Australian Eventing star Hazel Shannon will return to defend her title in the CCI4* at the Australian International 3 Day Event in Adelaide next week.
The 25-year-old rider and her 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Willinga Park Clifford, will be aiming to become the first combination in the event's 20-year history to win the CCI4* class back to back.
The pair have been in scintillating form since 2016. There is no top-level horse and rider combination in more dominant form anywhere in the country right now. Remarkably, they have won five of their past nine outings since August 20, 2016.
Some of the highlights during the past 12 months include 1st Goulburn CIC3, 1st Tamworth CIC3 and 2nd Sydney CIC3*.
"He's going better than ever. A year's gone on and one year more training has gone into us," Hazel said.
"Dressage has seen biggest improvement of the three phases. It's good to have seen some improvement there."
That improvement was reflected at Goulburn where the pair finished on their best ever dressage score.
She says all is in readiness to give Adelaide a good shake next week against a star studded international line-up that includes former Olympians Stuart Tinney and Megan Jones and Oceania Championships AUS representative riders Andrew Cooper, Rohan Luxmoore and Robert Palm.
Talented NSW rider Katie Taliana will also be competing in her first CCI4* on Trevalgar II.
"There are some tough Kiwis such as Clarke Johnstone coming over this year so it's going to be a good competition."
"We are feeling pretty similar to last year. It's always a tense lead-up but everything so far is going right touch wood," she said.
Her horse Willinga Park Clifford has new owners. The founders and owners of NSW based Equestrian facility Willinga Park, Terry and Ginette Snow, recently purchased him to ensure that the pair are never separated as result of a sale.
Such is the nature of horse sport at this level that sometimes owners decide for one reason or another to sell their horses, but, circumstances do not always guarantee that the partnership with their regular rider continues.
"It's amazing and I'm still a bit gobsmacked by it all. I am very grateful."
Willinga Park Clifford's previous owners will stay in touch and follow the pair closely in the future.
Hazel plans to arrive in Adelaide next Tuesday with horse inspections set for Wednesday afternoon.
She will travel Willinga Park Clifford 12 hours by car and float to Hay, NSW, for a stop-over and then drive another 7 hours to Adelaide.
All the competition action at the 2017 Australian International 3 Day Event begins on Thursday.
Article courtesy of Equestrian Australia