Shane Rose Excerpt from An Eventful Life book | An Eventful Life

Shane Rose Excerpt from An Eventful Life book

In June 2020, An Eventful Life celebrates 10 years since the launch of the book that started everything for us

The book, An Eventful Life, published in 2010, provides a written and pictorial insight into the lives of five elite Australian Olympic eventing riders; Megan Jones, Sonja Johnson, Shane Rose, Wendy Schaeffer and Stuart Tinney and a young professional rider just starting out, Emma Scott

We’ll be sharing some excerpts from the book over the next few weeks; this exerpt is taken from the chapter on Shane Rose and looks at the 'ups and downs' of the lead-up to Shane's third place at Burghley in 2006


      Shane Rose and All Luck, ready to leave the Start Box at Beijing Olympic Games 2008


Shane Rose - an excerpt


After the disappointment at the 1998 World Equestrian Games in Rome, Shane went on to ride some excellent horses, including Wayfarer, a wonderfully genuine horse owned and previously ridden by Michelle Hasibar.

When Michelle realised that she had reached the limit of her capability, she asked Shane to take over the ride. Shane and Wayfarer were nearly always in the top three at three star competitions during 1999, but a tragic accident in the Adelaide International CCI Four Star that year resulted in Wayfarer being put down.

A couple of years, later Shane rode Kianga to eighth place at the Adelaide International CCI Four Star for owner Neale Lavis, who himself had represented Australia at the Rome Olympics in 1960.

In 2000 Pam and Ron Slade, who owned the talented mare Beauford Miss Dior, asked Shane if he would be interested in riding her. Robert Slade, their son, had been tragically killed at an event in the UK when riding another horse while campaigning Miss Dior for the Sydney Olympics and Pam and Ron felt they owed it to Robert to fulfil the mare’s potential.

Shane remembers Miss Dior with affection as not only a great competition horse, but also a horse who never let him down. She was never easy on the flat as she could be very hot, but she loved to jump and she gave her all in the cross country phase.

What made her stand out for Shane was her ability to rise to the occasion at the all-important final trot-up inspection. He used to bring her out of her stable on the final morning of a three day event and wonder if he should present her to the Ground Jury at all. But, plaited and polished up, she would trot down the “runway” like she had never taken an uneven step in her life. It was as if she knew her job and a three-day event wasn’t over until she completed all three phases.

In 2004, Shane rode Miss Dior to victory at the Adelaide International CCI Four Star. It was a win Shane was happy with for a variety of reasons, not least because he felt that it showed the Australian selectors what they had missed out on by omitting him from the Athens Olympic squad that year. Shane and Miss Dior had finished second at Adelaide in 2002 and followed that up with some great results, so Shane felt they were in with a really good chance of making the team.

From a sentimental point of view, going to Athens would have been a lovely story for all of the connections of Miss Dior. But it was not to be. The selectors chose not to put the pair on the team, so Shane then set his sights on winning in Adelaide.

“There weren’t any riders who had beaten me in the run-up to the Games apart from Rebel Morrow, so I thought I was pretty close to getting a spot on that Olympic squad. I believed that I was quite clearly overlooked and I went to Adelaide in 2004 to prove the selectors wrong. Miss Dior certainly did a very good job of justifying my thoughts that we should have been on that team.”

The horse that the selectors did pick for the next Olympics, All Luck (Lucky), had come on the scene in 2003 thanks to one of his long-standing owners, Lady Angela Shacklady. Angela lived in Duffy’s Forest when Shane was growing up and as Shane didn’t have the money in those early days to buy a horse that he particularly liked, he asked Angela if she would like to become an owner.

The first horse they owned together was It’s A Knockout, who was eventually sold to the US. Angela used this money to buy two other horses, Purbeck Shimmer and High Surprise, who also turned out to be pretty good. When these horses were sold to buyers in Asia, Shane suggested to Angela that they should buy Lucky, who was showing great promise at the early stage of his career with Ebony Tucker in Victoria.

“Lucky is without a doubt the best horse I have ever ridden. He is an amazing galloper and a brave jumper. He is careful, adjustable and rideable, and he has a beautiful frame and shape. Added to that he has a really nice temperament and is not a needy type of horse, which I really like. I could leave him in a yard all day by himself and he wouldn’t fret or worry about anything – he would simply eat and drink and be waiting for me when I got back.”

In 2006, Shane and Lucky were part of the Australian team at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, but after a fairly ordinary dressage test, Shane fell off on the cross-country course. It must have seemed to Shane that he was jinxed at international championships; nevertheless he headed off to the Burghley Horse Trials in the UK a few weeks later, desperate to redeem both himself and Lucky.

Shane went to Burghley as very much the underdog with no one in Europe rating him a chance of finishing near the top end of the leader board.

His dressage test was far superior to the one he had performed a few weeks earlier and he flew around the tough cross-country course, finishing just one second over the time. As it turned out, without that one-second time penalty, Shane and Lucky would have finished in second place as they jumped a beautiful, clear show-jumping round. However, third place at one of the most prestigious events in the world was still pretty good.

Shane still feels his Burghley performance could have been even better, but it was a massive improvement in two weeks and one he still feels proud of – and it certainly made the British crowd sit up and take notice of this relatively unknown Australian rider.

After the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Shane realised he needed to stop trying to please everyone and do what was important to him. In team training at Aachen, team member Phillip Dutton’s horse, Connaught, was quite fiery and had not been going terribly well on the fl at but, instead of plugging away with more flat work, Philip chose to take the horse for a hack to settle him before coming back to continue fl at work.

Obviously Philip (already an Olympic gold medallist) knew his horse and was confident enough to stick to his strategy. This impressed Shane, who was trying to ride the way he was being told to do, which he felt wasn’t always the right thing for that particular horse at that particular time. Consequently, Philip’s dressage mark improved dramatically by the time it came to do his test at the Games, while Shane learnt to not lose sight of his ideals.

“I put it down to an experience thing and being confident enough to really know what is the best thing for your horse. Philip clearly had that. I can’t really knock the Australian way of doing things because it has worked for the past 15 years so it must be a good system. But I do think every system gets to a point where there could be a new direction and I wonder if we are nearing that point now.

The one piece of advice I would give to anyone who gets selected in any sport is to remember the things that got you selected and then try and improve them. Don’t change everything. At Aachen I knew the test was going to be crap before I even started so I came out disappointed, not upset. After Aachen I was much more aware of what I had to do and I had to do it on my own. I hadn’t addressed any of the issues to get the horse working softer and for the next few weeks that’s what I did – address the issues. The test at Burghley was ten or twelve marks better than Aachen and I had convinced myself that I knew what was best for the horse.”

© An Eventful Life - Life Stories of Eventing Champions

Read the excerpt from the chapter on Megan Jones here


A regular competitor on the European scene - Shane and Virgil took third place at Les Etoiles de Pau 2019