ISSUE 63
FEBRUARY 2021
BONEO
BIG TOUR

DRESSAGE STARS THRILL
VALE DI SCHAEFFER
EVENTING LEGEND
EMILY STIRLING
SETS THE EXAMPLE

PLUS: ASSERT YOUR SENIORITY WITH KERRY MACK, RACHAEL CLARKE’S TARCOOLA EQUESTRIAN CENTRE, THE MAKING OF ‘PHAR LAP’, MEGAN BRYANT’S LESSON WITH LYNDAL, CAROLYN LIEUTENANT’S VICTORY SALUTE, OUR BLACK SUMMER HEROES, AUSTRIA’S GOLDEN HORSES, IRELAND’S CONNEMARAS, FEEDING OMEGA-3s & A VET’S TAKE ON EUTHANASIA

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
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ISSUE 63

CONTENTS

FEBRUARY 2021
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A few Words

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

ROBERT MCKAY

Opinion

VALE DI SCHAEFFER WARRIOR OF AUSTRALIAN EVENTING

RYAN’S RAVE BY HEATH RYAN

Dressage

BONEO BIG TOUR LEAVES PLENTY TO BE EXCITED ABOUT

BY ADELE SEVERS

Showjumping

YOUNG EMILY SETS A STIRLING EXAMPLE

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Training

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR SENIORITY

BY DR KERRY MACK

Lifestyle

MEET PHAR LAP’S DOUBLE — TOWERING INFERNO

BY SUZY JARRATT

Dressage

MEGAN BRYANT ZOOMS IN TO VIRTUAL VICTORY

BY EDWINA BADGERY

Health

NEW EO-3 PASSES THE TASTE TEST

BY KENTUCKY EQUINE RESEARCH STAFF

EQ Journeys

A GODSEND FOR THE CONNEMARA

BY EQ LIFE

Health

EUTHANASIA, THE TOUGHEST DECISION

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Special feature

COURAGEOUS KIWI BLAZES HER OWN TRAIL (Part 7)

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Breeding

FROM AUSTRIA WITH LOVE, THE GOLDEN HORSE

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Special feature

THE ORPHAN HORSES OF PAYNES CROSSING

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Property

RACHAEL CLARKE’S MAGIC TOUCH AT TARCOOLA

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

My Favourite Dish

VEGETARIAN LASAGNE

WITH RACHAEL CLARKE
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Di Schaeffer and Sunhill Cloud.
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Di Schaeffer was a force in Australian eventing for four decades, not only making her own mark on the national circuit after taking up riding at 33, but nurturing daughter Wendy’s career to Olympic team gold.

“Sunhill Cloud was made of gold and
Di was an Australian phenomenon.”

Di Schaeffer, born 23 September 1943, was 77 when she died of a massive heart attack on 2 January, 2021. There was no growing old slowly or lingering around for Di, she just up and died. Di lived her whole life like that – massive amounts of energy – worked hard – an automatic expectation of high performance from herself and those around her – she exerted a relentlessness that has reached out around the world. Di just did things. Di was an Australian legend!

In 1963, at just 19 years of age, Di became the Australian Women’s Judo Champion. From 1965 to 1969, she was a ferocious A grade squash player. It was whilst playing squash that she met her husband-to-be, Bob Schaeffer.

On January 30, 1970, Bob Schaeffer married Di, who by this time was a qualified physiotherapist. Bob had a PhD in atmospheric physics. Later that year, Bob and Di moved to America where Bob became the test scientist for an instrument on Apollo 17. Di specialised in elite sport injuries and treated NFL footballers and NBA basketballers.

In 1974, they returned to Australia to have their first child, Wendy, on 16 September that year. Wendy was destiny-bound to lead Australia to an Olympic team gold medal 22 years later at Atlanta.

In 1976, Di Schaeffer discovered her love of riding at 33 and partnered a very wild brown thoroughbred gelding called Glitter and took herself off hunting. Di and Glitter became known for travelling very fast and not prioritising lots of control.

In 1977, a younger brother for Wendy was born, Tony Schaeffer. Tony was destiny-bound to do an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and then a Masters in Business Administration and today is a project manager at British Aerospace. The year 1977 was a huge one for Di. Not only did she give birth to Tony, but she and Glitter started eventing.

