The Sand Arena Ballerina – 2018 Come at me!!

Well 2018 has started with a bang! A clinic with super coach Dani Keogh, learning how to use trot poles properly, a hack show that nearly resulted in drowning and an EquiMind competition.

After a short trial of going barefoot, Nonie had her shoes put back on at the beginning of January and we were able to get back to training. A few days later we attended the Summer School run by our local pony club where our regular coach Dani was teaching. Because it was the middle of summer and stinking hot I requested early lesson times. This meant three days in a row of 4.30am starts. Have I mentioned I’m not a morning person?



The early morning starts did allow me to avoid the worst of the heat and it was totally worthwhile. We continued working on the halfpass, flying changes, medium trot and short steps. Nonie even showed us that she can string a few changes together, the next step will be to get these happening together in a row! You can read more about what we worked on during these lessons you can check out my full post

You can also see some of our work from these lessons here

Following on from this I was lucky enough to have lessons from Francisco Campeo on trot poles. Francisco has recently relocated from Portugal to Australia and comes from a background of show jumping and horse ball, but he also has strong foundational horsemanship skills. Over the course of three lessons we worked through a number of exercises on straight and curved lines to help Nonie bend laterally through her body, but also to bend her hocks and engage more. Within this work I could feel Nonie thinking and adjusting her own body to find the right place to step between poles. It’s been great being able to add these into our regular training sessions, after all if it’s good enough for Ingrid Klimke it’s good enough for me!

During this time my grey and ice teal super stick breeches have been getting a thorough workout and are holding up to the wear well. I am absolutely loving the new silicone belts which are awesome for adding a pop of colour to outfit.

Having had limited competition outings last year I was itching to get back in the ring. My friend Tash was also moving her horse into Champion C meaning I now have a competition travel buddy – Steve your co-pilot skills may get a little rusty.

Tash and I decided to make the relatively short trip to the nearby town of Nebo for a twilight hack show. It should have been a lovely relaxing outing but my forgetfulness, combined with my tendency towards disorganisation and Nonie’s large personal space bubble meant that it took us much longer to just get the ponies loaded and on the road. Nevertheless we made it. Due to time restraints I decided to use my Quick Knots to plait up. And boy are they quick and I have to say that the finish is as good as the traditional sewing method. We were soon on our ponies and ready to compete until the rain began! After hiding under a shed we were soon able to get underway.

We were fortunate enough to win our two working horse classes and were Supreme Champion Hunter. We were about one quarter of the way through the program and the skies opened up once more. Tash and I decided we’d had enough, there is something about riding in torrential rain that I find just a little unappealing. Before we made it back to the our float my Wilson Equestrian super stick breeches were soaked through. It was at this moment I remembered that I hadn’t worn white underwear, not something you normally need to worry about in these breeches.

The following two weekend we filmed tests for the February Equimind competition. We won both the elementary and medium tests, with some positive feedback and constructive criticism.

Since then we have been training madly, and over the last month I’ve felt huge improvements in Nonie’s strength, the collected work is becoming easier, the counter canter more balanced and the lateral work more wrapped. This is the part of riding that I genuinely love, feeling the changes over time.

Andrea Parker – 2017 (A little late update)

2017 ended in a whirl of Christmas shopping, end of year parties and of course plenty of saddle time.

On the last Friday of Novemeber we competed once again in the Equimind online dressage competition. We completed in both the elementary and medium tests. This was particularly exciting as it was the first month that Equimind has run the medium classes. We managed to score 69.8% in the elementary test and 61.2% in the medium. We also got some really great feedback on these tests. The judge commented on Nonie’s ‘lovely cadence’ but that she needed to show more displacement in the lateral work. We were once again visited by Dani Keogh. We had two fantastic lessons where we worked on improving the wrap in the halfpass in both canter and trot.

During the end of year craziness we managed to find time to have some new adventures. In mid December, Nonie and I had our first few bridleless rides and she was an absolute gem.  It was something I had wanted to try for the longest time, but I really didn’t know where to start. A chance meeting with one of the other agistee’s gave me the starting point that I needed. Even in that first ride sans bridle we were able to confidently walk, trot and canter on both reins. That weekend a few of us hooked up our floats, jumped in the car and headed to the beach. We had a great relaxing ride and managed to get the ponies in for a bit of a swim.

