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Going Up Through the Levels with Holly Barnes

by David Benn 29 Aug 2023

Rosabella R (Bella) was purchased at auction as a three-year-old back in 2012. I was travelling in Europe at the time, so it was my mother who placed the winning bid and took her home. She sent me a text message telling me she’d bought her and at this stage, I had only seen her in the Auction Catalogue. She was a beautiful surprise to come home to! A little bay mare with 3 white socks and a star.  

Bella was the first young horse that I had ridden and aimed to take up through the levels and I’ve learnt now that training young horses isn’t always easy! She has a big personality and can be quite hot, so it has been a steep learning curve and there have been plenty of tests we’ve had to retire from. It took some time before I could take her out to multiple competitions and get her to stay with me.

Over time, with perseverance and patience, I have managed to train her up through the dressage levels. Our first big event was the Four-Year-Old Class at the Sydney CDI. Since then, she has won the Medium Amateur Owner Rider Champion at Willinga Park, the NSW State Advanced Amateur Owner Rider Champion, and the National Advanced Amateur Owner Rider Champion, as well as performance medals from Novice to Small Tours and multiple local championship wins at every level along the way. I’m most proud of her winning the National Medium Tour Amateur Owner Rider Champion in late 2022!

My biggest goal for us is to have our first Grand Prix start in the next twelve months. That would be my dream come true! I feel to get the higher levels of dressage you need that spark and spirit Bella has. It’s just finding the right balance and moderation to contain it during a test.

Photo: Rodney's Photography

I’m not living some equestrian dream life though…

I work as a Finance Officer during the day and ride my horses in the evening. Being winter, it’s hard getting home and riding in the cold and dark on my own. There are days when I look out the window and it’s warm and sunny and wish I were out riding. Fortunately, my employer is flexible, and they let me take time off for competitions and work from home when I need. In the coming months, I will be moving to a property and aim to focus more on riding and to specialise in dressage training, sales and breeding.

I love fine jewellery, especially when it's equestrian-related! The team at Palomino Jewels create perfect high-quality equestrian jewellery that anyone can wear. I love wearing my Palomino Jewels to work and out in the arena!

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