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From the Horse’s Mouth With Fiona Todd


’m feeling just a bit emotional this month. The launch of the April edition marks the coming of age for HorseVibes, now in its 33rd edition. Originally created as a way to promote the saddles the Equestrian Hub sells on consignment, the magazine quickly took on a life of its own, providing quality editorial, and filling, I believe, a gap in the market. From the highs of our first subscribers to the lows of having to seek a new editor after our founding editor Penny Newbold had an horrendous accident; to the abundance of talent and creativity that has come to the table since Candida Baker took over the reins – to use a horse metaphor, publishing HorseVibes has been the most amazing roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on.

This month, the movement to a paid subscription will allow us to continue building this great platform. The tradeoff for your small monthly subscription are the deals we have been able to create with some of your favourite equestrian businesses.

These days HorseVibes is blessed with an amazing stable (there I go again) of regular contributors – writers and equestrians such as Ute Raabe, Berni Saunders, Dannii Cunnane, Charlie Brister and Jane Camens.

HorseVibes is proud to offer our advertisers space that is affordable enough to allow all businesses, big and small to be able to grace our pages. In exchange, the businesses provide a shopping opportunity unique to you,

On top of that as usual we have a great issue for you. Our Hero, Showjumper and Australian representative Chris Chugg talks about the highs and lows of his long career, and sticking with jumping, with the Aquis Champions Tour coming up we have Training Tips from the always popular David Finch. Photographer and horse breeder Nicole Emanuel brings us her personal and terrifying journey through the days of Bunyip bushfires, a story that reminded me of how wonderful the equestrian community can be. Ute Raabe talks to Mattea Davidson about her painful journey back to riding after an horrific accident when her bridle broke on the middle of a cross-country course and Gold Coast jockey Laura Cheshire gets On Her Tackbox to talk about the dayto-life of racing. Our columnist Charlie Brister manages to mix humour with a message, talking about the importance of studying a course. Also a good lesson for those on the circuit this year! This month I would like to raise a toast to Candida Baker, our amazing editor, the entire team at Equestrian Hub, including our designer Obelia McCormack, and our advertising queen Joanna Reid, and you - the readers and the businesses that have allowed us to promote their products. Follow this link to provide us with feedback, advertise or to contribute to the next edition of HorseVibes.




Brister’s Brief What’s the difference between riding with your Mind-full vs Mindful? A lot, writes CHARLIE BRISTER.


ive every day as if it were your last’, is a powerful motivational quote. Maybe sometimes even a tad too powerful, urging us to cram everything possible into a tiny moment. (And it’s probably a good thing we don’t all follow it to the letter - waking up every day broke, exhausted and hungover!) For me it’s more useful to understand its message as it relates to staying in the present. The trendy term is ‘mindful’. This means not thinking about past mistakes and not worrying about the future. This is so important in our relationships with horses. My last article touched on the trials and tribulations of dressage. When my skills improved to a point where a 20m circle wasn’t egg-shaped, then showjumping became more of a focus. Less brainpower right? Oh no, so wrong! There’s much more need to be mindful. Most people think about how they are going to ride physically – will we jump high enough, long enough, turn the corner sharp enough, kick soon enough, be fast enough? Little attention is paid to managing all the emotions and stress that we, the riders, carry inside our control centre – The Brain. Having a degree in political science


One glaring example of a mental lapse in competition happened at a Silver Hills One Day Event a few years ago. My champion partner Barrel of Fun was ready to repeat his earlier CNC2* victory on this great course. From the start things started to go downhill – and downhill became the theme of the day. Our dressage was positively average leaving us midfield and well below the top. Onto the cross-country. This was my happy place. Silver Hills has quite a tough course to make the time on due to the terrain but we barnstormed around, making the leader board well ahead of 4* horses ridden by great riders such as Stuart Tinny and John Twomey. Normally the showjumping wasn’t too much cause for concern since I had started training with Colleen Brook and we were skyrocketing. Thinking back though… maybe I didn’t take enough time to walk the course and take in the actual conditions. Truth be told, there could have been a few laurels sticking to my butt from previous wins. I was probably thinking “Just point and shoot, think of the glory!”

from Sydney University certainly doesn’t qualify me to talk with that much authority on sports psychology. But I am a case study of several situations where the mental game has been lacking. This has led to falls, knocked rails, bad halts and severe hangovers. Sometimes there can be too much determination, and instead of leaving the horse alone in front of the jump I may have tried a lot of micromanagement and argument. One day it finally clicked that I needed to improve some of the mental skills that can determine victory or defeat at a competition. “Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” — Sharon Salzberg


Now, it’s important to note that the showjumping arena at Silver Hills is a lush grass surface on a slight gradient, but nothing harder than what I had been practicing at home. Yet the surface was probably a “slow six” in racing terms so it took a little more effort than normal for a jumper to get up off of the ground. The penultimate rider was Stuart Tinney who made the entire course look easy with just one little rail tapped down. Barrel of Fun started brilliantly, continued confidently, and turned towards the two last lines. There was a turn to a vertical, then slightly forward five strides to a combination. Remember that gradient mentioned earlier? Well, this final combination was traveling up the hill on a wet track and into the setting sun.



As we cantered around that final corner do you think my focus was on the job at hand? Nope. It had drifted off and was probably calculating how many jugs of beer could be purchased with the first place cheque. So with two rails in hand, this space cadet jockey managed to stop at the second last fence. Then a befuddled and lackluster second attempt led to worse…elimination. It was a great wakeup call to focus on what was happening at that point in time. I was clearly thinking of after, and not just riding the horse on the field and the jump in sight.


One tip for mindfulness is to just concentrate on what’s happening around you. Just look at the ground and the jump ahead, feel the wind, sense the stride of the horse, hear the hooves. Catalogue what’s happening now. Let go of glories past and monsters future. The other big tip is breathing. I actually do yoga. Ommmm. But there are lots of ways. Clean out the brain box. Don’t think of what might happen on the other side. Just ride – and what a glorious feeling it can be indeed.

A: Charlie - ‘mind full’. B: Charlie - ‘mindful’.




A: Chris Chugg and KG Queenie3 © Australian jumping.



‘Chuggy’ – keeping it real Showjumper Chris Chugg talks to CANDIDA BAKER about the serious side of building a horse business.


f I’ve heard one constant refrain over the years from my vet and my chiropractor it’s been about the dangers of over-lunging, and

the couple are a formidable force in the show jumping world, and at the moment all their efforts are going into

yet for many trainers and riders it’s still

the team they’ll take up to the Aquis

normally a go-to method of training.

Champions Tour at the Elysian Fields

Not Chris Chugg, though, whose ability

near Canungra, Queensland, which runs

to raise and train top show jumpers is

between April 26 – May 5.

legendary. He’s as clear as day on the

“Aquis is a great event,” says Chris. “It’s

topic of circles.


Kuna, also Chris’s fiancée. Together

equivalent to a 5* show in Europe. The

“The fact is that horses aren’t built to go

prize money may not be as high as

in circles,” he says bluntly. “Everything

Europe, but the footing, the jumps, the

about their bodies, including all their

great stables – the manicured grounds

joints, are designed to go in a straight

all create a fantastic environment for a

line. If you ask a horse to do circle

good event. Gabi and I will be taking

work before it’s mature enough, strong

eight horses, including Cassiago and

enough and supple enough to do it,

Flare. It comes straight after Sydney

you’re just asking for problems.”

Royal so it’s a busy time for us.”

These days, Chris says, particularly in

Talking of how he and Gabi work their

Europe, people are now paying attention

horses, he says that they’re lucky they

to the surfaces, and the size of arenas

both admire each other’s riding. “We

their horses are being worked on.

train each other,” he says, “and we ride

“We use a lot of different training

each other’s horses. Gabi has a great eye

surfaces and different areas,” he says.

for a horse, and we both enjoy bringing

“We swim our horses, we use a treadmill,

on young horses.”

we work them on a very large arena.”

