Sheridyn Ashwood–New Kid on the Block

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Sheridan Ashwood and VDL Prestige (Downunder Photography). Sheridan Ashwood and VDL Prestige (Downunder Photography).
I always laugh when I hear the term, ‘new kid on the block’, because if the truth be known the ‘kid’ has been around for years, working hard to make things happen and when they start to get the results we all act as though they started riding only a couple of years ago.

Australian rider Sheridyn Ashwood certainly falls into this category. Her first ride was as a two year old on a Shetland pony at a Christmas party. Thirty years later she is making people sit tall in their seat to see her and her Big Tour stallion Prestige VDL give some of Australia’s top Grand Prix horses a run for their money.

It was only at the 2012 Orange Dressage with Altitude CDI that this combination came second in the GP Freestyle and GP Special with scores around the 68% mark. This is quite extraordinary as Sheridyn has only competed in six Grand Prix, two Grand Prix Freestyles and 2 Grand Prix Specials. In just a couple of weeks they will be proving they are not just a ‘flash in the pan’ by competing at Australia’s premier International Dressage event–the Sydney CDI.

Prestige VDL (also known as Mr P) was bred by VDL Stud and initially trained by Edward Gal. He is a beautiful bay stallion standing 16.3hh with four white socks and blaze, with the most amazing paces and temperament. He is by the Olympic Stallion Silvano N. Sheridyn’s bubbly personality bubbles over.

“My parents are very supportive. They do whatever they can to help me achieve my best. And in the spirit of keeping me busy and focused they’ve helped me purchase (and import) this great horse. He truly is the most wonderful horse I have ever had the joy of working with,” she said.

Over the years, Sheridyn has had strong connections with some of Australia’s best trainers and riders.

“When I lived in Sydney, Judy Dierks was the most influential trainer for me but since moving to Queensland, Ben Conn has been the one who really understands me as a rider and pushes me. He expects ‘perfection’ and being a bit that way inclined myself, we get along great from a trainer/rider relationship."

(Justin Stent Photography) (Justin Stent Photography)

Sheridyn is no different to many elite riders in regards to her background with horses. She has competed in eventing and show jumping; taught beginners, trained numerous dressage horses and broken in horses for a pre-training centre. It was at this thoroughbred facility she worked with a man who became the biggest influence of her life (not including her mum or dad of course). His name is John Bourke. John is that rare breed of a ‘True Horseman’. There are many fabulous riders, trainers, teachers or even competitors but a true horseman is far and few between. They are the people who have that amazing gift of getting into the horse’s mind,…assessing and addressing their issues and within a short period of time, manage to get the horse to do what no other has achieved. Sheridyn told many amazing stories of her time with John.

“I was a girl in a man’s world. All the guys bagged me out for being a princess.

I was a girl in a man’s world. All the guys bagged me out for being a princess.

They couldn’t understand why or how I could help them break in all these youngsters. It took a while but I proved them all wrong and earned their respect. I had to work harder than all of them and be as brave as I could. John was the most amazing man I have ever had the privilege of working with.

“We had completely wild horses that we had to herd on trucks like cattle and try to do something with them. To catch them they were lassoed from horseback as it was too dangerous to be on foot. John could fix ANY problem with a horse by getting into its mind. If a colt needed gelding or if a leg was damaged and needed to be stitched, it was all done by The Boys. It was a real eye opener, sometimes offensive, but that’s how it was done out there so I respected that. All John's horses NEVER bucked regardless of how long they had off and they were tough and hardy. I learnt so much from John. It was such an invaluable experience. I still use what I learnt then on all my dressage horses. He was like a dad to me, always making sure I was alright. I was lucky to have that time. It was great!”

Although Sheridyn has moved on, it’s good to see she hasn’t forgotten her roots and still treasures those wonderful lessons from a good old Australian horseman.

I’m sure those special skills of communication have helped her with her dressage career. Sheridyn will be riding in the Grand Prix tour at the Sydney CDI.

By Scott Pollock

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