Who really made Australian eventing stand out on the international eventing stage in 2014? There are lots of great events, riders, horses and supporters of the sport around the world but there are a few accolades we think should be given on Australia Day
Australian Horse - Pluto Mio
The horse who used to be afraid of big crowds performed beautifully for Australia on the biggest international stage in 2014
When Pluto Mio could not be presented for the second horse inspection at the 2014 Melbourne International Horse Trials, it looked as if Stuart Tinney’s hopes to once again represent his country were dashed. It was a simple knee injury caused by a splinter from which Pluto Mio soon recovered but, as it turned out, all was not lost. Pluto and Stuart did end up competing at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, finishing as the highest placed Australian combination in 12th place
When we spoke to Stuart straight after their cross country round in Normandy he was full of praise for the horse who had ‘dug deep and jumped well’ on the difficult track and that ‘the crowd actually helped him at the last water jump. When the crowd got involved, he pricked his ears and off we went again and the same for the last two fences on course, he really rose to the occasion when the crowd cheered. He seems to like it now!”
Pluto Mio (Daley K/Call on the Wind), owned and bred by Jane and John Pittard, didn’t start his competition career until the age of nine and has not always been a fan of enthusiastic crowds. A lot of work has gone into making him less susceptible to noise, especially in the dressage arena and in Normandy he held it together really well despite the unusually atmospheric dressage arena which was causing problems for many other horses. A little spook as he left the arena was the only reminder of his past phobia and, although he had two down in the show jumping phase, his behaviour in the packed Stade d’Ornano on the final day in Caen was impeccable as he performed for Australia
Australian Rider - Sam Griffiths
“It’s a really great outcome for him. He’s been a great professional in England for a long time, he hasn’t quite had that major breakthrough (until now) and now that he’s had that breakthrough, his life has changed” said Mark Griffiths of his brother’s win at Badminton in 2014
Indeed, Sam Griffiths had a well deserved year of success in 2014. In addition to his first CCI4* win riding Paulank Brockagh at a notoriously difficult Badminton Horse Trials he was also part of the Australian Team for the 2014 Altech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy where he and Paulank Brockagh went clear cross country and helped Australia secure qualification for Rio 2016. There were numerous other highlights on various horses resulting in Sam finishing the year ninth in the FEI World Eventing Rankings and second in the FEI Classics Series 2013/14 season.
Sam then topped off a fantastic year by being voted Rider of the Year – Eventing by the members of the International Riders Club as announced in L’Annee Hippique
When we spoke to Sam at Burghley, where he placed third, he said that he has had some pretty tough days since he moved to the UK in 1995 but the hard work is all paying off and it’s now full steam ahead for Rio
Aussie Battler - Murray Lamperd
He had to hand the trophy back when it was realised it should go to the highest placed British first timer but Murray Lamperd still finished in the top 10 at his first attempt at Burghley
Murray Lamperd and his family have dug deep in the past two years to follow their dream of competing internationally with an exceptional horse, Under the Clocks. In 2014 the 43 year old finished the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in 10th place, the best of the 2014 first timers and, although he had to give the miniature of the Land Rover Perpetual Challenge trophy back (when they realised he was Australian and it should be awarded to the top British first timer!), it was an exceptional experience for the rider who has been flying back and forth to campaign his off the track thoroughbred overseas.
“We live in a tiny house, putting everything into the horses, which is scary when you stop to think about it” said Murray “At Badminton last year I learnt the feeling of the worst that adrenalin can do. This year, thanks to some great training, my riding has improved out of sight. I've got sharper and definitely think more deeply about what I do”
“Burghley has been an incredible experience. Prime weather, prime going, a prime course. It's not a headspace that I'm familiar with, especially having such a great cross-country day around a track like that. We took all the direct routes and Ninja flew round; while I need to update my brakes a bit, it was amazing. I don't ever have to kick him on, I just 'cluck' occasionally. I don't consider myself to be in the same league as some of the [top] riders here, I just wanted to look after my horse and finish safe and sound”
Australian tenacity - Bill Levett
Bill and Shannondale Titan
Bill Levett is a prime example of Australian tenacity. At the age of 51 the quiet achiever finally realised his long held ambition of competing for his country by competing at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Bill, who first went to the UK in 1994, has been so close to selection on many occasions with different horses but in 2014 it all came together and he finally wore the green and gold.
Sadly Bill’s horse Shannondale Titan incurred a small injury on cross country which prevented them from presenting at the second horse inspection but they had made it around the gruelling cross country course. Only a week later Bill and his Rio 2016 prospect, Improvise, finished sixth at Burghley proving that, like good wine, good eventers only get better with age – you just have to have the stamina and perseverance to keep going
Australian official - Gill Rolton
Australian gold Olympic medallist Gill Rolton took centre stage in 2014 as the President of the Ground Jury at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games. Over the years Gill has become one of the most respected officials in the sport of eventing, combining her own experience as a rider with her vast knowledge of the sport’s ins and outs.
Although she is in demand at events around the world, you still find Gill hard at work at the less glamorous competitions around Australia and she is always happy to provide explanations and advice.
Gill is also the driving force behind the Australian International 3 Day Event which, as well as being a great event for spectators, is absolutely vital to riders as the only CCI4* event in the southern hemisphere.
Australian Event - The Australian International 3 Day Event
The unique atmosphere created by an event running through the centre of a city combined with (usually) good weather and the end of season finale makes the Australian International 3 Day Event the ‘must attend’ event of the year
Over time the event has grown to include entertainment and masterclasses from visiting top international riders. Quarantine restrictions have made it almost impossible for overseas riders to bring their horses but there are hopes of trying to remove that barrier in the future to create a encourage a truly international field
Although it is inevitably affected by low numbers of top 4* riders in championship years such as 2014, this does give the younger up and coming riders a chance to star, which leads us to ....
Australian Up and Coming Rider
At 22 years of age, Jess Manson won the CCI4* at the Australian International 3 Day Event on, appropriately, her Australian Stock Horse Legal Star. Despite the pressure piled on by Olympic silver medallist Megan Jones, Jess jumped a clear round looking as cool as a cucumber to seal the win.
When you look at the longevity of top riders around the world it must be daunting to know that you have to knock these guys off their perch to get a chance at team selection but there can be no better start to a career than competing at your first CCI4* at the age of 21 (despite various problems en route from Perth to Adelaide) and winning at 22
Australian Eventing Venue - Wallaby Hill
Owner Alex Townsend not only runs Wallaby Hill but competes there too
Wallaby Hill Farm – the stunning venue in the Southern Highlands of NSW just keeps getting better and better
In 2014 owners Alex Townsend and Derek Pascoe added even more land to the original property and Michelle Robson joined the team as Wallaby Hill starts to gear up to hopefully run international level 3* events in the near future
In addition to the normal horse trials the team at Wallaby Hill have come up with some inventive and entertaining ways to attract top riders and VIP spectators to the boutique venue. The popular one day Equestrian Extravaganza featuring classes such as the Equestrian Team Triathlon makes for a great day out and shows how event organisers can appeal to new audiences when they combine a great venue with some smart thinking and organisation