Top Young Equestrians Descend on Sydney
Posted: Thu, 24th Oct 2019
A fantastic week of competition has wrapped up at the Thoroughbred Industry Careers Pony Club Australia Championships 2019
An incredible week at the Thoroughbred Industry Careers Pony Club Australia Nationals Championships has wrapped up, with almost 350 riders from around Australia travelling to the prestigious Sydney International Equestrian Centre, 10 years after New South Wales last hosted the event. A multitude of disciplines were showcased at the event, including Dressage, Showjumping, Eventing, Tetrathlon, Mounted Games, Formal Gymkhana, and Quiz. The Tri-Nations Cup International Challenge was incorporated into the week, with teams from France, Australia and China battling it out on borrowed horses.
The last championships were held in Toowoomba in 2017, where New South Wales achieved 3rd place overall in the Roger Braham OAM Perpetual Shield behind host state Queensland who were the overall winners and Victoria in 2nd place. In 2019 New South Wales were able to claim the award on home soil, just one point in front of team Victoria. As is usually the case, the host state New South Wales had the largest team with 87 riders, followed by Victoria with 65. Queensland had 44 riders make the trip down to Sydney, and we welcomed back a remarkable 42 riders from Tasmania after not making it to the 2017 Championship in Toowoomba. Dedicated families made the almost 24 hours long trip across the water to Sydney for a successful competition. South Australia had 40 representatives, with Western Australia sending a team of 37 across the continent, unsurprisingly with the smallest team with the longest way to travel! Sadly we did not get a contingent from Northern Territory at this championship, with an exceptionally long way to travel from the Top End.
Monday night saw the Official Opening Ceremony take place under lights in the indoor arena. The crowds were treated to a performance from a select group of riders from Pony Club NSW who had spent most of the year practicing a musical ride under the guidance of former Commander Don Eyb and Wayne Pernice, with guidance and training from the NSW Mounted Police. State teams then paraded into the arena on foot, before being captivated by a speech by Heath Ryan, who is the Patron of Pony Club Australia, and an avid supporter of Pony Club.
With the event officially opened, warm up events and arena familarisation began on Tuesday, as well as the first round of the Tri-Nations Cup International Challenge. The Tri Nations Cup is a recent addition to the championships, where teams from China, France and Australia competed in showjumping on borrowed pool horses. For the event hosted in New South Wales, a number of these pool horses were off the track thoroughbreds that had been re-trained by Team Thoroughbred with the assistance of Pony Club NSW riders. This year NSW rider Ashleigh Bennett of Young Pony Club represented Australia alongside Georgia Elias (TAS), J’Aime Mallon (VIC) and Kaitlin Goss (WA). Ron Waddell (VIC) was the team coach, whilst Janet Hamblin of Warren Pony Club, NSW acted as Team Manager. Ashleigh has been heavily involved in Young Pony Club for over 14 years, and was thrilled to be selected to represent Australia, saying “Being selected for the team has come as a privilege and I don’t think it has sunk in yet… (I) am so grateful for this opportunity, yet another unbelievable experience provided by Pony Club”. China took out the overall team champion, with Georgia Elias from Tasmania winning the individual champion on the borrowed horse “Sitting Pretty”, which was kindly lent to the Championship by Olivia Johnson of New South Wales.
The most popular discipline at the event was Dressage, with 75 riders competing across three age groups, in Preliminary, Novice and Elementary sections. Riders were able to choose the level that they were most suited to, with team scores calculated on a weighted method depending on the level ridden. A sudden downpour complete with hail paused the competition momentarily on the Friday, with a region wide black out halting indoor compeition too.
Showjumping was run in the indoor arena, with most horses coping with the atmosphere very well. Three events ran smoothly with 60 riders taking part in the championship. The sub junior and senior divisions were won by Victoria, with New South Wales winning the junior division. The John Vallance designed courses were a good test of skills, with lovely flowing tracks and some technical questions to challenge the riders.
The One Day Event saw New South Wales with a trifecta in the sub junior division, with Tara Seppelt, Annabella Stott Despoja and Philippa Schoupp taking out first, second and third places respectively, and taking the team to first place also. Victoria took home the junior division win in an extremely tight field. The cross country test saw no jumping penalties and just a few time penalties, however the showjuming proved to be highly influential in this division, with just 7 clear rounds from 23 riders. The senior division was won by New South Wales, with four riders in the top 10. The cross country test for the seniors was tough but fair, and was influential in the final standings, with just 7 clear and under time rounds achieved from 21 riders.
The host state New South Wales once again won the Prince Philip Mounted Games Championship, after being also victorious in 2018 in Victoria. The junior team placed 1st in 17 out of the 28 races. Showing a strong skill base in mounted games, the senior team also won their championship, with both teams running like a well-oiled machine.
Tetrathlon had the second highest amount of entries, with 70 competitors vying for the champion sashes. Tetrathlon is a relatively new discipline which involves running, swimming, shooting and riding, with Western Australia and Victoria both being very active States in the dicipline, which showed in the results. Victoria took out the team championship in both the sub junior and junior groups (the junior division had the highest number of competitors out of all disciplines and divisions with 30 entries), with Western Australia winning the senior championship with Victoria closely behind in second position.
The Quiz event is an unmounted knowledge test of all things equestrian – including Pony Club governance, equestrian history, gear, horse health, and everything in between. The Vicorian team came out on top in the junior division, with New South Wales taking home the team champion in the senior division.
Saturday saw a full day of Formal Gymkhana getting underway. Formal Gymkhana is not a State discipline in New South Wales, however almost every weekend around the state will see club and zone gymkhanas being conducted. This is the ultimate Pony Club test – a mix of ring events, showjumping and sporting. The sub junior event saw New South Wales take out another trifecta, with Robin Henry, Angelina Thompson and Madeleine Breatnach taking out first, second and third overall respectively, taking the team to the overall win also. New South Wales took home the champion team in all age divisions in the Formal Gymkhana, reflective of the strong grassroots gymkhana culture in the state.
The Thoroughbred Industry Careers Pony Club Australia Nationals 2019 were a fantastic event with many wonderful sponsors on board including Thoroughbred Industry Careers, PETstock, Arena Saddles, Aussie Blue Heeler Products, CEVA Animal Health, Randwick Equine Centre, NEGS Armidale, Gow Gates Insurance Brokers, and Ranvet. A big thank you must go to the organising committee, Pony Club NSW, Pony Club Australia, officials, volunteers, riders, parents, and everyone in between! The next Pony Club Australia National Championships will be held in Victoria in 2021, we look forward to seeing you all there.
A big thank you must also go to Julie Wilson and Horse Deals who covered the event and supplied photographs for the media release.
For more information about the Championships:
The Pony Club Association of NSW
Contact: Rachel Ratini