Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld has put on an action packed 4 days from the 16th –19th May, 2013 as part of their first day birthday celebrations and the launch of Destination Equestrian – the nucleus of activity to meet the growing needs of Australian horse owners. The first 2 days have been well-received and day three offered a very innovative and varied program with breeds and activities showcased and explained.
Left: Carl O'Dwyer, with his grand-daughter Ella and daughter Trish McBurnie who was a keen rider when growing up.
The day started with a session sponsored by the Irish Draft and Sporthorse Society of Australia and the mood was set with things of green and lively Irish music chosen to create an authentic atmosphere to reflect the origin of these noble and versatile horses.
The MC for first session of the day was well known local horsewoman (and Irish Draught/Sporthorse enthusiast) Sue Tufnellwho was joined by espert Assessor/Inspector Jenny Muir, who assisted her to explain more about the Irish Draught. We learned that when a purebred Irish Draft is crossed with a Thoroughbed, the progeny is known as an Irish Sporthorse and this breed have earned an enviable reputation as the perfect choice for 3 Day Eventing, with some of the notable equine stars in this discipline tracing back to Irish heritage.
Right: Jenny Muir hold up the breed guidelines and other information for her session with Sue Tufnell
We learned that the purebred was used on Irish farms and horses that could be ridden were favoured for their versatility. In modern times, more TB influence has given refinement and athleticism whilst maintaining the much prized temperament and work ethic that fostered interest in the breed.
It was a very appropriate session for day two of this equestrian festival, as day one – the opening and Masterclass officiated by Australian Olympian (and Saddleworld sponsored rider) Megan Jones - breeds Irish Sporthorses at her South Australian stud – Kirby Park - and KP Irish Jester, her Silver Medal partner in Beijing and London qualifier KP Allofasudden are both Irish home-breds.
Sue, Jenny and several members of the Irish Draft and Sporthorse Society of Australia presented a number of fine examples of the breed, which showed that the variation in type and size, but all displayed great aptitude for performance sports.
The first Irish horse out was the rising 11 year old, imported purebred mare Richmondlea Dalia owned by Sue and Chris Tufnell. Jenny Muir explained the conformation ideals using the attractive liver chestnut, mother of 6 as her model. Dalia was acknowledged to be smaller than most Irish purebreds, which was considered a ‘plus’ as many riding horses are sought by smaller lady riders who would prefer not to be over-mounted. Dalia is a credit to the breed and even though she has only been lightly shown, she did not put a foot wrong.
Right Jenny Muir and Sue Tufnell point out the breed ideals for the Irish Draught and Irish Sporthorse.
|Sue and Chris Tufnell's imported purebred Irish Draght mare Richmondlea Dalia|
We then met the 5-year-old competition mare Eireann Rose, a most attractive dapple-grey, partnered today by her owner of 2 years, Stacey Fyfe. Sue Tufnell explained that Stacey got a little more than she had bargained for when she purchased the mare. Rose was purchased as a riding horse as she traced back to the well-respected performance TB Bantry Boy, who enjoyed respect for producing capable jumping horses. The mare puzzled her new owner when she put on an inexplicable amount of weight – particularly in the belly region! Yes, she was in foal and produced a very nice colt and resumed her riding career when her mothering duties were over. Stacey showed the mare’s quality on the flat and then they showed the style and scope of Irish horses over obstacles.
|Eireann Rose shows her versatility and talent with Stacey Fyfe|
The next Irish horse on show was a finer more elegant “blood” horse and we learned that the handsome black gelding Oisin, is an Irish bred/Warmblood cross, owned and ridden by eventing enthusiast Yvette Woodburn. Oisin had a slow start to his ridden career and spent his first 8 ½ years with the breeder. Now at 11, he has made up ground and is set for a promising future in competition.