To round off the year, whilst I was at home on the Sunshine Coast I was able to have two lessons my coach Danielle Keogh’s wonderful horse Remi Pegasus, aka Nemo. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to ride a horse as well school as Nemo. I was able to get a feel for the degree of collection required for the canter pirouette’s and the halfpass.



My favourite products from Wilson Equestrian in 2017 are the new Silicon Belts and the Southern Highlands Denim Breeches. The silicon belts are a great way to add a pop of colour to your riding outfit. The Southern Highlands denim breeches are super comfortable and have become a fast favourite.

Andrea Parker – The Sand Arena Ballerina update

After a somewhat leisurely start to 2017, it is now in full swing.
Early in June my feet were beginning to itch with the desire to get back into the competition arena. Without the luxury of any local dressage competitions, I settled for a hack show.
In the days prior to the show the weather turned exceptionally cold. In Mackay this means that the mercury dipped below 10! I felt really mean when I pulled her out of her paddock at 5pm for her bath. But you can’t ride at a hack show on a dirty horse, so she was scrubbed clean and wrapped up in a blanket while I got busy plaiting her up.
With the show starting at 9am and a plan to skip the led classes, I was able to have a  very civilised start to the day. As soon as we arrived, I got straight to putting the finishing touches on Nonie’s turn out. We went the full monty with quarter markers, hood black and make up. While I’ll always be a dressage rider at heart I secretly love turning horses out for the show ring.
We completed our hack show look with my Wilson Equestrian Show Jacket and Super stick breeches. Our turn out efforts were rewarded when we won ‘Best Presented’ later that day. Nonie worked beautifully for the whole day and we were sashed Champion Hunter Hack and Champion Rider.
The following weekend we were off to Bowen for a clinic with Kim Weston. Kim is an incredible clinician with years of training and competing under her belt, which she combines with an excellent ability to communicate with riders. This makes for incredible lessons and plenty of learning.
This weekend reminded me how useful it can be to have lessons with a second coach. A different coach offers an alternative perspective and I often find that different coaches will focus on different aspects of your riding and training.
Over the course of two lessons we focused on improving the bend through Nonie’s body particularly through the lateral movements and tweaking my position. The trot half pass is really starting to come together, and generally the quality of her paces is improving.
It’s been a little over a year since I have had lessons with Kim, so it was a real thrill to hear her say that Nonie and I had progressed well.
As we move into July, we have nominated for our first dressage competition of the year and excitingly our first ever start at medium level!

Andrea – The Sand Arena Ballerina Straight and Early

This month has been somewhat on the quite side horse wise, between rain which has cancelled the first competitions of the season and clinics and me travelling away for work and a conference. However there have been some exciting developments.



Mid way through the month we had a clinic with the wonderful Dani Keogh. This clinic happened to be running on the Sunday and Monday following a crazy week at work which meant that quite unusually for me, I had only managed to squeeze in one ride in the whole week. I was a little unsure as to just how well Nonie would go, as typically after a few days off she likes to try and trick me into holding her together. I was totally thrilled that we were able to continue to progress the work in the medium trot, half pass, counter canter and flying changes. Nonie’s strength has really grown over the last few months and it was evident in the work we produced under Dani’s expert guideance.

Monday morning’s lesson was scheduled for 5am, in order to allow me to get to work on time after wards. Those who know me will attest to the fact that I am not a morning persons, but I managed to drag myself out of bed at 4am and headed off into the chilly darkness. I went out clad in my Emerald super stick breeches and a nice warm vest and began saddling up under the light on the moon. I’m no stranger to finishing in the dark, but it is quite a different experience at the other end of the day. We were rewarded for our early start when we began to work on the canter pirouettes! We only managed a one or two strides in the pirouette, but it was a seriously incredible feeling.