But although Chris may not be a fan of

The ‘we’ that he’s referring to of course,

circle work too young, the final goal of

is his partner in life and in jumping, the

having a horse work ‘round’, is the same

incredibly talented show jumper Gabi

he says, he just likes to find the way




B Over the decades Chris, always known as ‘Chuggy’, has built himself up a fearsome reputation as a competitor. He is a five times Australian Showjumping Champion (three consecutive years on the extraordinary Vivant); an Australian Representative at the World Cup Finals in Paris in 1987, in Gotenburg in 1991 and in Geneva in 2010, and an Australian Representative at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, finishing 21st individually on Vivant. He’s an NCAS Level 3 Showjumping instructor, and, with his former wife, Helen Chugg put together a formidable Warmblood breeding program, for jumpers and dressage horses. Chris has always had horses in his life. “My mother, Bev, was heavily involved in the trotting scene,” he says. “From the time I can remember I was around horses, and for many years our extra money came in from horses we used to buy at McGrath’s Hill, the old Homebush saleyards – where the Olympics were B: Gabi and Cristalline, and Chris and Cera Cassiago: “They are both riders’ horses” . Picture: The Horse Magazine. C: Top right: A win at Sydney Royal for Sky High. Seond Greg McDermott and Mr Shrimpton, third, Vicki Roycroft and Mickey Mouse. Bottom right: Sky High on the tarmac at Sydney Airport heading off to Paris and a big learning curve.

held.” It was a quick turn-over. The family would buy on Friday, and sell on Saturday and Sunday through a regular ad in the paper. “Where we lived wasn’t very horsey,” he says, “so we used to go to the local park and ride.” When his mother decided to take out a trainer’s license, the family moved out to Riverstone, continuing to deal in horses,

each horse likes to engage with what

For Chris and Gabi keeping their horses

they’re doing. “There’s a lot of pressure

sound and happy is paramount. “They

for horses to look like everybody else’s

get regular chiropractic treatment and

horses; even for riders to look like other

acupuncture; we use the treadmill for

riders,” he says. “But they don’t all work

building muscle and weight on the back

the same. It’s vital for all horses to have

leg which is so important for jumping,

at pony club together.” Chris loved his

self-carriage, to be able to balance

and the horses are kept in a hilly area

horse, the pair of them growing into

themselves up, to work round – but

around Tennyson near Sydney.” The

showjumping together, until sadly they

often you’ll need to chop and change

early tragedy of losing Del Bart means

came home after the Championships

how you work a horse, because every

there are no steel fence posts. “You learn

and Del Bart injured himself beyond

horse is a little different.”

to keep your horses safe,” he says.

repair on a fence post.



an endeavour which brought along Chris’s first competition horse, Del Bart, a grey 15.3hh purebred Arabian. “Not the obvious choice for a competition horse,” he says, “but we did very well jumping


His knowledge of the breed stood him in


good stead however when he decided to finish school early, to make a living showing Arabians for Paul James from Arabian Park. “That was a great job for me,” he says. “I learnt a lot about conformation and handling stallions. The main stallion I used to ride was a beautiful purebred black Egyptian stallion called Hakim. He was wild and fierce, and I enjoyed that about him. I had to be tough with him because he had a lot of bad habits. He’d actually been banned as a ridden horse from The Royal because he’d thrown his rider.” Already not one to pass on a challenge, Chris schooled Hakim as regularly as he could. “I once rode him in a Karl Mikolka clinic,” he says, “and Karl said to me that he looked like a Warmblood not an Arabian. He was very big on long reins, and so we put Hakim in the long reins. We taught him two-time changes and one-time changes, and he drove me like I was at the Vienna Riding School for weeks on end. Hakim came out of it at Prix St George level which was pretty incredible.” Almost without realising it, Chris was learning a valuable lesson about horses – and himself as well. “I’m not sure that as a teenager I even thought about whether I was particularly good with horses,” he says. “I made pocket money training horses, leading stallions, riding and showing, and I just gradually realised that I seemed to have a talent for it. I think Hakim showed me that when you get horses that are good at what they do, you stick with it. It’s nice to work with smart animals, to teach

It seemed as if Chris was headed in the

everything when he was purchased as

direction of eventing when his eventing

a dressage horse for Bev – but he had

horse, Kustah, died of an aneurysm at

other ideas. All these years later Chris

the Melbourne 3DE.

still laughs at the memory. “He was

them trust and that they can believe in

But Chris had a surprise around the

themselves – then it either becomes a

corner. His mother had bought a

great partnership, or they become a very

horse that was to become famous.

saleable item, and you can make sure

The Palomino first-cross Quarter Horse

they go on to a great home.”

stallion, Chico D’Oro, had done a bit of

no dressage horse,” he says. “He was a playful, bucking handful. As soon as I was old enough I got to ride him, and he took me to Grand Prix showjumping.” Google Chico D’Oro and you can see




how he won the hearts of so many – with hundreds of posts about his bloodlines. He went on to sire a number of good jumpers, including Ashico, and, says Chris, they were lucky to be coached by Di Lawson (Gala Nigh, TickTac). Chris soaked up everything she had to teach him. “She was a great rider,” he says. “She could take a horse that had learned the basic ropes and turn them into a really great horse.” One of the reasons that Chris enjoys working with show jumpers is their longevity. “Jumpers last much longer than high-level dressage horses or eventers,” he says. “Horses that are well looked after will jump well into


their teens, they can still compete at Olympic level up until they’re 16 – even older sometimes, so they’re well looked after. I believe you can create a really fit jumping horse in 12 weeks or so, then



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really you’re just asking them to work for sixty seconds every now and then to keep them ticking over, you don’t have to ride them for two hours like a dressage horse. Show jumping is really a light, easy way to ride.” Something that Chris enjoys is buying horses at a young age, and working them up through the grades, perhaps because of the wonderful journey he enjoyed with Sky High. “My mother was on the hunt for a breeding stallion when she found Sky High, a two-year-old Hanoverian Warmblood,” says Chris. “Sky High was completely different to Chico – an European-bred horse, slower and heavier. He weighed 750kgs so you but he was fast, very fast. We took him

D: Clockwise from top left: Kustah cross country, late 70’s; Chris and Chico D’Oro, 1977; Chris and a four-year-old Sky High in 1979; Chris and Chico D’Oro at Peat’s Ridge Showjumping, 1978.

slowly up through the grades, and I won

E: Mr Currency and Chris at the World Cup final, Sweden, 1991.

my first World Cup on him at Armidale when I was 21. I’d won the Mini Prix, and I thought, well I may as well try the World Cup. I won that, and my Mum had bought me in the Calcutta the night before, so she won more than I won in prize money!” Chris still remembers the thrill of being chosen to represent Australia at the

got sick, and they worked him after he’d

goes nowhere without us. I travel with

arrived,” he says. “I arrived four weeks

any horse we take to Europe 24 hours

later, and walked straight past him in

a day. Owners know their horses like

the stable-block. I didn’t even recognise

no-one else does, and you have to

wouldn’t think he was built for speed

him. He’d lost about 200kgs. I was

have your finger on the pulse. They’re


big animals, but they can get sick very

Sky High was sick for weeks, but

World Cup final in Paris in 1987, but

recovered to give the pair a few starts

also the massive learning curve of

prior to the final in Paris. “In the very

discovering what can happen if you

first class he trod on a shoe in the first

don’t travel with your horse. “I’d never

double, and that was it, we were out. I

done it before, and of course they sent

figured it could only ever get better. It

a groom to travel with him – the horse

taught me a valuable lesson. The horse

I didn’t even recognise Sky High. He’d lost about 200kgs.

easily.” Staying on in Europe to work at Paul Schockemöle’s place for a few months, cleaning stables and riding young horses, gave Chris some more major life lessons - namely that the horse industry in Europe was massive in comparison to Australia, but that he didn’t want to live in Europe. “I knew that I wanted to come and produce my own horses, and have Europe as a place to go to for purchasing horses,” he says. “I’ve never regretted that decision. For me living in Australia and doing what I do with horses is the best possible life.” Fast forward a few decades to THAT mare, and by now Chris’s eye for a young horse, and the combined training and





F: A young Vivant.

riding of Cristalline by both Gabi and

“I’m not going to say that it’s not tough

way to do it is to buy the breeding lines,

Chris of the horse they’d purchased as

selling horses, it is,” he says. “But if you

buy the ones that are naturally athletic,

a five-year-old, created what he refers

want to be in the business of horses,

smart, willing and keen to do it. Take

to as: “A freak of nature. Cristalline has

and not just have them as a hobby, you

them through the grades, and make the

an incredible level of self-confidence,

have to sell them. Bringing them on

choice – at the right point – to sell them.”

but again, it reinforces how important

from youngsters and selling them before

the early years are in a horse’s life. You

they reach their teens is what brings in

can have Incredible talent in a horse,

the money to sustain the business and

but unless you nurture it correctly, and

provide our lifestyle so it just has to be.”

create a relationship of trust with the

He’s as straight-shooting as it’s possible

horse, the results won’t happen.”

level of the age limit for me,” says Chris.

to be on the way to build a business.

“Helen and I were actually looking for a

But when results do happen, a

“A lot of people think they can create a

Palomino for a friend, but when we went

professional stable has to face the

business out of one great horse – you

to see this horse it had been sold. Then

difficult choice, particularly with a

can’t,” he says. “You might for a little

there was another one – this 16.3hh

younger horse, of whether to keep it,

while if you’re winning, and the horse is

black horse, that could piaffe in-hand.”

or sell it. In 2016, Cristalline was sold

doing really well, but I’m sorry, one horse

Chris wasn’t entirely convinced but took

to US rider Adrienne Strenlicht, for an

is a hobby not a business. If you want to

Mr Currency home on trial for a week.

undisclosed amount.

be in the show jumping game, the only

He was going to sell him on quickly, but



Chris’s liking for young horses almost meant he missed out on Mr Currency one of the great horses of his career. “He was six, so he was really at the upper

Chris Chugg & Cassiago

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Quarter Horses and Appaloosas, and my

try to stagger our horses and have them

performance horses. Put it all together

at every age,” he says. “Our first crop

and it made something. You have to

of two year olds have been broken in

have big dreams, but at the same time

– 50% are mares, and 50% stallions or

you can’t afford to not learn how to

geldings. We are now producing five to

manage the business of horses.”