|Oisin, is an Irish bred/Warmblood cross ridden by Yvette Woodburn and training for Eventing|
Stacey Fyfe then presented the newest member of her team, Tullows All or Nothing, a striking 8-year chestnut with a blonde mane and tail. Standing 17 hands, the 8 YO carries 5/8th Irish blood and demonstrated a notable degree of education. We learned that he has spent some time with champion eventer, Will Enzinger, who is based at Wandon Park in Victoria. The pair had a few competition starts and enjoyed some success. Tullows All or Nothing is very established in his rhythm and acceptance of the aids and after just a week, the partnership with Stacey is going very well and looks set for a long and successful career with this beautiful horse.
|Tullows All or Nothing and Stacey Fyfe - Sue and Chris Tufnell bred this horse and were very proud of him.|
Next out was Yvette Woodburn and she rode her Irish Sporthorse (50% Irish and 50% TB) Irish Woodsman who is known as Bailey at home. Yvette and Baily made a very harmonious combination and we were saddened to learn that she lost her home and a precious horse on the horrendous “Black Saturday” fires in 2009. It was nice to see Yvette enjoy this much happier day and meet the talented Bailey.
Irish Woodsman and Yvette Woodburn
Group of 5 Irish Draught and Irish Sporthorses
proudly shown in hand and ridden
The Irish music went up to full volume as the demonstration came to an end and to be sure, the Irish Draft and Sporthorse will have a few more fans following their very impressive display. This was a very nice way of introducing the activities that have inspired the Destination Equestrian concept.
Right: It's a yukky job, but someone needs to do it ... and Chris Tufnell operated the pooper scooper with a generous smile.
The crowd departed for some much deserved retail therapy and a sausage sizzle hosted by the Kilmore Pony Club.
Following the early lunch there was a demonstration and talk by the Standardbred Riding Group who are one of three Victorian organisations involved in retraining and rehoming Standardbreds (harness racing horses) for a career as pleasure horses. The Wandong based club’s spokesperson was very enthusiastic when explaining the plus points of this versatile breed and highlighted their wonderful temperament. It was interesting to hear about the number of activities that are available for ex-harness racing horses and just how well they adapt to a career change when their racing days are over. This demonstration put to rest the misconceptions that are put out by the ignorant, that suggest that Standardbreds cannot canter and cannot jump. Today we saw both ... with horses and rider’s having lots of fun cantering over obstacles.
The group of Standard breds from left - Red Sky at Night, Aboy Named Cheryl and Ochil Hills
The first horse we met was the loose moving 5 year old bay, Red Sky at Night (Bailey) who is owned and ridden by Jenny Phillips from Wallan. Although he is still quite green and unbalanced, he shows a great attitude for his training under saddle and this confirms a very promising future. Bailey is certainly an excellent recommendation for the temperament and potential of retired harness racing horses and it was great to see people promoting a future for them. Horse lovers need to take on board the sentiment as it is up to US!!!
Red Sky at Night (Bailey) and Jenny Phillips
The next horse out was shown in harness and I was very interested to learn that show classes are conducted for horses in a sulky. However, rather than speed, their obedience and agility are assessed by a series of exercises. The Club’s President Cheryl Kick, who bred, trained and raced her cutely named gelding – Aboy Named Cheryl. She had nothing but praise for her pleasure horse who retired from racing in 2011 and is now a much loved member of the Kick family.
Aboy Named Cheryl shows his versatility in harness
and under saddle with breeder, trainer and owner
Cheryl Kick, President of Standardbred Riding
Group who meet regularly in Wandong.
Cheryl explained that in show harness classes, the judge would be looking for a clear and rhythmical trot and an obedient halt and rein back. The horse would be required to circle without moving the sulky wheels backwards or forwards and just as with most show classes, the retired harness racing horse will be expected to be supple with soft lateral movements and an attentive and trainable temperament. Aboy Named Cheryl was very impressive and his owner has put in the hard work and has good reason to be extremely proud.
Another dark brown/black owned by Cheryl Kick was next out under saddle. Ochil Hills is a veteran racehorse having 118 race starts for 9 wins, 11 seconds and 15 thirds. He was raced as a stallion and earned his well-deserved retirement. He was gelded late and has adapted well to life as a saddle horse. Megan Stephenson rode Ocki, after just 5 minutes to get to know him. This was a win/win as Ocki enabled Megan to be part of the day even though her own horse had to be withdrawn.