Two key theme’s emerged for me from these lessons, the first was straightness I’m learning now more than ever that it is the basis of everything in dressage. The second was the importance of pushing beyond your comfort zone.

Earlier this year my mum made the decision to upgrade to a new angle load horse float, which in turn meant that I was able to upgrade to her old horse float. My old float has served me well but doesn’t really have enough storage space, actually it doesn’t have any at all, which makes the long trips we do slightly cramped. My father in law who was travelling back from the Sunshine Coast kindly offered to bring the new float back with him and it arrived the afternoon of my second lesson. I am now the proud owner of a Kara Kar extended float with a tack box at the front. My partner Steve who is an electrician is working on getting it hooked up to electricity. Safe to say our next trip away is going to seem pretty luxurious.

Last but not least my latest order arrived and it did not disappoint. Somehow, I reached that point where I only had a few pairs of breeches that were in good enough condition to use on a regular basis, so I ordered two pairs of the Super Stick Seat Wilson Equestrian Breeches one in ice teal and the other in grey. I’ve ridden in them a few times and am loving the new and improved design with its higher waist, but the same incredible stretch.



We are absolutely itching to get back into the competition ring, with our first outing planned for early July. In the mean time, if you would like to keep up to date with our goings on and to see the Wilson Equestrian products in action, be sure to follow Nonie and I over at the Sand Arena Ballerina at Facebook ( and Instagram (@the_sand_arena_ballerina).

Andrea – The Sand Arena Ballerina – Clinic Clinic Clinic! (After all practice makes perfect!)

March and April were set to be promising months, with a clinic booked with my coach Dani Keogh for early that month, and then a holiday in early April to enable us to travel down to the Sunshine Coast to attend a clinic with none other than Brett Parbery! However, Cyclone Debbie was lurking off the Coast of Queensland, creating stifling humidity the only respite for which was the torrential rain. You know, the type of rain that has you wondering if you will ever ride again. With no access to an indoor arena, myself and the other organiser made the decision the evening before Dani was due to fly up that we would have to postpone. With that decision made the equestrian gods decided to have a good laugh at our expense and the following day dawned sunny and perfectly cloudless. I guess this was still better than not being able to ride at all!



Despite having lived cyclone prone area’s such as Darwin and Mackay for more than half of my life, I have successfully avoided a direct hit from a cyclone, until now. In the two days leading up to the arrival of this mammoth system, the cyclone showcased its tremendous force by sucking nearby rain into its system – the result was skies which were sunny, lulling residents into a false sense of security. While my non-horsey colleagues were nervously excited, I was just nervous, not because I was scared that we would suffer damage at our house, but rather because I feared for my horse’s safety. Ultimately, we were incredibly fortunate and did not bear the brunt of the cyclone. We experience large amounts of rain and strong winds causing inconvenience in the form of fallen tree’s across the road and minor flooding preventing us from getting out to see Nonie for a full 24hours.

In the wake of Cyclone Debbie I gained a new appreciation for some of the ‘basic’ things that make everyday life with horses much easier. You know things like electricity and running water. After three days of consistent rain it was inevitable that Nonie with her exceptionally sensitive skin would develop a bit of rain scald. The lack of running water meant that I had to hand wash these spots on Nonie.

On the first day that I was able to ride post cyclone, I was late leaving work. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue so I didn’t rush. It wasn’t until Nonie was saddled up with the sun fast sinking behind the hills that I realised I had a slight issue, lights only work if you have power! This made for a very quick ride indeed! All in all, we were safe and had suffered little damage so there was nothing too much to complain about.



The next event on the agenda was a clinic on the beautiful Sunshine Coast with Brett Parbery. When my regular coach Dani announced that she would be hosting Brett for a clinic over Easter, my only hesitation was to make sure that I was able to secure the time off work. It wasn’t until Brett commented on my commitment to travel 10+ hours for two lessons, that I realised that this might not be normal. I can only explain this by one, my love of learning to ride and two, equine induced madness. But within about 15minutes of the first lesson starting I realised that they would be worth every kilometre and cent.

