Galloway and Zeilinger go to a whole new level
Melissa Galloway continued her outstanding partnership with Zeilinger by becoming level four national champion on Saturday when she blew away her competition on the final day of the Bates National Dressage Championships.
Galloway made the trip to Feilding in the Manawatu after finishing third at level four in 2014 and has since strengthened the combination with her 11-year-old gelding.
"I was just hoping to do my best and improve on what I got last year, so I was pretty happy to win," the 22-year-old said on Monday.
"The first two days it was really tight and could have been any ones, but the last day was definitely the best."
The championships began on Thursday and consisted of three tests over three days for Galloway and Zeilinger.
She missed out on winning the first by the narrowest of margins, her 69.917%, just behind the winner on 70%. However, it was a clean sweep for the remaining two tests, winning the final comfortably. Her 72.230% was almost 5% clear of her nearest rival, Tauranga's Anna McIntyre.
Galloway was thrilled with the win, and in particular the final test that secured it.
"That test I made absolutely no mistakes. I was so happy. I couldn't have done much better, whereas the other test I had made one mistake or there was something I could have improved. That last test though was one of the best I have ever ridden."
Fellow Marlburian Janelle Sangster-Ward finished seventh, 10th and eighth in her three tests at level five aboard Dunstan Astek Ghisella. Louis Schindler qualified for the championships but was forced to withdraw when his horse fell lame.
The 22-year-old said she didn't know what to expect of her opponents entering such a large event. "We only go up there once or twice a year so you don't know what it is going to be like, other than it is going to be tougher than in the South Island."
That led to some nerves, which only amplified as the event wore on.
"I was really really nervous and when I got second [on Thursday] it made me more nervous because I realised I actually had a real good chance of doing well."
Galloway and Zeilinger have struck up a strong combination in a short time, the horse having been under the riders control for less than two years.
"When I got him he had mainly been doing jumping and had only ever done low level dressage and not very successfully," Galloway explained. "I pretty much took him from the beginning, so he did really well."
Galloway said next season she plans to make the step up to level five, but before then there is the Horse of the Year competition in Hastings this weekend, where her opponents are expected to be the same as she faced at the nationals, so another win is a strong possibility.
- The Marlborough Express