Ochil Hills and Megan Stephenson
The last demonstration was a second appearance by Aboy Named Cheryl and this time he worked under saddle, with Cheryl Kick aboard. This session showed another dimension to his many talents. Although the jumping grid would hardly have challenged the World Cup horses, it was great to see the obliging nature of the Standardbred give it a go and show that they could be trained on to do almost anything – well done to this enthusiastic group.
Following the demonstrations, Cheryl Kick thanked Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld’s Marketing Manager, Hayley Moore, for the invitation to be part of the very exciting Destination Equestrian Launch and the opportunity to create new fans for the versatile Standardbred.
Cheryl also explained that the Standardbred Riding Group was formed in 2006 and met regularly at Wandong. Their aim is to foster the re-homing and training of retired pacers and trotters. Cheryl enthused “they are very obedient horses with temperaments to die for.”
As Kilmore has a very active harness racing community, this was a great way to encourage equestrian riders to consider a retired Standardbred as their next horse for Adult Riding Club or Pony Club.
Another break … and off to the shop, where a solid crowd obviously appreciated the variety, bargains and expert advice. Destination Equestrian really turned it on and confirmed the fantastic future for Australian riders, enthusiasts and their horses.
I have long felt that Australia needs to go back to catering for the “grass roots” horse lover and owner. Top-level competitive riders have stolen the limelight and much of the funding, leaving the unsung heroes - both human and equine - feeling unworthy and undervalued and slipping under the radar of those with an interest in the Olympic disciplines.
Destination Equestrian has been conceived to showcase a broad range of horse sports, equine activities activities in hand and ridden and many unique training styles along with health care practises, and training products of all kinds to ensure that Australia advances through experience and education. The future is bright and I applaud the Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld initiative - well done guys!
We returned to the indoor to see a table being moved into the indoor arena and a new group of helpers engaged in synchronised and purposeful activity. We soon learned that the next demonstration was part of a presentation by the Thoroughbred Riding Club, a very pro-active group who promote the uptake of retired racehorses as equestrian mounts.
It is widely accepted that Thoroughbreds are beautiful, talented, good moving and very adaptable with a gentle and obliging nature and very suitable for most equestrian disciplines.
Left: President of the Thoroughbred Riding Club, Lisa Brown.
The early training of Thoroughbreds in the racing environment and their feeding regime can supress the positives and retired horses need some retraining and acclimatising (known as “letting down”) to prepared them for a life after racing.
The Thoroughbred Riding Club’s President Lisa Brown introduced the club and the first demonstration was indeed different and special. We learned that the table was part of a two-step makeshift para-equestrian mounting platform for Australian Paralympian Jan Pyke (a Cerebral Palsy sufferer) who has a bronze and silver medal to her credit and was on short list for the London Olympics, even though personal problems kept her away from Greenwich Park.
Jan rides the amazing TB gelding Pinky, who raced as a stallion until he was 6 years old. His was hardly a glorious racing career with only 1 win recorded. However, following his retirement from the racetrack, Pinky has been a winner, showing a temperament that is hard to believe. He has won show classes, eventing and dressage competitions with his owner Catherine Shelley or her daughter Cara. But his greatest achievement has been partnering Jan Pike and the pair is currently campaigning to be selected to represent Australia at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France in 2014. Wheelchair bound Jan finds a freedom and pleasure of independent movement that has been denied to her, except when she is on horseback. Jan says, “With Pinky, I can dance.”
Catherine Shelley warms up the gorgeous Pinky
Jan has a team of helpers to do what we find easy.
Catherine Shelley talks about Para-Equestrian
|Above Catherine Shelley and Jan Pike wave goodbye|
Pinky went through his usual preparation routine with Catherine Shelley who walked him around the arena to show him the sights and objects, which could take him by surprise. The other helpers moved a regular mounting block up to the table and formed a two-tiered platform for Jan’s transfer from the wheelchair to the saddle. Jan has no strength in her legs so careful lifting by a team of up to to 4 people is required when specially constructed facilities are not available.