For day one, I wore my Emerald green Wilson Equestrian Super stick breeches, which despite multiple wears over the past 7 months still look wonderful, and never fail to garner a compliment or two due to their brilliant colour. We worked on straightness in the canter and then had a look at the flying changes and walk pirouettes. I was pretty chuffed to hear Brett say that we had the walk pirouettes under control as these have been something I have not found particularly easy to ride.

On day two, I wore my Navy Wilson Equestrian Super Stick Breeches, these offer the same excellent stretch as the emerald version with the added bonus of not showing up dirt or slobber marks. I have also been impressed by my Wilson Equestrian Italian Leather reins which despite being used most day for almost 12 months are in great condition and are still super soft. We again worked on the straightness in the canter, counter canter and working through shy’s. Nonie has worked in Dani’s arena on a number of occasions, but this weekend one corner was home to something particularly offensive, which just so happened to be invisible!

Brett made several changes to my position and there were more than a few light bulb moments over the two lessons. What really struck me about Brett’s approach to training horses is the importance of keeping it simple.


Jessie and Storm are going next level amazing!

2017 has started with a huge bang for Stormy and I! We were back out competing in early January, competing in the Interschool dressage qualifying classes in an attempt to qualify for Nationals in September. We placed second at Southern Vales Dressage Club against strong competition, and fourth at Mt Crawford. We then made the decision to register for the show horse disciple, the only issue being I cannot complete the lead phase of the discipline due to my leg. Luckily my little sister has been granted an exemption to complete this phase for me. We competed at Murray Bridge Show in February, winning the secondary show horse and gaining a qualifying score towards Nationals!! The following week we competed at a state interschool competition, placing second in the secondary show horse (he was the only Standardbred in the class), and going way over the qualifying scores needed for Nationals!! We had dressage the same day, however by our draw time, we had been at the competition for 8 hours and Stormy was understandably over it! He still rode a nice test, and once again placed mid field against all open breed horses. In February we received the news that we had been accepted into the SA State Dressage Championships! It was a dream come true to be given the opportunity to compete at this event, even if it meant missing my Yr. 12 formal.


At the championships I could not fault Stormy! He rode two of the best tests he has ever ridden, however the judge at B was scoring rather low, dragging our score down. It was a low scoring class all round, leaving us in 8th place in the Youth Rider. Once again Storm was the only Standardbred there, possibly the only Standardbred to ever compete at this event. We received fabulous comments on his canter and 8’s for his medium walk.

We continue to train with Megan, and Storm is building muscle every day. We have started travers, and his shoulder ins are becoming much more established.


This weekend we are competing at Mt Barker Ag Show in an attempt to get another qualifying score for nationals. The following weekend we are competing at the Royal Adelaide Autumn Horse Show, where Storm will contest both the breed and open Galloway classes. The following week we are away for 3 days at the Interschool State Championships where we hope to confirm a place on the SA Team for Nationals. We will then have a weekend off before travelling to the SPPHASA State Championships where we aim to defend our 4 state championships. The Autumn dressage festival in May is also in our sights.


To think that this time last year Storm didn’t know how to canter and now he is competing at the dressage state champs and possibly going to Nationals amazes me! I remember sending a text to Megan this time last year asking if she thinks we can teach him to canter ready for the Royal which was in 4 weeks. Megan’s reply was “ok yes enter open. Why not have a challenge 😉 Like Jess needs anymore motivating!!” so we haven’t looked back since.  Being in Yr. 12 means we are training at 5:30am so I have time for homework, but it doesn’t seem to faze my amazing little man.  If 2017 has taught us anything so far it is that Dreams really do come true!

Andrea – The Sand Arena Ballerina!