eight embryos, and before you know it

And then of course, there was Vivant. The very first horse that Chris and Helen Chugg looked at on one of their trips to Europe, the horse that finally retired two years ago at the age of 18, having dominated the World Cup scene for many years. “He was an unbelievable horse,” says Chris, “scopey, careful and fortunately changed his mind. A good decision as it turned out since only three years later they were at the World Cup final in Sweden. One pointer Chris gives to people wanting to buy a show jumper is that

brave. A warmblood with thoroughbred characteristics – a perfect jumping horse. He was the best athlete I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.”

we’ll have 20 or 30 young horses to train and sell. For me personally the icing on the cake is to go overseas, find a going four-year-old, bring it back and take it to the next level.” In the meantime, after Aquis there’s a December wedding to plan for, the next World Equestrian Games, and of course the 2020 Olympics. What about their own personal breeding program, I wonder. Chris laughs. “’Well I’ve had a vasectomy so it would have to be reversed, but Gabi is only 30 so you

These days Gabi and Chris’s breeding

never know – and in the meantime

program is carefully worked out. “We

horses are our family.”

even though, in the past, thoroughbreds were the mainstay of the industry, the difference these days between


thoroughbreds and warmbloods has become greater. “These days thoroughbreds are bred leaner, and flatter, and less uphill. For a great jumper you need a horse that is uphill, and in the main you won’t find that in a thoroughbred.” It brings him back to his central point - if you want to do horses professionally it has to be a business. “If you do it on the fringes it will just keep you poor,” he says, “if you try and do it in a big way and you don’t have the support you’ll go broke. Remember that to feed a top-performing showjumper costs $40-$50 a day. What you want to look for are your foundation mares, and a gold medal stallion. It’s a great game this one, but some months our vet bills would bankrupt some people. I learned, from buying and selling my own horses, that I could make a living. When I was young we had incredible diversification. My Mum had her trotters, we had


G: Chris and his first pony Charlie, a welshie bred by Androssan Stud. Charlie only had two speeds, dead slow and flat out! Circa 1972. H: Chris and his second pony, Del Bart – a purebred Arabian gelding by Delos. Pictured here winning Champion Boy Rider at Newcastle Show.


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Hell is the sound of a hackamore breaking Queensland eventer Mattea Davidson talks to UTE RAABE and reflects on the day her bridle broke on a cross country course, her recovery and her comeback.


icture this, it’s a beautiful day out at Albury Wodonga Horse Trials and you’re competing in the CIC 3 Star event for a final qualifier. You’ve walked the cross country course multiple times, and you’re feeling really happy with the lines you’ve chosen. You know your horse well, the plan of attack for the day is clear. All the training in the lead-up to this event has been going well; there’s nothing on the course your horse can’t do. Everything unfolds according to plan and your cross country round is off to a smooth start, your horse eats up the course, and does everything asked of him. And then, just like that, in a split second, everything changes. Queensland eventer Mattea Davidson and her own APH Charlie Brown were approaching fence 13 when the unthinkable happened. It is any rider’s worst nightmare to lose control of their horse, especially in full gallop at a competition. Five months on, she still remembers every moment of the accident. “I was setting up for the fence, it was a right-hand turn, and I was re-balancing


when all of a sudden I had no weight in my hands. My hands came back and I heard a ‘tschink’ noise,” she recalls. “It took me a second or two to realise what was going on. I’d been focusing on the fence, it was a tricky enough line and I wanted to ensure that I was coming in on the right angle and speed, and a gear failure was the last thing on my mind.” Mattea says that she’s had parts of tack and bridles break on her before, such as a rein or a noseband, but she’s never had her entire steering piece – in this case a hackamore - fall apart. A lot of people asked her later why she didn’t bail, but she says that by the time she fully registered what had happened Charlie was already going too fast and beyond control. Her hopes were that he would slow down once he reached the warmup area and other horses. She adds, “I was trying to be really methodical about it, I can’t remember feeling panicked. I tried to do a couple of things to slow him down, talk to him, loop the rein about his head, grab his ears, but I soon worked out it was making him more frantic.”



Charlie continued to bolt in a straight line until he eventually reached the arena fence, where he continued straight at it to jump it. Realising the disaster that could happen if she jumped with no control, Mattea chose that moment to bail. The fall put her in hospital with seven fractured vertebrae, a deep laceration


rib and heavy bruising. The proverbial ‘hit by a bus’ aptly describes how she felt at the time. Her recovery has been a slow and painful one, both physically and mentally, with her body healing from a litany of injuries but namely the soft tissue damage and multiple torn ligaments around her broken vertebrae.

and torn muscle in her arm, a broken

A: Mattea competing cross country on Charlie Brown. Photo: Oz Shotz.

... by the time she fully registered what had happened Charlie was already going too fast and beyond control.


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Eventers are a tough breed, but this accident was something else. “The first two weeks I was on so many drugs for the pain I would really notice it if I missed even a dose,” she says. “Then, when the brace first came off I just wanted to lie down and do nothing, the pain was so excruciating.”


Afterwards came the mental rebuild. Mattea remembers going for a walk shortly after losing the brace and feeling really vulnerable and compromised. “When I had the brace on, people would respect my space and not bump into me,” she recalls. “Without the brace however, I looked like I was fine but I was overly-cautious of people coming near me because I was still tender and stiff and not very strong. I also felt vulnerable around the horses at first. From the outside everything looks normal, but the pain on the inside is still present.”

Looking back now at her comeback she says: “I’ve surprised myself with where I’m at. At the moment I really focus on my physio and my core strength. For the first two months I was only breathing

But in those moments she had two choices, to either push on and look at the positives, or give up. Mattea chose, with support from her husband Shane, who never questioned her desire to return to riding, to push on. Within three months of her fall, she was back in the saddle and in March she entered her first competition. Getting on and off proved to be the hardest part at first, as any sudden impact caused her severe pain. She quickly learned to choose only the more softly-moving horses.

B: In hospital after the fall on the cross country course when her bridle broke. Still giving the thumbs up!

through my mouth because it was too

every week and perform stretches every

painful to breathe through my nose,

morning, I’m pretty religious about that.

but if you do that repeatedly you lose a

I do notice that I’m much more tired now

lot of core strength. Now I see a physio

and I don’t have the same strength back

I was still tender and stiff and not very strong. I also felt vulnerable around the horses at first.

yet, although the hardest thing is lifting the round bales on to the back of the trailer.” Mattea knows all too well that the outcome of the fall could have been an infinitely more dramatic. “I feel really grateful that the accident was not worse, and I want to make the most out of this year and the horses that I’ve got,”


C: Mattea and husband Shane – he fully supported her return to riding. D: Mattea on course with Gwendolyn. Photo: Oz Shotz.

she says. “These moments bring life into perspective. When you get back into the grind, you lose focus of those feelings, which is bad, but that’s what happens. I’m lucky to be here, and I have to keep reminding yourself of that and appreciate what I have.” Last year’s sudden passing of her good friend dressage rider Amanda Shoobridge has only intensified these feelings for Mattea and given her a new determination to enjoy every moment. Mind you, any suggestion that she might like to stop eventing is quickly swatted away. Her family would prefer it, she says, if she would just concentrate on show jumping and not return to eventing and Mattea admits that it is something she would consider, but not for the same reasons. “The horses last longer in jumping, and I really like show jumping, but at the moment I


am happy to continue doing both,” she says adding, “I don’t think the accident affected my confidence, because I don’t feel that I could have done anything differently. It was beyond my control — and you just have to be at peace with that. It was bad luck, that’s why they call it an accident!” There are no harsh feelings or resentments towards APH Charlie Brown, the accident, she says, was never the horse’s fault. Instead Mattea is looking forward to making the most of this year and is quietly excited about her string of horses. Charlie will be set for the 4* at the Melbourne International 3 Day Event; former Australian Eventing Champion Jaybee Vigilante is back and then there are some talented youngsters making their debut. Aside from being a professional eventer and showjumper, Mattea is a successful


NCAS Level coach and fully qualified vet specialising in reproduction work. Shane and Mattea are also avid breeders of performance horses for all disciplines. Their business, Davidson Equestrian, is the result of years of hard work and dedication. The couple purchased their property near Toowoomba about five years ago and love the area for the good soil and quality grass (when it rains), the convenient location and progressive infrastructure, but also the country feel. They live for everything to do with training and breeding horses — and it keeps both of them busy! “It’s a funny thing, people often assume that if you do a lot of things you mustn’t be very good at any of them,” she laughs. “I really enjoy what I do, I like training horses and riders, and I like improving them. I get enjoyment out of doing a good job at different things, that’s very


important to me. Like breeding horses for other people and then seeing them get enjoyment out of it.”


Her comeback is on the right track and she is looking forward to the future, “I would like to continue what we’re doing, but refine our mare herd even more to have the best mares for producing ability but also trainability. I would like to be able to go to all the good shows in Australia with really well-bred horses and just do a really great job. We want to breed the best horses we can!”

On a side note — The national and international eventing rules have changed this year, it is now no longer possible to ride the cross country course with just a hackamore bridle. Mattea nods in agreement: “I would definitely never recommend going cross country in a hackamore after what happened to me!”






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“MUM! We have to leave. NOW.” The weekend of the Bunyip bushfire in Victoria was one of the longest weekends of horse photographer and breeder NICOLE EMANUEL’S life.


e were waiting anxiously, fully aware that we were going to have to evacuate.

moving horses to a safe zone, thanks to the extremely generous assistance from dear friends as well as volunteers who dropped everything in their busy

Two nights before D Day, I was up

lives to come and help strangers. It’s an

until 2.00am packing negatives, slides,

unlooked for bonus, but a real one when

artworks, family treasures, hard drives

people you’ve never met simply offer all

and camera gear. I spent the next day

the support they can give you.



