|Paul Tapner & Sam Griffiths | On The Australian Elite List|
Boomerang Stables near Lambourn in Berkshire is something of a hub for many Australian & New Zealand riders, most of whom are based within a short drive of the place. With eventing facilities to rival any available in the UK; 2 outdoor all weather arenas, a decent sized indoor arena with viewing gallery, a 40 acre cross country schooling facility with over 100 fences of all types (see link below), and enough stables & grazing to support 40+ horses plus hay production. It's been base camp for many international riders over the years, including Mark & Sandy Phillips, and Bltyh Tait, and before that was an 400 acre thoroughbred stud, subsequently carved up. I've been here for 10 years now.
Run by former eventer & first class farrier, Rus Hardy (an Australian himself), and his partner Lucy Broadhead, it's hardly surprising that the Australia Event Team chose it as a base to hold team clinics. With half a dozen Wallabies in residence, the Aussie team probably feels right at home.
The full set of international flags we have to provide 'arena familiarisation' had been hoisted around the main outdoor arena, so I knew something was afoot, and sure enough after a few phone calls I discovered almost every UK based Australian eventer, whether currently on the elite list or not, was attending one or both days of the clinic, with specialist coaches, and the High Performance Team including Prue Barrett & Brett Mace. "Australian Eventing UK" was in full swing! Prue ran out of fingers trying to count all of the riders in attendance when I asked, such is the breath and depth of their talent pool, which is not just focussed on getting medals at London 2012, but very seriously looking ahead to Rio 2016 too, with their "futures" programme.
Here's Prue & Brett talking about their High Performance Programme & their eventing team:
The Australians often come across as laid back and relaxed, but you've only got to look at their results in the Equestrian Olympics to see how seriously they take their sport, and despite one or two minor set backs, mainly through injury, they have some of the most consistent riders and horse power on the circuit. Here in the UK Australia has an elite list that includes Paul Tapner, Sam Griffiths, Chris Burton, and Clayton Fredericks, all of whom have very consistent records at Advanced level, and between them have more 4 star wins & championship medals than I have fingers! Stuart Tinney & Craig Barrett currently make up the home based elite list contingent that position Australia as one of toughest eventing nations to keep out of the medals. Just off the elite list you'll find a long list of riders from the great Andrew Hoy right through to the young up and coming riders like Sammi McLeod, bringing on some pretty exciting younger horses.
Stood in the back of a horse box sheltering from the rain here's a few minutes with Paul & Sam:
|Fidelity Blenheim Horse Trials|
The FIDELITY BLENHEIM PALACE INTERNATIONAL HORSE TRIALS is hosting a regional team qualifier, to aid both Australia & Japan in qualifying a team for the Olympics. New Zealand, who are already qualified are also fielding a team to help make up the numbers. There is only one qualifying spot, leaving the remaining team with individual qualification as the only option for a shot at the medals in London. As you'll see from the video, the Australians have a friendly rivalry going on with their antipodean neighbours, which should make for a great competition at Blenhiem this weekend, so with brighter weather and a 60,000+ crowd expected, I'd recommend heading to Woodstock in Oxfordshire for what is undoubtedly one of the very best 3-Day-Event venues on the planet.
FIDELITY BLENHEIM PALACE INTERNATIONAL HORSE TRIALS
Photos From Blenheim 2010
Equestrian Australia Eventing
Wikipedia: Equestrian Olympic Medal List