Christmas has been and gone and while summer is officially over the heat and humidity that leaves the air feeling like soup even into the late hours of the afternoon has continued to linger. Whilst summer was quiet on the competition front, Nonie and I have, for the most part continued to ride and train. with the relentless heat our ride times have become somewhat shorter and less frequent and have been postponed to the last moment of rideable light. My Wilson Equestrian super stick breeches have had a workout over the last three months and have held up really well.
We’ve kept busy with clinics and have made some exciting progress. In December we started work on the flying changes proper. While the likes of Charlotte and Valegro make these look easy, they are certainly a new challenge for us. That being said it’s an amazing feeling to know that Nonie and I have made it to a point where we are able to begin riding these upper level movements. Riding them at home some days they are great other days not so much. The goal at present is to get them easy and consistent enough to ride a test. We attended another clinic in February where we continued working on the changes as well as on creating more engagement and Helping Nonie to lift her neck up and out from her shoulders to create a better outline. This combined with the overall increasing difficulty of our training has greatly improved the quality of the trot and canter work.
We’ve also managed a few beach rides over Christmas. These were a great opportunity for a gallop and a relax.
I’m really excited for all that the next two months offer; another clinic with our regular coach Danielle Keogh and a trip down to the Sunshine Coast over Easter for another clinic.

Taylah and Sym – Back in the Game!!

Things have been super busy with work and competitions. I started two new jobs early September, they are both my dream jobs, working casual positions with one riding beautiful home bred performance horses and the other at a race horse spelling, breeding, pre training and re training property in Berry. Learning about the breeding program and being involved with the foal work is something I have never done and love learning about. I am also lucky enough to be riding the gorgeous pre trainers and the re trainers.




We have two in preparation to be sold on to loving homes in a new discipline. Jasper is one that I have been working on and campaigning for six weeks, he is definitely a favorite, not only is he super flashy but his trainability and incredible personality is one in a million. Temple has just been brought in for re training last week and is going better than I could have imagined, I can’t wait to see him improve.




Symmetry went on boot camp for two weeks to Hayden Equestrian, with a few lessons together, tweaking the way I have been riding, I am so impressed with how it has improved us together and I couldn’t thank them enough for their help. After Sym got back from the Haydens we were in preparation for Berrima horse trails. Doing a clinic at Wallaby Hill with Charlie Brister and also competing at Shoalhaven dressage we were as ready as we could be. Berrima Horse Trails was our first Event since Silver Hills a year ago where we eliminated ourselves, as the environment was a little overwhelming for Symmetry.




We competed in the EVA80, I was over the moon with our dressage receiving a percentage of 74.6% placing us in first place. The show jumping warm up was a little stressful with horses everywhere though as soon as we got into the ring she was listening perfectly only getting one rail due to a rider error. I was wearing the Wilson Equestrian show Jacket with the white sticky bum breeches, white show shirt and the navy belt. Last but not least was cross country, Symmetry took it all in her stride having an awesome warm up and cleared all the fences by a mile, although we went a little to fast we were lucky enough to still hold first place winning her first rug. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Standing out in cross-country wearing Wilson equestrians navy blue show shirt and their Bright Green super sticky breeches with the navy belt.




I cannot wait for our next event next year. In the meantime we will participate in the local shows in both the hack and showjumping ring.



Jessie Smith and her Dressage Scholarship

On the 29th of October, I received a letter telling me that my recent application for Equestrian SA’s Youth Development Dressage Scholarship had been successful, and that Stormy and I were one of the 10 state-wide finalists to receive a weekend of coaching with well-known Victorian based dressage coach and rider Dirk Dijkstra. I was so incredibly surprised by this, as I had applied knowing we were so unlikely to get in, hoping that it may just get my name out there a little bit.




We had 2 weeks to prepare, and very early on Saturday the 12th of November we set off to McLaren Vale. The weekend was being held at the beautiful McLaren Vale Equestrian Park. The stables were AMAZING, and the indoor arena was incredible to ride on! We had two lessons with Dirk, an individual on Saturday and a group lesson on Sunday.

Stormy absolutely worked the house down in both of his lessons, I was so so happy with how he took in the atmosphere, working in a new indoor with a number of people all sitting in a scary grandstand like he had done it all before. Of course Storm was the only Standardbred there, however he didn’t let this phase him, and he showed everyone what he is made of! In our first lesson we continued to work on flexion and bend, and he thoroughly enjoyed a long canter! I had an interview on Sunday morning with Dirk and the co-selector Jan Gilligan, before we had another lesson. In our second lesson we got the chance to show everyone more of what he is capable of. We were given the opportunity to leg yield, shoulder in and work on his trot extensions. Storm felt fantastic in his leg yields, allowing us the opportunity to start a little bit of half pass. His shoulder ins are coming along in leaps and bounds, however it is incredibly difficult without my leg when we are on the right rein. We have continued to work on these things at home and with Megan, and he just gets better and better.