I had my float hooked up and ready to go the day before the fires were expected to peak, and from my back verandah I’d been anxiously watching the grey smoke billowing in the distance close to Bunyip. On the morning of Sunday March 3, my 12-year-old daughter Tilly loaded her

Main: Alex Coppel © The Sun Herald

two horses and we drove them south

But one thing I now know for certain:

of Warragul to a friend’s farm - at that

if there is a threat of bushfire, and you

stage considered a safe zone.

plan how your day will go – it’s not

We’d been going well time-wise and

comes to horses. Horses that might

of course I mistakenly thought that

going to happen! Particularly when it usually load perfectly, may not in an

the rest of the move would be just as

emergency situation. Horses that are


normally easy to catch may not be

when you are stressed and anxious, and there’s an urgent deadline. We had this exact issue with a friend’s appaloosa mare and her three-monthold foal. In hindsight I don’t blame them. It was an extraordinary ask for both of them to load on a steep driveway, with a very steep loading ramp, and




In the end I felt we were just causing unnecessary stress and wasting valuable time. I also had more pressing issues to deal because one of the volunteers came to tell me that my precious mare, Dancer, was suffering a bad case of choke. The last thing I needed!

with a mare that had only ever been trucked. We ended up loading her foal successfully, but as soon as he realised he was on his own in a scary big space without his mum he did one giant catleap over the top of us to get back to her.

Tamara opened the side door of her float to reveal Dancer saturated with sweat ...

Tamara opened the side door of her float to reveal Dancer saturated with sweat, her head down and mouth open, gagging, with a pool of green saliva at her feet. “Should we pull her off?” Tamara asked. My mind was racing – if we got her off the float, the roads might soon be blocked and that would prevent my vet from getting through to treat her. Was it worse to take her or to leave her? I made my decision. “Get her out of here and I’ll call my vet on the way,” I told Tamara, who said very reasonably, “but I don’t know where I’m going! Can you text me the address?” I told her I would but as she pulled out onto the main road, heading north - the wrong direction - I had a panic moment as I realised that in all the chaos I actually didn’t even have Tamara’s number. I quickly called a mutual and thankfully she answered immediately, so I was able to call Tamara to tell her to turn around as soon as possible, and I met her on the main road so she could follow me into Darnum. On the way I rang my vet Cameron Hinkley (Essential Equine Vet). I Cameron had personally just been evacuated from Labertouche and I honestly thought he would have too much on his plate to come out to Dancer - but just like the vet I first met ten years ago after the Black Saturday fires (while I was


photographing for The Age) he cast aside his own needs and in his usual calm way told me he was 25 minutes away.

as Cameron arrived we boxed Dancer

We arrived at my friend’s Jen’s safe property in Darnum and unloaded Dancer and her foal. Tamara and Jen put the hose on her and in her mouth to try to dislodge the blockage. As soon

the tube. The water ran through the


so Cam was able to pass a nasogastric tube through her nose, while we filled buckets of clean water to pour into passage to help loosen up the impaction in Dancer’s oesophagus. It was then siphoned back out a few times until the impaction had loosened enough and


The day of evacuation. Picture: Nicole Emanuel

the siphoned water ran back out clear. Cam explained that she might have some oesophageal scarring from this nasty episode, and as she is classically one of those horses that inhale her feed, we will have to be vigilant and make sure it’s dampened down in future. Once Dancer had stabilized, Tilly and I left to come back home and pick up my

son, my dogs and to shift more horses. When we got in the car it was already 4.30pm. I had no idea it was so late, and with conditions worsening and the prediction of a wind change, our little local town of Neerim South was being evacuated literally as I drove. Just north of Warragul I was surprised to

see a Police Incident Response vehicle blocking the intersection. I explained that I had to go home and pick up my son, but he shook his head “Sorry,” he said. “No vehicles past here unless you’re CFA or emergency services.” There was no way in the known universe that I was going leave my son at home, so we had to choose an alternate way,




One minute we were driving in bright daylight and the next minute ...

which the officer told us was still open. As we got close, a huge ominous black cloud loomed just ahead, poised above our little township like a big black bear looking threateningly over a tiny mouse. It cast an eerie darkness over everything below.

He kept repeating that we were wasting our time; that we’d be fine and we didn’t have to leave. And anyway, he reasoned, if a fire started near us the fire trucks would come and save our house. There’s nothing like a relaxed teenager in a crisis.

I was amazed at how quickly the apocalyptic scene in front of us descended. One minute we were driving in bright daylight and the next minute everything was as dark as night but with the whole sky lit up in a surreal red glow. We pulled up outside the shed and Tilly went to catch two more horses to move them into a safer paddock over the road from us. I gazed up at the black smoke trying to assess the situation. It was still very hot, and yet there was not a breath of wind. It must be the calm before the storm, I remember thinking.

I explained to him that it might transpire that no-one could come, because if the fire’s embers blew 10-20kms ahead of the fire front the CFA would be battling to save many houses - not just ours. I agreed it was unlikely we’d lose our home, it was just precautionary but that we needed to leave, because if the wind hit as predicted, and a fire started just outside our window, there was no way we could shift ten horses, four dogs, two kids and two cats with minutes to spare.

I went inside to gather my four dogs and my 16-year-old son Rhys who’d been reluctantly packing a few items.


I had the local ABC radio on in the kitchen, checking updates on my emergency app every hour or so. They had warned that at 9pm the wind would change to an easterly direction, sending


the fire front our way. It was going to be a severe and unpredictable wind, and we were told to leave now. I had both the back door and front door open as we tried to pack the last few items, I made sure we had a small bag with necessities like toiletries and some clothes when I heard a low thunderous roar outside, coming from the east. I couldn’t see a thing, and by now it was pitch dark, but I could hear it. Oh boy could I hear it. I checked the kitchen clock - 8.50 pm and thought to myself: Here it comes! This is the wind change! It blew straight down our hallway, carrying with it smoke and burnt leaves and dust and debris; random photos and papers that had been pinned to my noticeboard flew across the floor. Tilly had come up to the front verandah and was holding our stallion just outside the door. Looking at the scene in front of her, she panicked and screamed out: “MUM! We have to leave. NOW!”


“Come on Rhys!” I yelled. “We have to go!! Have we got the dogs??”

Thankfully we were safe, and after a very

I noticed my hands were trembling - I honestly still don’t know whether from panic or lack of sleep – probably both. We had our four dogs but in all the turmoil we weren’t able to locate our cats, and Tilly started crying.

Jen I hit the sack and was asleep within

“They’ll be fine, they’ll hide in the old dairy” I reassured her, with much more certainty than I felt. We dropped the tailgate in the dark and thankfully with just the light on my phone, we were able to load our young stallion immediately. I lifted the tailgate, and we were off.

The day of evacuation. Picture: Nicole Emanuel

Kentaur Eventer II 17”


I felt a huge sense of relief driving into Jen’s driveway that night. We had done as much as we could and we were utterly exhausted. My daughter had worked like a Trojan catching, feeding and moving horses, and we had all been running on adrenaline for days.

Kentaur Titan II 17”


welcome cup of tea and a de-brief with minutes. The next morning we woke to a miracle, and I will never in my life forget how lucky we were. I’d seen the Black Saturday fires first-hand. I knew how it could have been. But there it was - everything was OK. The wind was nowhere near as bad as had been predicted. The main fire was still ablaze, but we were over the worst of it. In the weeks that have passed since the fire, I think over and over again about how grateful I am to everyone for going above and beyond, both friends and strangers alike - it’s so wonderful to see people come together in these terrible situations and I feel proud to be a part of my community.

Kentaur Elektra 17”


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It’s in the blood CANDIDA BAKER ponders the question of what makes a ‘horsey’ person. Sometimes, she finds, it’s just in our DNA.


’m looking at an old newspaper clipping online, and there’s my surname staring out of the screen at me.

The newspaper is the York Herald, dated the 7th August 1888, and a Mr. F. P Baker is listed as having won best mare and foal in the Cleveland Bay class at the Wetherby Agricultural Show in Yorkshire. There are pages and pages of results from similar shows, and my greatgrandfather’s name is liberally dotted throughout. Here are a few things I remember. I remember - just - being put on the back of a horse by my father, who was acting in the film The Moonraker. I still have the photo, and sometimes I wonder if my memory is because of the photo, but I don’t think so, I think that it is a true memory.


I was always told by my parents that I was first put on a horse when I was 16 months old. We passed a farmer on the road, riding his horse home, and as I cried ‘’Orsie, ‘Orsie’, my Dad stopped the car, and asked him if he would mind if I sat on his horse. Apparently every time they took me off I cried.

tonsillitis and my father visiting me to read me Black Beauty. I loved it so much that I was determined to learn to read so I could read it to myself, and by the time I was six, I was doing just that. It was followed, as I grew older, by Silver Snaffles, The Wednesday Pony, Champion the Wonder Horse, Crin Blanc, Tam the Untamed, My Friend Flicka (and all the ensuing sequels), The Silver Brumby (and all the ensuing sequels), and well, you get the drift.

