Garryowen - Success Comes When a Horse is Ridden by a Rider Who's Driven!


Elation ... Stephanie Barrington shows her sheer joy after winning the Garryowen on former racehorse LA. Photo left by  Vince Caligiuri

HER father Andrew Barrington slept outside the stable in a swag, committed to his informal role as ''chief security'' for the champion horse before the big day at the Royal Melbourne Show.

Stephanie Barrington got to the stable at 1.50am yesterday, the first to arrive of a group of about 10 people helping her and her horse LA and one other horse and rider combination prepare for the Garryowen equestrienne event.

With the thoroughbred and former racehorse needing to be worked, washed (with warm water courtesy of a mobile hot water service that is mandatory at show events), prepared and generally pampered before competing, not a minute could be wasted.

She was riding LA in the sand arena outside the stable at precisely 2.03am; the second morning in a row she was up and about on LA so early. Miss Barrington sees this time of day quite often, but not always on horseback - she works behind the bar at a city nightclub three nights a week, sometimes finishing as late as 4am.

But yesterday the commitment, the early-morning starts and the considerable cost of being equipped to enter the Garryowen paid dividends. At her second attempt, the 20-year-old university student from Moorooduc won the event.

Miss Barrington had had her eyes on the Garryowen for years. While some primary school-age children imagine life as a doctor, fireman, policeman or rock star when they grow up, Miss Barrington had wanted to win the Garryowen from about grade three onwards.

''Every time at school [when] they used to say 'when you grow up what do you want to do?', I used to say, 'I want to win the Garryowen.' No one knew what I was talking about. And to actually fulfil a dream that I've had for so long, is just indescribable. I'm so happy,'' she said.

''He means everything to me, everything. I just love him. We just have a special connection, he's an amazing horse. Everything I ask for, he tries so hard. I love him to death,'' she said.

The special bond between owner and 12-year-old gelding is much more than skin deep, but is displayed on the skin too. The 20-year-old commerce student has LA tattooed on her right foot. ''That's how much he means to me,'' she said.

Before he became a show horse LA was a racehorse who enjoyed some success.

''I think he was quite successful, I think he won maybe a quarter of a million. He raced as Table Mountain,'' Miss Barrington said.

The extensive preparation was rewarded a second time yesterday, when Miss Barrington was declared Champion Lady Rider at the show.

This year's event was the 77th Garryowen. It is held in memory of the champion horsewoman of the 1930s Violet Murrell and her horse Garryowen. Mrs Murrell died in 1934 while trying to save Garryowen from a burning stable at Mentone.

2011 Garryowen Equestrienne Turnout Results

1st Exhibit 47 Miss Stephanie Barrington L.A.
2nd Exh. 139 Miss Shae Hanger Highmont
3rd Exh. 237 Miss Rebecca Farrow Kholo
4th Exh. 414 Ms Rachel Lawrie Bond
5th Exh. 632 Miss Heidi Pickstock DP Amazing
6th Exh. 376 Miss Rachel Keskinen Request

Best First Year Competitor Exh. 632 Miss Heidi Pickstock riding DP Amazing.


Above - The beautiful bronze Garryowen Perpetual Trophy - the ultimate award for the lady equestrienne.
Picture Berni Saunders

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