The winner of the scholarship is announced at the ESA awards night early next year (good excuse to buy a dress and get my hair done!), however Storm and I are just so incredibly thankful to have been given this opportunity! Storm and I made many new friends, and had a fantastic weekend together. If Storm continues to train like he did at the scholarship weekend the sky is the limit (funny saying I am writing this whilst on a plane to Equitana!).

We are competing at a dressage competition at Mt Crawford next weekend (26th of November), and then have three more hack shows, the last being on December 11. Hopefully we will have success at these competitions, theoretically we should do ok, but it is forever changing!



Andrea just can’t help getting out and about!

It has been said on more than one occasion that I can be stubborn at times. Case and point, my need to go to a dressage competition after having been virtually confined to the couch with a mystery virus for the previous two days. I had a fantastic ride Friday afternoon and decided that I would be well enough to compete the following day, but that I would have to forgo braiding Nonie. On Saturday morning, driving out to the paddock to load Nonie and travel up to Cannon Valley, I began to wonder out loud if I still had a temperature much to my partner’s horror, I remained determined to compete. Adding fuel to the fire was the arrival of the summer heat, the type which feels hot, thick and suffocatingly still. Needless to say, they weren’t our finest tests of the year. I made it through the novice and elementary, but felt like I was going to pass out by the end, but we still managed to produce some nice moments.




Nonie warmed up in her new white fleece lined brush boots from Wilson Equestrian. I wore my Wilson Equestrian long sleeve show shirt which was perfect for the informal t-shirt competition.


The following weekend, the local show society was putting on a competition that offered everything from miniature horse to dressage to western to hacking. Being able to travel to a competition in under an hour is a huge novelty for me, so I once again readied myself to compete. There is something about plaiting up a horse that I find almost meditative, so long as I am not short of time. On this occasion my late start time (3.30pm!!!) meant that I was able to luxuriate in the process of turning Nonie out, to the point that she even had quarter markers! I wore my favourite Wilson Equestrian super stick breeches and the Wilson Equestrian 2016 show jacket for a polished look. I absolutely love this jacket as I find it creates beautiful lines without restricting my position.


Some competitions are great because you are surrounded by friends or you and your horse remained calm, others because you feel that you nailed it in the ring. But for me this last competition was great because a huge lesson was learnt. I have often heard the saying that competition is important and even necessary as it is the ultimate litmus test of your training. While this is a lesson I have been gradually recognising, it was only at this most recent competition that I fully realised the truth of it. Perhaps this is because sometimes you learn the most when a ride doesn’t go quite the way you want it to. Having had some great rides over the past few weeks, where I have felt that Nonie was developing moments of cadence and was swinging nicely across the back, I lost it at the competition. There were certainly some great moments in both tests, with a final score of 73% in the novice and a couple of 8s in the elementary, however I knew that there was some work to be done. A friend whose opinion I greatly value was pencilling at this competition. She told me that Nonie needed more cadence in the trot work and that she appeared to be anticipating something in the canter work. I was initially disappointed, however upon further reflection, I realised that in my efforts to develop a bigger trot and canter I had sacrificed Nonie’s softness and that she still needed to be much more adjustable through her body. It was a great opportunity to learn this in the ring and I have now been able to adjust our training accordingly.


For something completely different, the next day we entered the relatively unfamiliar world of the show horse ring. I had fun taking the extra time to apply largely unfamiliar products such as hoof black and make up. I even pulled my velvet helmet and velvet browband out of the cupboard for the occasion. I take my hat off to riders who do this on a regular basis, the level of commitment that it takes to turn horses out to that level cannot be underestimated. However, for Nonie and I, our hearts ultimately lie with dressage.