Some of Australia’s finest eventing riders competed for top honours at Albury’s equestrian centre over the weekend of 28-29 October.
It was a case of the best of the best and no surprise that names such as Stuart and Gemma Tinney, David Middleton, Christine Bates, Deon Stokes, Hazel Shannon, Emily Anker and Danielle Cleland made the winner’s circle.
The sport of eventing is one of the most challenging in the competitive horse world as it requires skills in three disciplines of riding: dressage, showjumping and cross country.
The Albury Wodonga International Horse Trials attracted more than 400 horse-and-rider combinations to its event, including former Olympians Stuart Tinney and Shane Rose, Olympic hopefuls Shenae Lowings, Hazel Shannon and David Middleton, and legends such as Heath Ryan.
Held in the 40-hectare grounds of the Albury Wodonga Equestrian Centre in Thurgoona, the event plays a large part in Australia’s national program and is an important contest leading up to the Sydney Three-Day Event in two weeks.
It’s also one that will come under the eye of the selectors for the 2024 Paris Olympics, so a good performance may tick some qualifying boxes.
“The cross-country component of the event is the most visually spectacular as riders are generally cantering or galloping and have to jump over 20 or more obstacles over a three or four-kilometre course,” event secretary Bradley Hayden said.
“It’s also, for most of the riders, the most challenging as it is a lengthy course to navigate and has to be done within a certain time limit, and there are penalties if you go over that time limit.
“Eventing could be described as an equestrian triathlon as both riders and their horses have to be in peak condition.
“There’s also a lot of trust involved between the two.”
There were six classes of competition and $13,000 in prize money at this event, with levels from EvA80 through to what is called CCI4 star, which is the highest standard. In essence, the higher the level, the higher the jumps and the more challenging the course for both cross country and dressage.
“EvA80 means riders will be jumping obstacles of 80 centimetres,” Bradley said. ”In the four-star class, the height of the rails in the show0umping arena is 1.2 metres and the cross-country course includes 32 efforts (jumps), which are spread over 3.5 kilometres.
“Riders in the four-star have around six minutes to complete their course before they incur time penalties.
“It is very exciting to watch horse and riders compete at this level and there are many heart-in-your-mouth moments when you are spectating.”
In the four-star class, David Middleton, from Warragul in Victoria, made it three out of three when he won on his home-bred mount WEC In the Breeze.
“We just tried to make time in the cross country and she’s a fantastic jumper. She’s bold and brave and just keeps galloping,” David said.
“She was the only one to go completely clear in the showjumping and we moved up from 12th after dressage to second in that, so that was pretty good.
“She has a pretty good track record at four-star and this is her third event for her third win, so she’s done very well.”
This is the 25th year the event has been staged in Albury and it has grown to become a favourite competition on the circuit for many riders.
Event director Angela Ramsey and secretary Bradley are competitors themselves and volunteer their time – along with a loyal horde of helpers – to stage the trials. Both are passionate about eventing and have worked to develop the Albury course to an international standard.
“We get great support from sponsors such as Blacklock’s Isuzu Ute, Bank WAW, Bucas Australia, Thurgoona Country Club, Petstock Albury, PJN Sheds and Rider Video, to name a few,” Angela said.
”Without their contributions, it would be very difficult to do this.
“We also have a base of unbelievable volunteers who turn up every year to help out with things like jump judging, marshalling, set-up and pack-down of arenas, catering, scribing for judges, collecting scoresheets and basically helping to keep things ticking along.”
1. Cameron Mathlin – Lucky
2. Phaestian Velisha – Farleigh Tobermory
3. Sophie Fosnaugh – Champagne Fizz
1. Hazel Shannon – Hendrix
2. Katie Murray – What A Wizard
3. Meg Jeffcoat – Belstones Basil Brush
1. Danielle Cleland – Wimborne Cognac
2. Charlotte Lalak – Klassic Top Grey
3. India Gready – Temptress Of Valour
1. Hazel Shannon – Willingapark Chilli
2. Shanae Lowings – Chupa Chup
3. Heath Ryan – Lionstar
1. Christine Bates – Statford Matilda
2. Andy Daines – JDF Furst Expression
3. Natasha Jameson – Forella
1. Emily Anker – Highfields Croatia
2. Christopher Height – Bellaire Cadillac
3. Miya Fleming – Eon
1. Stuart Tinney – Caruso
2. Asha Warnock – Bounce AE
3. Skye Ramsay – Canopy Grove Damini
1. Kate Garner (JNR rider) – Henton Ambassador
2. Lauren Bentley – Kanmoreu
3. Madeleine Theobold – Pompeii Ice
1. Gemma Tinney – Fernhill Aisling Star
2. Christopher Height – Lucky Contender
3. Maddison Reisner – Remi Fancy Dancer
1. Olivia Shore – Eliva Castana
2. Amy Roberts – Ironstone Cooper
3. Sam Lyle – Revelwood Stedintine
1. Deon Stokes – Fantastik Mr Fox
2. Teegan Ashby – Magic Mushroom TAE
3. Sam Woods – SS Eight Count