An accomplished showjumper and Grand Prix dressage rider and coach, Kerry Mack grew up in South Australia and names the Gawler sale ring as the source of most of her childhood ponies. She received her first pony at about age two, an eight-hand Shetland named Midge.
“We bought him out of the sale ring at Gawler, which was the Echuca equivalent in South Australia at that time. I don’t remember what Mum paid for him, but it would have been back in the days when it was pounds and shillings. He was two or three, and absolutely wild; you couldn’t get near him. I remember when we brought him home, he was on a calf chain and he was so frightened of people that if you went anywhere near him he would run to the end of the chain and flip himself upside down because he was trying to get away from you so much. He was a big rehabilitation job,” recalls Kerry.
“Dad did a TV series on horse riding for the ABC that played after Play School, and I remember demonstrating how to feed a horse an apple… and how not to! The ‘how not to’ was the first time I got too close to Midge and he pushed the apple against my hand and tried to break it and smacked me in the head. I remember crying and being picked up off the ground, and that being on the television, and then me doing it properly. Which was quite hilarious!”
One of Kerry’s earliest memories of Midge was riding him around the front lawn of their home with her mother. “She was riding him and holding onto me, and we had a fire grate and I remember jumping over the fire grate double-dinking. And then I remember a bit later when I was big enough and old enough and brave enough, I could jump over this fire grate riding him all by myself. So that was the beginning of my showjumping career,” laughs Kerry.
Kerry took Midge to Pony Club, and also to her first show — although that didn’t happen as quickly as she would have liked. “I wasn’t allowed to go to a show until I was five, which I thought was very unreasonable at the time. I took him to Uraidla Show, so it would have been the first Saturday in February 1966. I had no idea what I was doing, of course; I remember I had bottle green corduroy baggy jodhpurs with matching braces and a white shirt. I was so proud of my green jodhpurs.”
Kerry explains that her first class didn’t quite go according to plan. “The judge said ‘go canter’ and Midge bucked me off. I remember sitting in the middle of the Uraidla Show crying my eyes out.” Of course, Kerry got back on and had a go at the next class. “They called me in but Mum hadn’t expected I’d get called in, so I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I thought that I was in trouble; it was very funny. So that was my debut competition.”
Kerry says that it was always a bit disappointing that she never got to take Midge to a Royal Show. “We never had that kind of money, but we sold him on to a family that did and he was a very successful show pony into his 20s. We used to visit him at every Adelaide Show and feed him carrots, and I’d be jealous as hell with all the little kids that were allowed to ride him in the Royal Show that I was never allowed to do! He was a very good pony and his conformation was very good, so that’s why he was so successful later on.”
Kerry’s fondest memories of Midge are not about the competitions or even the riding. “My fondest memory was just being with him, just smelling his fur. I still remember the thick fur a Shetland pony has in winter and the smell of that — wet Shetland pony. And just hanging out with him, lying over his back and just telling him my secrets.”
Kerry also has fond memories of the Percherons her dad bought in the early 60s for working the land. “The property was steep and he nearly tipped the tractor over, so he sold it and we had Captain and Gus. I remember riding on the hay rake they used to pull.
“When we moved house in 1973, Captain would not go on the float. We rode him (two days) to the new farm. He refused to go through the front gate of our old property and had to be really convinced (Mum was a very capable horsewoman and very good with the stock whip). Once he went through the gate he was fine and he ended up settling in well at the new farm.”