Like all of the people watching, I marvelled at the wonderful Pinky’s wisdom, he just knows that he cannot take one step and fidgety resistance at the halt (which is considered to be an undesirable legacy of racing that cannot be changed) is replaced by some ‘shut-eye’ in readiness to their walking test.
Jan is in the saddle and she has the restraints to keep her legs in place adjusted and Catherine accompanies her and she and Pinky go through the movements freauired in their Olympic test. Pinky is a wonderful ambassador for the breed and a much-loved celebrity at Catherine’s busy Melton Equestrian Centre in Tooler Vale.
Jan lives in Sydney but comes south regularly for training. Jan is in Melbourne so that she can take part in a two-day training and assessment clinic with experienced Paralympic Assessors/Selectors, as the ‘count down’ for Normandy has begun.
Lisa Brown explained that there is a very positive uptake of Thoroughbreds off the track and this was being supported by Racing Victoria who is facilitating the cause by offering training sessions, like the day given by international expert Yogi Bresner. There is also a prizemoney incentive, which means that Racing Victoria Limited match prizemonies on offer at certain selected open competitions.
Following Jan and Pinky, Lisa Brown introduced the next Thoroughbred rider Kirsten Sisk. She rode the 6 YO Gus who is by Universal Prince. Lisa tells how Kirsten was really in the market for a quiet pony for one of her children and the owner of a potential purchase introduced her to the “very quiet off the track TB” Gus, who they had hoped would show talent as a campdrafter. However, Gus had a heartfelt fear of cattle and could not be persuaded to take any initiative to chase them. Gus seemed to measure up to Kirsten’s wish list more than the pony, so he came to the Sisk family and is now a much-loved member, and is progressing well with his education.
Next to go were Fiona Crosby and her good moving dark brown/black gelding Finite by Desert Prince.
Pictured below left: Finite with his owner Fiona Crosby.
Finite is a truly lovely type and would be at home in the show ring, dressage arena or just hanging around looking beautiful and giving a lot of pleasure to his proud owner.
He is now 12 years old and his education was evident, as he showed lovely rhythm in his paces and confirmed that a TB is certainly a breed to consider for a performance career.
A TB represents an opportunity to buy a very good horse on a modest budget. People are encouraged to think about a Thoroughbed or Standardbred when they are looking for their next pleasure horse – not all are perfect - but many of them tick all of the boxes as they have had a lot of the early lessons already taught. When purchased from a reliable TB re-trainer, the risks are no more than with any other breed.
Well-done to the Standardbred Riding Group and the Thoroughbred Riding Club.
There are a number of racehorse outplacement organisations including the program operated by Bill Saunders from Cyberhorse known as the Cyberhorse Racehorse Outplacement Program. (http://rop.cyberhorse.com.au )
Bill has overseen the successful re-training and outplacement of many beautiful thoroughbreds and some of them have had the potential to go on to enjoy very successful competitive careers. He always has horses available and would love to talk to enthusiasts.
The feedback regarding the 4-day, 1st Birthday Sale for Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld and the opening of Destination Equestrian was very positive and people see the facility as a great initiative.
Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld General Manager, Dan O’Dwyer said, “This is the realisation of a long time dream that I have shared with my father Carl. We have been keen to combine our personal interests and commitment to horse owners with the development of the business. Mustad have a world-wide presence and this facility is a big step forward to furthering our international presence, which will help to support everyone involved in the Australian horse industry. I would like to thank everyone who has helped to put the 4 days together.
Right - Dan O'Dwyer the General Manager of Destination Equestrian/Mustad Lowdens Saddleworld.
Dad (Carl) was assisted on the Kubota by his granddaughter Ella McBurnie and Chris Tufnell also did an excellent job on the pooper scooper and everyone who lent a hand.”
For more information go to the Destination Equestrian Facebook Page (http://www.facebook.com/MustadDestinationEquestrian?fref=ts ) and remember that the web site will be on-line soon.