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NEWS > Dressage
Posted by Sydney CDI on 26/03/2024.
Ashlee Aquilina & Movie Magic at 2024 Willinga Park
Amy Sue Alston

Star Power at the CDI: SPB Movie Magic and Ashlee Aquilina

Article by Amiee Cupitt


Lights, Camera, Action: SPB Movie Magic and Ashlee Aquilina

No one can deny the growth in popularity of ‘Pony Dressage’. And no one is immune to the charm of these pint-sized competitors. Ashlee Aquilina was the first to enter the 2024 Sydney CDI, qualifying for the 6yo Young Horse class with her German Riding Pony, SPB Movie Magic. “Movie”, as he is fondly known at home, is by Movie Star, out of ST.PR Dailara, lovingly bred by Select Pony Breeding based in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria. 

Movie was originally purchased by Aquilina’s mother in 2020. “He was quite a cheeky young horse. He was a bit sharp and looky, and moved like a ninja, so my mum asked me to hop on and do a bit of work with him. She never got him back!” Aquilina admits that, prior to Movie, she was accustomed to riding large warmbloods, and the transition to a pony wasn’t one she had planned. Stepping down (literally) from a 17.3hh Warmblood onto the 13.3hh Movie, she was struck by the similarities. “It felt like a big horse. He moves like a big horse. I think the rise in popularity of these dressage ponies is because of this increase in quality bloodlines coming into the country – people can have the trainability and the movement and the quality, but all without having to climb onto something enormous.”

Another thing that struck Aqulina was just how personable Movie was compared to previous horses. “Other big horses I’ve had have been quite aloof, or just not that interested in having people in their space. Movie wants you near him all the time. He can be a little spooky and unsure in new environments, and really seeks you out for comfort and guidance. He’s a really cheeky personality, and a talented pony, but he’s really just like a dog in the way he seeks you out for comfort. He loves smoochies, the treat, and will lay his head on your shoulder constantly like a giant dog!”  

For Aquilina, the bond they share is everything. “Trust in this sport, and at this event particularly, is imperative. It’s everything. With Movie, we’ve always made every outing and every experience a nice one. They remember. If it’s a bad experience, they’ll shut down – especially the ponies. They have such enormous personalities. I’ve learnt that if Movie is unsure about something, his response if very much ‘hold me’ – I’ve had to learn what works for him and how I can plan ahead for things that might upset him. We know each other so well now that we can do all that.”

The duo has a strong relationship, and their preparation for the 6yo Young Horse Classes at the Sydney CDI is in full swing. Aquilina has been guided by Robbie McKinnon for nearly 10 years, and recently spent 3 days at a clinic and Masterclass with Hayley Beresford in Dural. “It was an incredible experience to ride in the masterclass with Hayler (Beresford). We were the only little horse in it!” Aquilina said the last three days were formative in her preparation for the CDI. “I’d also really like the shout out to Leanne Shead – she breeds such wonderful horses and we’ve recently acquired another foal from her, so watch this space!”

Photo:  Ashlee Aquilina at Willinga Park 

Photo credit:  Amy-Sue Alston

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