I remember being in hospital with

I grew up understanding that my Dad



loved horses, and he rode them well. He wasn’t, however, always a gentle horseman, and some of my earliest lessons in how I didn’t want to be around horses came from him. He was that generation of ‘tough’ horsemen, and by the time I was a teenager I could see that that the toughness itself often produced the opposite effect of the goal he desired. I also knew that his grandfather, my great-grandfather, Frances Baker bred Cleveland Bays from his home at


A: ‘The reins go like this.’ I pay close attention to my father, actor George Baker, on the set of The Moonraker.

Ingmanthorpe Grange in Wetherby. I’d grown up with a Victorian painting of a somewhat out of proportion Cleveland Bay apparently done by a journeyman painter on his rounds of the northern shires, which hung near our dining table, and I always loved it.

By the time I was five all I wanted to

I imagine that my grandfather, born at the Grange, must have been a rider as well, because my Dad and his brothers, who were born and spent their early years in Bulgaria, all rode almost from the time they could walk.

back being dragged across a field by

do was be with horses. If someone had turned me out in a field to live with a herd, I’m sure I would have been quite happy. As I grew up there was a collection of difficult ponies – I have a very distinct memory of lying on my one stirrup by one of them - then my beautiful Arabian-cross-Fell pony who could buck and bolt with the best of them, and then a stint in France working for a showjumper, where I was known

as The Cowboy for my ability to stay on, but also for a rather serious lack of technique. Anywhere I travelled, I rode, sometimes in the strangest places - in Kathmandu in 1975 on a ride up the road they were building directly into China; on a polo pony in Lahore in Pakistan; on a racehorse in New Zealand. In Australia I mustered fly-blown sheep on a property near Moree, cantered a quiet Quarter Horse on my own on endless flat avenues in between rows of sugar



cane up near Roma and rode numerous horses that people told me with evident delight – after I’d ridden them, that they’d thought I’d be bound to “come a gutser”. Once I was settled in Sydney I used to go on regular wilderness rides, and they are still some of my best horse-riding memories. Galloping with brumbies in the Barrington National Park; swimming through rivers; climbing over rocks and descending down mountains I would never have imagined a horse could go down, let alone with a rider on its back, were joyful times, and it’s my belief that the horses loved these adventures too. Gradually, over the years, I picked up more jumping technique, and some dressage – I became, I suppose, the human equivalent of an ‘all-rounder’ (and if my children are ever thinking of selling me, that’s definitely the category I should be put under, although to be honest, at my age I’d probably be a giveaway to a kind, loving, forever home.)

I wish now that I knew more about my greatgrandather. I’d love to time travel, to sit down and talk to him about his horses ...

As a few more horses came my way, I discovered I had a bit of a talent for understanding why a horse wasn’t happy, or performing to its best, and also I was a stickler for teaching a horse manners. Starting with some training from Adam Sutton, I devoured horsemanship lessons from everywhere, and began to create a training system I was happy with. When my son was ten, and competing with his Arabian at Pony Club and in Ag Shows, we bought my daughter her first pony, a Shetland gelding known as Sally-the-Boy. (That’s another story). We moved to the Northern Rivers, and in our first year here Anna won the undersix leadline class on Sally. She was interviewed for the Northern Star, with Sally proudly sporting the blue ribbon, and told the reporter that she didn’t like the heat or dust but it was nice when her mummy got her pony ready for her. Jumping ribbons, riding and pleasure


ribbons, leadline ribbons, they all mounted up over the years, until almost too quickly the children were grown, my son was doing his own horse stuff, and my daughter, never a fun of mud, rain, heat, dust and cold, chose a different career path. As a child I never had the opportunity to compete at any gymkhana or in Pony Club, or at any show, and I have to say I loved those late show years. So when Dannii Cunnane was writing the breed story on Cleveland Bays for this issue, and wrote that a group of gentlemen in Yorkshire had banded together to save the breed from extinction, I suddenly thought of my great-grandfather. What would we do without google? A couple of questions, and there he was – on the Committee of the newlyformed Cleveland Bay Horse Society. Not only there he was, but one site I found was full of old programs from local agricultural shows. Second place for his mare and foal in the 1889 Wetherby Agricultural Show; first place for his yearling filly; winner of best foal for hunting purposes at the Long Marston Horse & Foal Show also in 1881. And it goes on, wins and places reported all through the 1870’s through to the 1890’s – with even the occasional placing at a Royal Show.



I wish now that I knew more about my great-grandather. I’d love to time travel, to sit down and talk to him about his horses, why he loved Cleveland Bays so much, about his breeding program, and his competition life. But at the same time I feel as if some dots on the line of my life have been filled in. Whatever kind of horse person I am, it was, it seems always in the blood. Candida Baker runs a Facebook page, The Horse Listener. She is also the President of Equus Alliance

B: 2009: The ‘natural’ way with Johnny, our Arabian. C : 2018: Riding Gretel at the Byron Bay Equestrian Centre. D: Dungog one day event circa 1994. Jumping with Leslie. APRIL 2019 - HORSEVIBES MAGAZINE







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Training tips with David Finch From mustering in his father’s old stock saddle to becoming one of the few Level 3 accredited jumping specialist coaches in Australia, David Finch sets the bar high when it comes to training tips, writes DANNII CUNNANE.


avid, or ‘Finchy’ as he’s affectionately known, has earned a reputation over the years as someone who can get even the most difficult horses to perform. Developing a passion for jumping that has seen him compete in Japan, Germany and the USA, here at home in Australia at his Toowoomba stud, Finch Farm, he has produced a string of top-level horses including world cup mounts, Campmaster, Boera, Finch Farm Chill and Charlemagne Ego Z. David is currently a national coach educator, former Equestrian Australia coach of the year, five-times Equestrian Queensland coach of the year, and Chair of Equestrian Queensland. David was only too happy to share his knowledge, but rather than jump (sorry, that pun was too hard to resist) straight into his tips for the higher levels, he wanted to focus on the basics, which he says are “being centred, safe and effective” when starting a jumping career.

It all starts with flat work. I’m sure there are many show jumpers who would like to resist David’s first essential tip!


His conclusions? “Once all this is under control, you can then commence some basic jumping training.”

What position is right for you? The rider doesn’t just stand in the stirrups and let the horse do the work, the position the rider takes will either be beneficial or detrimental to their horse. David explains that there are several positions that riders will use at varying stages of their round and they all serve a purpose. “There are three positions when jumping and our job as the rider is to learn to be competent and effective with all of them,” says David. “The two-point seat is when your seat is just out of the saddle and your legs are the two points of contact around the horse. This is the position your body should be in when your horse is at the peak of its jump. The two-point seat is a very good position for developing a good base of support with your lower leg and the flexibility of your ankle. It is also good for developing the contact which should never be vice-like or locked in, as doing this will block the weight of your body and won’t allow that weight to flow to your heels.”

“Show jumping is a tough sport, but it’s more than just pointing your horse at the jumps and hoping they will clear them,” he explains. “For show jumping, you need a good understanding of how your horse moves at the walk, trot and canter. Flat work is the fundamental element of how you develop the understanding of riding your inside leg to outside rein. It’s also important that the rider establishes some rhythm as this gets the horse stepping under itself. A horse with tension and short stepping will be difficult to ride over jumps, so it’s important to get your horse to relax and stretch its neck, which will then give correct paces.”


Then, he says, there is the three-point: “The light three-point is a crotch seat along with your two points of contact with your legs. Here, the weight of your seat, along with your leg aids will help to control and balance your horse.” There is a distinction, he explains, between the lighter and heavier threepoint. “The heavier three point is when your seat is fully in the saddle and you have the maximum seat aid, along with your leg aids,” he says. “This is a very strong position that can be useful in a difficult situation. For example, you could use the heavier three-point seat when facing a spooky jump or scary environment. It gives a bit more power and security when facing a

A: David Finch jumping Charlemagne Ego Z.


difficult situation. The problem an inexperienced jumping rider may have with the three-point seat is that they can actually get behind the movement. Getting behind the movement will result in the hollowing of the horses back and the rider locking their hands and body weight against the horse’s neck. Blocking the neck will restrict the horse’s freedom of movement.” Getting behind the movement can

cause anything from a loss of good position, to a major disruption. “When the rider gets behind the movement in front of the jump, they will either stay behind the movement over the fence or throw themselves to catch up with the momentum, causing a major re-group situation on landing and departure,” he says. “It can also encourage the rider’s leg to ride forward, or the heel to come up, which results in

the rider losing control of their upper body. When a rider loses control of their body, their stability in the saddle is compromised.” Balance and harmony between horse and rider are key, according to David: “When jumping, it is important that the rider remains balanced and in harmony with the horses natural body movement. It is important that the rider doesn’t block or disrupt the way the horse



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moves when taking off, going over the jump and landing.”

Focus, focus, focus. If location, location, location is the mantra of real estate, then for jumping it’s definitely focus, focus, focus. David explains that training your eyes to focus on where you and your horse are going is essential. “The biggest point with any of these riding positions is whatever one you’re choosing to ride in, you will need to train your eyes to look where you want to go,” explains David. “You need to be focused on where you are going and from there you will already be analysing the next jump. Focus is also feeling what is happening underneath you and paying attention to your horse. You don’t just go onto autopilot and hope for the best.”

