One of, if not, the largest contingents of foreign event riders based here in the UK hail from Australia, and after two weeks in and out of planes, trains & automobiles watching events (in-between the day job) I finally managed to get to see my own horse earlier this week, only to find almost all of the Aussies in my back yard for an Australian Event Team training clinic. What a treat!
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.
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.
I have to confess to hanging around the training clinic a little longer than I intended, or perhaps should, fascinated to watch Paul Tapner, Sam Griffith, & Sammi McLeod put through some jumping exercises by German based jumping trainer, Gilbert Bockmann. What I had half expected to be an intense and highly charged session, was calm, considered and perfectly executed by each of the riders – sheer poetry! All watched under the thoughtful gaze of Prue Barrett & Brett Mace occasionally glancing down to make notes, whilst sat in the viewing gallery.
Stood in the back of a horse box sheltering from the rain here’s a few minutes with Paul & Sam:
|Fidelity Blenheim Horse Trials|
With Burghley just behind us, and Blenheim this coming weekend, Prue Barrett has had an extended trip to the UK missing her husband, Craig, compete in the Sydney 3 Day Event this weekend, but is furiously racking up the air miles with a trip back home directly after Blenheim before returning to Europe for the Pau CCI*** in a little over four weeks time.
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.