In 1979, Di entered Gawler Three Day Event at the Intermediate level (equivalent to 3* in today’s gradings). This was the only time that Bob was not entirely supportive of Di entering the event, believing that she “may have got ahead of herself”. Well, that sure did not stop Di and away they went. Di and Glitter were not very good in the dressage phase. Di and Glitter were very fast and very out of control in the cross-country phase. They got as far as the water jump and became tangled up in the reeds, which is where they stayed until they were helped out. Di at this stage was 34 years of age. In the riding world we would call Di a late beginner.

The chemistry in the Schaeffer family is fascinating and from that day on Bob completely embraced and supported Di in her rapid and sometimes tumultuous rise to the top in Australian eventing. With Bob behind her, there was no stopping Di Schaeffer!

In 1981, Di was back at the Gawler 3DE, this time with a new horse! Sunhill Cloud, a part-Arab, part-thoroughbred, was now part of the Schaeffer family and Di was again entered in the Intermediate class. Di and Sunhill Cloud were about to become legends. In the coming years they graduated to the Advanced class (4* in today’s gradings) at Gawler, and every year from 1981 until 1987 they completed the Gawler competition. In hindsight, Gawler was one of the toughest, if not the absolute toughest 3DE in the world at the time. Sunhill Cloud was made of gold and Di was an Australian phenomenon.

“Di was now completely dedicated
to helping her daughter to be
as good as she possibly could.”

In 1984, Di Schaeffer and Sunhill Cloud entered the Australian One Day Event Championships at Echunga in the Adelaide Hills. The cross-country course was incredibly difficult and most of Australia’s top riders were eliminated. Di and Sunhill Cloud scorched around and ended up second! Simply amazing.

In 1986, Di and Sunhill Cloud were selected to represent Australia at the World Three Day Event Championships, which were held at Gawler that year, and the best riders from all over the world attended. Di and Sunhill Cloud came 26th in the world. Di at this stage was now 42, and had only been eventing for nine years. Impossible, you say. Well, somebody forgot to tell Di it was impossible!

In 1988, daughter Wendy was 13 years old and Di gave her the ride on Sunhill Cloud to compete in the Australian Junior National Two-Day Event Championships in Wandin, Victoria. Wendy and Sunhill Cloud emerged champions.

Di was now completely dedicated to helping her daughter to be as good as she possibly could. Although Wendy was still only 13, Di was determined that she was good enough to advance to the Naracoorte Young Rider 3DE. There was, however, a rule that a young rider needed to be 16 at the beginning of the calendar year to enter. Di spent the next two years writing letters to Equestrian Australia trying to get an exemption so that Wendy could start in the 3DE when she was 13 — and again when she was 14 — all to no avail. Wendy did ride when she was 15, which was the calendar year in which she turned 16. Di was relentless in achieving this exemption and wrote so many letters to so many people in the two preceding years.

In 1990, the Di and Wendy “young rider high performance team” hit the circuit. Wendy did her first big young rider 3DE at Naracoorte riding not just Sunhill Cloud but also a young thoroughbred called Sunburst. She finished 7th on Sunburst and 8th on Sunhill Cloud. Well, hello, that was the Schaeffer family warning shot of what was to come!

In 1992, Di decided that Wendy and Sunburst were ready to take on the Advanced Senior Class at the Gawler 3DE. This was the biggest and toughest class in Australia and certainly was right up there with every other significant event in the world. Wendy was just 17 when she and Sunburst won the Advanced Class at Gawler! That was almost the impossible dream.

“The knowledge and the horse management
and the big picture focus all came from Di.”

Absolutely this had been engineered by Di. Wendy is a lot like her mother in terms of being so, so competitive, driven and focused, and in terms of working so hard. However, all of that is worth nothing unless you also have knowledge. To win a big international event like Gawler, especially at 17 and no matter how talented, one has to go into the competition with a state-of-the-art briefing and have behind them a training program that has left no stone unturned. The knowledge and the horse management and the big picture focus all came from Di. What an amazing achievement.

Also, the intensity of high performance is almost impossible for a mother-daughter relationship or a husband-wife relationship or a brother-brother relationship. To engineer a high-performance relationship between a mother and a daughter, which doesn’t implode, is almost impossible. And this was about to be illustrated even further on the world stage by Di and Wendy.

In 1993, Wendy followed in her mother’s footsteps and went to university to study physiotherapy, but all the while she continued to work her horses before and after university.