The importance of hands

Devoucoux Makila 17”


Riders will need to concentrate on how they carry their hands without setting them on the horse’s neck with closed fingers, David explains. “It’s not about being rigid, the rider will also need to have flexible wrists and elbows, so they can help the horse rather than hinder it. Keeping your hands slightly elevated will help with the balance of both you and your horse. Elevated hands assist in maintaining the centre of balance when in the saddle as well as helping the rider naturally focus on where they are going and how to tackle the course.”

Practice makes perfect Practicing at home makes all the difference and establishing the basics at the lowest level will set the scene for success. “Set yourself simple exercises at home,” says David. “Whether it be trot poles

on the ground or a small cross rail to jump, setting up a small circuit will help the rider develop. What we are looking to develop in this simple scenario is some rhythm for the horse, as well as establishing the lower leg, and having effective contact with the horse’s mouth. Developing these basics will allow the longevity that the rider can thankfully expect in this sport. By practicing small things at home and gaining confidence with them, you will expose you and your horse to an effective and safe system. This is something that both the rider and horse will gain confidence from.” He is also a great believer in taking it slowly: “Remember show jumping doesn’t have to be an extreme sport. Take your time and do things correctly to ensure you and your horse are safe.” To learn more about David Finch and his wonderful horses, visit his website

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Laura lives her passion every day

If you walk into any racing stable at the grand old time of 4:30am, you’ll see a hive of activity. Box boys cleaning stalls; strappers whizzing around grooming and saddling in order that the track riders and jockeys can come and put the horses through their paces.

Jockey LAURA CHESHIRE says as far as she’s concerned most people in racing are in it for the love of horses.


Trainers sit out in the huts, or stand over by the running rail, measuring their charges speed on stopwatches, squinting to catch these flying horses as they pass the markers. Some choose to watch through binoculars to pick up their horses tiniest ear movements, working out if they’re being pressed for the time they’re running or doing it easy. Watching legs, the flying changes as they turn into the home straight. Being mindful that the wrong lead can mean soreness, and soreness can mean time out.

o here I go, invited to climb up onto the proverbial tack box to announce to those whose opinions seem to waiver on the topic of thoroughbreds and horse racing - that we in the industry truly love the animal more than the game. I do believe that there’s been a lot of negativity about racing and I’m happy to be a voice from within the industry to let those with doubt in their minds know, that there are many, many of us within racing who are simply here because of the horses. I’m not sure if those who criticise the racing industry have ever really looked into wages of stable staff, smaller trainers, smaller jockeys and trackwork riders, to name just a few. Anyone who did would certainly see people are in it for the love of the horses, not for the big dollars. The wages are simply not a big enough draw card to get people out of bed as early as 2:30am, to prepare for a day that starts at three. Sure, you have high profile jockeys, high profile trainers and owners who probably polish their shoes with $100 bills. But for every one of these, have a few hundred small time people with big dreams, whose lifelong wish is to be apart of a journey with a

have to watch their expression in a race finish. Ears flat back, the look of determination evident on their faces. Horses have it instilled in them to run. Wild horses fly across vast plains just for the sheer thrill of it. In racehorses it’s no different. It comes from hundreds of years of breeding. It is ingrained in their DNA.

Because in racing, horses in racing is how everyone gets paid. Horses are the cog in the wheel of racing no one wants to break. And it seems to me that people who don’t know about the industry forget this.

Picture: Ross Stevenson.

fast horse. This doesn’t happen to many. Horses like Black Caviar and Winx don’t come through the stable gate often. You’ve got more chance of winning lotto than of owning even a tail hair of a horse like Winx. Yet people chase the dream, and invest their hard earned dollars into a horse who may - or may not - have any ability. In the hope that one day, they’ll crack a big one. 

Horses go for holidays too. ‘Spelling’ as it’s known, is part of their routine. A fresh mind and a fresh body produce the best results, whereas a tired horse, a horse with even the smallest injury means

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real time on the sidelines. Serious time. Six months to a year to mend a blown tendon, three months to get over a virus. And being that thoroughbred racing is a business, a massive industry in which so many people are employed, sidelined horses are not desirable. So these horses are watched, and checked, hands run down legs sometimes twice a day. Temperatures taken every morning. Feed bowls inspected, the amount left being the decider on what work the horse will undertake on that morning. The term ‘he licked the tin’ is what every owner and jockey wants to hear after a race. It means the horse has come through a run with all systems go. Because happy horses eat. A lot. We joke they should be fed notes straight from the wallet. Horses can surely keep you poor. But trainers buy the best feeds with the best supplements to give every horse the best chance of being a top athlete. And owners are happy to pay for that. Because they are chasing the Dream. Yes, there is no denying that the


animals are here to do a job. But they are special - they are racehorses, and they are treated like kings to try and get the absolute best effort out of every individual each time they step foot out onto a racetrack. Horses love routine. They like to know when feed time is, and

A: Laura Cheshire with rescue horse, Cadillac. B: Laura, loving her job.

they all have stable staff who will cater to their every need. For many of us in the industry – far more than people realise – what a horse’s life is going to be after racing is of paramount importance. Often it’s the workers and riders who take horses off the track, to give them a more docile life in a paddock, be it as a riding horse or a retiree. In recent times, racing bodies are getting involved in structuring retraining and rehoming programs for OTT’s, as they are known (Off the Track Thoroughbreds). I think as time goes on, more and more focus will be on the life of a thoroughbred after racing. I personally foster an old ex-racehorse, Cadillac, who was rescued by Save a Horse Australia, and quite a few horses have come through my stables for rehabilitation. I am really looking forward to thoroughbred welfare coming into its own throughout the whole industry.


But remember this - quite simply, we love the animal. We love the industry. And we love the thrill that horse racing brings.




Introducing the Cleveland Bay The Cleveland Bay is one of England’s most versatile, oldest and most rare breeds, writes DANNII CUNNANE.


he Cleveland Bay originated in North Yorkshire sometime during the 1600’s – although it’s not known accurately how old the breed really is since records weren’t kept until 1884. The horse is named after the Cleveland district, and because of its normally bay colouring.

church. ‘Carriage Horse’ was added it its growing list of roles, and as roads improved and people demanded faster travelling times, in the 1700’s several thoroughbred stallions were taken to Yorkshire to cover the Cleveland Bay mares, in order to create a faster, leaner horse.

The Cleveland Bay is incredibly versatile. The first ancestors of the breed were developed as far back as the Middle Ages for use as pack-horses. These horses, known as ‘Chapman’ horses - Chapman being the name given to travelling salesmen - were then crossed with Andalusians and Barbs, giving the breed its distinctive shorter leg, depth of bone and strength, which made it a great workhorse. Later Chapmans were crossed with Arabians and Thoroughbreds, to create the finer riding and carriage horse - the breed we know today as the Cleveland Bay.

The Cleveland Bay was so well liked and admired for its numerous attributes that it was used often to improve other breeds, most notably the Warmblood, and specifically the Oldenburg, which used Cleveland Bay stallions extensively in the 1860’s to add good bone and athleticism to the breed.

globe. The Cleveland Bay made it to the shores of America where it gained popularity with its easy-going nature and strong work ethic. Even though technology was on the rise people still kept their Cleveland Bay horses for their buggies, or to saddle up for a relaxing ride.

Technology versus the horse

By the early 1900’s the breed was in serious decline, which was made worse by World War I where many Cleveland Bays were lost on the battlefields of France. They had adapted well to the role of artillery horses but unfortunately their very ability to adapt was sealing their own fate.

Horse drawn coaches were not common in England until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the Cleveland Bay with its natural strength, activity and endurance was well suited to pull the first of these heavy vehicles. By the mid 1500’s the people of Yorkshire were already using the Cleveland Bay to plough the land, pull light spring carts, take them hunting and of course take them to Sunday


The Cleveland Bay continued to develop as a strong but fast-paced coach horse but as the railways developed and the popularity of horses generally came under threat, the popularity of the Cleveland suffered equally. By the 1880’s the breed was in severe trouble and on the verge of extinction. In 1884 a few enthusiasts of the breed formed the Cleveland Bay Horse Society (CBHS) in England to preserve and promote the horse, and that role is still carried out by the CBHS today. During the 1880’s horses started making their way across various parts of the


Royalty saves the day The breed was almost extinct after both world wars ended. By the early 1960’s there were only a handful of mature stallions in England and not many more mares with which to rebuild the breed. Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth II gave the breed a great boost. Her Majesty’s



A: A stunning four-in-hand demonstrating how we used to travel.


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B: Epiphanybay Abraham, Warrenton Horse Show 2017.

