THE NEXT GENERATION
A natural talent, 16-year-old Oliver Barrett is at the forefront of the next generation of young Australian event riders, and with 11-year-old brother Jesper, he’s ensuring the family name remains synonymous with the sport.
Prue and Craig still both coach and run clinics and are committed to supporting the next generation. Heading out to competitions with the boys is one activity that’s at the top of their list!
When their two-year lease on a lovely old thoroughbred ended, Sandhills Special was the horse that “just happened to be there” for Oliver. “She’s special by name, special by nature,” says Prue Barrett of the homebred mare. The 13-year-old wasn’t supposed to be the schoolmaster for the kids; Prue had her pinned as more of a professional’s horse after riding her to four-star level herself.
Being a mare, it took a little while for them to click, however, it has proven to be a good learning curve for Oliver and they now have a solid partnership. The pair stepped up to two-star level together last year with success, placing seventh at Sydney CCI2*S, winning the CCIJ2*L classes at Melbourne and Wallaby Hill, and finishing fifth this year in the CCI2*S at Tamworth.
Shortly after Oliver began riding Special, another quality horse came along by the name of Ballyhoo. “We had the opportunity to get a horse Shenae Lowings had produced from EvA105 through to four-star level,” explains Prue. “She really wanted to do a five-star and he wasn’t very helpful in the show jumping for what she needed him to be able to do. However, he was really good on the flat and great cross country… he is one of the best cross-country horses I’ve ever ridden. Craig and I believe that you’re only as good as the horse you’re riding, and we’ve ridden a lot of not-so-good horses over the years… horses are challenging creatures, even the good ones! So Oliver’s been very fortunate to have that horse.”
The 14-year-old bay gelding is now part of the team at Sandhills, and although very different to Special, he is proving to be a good match for Oliver as well. At Tamworth, they were top 10 in their first CCI3*-S together, and at events last year Ballyhoo was often only a place behind Special; in the CCIJ2*L at Wallaby Hill, Oliver took first and second place. The next step, once competitions start back, is a long format three-star!
Jesper also has the eventing bug and is currently riding ‘Rory the Wonder Pony’ aka Kerulen Midori, a Welsh pony that was previously ridden by Oliver. “Craig had taught Rory at clinics in Perth over the space of two years, with three members of the same family on him… basically he said, ‘when you want to sell the pony, call me first!’” The call was made, and Rory settled into life at Sandhills.
This year, Jesper is taking the big step up from pony to horse after Prue and Craig acquired the lease of a 13-year-old thoroughbred. However, prospective buyers must know that even with Jesper moving up, Rory is not in search of a new home: “He’ll never leave, good old Rory!”
These days Prue and Craig aren’t competing at elite level and have a smaller team, but it doesn’t mean they are any less busy on competition day. When they made their way to Tamworth, the truck was pretty full with the family team. “Admittedly, only one was mine… one was Jesper’s, two were Oliver’s, and Craig had three. So we probably do need a bigger truck!” laughs Prue.