That year was also a landmark year for Di as she rode in the one-star class at Gawler 3DE and then hung up her competition boots after what was a truly remarkable competition career. Di had a bad ankle from a nasty hunting fall way back in the day. This ankle began causing more and more grief as the years went by. Di continued to ride and school horses for Wendy, but at 50 years of age she handed over the competition reins to her daughter. During all this time Di continued to practice as a physiotherapist.

The year 1996 saw Wendy at age 21 and her horse Sunburst selected for the Australian team for the Atlanta Olympics in the USA. Some nine weeks out from Atlanta, Wendy fell at the Naracoorte 3DE on the cross-country and badly broke her leg. The medical consensus was that the injury was really bad and would not heal quickly enough for her to ride at the Olympics.

“Di calling the shots
could from time to time be
less than diplomatic.”

Di Schaeffer reached out to all of her medical contacts and family. She had a cousin who is an orthopaedic upper limb surgeon and this cousin convinced the head of trauma at Royal Adelaide Hospital to operate. A Swedish compression plate and six screws were the hardware inserted into Wendy’s badly broken leg. In addition, an electromagnetic stimulation coil was added. This coil was way out there and mightily controversial. The idea of the electromagnetic stimulation coil was that it just might speed up bone cell regeneration. A fairly controversial theory, however, desperate times called for desperate measures.

To cut a long story short, Wendy did ride on the Australian Olympic team in Atlanta and absolutely led Australia to a team gold medal. Wendy’s score on Sunburst was the best Australian score, and had the scoring system not been changed from the previous Olympics in Barcelona, Wendy and Sunburst would have won the individual gold medal as well.

How do you do something like that with a badly broken leg? Well, with incredible courage and determination and also a mum who is a physiotherapist and who absolutely refuses to accept defeat. Throughout Di’s whole life she understood that what is not possible for people who think conventionally was sometimes possible for people who were prepared to think outside the square. Oh, my goodness, that is the impossible journey!

In 2008, Wendy’s baby brother, Tony, married Christy. So, 2009 was a huge year for Di as her daughter-in-law Christy gave birth to Isabel on 25 December that year. For Christmas, Di officially became a grandmother! By 2012, she was in for another great shock as her second grandchild, Beau, was born on 25 July. This really made it clear that Di was a grandmother.

In 2013, Di’s high-performance program was completely turned upside down. Wendy married Nigel McDonald, a chartered surveyor and an Englishman. So Wendy moved to England. This really changed the equation for Di. Well, not to worry, she got on with building up another team of eventing horses here in Australia using local competition riders in South Australia. Wendy would in turn come home every year in October and stay until December to campaign the Australian-based horses with Di calling the shots.

As always, Di calling the shots could from time to time be less than diplomatic. The secret to Di’s program was that it dealt with the truth more explicitly than most people care to live with. The problem with the truth is that most people don’t want to hear it and most people spend the bulk of their lives avoiding it. Diplomacy is usually a mix of half-truths. In other words, Di did not have a lot of time or energy for diplomacy! So, from time to time, or occasionally more often, Di calling the shots could cause an inexplicable explosion with Wendy, which would easily register on the Richter scale. When this happened, everyone in the vicinity would head for the hills because neither of the Schaeffer females would take any prisoners. Personally, I think Bob and Tony were quite remarkable in being able to stay alive!

In 2019, Di became Chair of Eventing South Australia. That year, Di’s high-performance program scored a wonderful shot in the arm as Wendy and Nigel come home from England to South Australia. This did look as though the old Di Schaeffer high-performance program was winding back up to give us another lesson in just how you go about changing Australian history.

In December 2020, Di drove from Adelaide to Wallaby Hill 3DE with a truckload of horses. On board was Wendy, who slept for much of the trip because Di wanted her fresh for the competition. The drive from Adelaide to Wallaby Hill (which is just south of Sydney) is a solid two-day drive. Shouldering most of the driving was Di. Tough as an old boot!

I was there at Wallaby Hill competing as well last December. I was also part of the World 3DE Championships squad at Gawler in 1986 when Di had her first start for Australia. I have been competing against Di and then Wendy for the past 40 years. Di and Wendy went into action at Wallaby Hill like a well-oiled machine. Di reverberated with energy and as always was fascinated by the competition and the people and the horses. I cannot believe that less than four weeks later she just got up and died.

Di Schaeffer made a difference to lots of people and we can all safely say that she is one of the warriors who helped steer the sport of eventing here in Australia to what we all love and enjoy today. Di’s two grandchildren called their grandmother “Di Di”. None of this granny stuff.

Thank you, Di, we will so, so miss you.

Heath

EQ

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