B Grandfather had been a breeder of Cleveland Bays in the 1920’s and in true family tradition, the Queen stepped in to save the breed. She purchased a pure Cleveland Bay colt named Mulgrave Supreme who was born in 1961 and had been earmarked for export. Her Majesty made the colt available at public stud and the breed suddenly found a new popularity with the English public that saw stallion numbers rise dramatically over the next ten years. Mulgrave Supreme became a household name in the horse world with many successful offspring competing in all disciplines. Since then Cleveland Bays have proven themselves to be extremely reliable horses in both hunting and show jumping. Despite their versatility, kind

temparement and fan-base, it is not a common breed – in 2006 only 550 horses existed worldwide. In fact there are still so few of these wonderful horses worldwide that the Cleveland Bay is considered a rare breed, and both the United Kingdombased Rare Breeds Survival Trust and the United States-based Livestock Conservancy consider the population to be at critical limits for extinction. Breed standards Height: Usually the horse is to stand between 16 – 16.2 hands high. Height should not be used to disqualify a fine example of the breed. Colour: Cleveland Bays must be bay with black points - i.e. black legs, black mane and black tail. Grey hairs in mane

and tail do not disqualify as these have been long recognised as a feature in certain strains of pure Cleveland Bay blood. White, beyond a very small star is not permitted. Legs that are bay or red below the knees and hocks do not disqualify but are considered faulty. Body: The body should be wide and deep. The back should not be too long and should be strong with muscular loins. The shoulders should be sloping, deep and muscular. The quarters should be level, powerful, long and oval and the tail springing well from the quarters. Head: The head characteristic of the breed should be bold and not too small. It should be well carried on a long lean neck. Feet: This is one of the most important




C: Sultan, a 19th century Cleveland Bay stallion. D: An early example of a Cleveland Bay carriage horse.


features of the breed; the feet must be of

forward. The horse should be full of

the best quality and dark blue in colour.

courage move freely from the shoulder,

Feet that are shallow or narrow are

as well as flexing his knees and hocks



Movement: The horse’s movement must

Further information: The Cleveland Bay

be true, straight and free. High action

is a notable horse with a huge history.

is not characteristic of the breed. The

Find out more by visiting the Cleveland

Cleveland Bay must move well and

Bay Horse Society’s website.






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comfortably,” she says.


Dressage Saddle ANGELA ARKADIEFF put the saddle before the horse – and loves both of them.


Angela Arkadieff recently purchased her Kieffer Innsbruck from the Equestrian Hub and is loving her new


Ace yet so I was sticking my neck out with the purchase! It looked like it would fit him, and I did have him in my mind however, so I went through the trial purchase and arranged to have it

“I saw the saddle on display at Equitana last year,” explains Angela.

delivered to Brisbane.”

“It looked as it was nearly new and was in excellent condition. I sat in it at the Equestrian Hub booth and found it very comfortable. I hadn’t actually bought

four-year-old Warmblood, who of

Angela has since purchased Ace, a course has plenty of time to fill out. “The saddle is not aggravating any pressure points on him and he moves freely and

“The Innsbruck doesn’t have a deep seat as some of the other saddles I’ve ridden in, but the comfort of the saddle makes up for that.” Angela loved the concept of the trial: “The Equestrian Hub made the purchase easy, and knowing I had the trial gave me peace of mind. The staff at Equitana were helpful and answered questions over email promptly afterwards,” she says. “I was able to ride in the saddle a few times before I had to make up my mind to either keep it or return it. Well, I’ve kept it and I’m really happy with it, and so is Ace!” The Equestrian Hub has a large variety of second-hand saddles in our warehouse, so why not visit www. and have a browse. Saddles come with a two-week trial, finance options and courier to your door!




Main: Lindsey Blanch riding Dicavalli Royal Gustav was 3rd in the Lady Rider 17yrs to 21yrs class at Grand Nationals – against massive competition. Photo Lisa Gordon.


Above: No touching this jump! Melkiyana Mac with 13-year-old Charlotte Hawkins on board, getting some airtime over the EvA 95 roll top at the Equestriad event at Camden on the weekend. Above right: Hollie Shiels trotting out her beautiful black and white pinto, Daiquiri Loredo Moon in the Pinto Spectacular at the 2019 Toowoomba Royal Show. Photo Oz Shotz. Right: Winner of the Concours D’elegance Class on the first day of the 2019 Toowoomba Royal Show was Exhibit 15, Kar-trice Tamara driven by Graham Wass. Photo Oz Shotz. Left: During the cross country at at Wallaby Hill, 14-year-old Jaimie Studdy was there to volunteer for her sister, competitor and well-known eventer Amanda Ross. She borrowed a camera to get Amanda coming over the ditch palisade brush fence and then headed off to get her jumping the half finished bridge. Photographer Stephen Mowbray was there as well and helped her with camera settings to get the shot. Good work Jaimie. APRIL 2019 - HORSEVIBES MAGAZINE





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Riding High DANNII CUNNANE catches up with Jessie Rice-Ward, the 2018 NSW Junior Athlete of the year.


t the tender age of 17 Jessie Rice-Ward is taking the show jumping world by storm.

“I’ve been show jumping my whole career and riding since I was two-yearsold,” explains Jessie. “I definitely followed in my mother’s footsteps with my interest in horses and I’ve had some great successes.” Jessie’s achievements to date include back-to-back Australian Junior Champion in 2016 and 2017; placing third overall in the Australian Young Rider table for 2018; being named runner-up in the Stal Tops Young Rider series for 2018 and - the highlight - being awarded the 2018 NSW Junior Athlete of the year. Jessie currently has three competition horses who travel the show jumping circuit with her. She’s owned CP Southern Cross for two years. The 16.1 hand high Warmblood, whose stable name is Titan, has competed up to Grand Prix with his young rider. “I also have Dusky Farm Cavalier, whose stable name is Squiggles,” she says. “He’s a 16.3 hands high 11-yearold Warmblood/Thoroughbred cross we purchased in January 2018. Lastly I have Dinero, stable name Darcy, a seven-yearold, 16 hand high Holsteiner, by Diarado and out of a Cassini 1 mare I’ve had the pleasure of riding for the past 18 months.”

Jessie riding CP Southern Cross.

Jessie trains and works hard every day to achieve her outstanding results. “I’m a perfectionist so I like to push myself,” she says. “I work hard because I want to improve all the time and see how much I

can achieve. This year I’ll be competing at the Sydney Royal Easter Show as well as at my personal favourite, the Aquis Champions tour in April. Further towards the end of the year will be the New South Wales State and Australian Championships which I am looking forward to very much.” Jessie’s ambition for this year is to start in a few more Grand Prix events and to continue to be consistent in the Young Rider classes. She’s also training Darcy to, as she says: “The best of my ability, he’s showing a lot of promise and I want to concentrate on that. I’m a bit of a realist but I do have dreams of riding in the Olympics and World Equestrian Games, but I prefer to focus on the short-term goals that will help me get to the bigger events.” Even with Jessie’s huge success, she remains humble and acknowledges her support network, particularly her parents, for their help. “I’d also like to say a huge thank you to the Evans Family for being so accommodating to us,” she says, “and my coach, Emma Smith, for all the help she gives me, as well as a shout out to all my amazing sponsors.” When Jessie isn’t clearing jumps, she enjoys her free time. “I like spending time with my friends as well as playing with my puppy Benji,” says Jessie. “I’m a little unsure of what I’ll do after school, but I would ideally love to continue working with horses and get to the top of the sport!”




Transcending limiting beliefs Tanja Mitton is a specialist in rider posture and mindset, writes JANE CAMENS.

“The reason they lose confidence is because they don’t trust themselves,” she says. “They give their power away. There’s an internal dialogue they can’t get out of their head that creates fear. I work with the person to show them that it’s pure illusion.” Tanja was born in Germany where she grew up in a non-horse family. But she always dearly wanted to ride and was eventually allowed to take lessons. “In Germany, almost everyone who rides starts off with classical instruction in

the riding schools,” she told HorseVibes. That’s the basis of the coaching she brought to Australia 24 years ago when she followed her Aussie husband out here. Tanja competed in Germany both as a young rider as well as in open classes, jumping up to 1.40m. Eventually, needing a job, she moved away from fulltime show jumping to work for three-and-a-half years in an equine hospital. When an opportunity arose to go to England to work with rehabilitating injured horses she jumped at the chance and moved to the UK. That’s where she met event rider Richard Mitton, whom she eventually married. He was in England


ne of the major areas of Tanja Mitton’s work is helping riders gain or regain confidence. “I look at it as regaining confidence in ourselves,” says the qualified Neuro Linguist Programmer (NLP). Tanja has worked with many people who’ve had bad experiences, and in most cases, she says, it’s due to a lack of confidence.

If a rider is tense, the horse mirrors that tension. The first rung on Tanja’s training scale, the base line of her pyramid, is relaxation.

running eventing comps - as he still does in Australia. These days Tanja, 50, is based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and spends much of her time travelling up and down the Australian east coast holding clinics on rider posture and mindset. Tanja is close to being a legend at the equestrian centre where I ride. Her name is invoked with devotion by her followers. “Remember what Tanja Mitton says about breath,” they say, or about posture, or about lower leg contact. But mainly what it’s about is breath, and the power of the breath to relax your body. By the time you read this Tanja will

A: Mindfulness and posture coach Tanja Mitton, explains engaging the core to improve the sitting trot.

A have returned from a brief visit back to Germany, the country of her birth, and will again be holding clinics up. She is increasingly well-known in Australia for her instruction on rider posture and mindset. Playing with the classical European horse-training pyramid, Tanja has developed a rider-training pyramid that focuses on the rider’s posture and breath. “I thought it could be of value to translate the way I understand the German training scale for people who’ve not been taught that way,” she says. “We have fantastic coaches here in Australia who understand horse training. The thing that lets riders down - even some Grand Prix riders – is that we don’t have

enough coaches here understanding rider position,” she says. Consequently, Tanja’s main focus is the rider. “To me, riding is a team sport consisting of the rider and the horse. Each has equal responsibility for the outcome,” she says.

relaxation. “It’s the breath out that is important. That’s what makes you - and your horse - relax. Get your breath below your belly button,” she advises.

