that will help you look and feel better in the saddle. She will be bringing together her experience creating flow sequences with yogic breathing to develop a better riders seat, stronger core, upper body, posture and simple things you can do to help stretch, strengthen and even manage stress.

If you can’t join us on Monday’s, you could check out this article 3 Ways Yoga Can Help Your Dressage it even include a Routine to try at home.  One of my favourite Yoga and Horse riding articles written by Jaclyn Sicoli is a USDF bronze and silver medalist and a USDF “L” Education Program graduate with distinction, was featured in Dressage Today her passion for combining the two disciplines speaks volumes.