New Zealand’s top onshore based dressage combination have crossed the Tasman to compete at one of their favourite events . . . the Sydney CDI.

Wendi Williamson and Don Vito MH, current holders of both the national and Land Rover Horse of the Year dressage crowns, are no strangers to the top competition. This will be Wendi’s seventh outing there, and Don Vito’s second – they were second last year to Paris hopeful and World Cup finalist Melissa Galloway aboard Windermere J’Obei W, and Wendi has previously won the CDI3* aboard Don Amour MH.

“It is a great event,” she says. “Knowing so much about it beforehand certainly makes the planning a lot easier, but it also has a great organising committee, good judges, excellent facilities and is relatively easy to get to for an offshore competition.”

This year Wendi is chasing personal bests with her 11-year-old who she says has plenty more to give. Don Vito, who is by Don Frederico, out of Adelheid, who is by Anamour, has an international record filled with only firsts and seconds. Their current personal best scores are 77.945% in the musical freestyle, 74.383% for the Grand Prix Special, and 71.696% for the Grand Prix.

“When you have a Grand Prix horse who is going well and there are no more CDI competitions in New Zealand until March next year, what do you do? Don Vito has been getting some really good PBs in his last few shows. This is around seeing what we can do. He is still quite young and this is his third season at Grand Prix level but we did have a 10-month break in 2022. He is just starting to get stronger and more confident.”

Wendi Williamson rides Don Vito MH. File Photo. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

She is sure there is more. “With my other Grand Prix horses I spent many years chasing 70% and this horse has had two 74s in the special and nearly a 78 in the freestyle. His Grand Prix is sitting around the 71 mark, so it is pretty cool.”

She’s quick to add there is getting a horse to Grand Prix level, but then there is getting it to an international standard. “I am pretty pleased. This horse is really smart and enjoys his job, so that allows you to max out his capabilities. He has such an amazing work ethic too. Everything is getting better with strength.” She feels his best moves are his extended trot, half passes, a good “springy” passage and the energy he brings to each test.

Wendi and Don Vito, who will compete in the CDI3*, flew out on Sunday, with competition starting on Wednesday and running through to Saturday.

Other Kiwis competing at Sydney are Matthews Hanoverians’ rider Casey Burton with Fanfare MH in the CDI1*, and Aussie based New Zealanders John Thompson with MSJ Gatsby and Sugarloaf Amnesty who are both in the CDI1*, and Lucy Cochrane aboard Gymanji in the CDIU25.

WHAT: The Sydney CDI
WHEN: May 1-4, 2024
WHERE: Sydney, Australia


By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