Every limited belief affects how we sit on a horse, she says. “I help people understand their limiting beliefs and how these affect how we sit on a horse. Your position influences how your horse moves. Your horse is the best personal development coach you have.”

The next rung of her pyramid focuses on the sternum and core engagement. “Slouching is common,” she explains. “One mistake is to over-correct, and to raise yourself too much, hollowing the back. This blocks the horse. The trick is to lift the sternum and engage your core – drawing belly button back towards the spine. She reminds all her riders that: “The core is the central balance point.”

If a rider is tense, the horse mirrors that tension. The first rung on Tanja’s training scale, the base line of her pyramid, is

The third area she speaks about is movement of the pelvis and the importance of feeling weight on the sit









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The fifth rung is attention to what the upper thigh and groin are doing. The upper thigh shouldn’t be closed on the horse. Tanja recommends lifting each leg up and then rotating them out to loosen any grip and to increase the range of motion. “Think of John Wayne,” she says. “You can fit a horse in between his thighs when he walks.” Next is the importance of bent elbows and closed fists. “Soft hands come from bent elbows, not open hands,” she reminds riders. “If you squeeze your thumb and index finger when holding the reins you can’t have a clenched fist. When we learn to ride without (good) instruction, we develop habits that are not that useful to overall riding. We have to break it down into a new way of thinking.” She worries when people say things like I just want to keep my horse round in the trot, or I just want impulsion. ”These are not simple things,” she says. “First I look at the horse’s posture and ask can it physically stay in the posture. Then I look at whether the rider has the balance, meaning enough inner core strength

and stability, enhancing or hindering the horse’s gait in transitions.” She explains that In order to ride a good soft upward transition, the horse has to engage the abdominal muscles in order to lift its back. “Then the hind legs have to come underneath the body to support the rider’s weight and step forward in balance with the neck soft and round, which we call going ‘on the bit’,” she explains. “The biggest part of my teaching is to break down such concepts as ‘on the bit’, ‘getting impulsion’ and ‘improving rhythm’. I break this down to educate riders first, so the horse is able to achieve all that.” Tanja teaches riders at all levels, helping them to understand how they’ve been blocking their horse. “The body buys into the story and controls breathing. Horses are sensitive to energy,” she says, going back to the breath. That long breath out. Tanja conducts some of her mindset work by phone, which she can do with people anywhere in the world. If you’d like to contact Tanja, book a clinic with her, buy her book ‘It Takes Two to Tango’ or her other on Mindset, or purchase her videos, check her website:

Buyers Ready!

bones rather than on the pubic bone. “If your horse is deemed lazy, check if you’re riding with the hand-break on. Rotate your pelvis to adjust your weight.”

If your horse is deemed lazy, check if you’re riding with the hand-break on.

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Pictures: Brittany Bates Photography

safety of both horse and rider.


Loads of laughs and barrels of Fun The Camden Barrel Racing Club welcomes all riders


o matter what kind of rider you are, have you ever fantasized about barrel racing? You have,

haven’t you? Just imagining that sheer adrenalin of the horse shooting over the start line, around the three barrels and back again at full speed is enough to get the heart pumping. It’s exciting, but it doesn’t have to be as flat-out as it looks!

Everybody has to start somewhere, and Camden Barrel Racing Club Inc was started by a dedicated group of parents and friends who share a love of barrel racing. They are a small but growing Sydneybased club, affiliated with the Australian Barrel Horse Association. The surface they compete on must be prepared to meet specific standards to ensure the

The Club, CBRC Inc. welcomes male and female, competitive and beginner/ novice riders, tiny tots to open age riders. It is a very friendly, supportive club. They encourage new riders and assist in any way they can to make everyone’s day enjoyable. The Club holds their monthly barrel racing and western pole bending events at Kingsfield Stud, Badgerys Creek NSW. To compete at the events, you must be a member of the Australian Barrel Horse Association. CBRC Inc. dedicates an annual community event where they raise money for a charity. In 2018 they raised over $1000 for MS Australia; this year CBRC Inc. will help raise money for Juvenile Diabetes Australia. Their next event will be April 13and 14. Follow them on Facebook - Camden Barrel Racing Club Inc for club dates and clinics.




Aries This month brings ideas, drive and a big fat dose of chutzpah to the table for two-legged rams. After a series of delays and setbacks, you’re ready to stream into action and it’s all systems go. When it comes to us equines though, be warned. It’s like driving the chariot with a team of warhorses! Enthusiasm doesn’t begin to describe it. Make sure you do a safety check around stable and paddocks. If there’s trouble, we’ll find it.

Taurus For two-legged Taureans, your new equinox cycle begins in the house of dreams, imagination, reflection and compassion. It’s a paradox as spiritual notions seem to conflict with practical


ith the fire of the equinox creating a warm glow across the stars, April promises to be a spectacular month. Consider the Mercury retrograde time of spanners in the works a thing of the past as we leave that shady zone behind. Mars, the energy planet, is in social, witty, dynamic Gemini, sure to add spark and zest to all communication. Expect high winds with a chance of wonderful news.

life. But, they don’t have to. Think money AND spiritual path, not one or the other. Four-legged Taureans fare well with only one trouble spot – the hooves. Keep up with daily care, especially in muddy ground.

Gemini Your ruler, the messenger of the gods, is scot-free this month, at liberty to instigate whatever thoughts, plans or plots desired. And, the outcomes are likely to garner applause. Whatever you have brewing, set it in motion now. If collaboration is involved, all the better. Us equines have an easy time unless being worked in the wind. Sudden gusts are likely to unnerve even the most placid. You have been warned.







For many two-legged Crabs, career

If your relationship life has been idle,

action pushes you into the public eye.

snagged or even floundering in the

You feel bold, adventurous and ready

shallows, change for the better is upon

to challenge the status quo, especially

you. Think release from struggle, blue

if this area of life has become stuck or

skies and clear sailing with the currents.

predictable. Make waves now, by all

However you decide to address your

means, but wait until after April 6th for

partnerships, the key is to follow what

a major coup d’état. Four-legged Crabs

feels right for you. Us equine are easily

may suffer from an itchy mane and tail.

distracted this month, an advantage

Treat with a skin check and/or more

if spooked, but not so great during

thorough grooming.

training. Patience please.

Leo News from overseas/foreign source brings unexpected feelings, for example, the desire to set change in motion. This is accompanied by paradigm expansion and thought-provoking insights. The core drive at the base of it all is freedom and the experience of new, unpredictable horizons. For us equines, things centre closer to home with an increased need for routine dental care and worming. Sounds mundane but so vital!


The inner, soul sector is calling but it might manifest as repairs needed in the home, moving to a new neighbourhood or even building from the ground up. It feels like the clock is ticking, but really, you have time. Relax. Deep breaths. See to your own repair first. Us equines might pick up on your stress, releasing pent up energy at the most inappropriate times. The more you chill, the more we will too.



Communications become a safety

This month spotlights your health,

hazard as lightning bolt ideas, thoughts

fitness and body awareness with

and insights zap through every

opportunities to make long-desired

conversation. With Mercury direct, it

changes. It might be a new diet or eating

feels like you can finally say what’s on

habit, new form of exercise or new work

your mind. But maybe not all at once.

routine. The goal is to nix what isn’t

Pour this abundant energy into projects,

making you happen and amp up what is!

plans and creative outlets. When it

Four-legged Scorpions can experience

comes to us two-legged Water-bearers,

conflict with stablemates and general

please re-check the tack. An ill-fitting

paddock hierarchy. Don’t assume that

saddle can be the source of all evils to

everyone’s still getting along.




Two-legged Virgoans are likely to get a

This month is a wild, zany, romantic

Focus in your house of money has you

thumbs up for whatever funding, loan or

adventure, here to lift you out of a rut or

rethinking your attitude to various

joint project application is in the works.

stagnating patterns and blast you into

income streams. Perhaps you’ve

All systems go, almost. Expect clear

fresh new landscapes. Your watchword

been running on autopilot with some

sailing after April 15th and meanwhile,

is ‘surprise’ accompanied by confetti. Us

decisions or votes. Use this time to

don’t worry about the snail’s pace.

four-legged equines can help matters

recognize what it is you really want.

Instead, appreciate that you are in the

by offering you more reasons to get

Then let the good time roll! Warning,

game, with options. Us four-legged

out into nature, in and amongst the

us Piscean horses are hypervigilant this

Virgos have a restless edge this month

elements. Do check the weather before

month. You’ll have to convince us that

and a nose for trouble. You’ll want to

trail rides though. We don’t want to get

we are safe, there are no predators lying

walk the fence line daily!

caught in a downpour.

in wait, and yes, humans are the boss. APRIL 2019 - HORSEVIBES MAGAZINE



Published by: Equestrian Hub PO Box 13, Tintenbar NSW 2478, 0414 760067

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Horse Vibes April 2019  

Inspiring, informing and educating Australia's equestrian community.

Horse Vibes April 2019  

Inspiring, informing and educating Australia's equestrian community.

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