With a modest goal to get back into riding and have some fun on a safe, trustworthy horse, Emma Lindell’s achievements across the past two years are nothing short of remarkable.
Pairing up with successful standardbred MF Hollywood, recognised as the first standardbred to contest the prestigious Garryowen Turnout event at the 2013 Royal Melbourne Show, Emma was drawn to the handsome gelding not from his accomplishments, but due to his kind nature.
“Coming back into riding, I definitely had some nerves”, Emma explains.
“I felt an instant sense of safety on James and loved his funny personality; he’s a real character”.
The timing for the pair was impeccable, with Emma purchasing James right before the first round of Covid lockdowns hit Melbourne.
The next few months provided a quiet opportunity of Emma and James to build their relationship slowly and really get to know each other on a deeper level.
“Some of my friends really struggled with mental health challenges throughout the lockdowns and so I started posting photos of James on social media”, Emma recalls.
“He’d stick his tongue out at the camera and seemed to love the limelight. He was a source of joy for many people during this time and I really fell in love with him”.
As the lockdowns lifted, the equestrian world resumed and Emma found herself buying a float, joining her local HRCAV club (Werribee Central) and jumping right into the competition scene.
Seeking to build a solid foundation, Emma and James started in Level 5 and across the first season of their partnership won many awards, including the Golden Spurs Dressage Series Champions, their club’s annual High Point Champion award and placing in the overall Top 10 combination for HRCAV Showing (across all levels).
From there, the next twelve months were a blur of sashes and levelling up, as Emma and James found their rhythm as a partnership and established contacts in the horse world which helped them to consolidate their training regime and move from strength to strength.
“James’s fitness and performance have improved immensely in the past year”, Emma explains.
“In this time I have changed James’ feed to CEN nutrition, which has helped his gut health and overall condition, and I met FEI rider and NCAS instructor Karen Blythe, who agreed to be our coach.
“I’ve been working with Karen on improving my position and getting James to work more from his hind and to build his topline”.
As is the case with many esteemed equestrians who meet James and Emma along their journey, Karen has extended her praise of the pair on Emma’s social media channels.
“I’m so proud of you [Emma] and James… It’s not easy performing all those fancy moves when you are a pacer, but you have showed them it can be done”, Karen writes.
Despite their success to date, it seems Emma and James are still very much on the fast-track to success and only scratching the surface of what’s possible for the pair.
Moving up through the grades from Level 5 HRCAV Dressage in 2021, Emma and James have just celebrated a marvellous milestone of pointing-up to Level 2, just six months after their grading to Level 3.
“We went to our first level 3 competition at the end of September and have since been awarded some encouraging scores well into the seventies [percentages], several wins in individual classes, Jackpot Reserve Champions, Best Presented and Best Performed Standardbred awards”, Emma says.
“It’s not been an easy road, to compete in such large classes with beautiful horses bred specifically for dressage.
“We just go out each time holding our heads high and work our legs off to get in the placings”.
Emma’s warm, bubbly personality has seen her make many introductions and friends throughout her journey with James, with her friendly face smiling in photos sought out with fellow standardbred owners at events.
“I jump on every opportunity to talk about standardbreds and to tell as many people as I can how amazing this breed of horse is.
“Many of the judges are excited to see more standardbreds out competing. I encourage standardbred owners to join their local HRCAV club to enjoy the supportive community”
Emma’s infectious passion for standies and can-do attitude has earned her Brand Representative status with several prominent equestrian companies, including CEN Nutrition, Dreamers Equestrian, LHP Designs Browbands, Journey Equestrian Photography and her selection as one of the first on the newly formed HRV Hero Ambassadors in 2022.
“I feel honoured to have been chosen as one of the HRV Hero Ambassadors and hope I can inspire more standardbred owners to go out and try the variety of events that HRCAV offers. Standardbreds are so versatile and well received in adult rider competitions”.
HRV Hero Operations Manager Tara van der Minne says Emma’s and James’ achievements demonstrate the talents of the standardbred beyond the track.
“Seeing Emma and James work their way up from Level 5 to Level 2, with many successes along the way, is very inspiring to the standardbred community. They’re really showing what’s possible with hard work and dedication”, Tara says.
It’s also fantastic for people new to the breed to see such a competitive combination up in the higher levels, proving that standies make a great choice of HRCAV mount”.