ISSUE 70
SEP 2021

PARAS WIN HEARTS
AT TOKYO
KEVIN McNAB & DON
STRIKE SILVER
OLYMPIC BLOODLINES
WITH HEATH RYAN

PLUS: LUCINDA GREEN, AMY GRAHAM, EMMA WEINERT O’ROURKE, DIAMOND B’S SECRETS, THOROUGHBRED REHAB, WALERS TO THE RESCUE, SET GOALS WITH KERRY MACK, THE BLACK STALLION, BUILDING AN ARENA, FEEDING & FOALING

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
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ISSUE 70

CONTENTS

SEP 2021
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A few Words

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

ROBERT MCKAY

Opinion

BREEDING FOR BRISBANE: WHAT TOKYO TAUGHT US

RYAN'S RAVE BY HEATH RYAN

Para Equestrian

PARA EQUESTRIAN FAB FOUR WIN HEARTS AT TOKYO

BY ADELE SEVERS

Dressage

EMMA BRINGS IT ALL BACK HOME

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Off the Track

A THOROUGH BELIEF IN THOROUGHBREDS

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Showjumping

AUSSIE AMY GRAHAM’S JUMPING LIFE IN EUROPE

BY BERNARD BALE

Training

SO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE GAMES?

BY DR KERRY MACK

Health

HOLD YOUR HORSES: FEEDING FOR COOLNESS

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Lifestyle

THE MAGIC OF THE BLACK STALLION

BY SUZY JARRATT

Property

DESIGN BY VISION

BY ADELE SEVERS

Eventing

KEVIN McNAB’S SILVER DEBUT

BY ELLI BIRCH

Lifestyle

THE HORSE AS THE HEALER

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Showjumping

HOW DIAMOND B PRODUCES ITS GEMS

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Health

SEPSIS IN FOALS

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Eventing

LUCINDA GREEN’S JOINT VENTURE

BY ADELE SEVERS
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Sam Cesnik and Chris Height of Spring Creek Equine with off the track horses Piemonte (a RESET program horse) and Tata Ma Pick. © Racing Photos.
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Undeterred by the past 18 months’ interrupted competition schedule, FEI event riders and Racing Victoria Acknowledged Retrainers Samantha Cesnik and Christopher Height are focusing on their strengths and finding both the time – and energy – to explore new opportunities for their thriving business, talented horses and dedicated clients alike.

As the driving force behind Spring Creek Equine, a world-class facility on 35 acres in Victoria’s Yarra Valley that provides a range of services including rider coaching, horse sales and schooling, agistment and rehabilitation, Sam and Chris have between 30 and 45 horses in their care at any time. While that may sound like a lot, this energetic pair’s passion for providing a holistic, tailored approach to the management of all horses in their barn means no stone is left unturned and no detail is missed. As the last 12 months have shown, their thorough and compassionate methods have also made them a perfect fit for rehabilitating and retraining horses who enter Racing Victoria’s RESET Program.

“The one joy of Covid last year was that I got to catch up on a lot of admin,” Sam laughs, explaining that they used the downtime to apply to become Racing Victoria Acknowledged Retrainers. Having always believed in thoroughbreds’ suitability for eventing careers, Chris and Sam were noticing Racing Victoria’s Off The Track program’s increased presence at events through sponsored OTT classes and the like, and it seemed like the right time to get involved with their initiatives. “Interestingly, our application came about at a really great time for Racing Victoria as well, because we had an established rehabilitation business and they were just about to launch the RESET program,” says Sam.

Racing Victoria’s RESET (Racehorse, Evaluation, Support, Education and Transition) program offers a safety net in the form of direct support and retraining for thoroughbreds that have struggled to find the right home following the conclusion of their racing careers. Recognising that some thoroughbreds have specific needs following their racing career due to factors such as their age or veterinary history, the program utilises the skills of the RV Acknowledged Retrainer network to ensure these horses are given the best possible chance to lead a happy and productive life off the track.

“There were horses entering the RESET program that had really great potential for second careers after racing, but their opportunities had been limited because they needed a certain amount of rehabilitation prior to being retrained and rehomed,” Sam explains. “It was a great fit for us, because we were in a position to take those horses that needed some rehab before they started their retraining, and it meant those horses could go to one place to get everything they needed from both a rehabilitation and retraining perspective.”

When they established Spring Creek Equine in 2014, Sam and Chris chose to extend their services beyond horse and rider training and agistment, by offering a comprehensive rehabilitation service. Having invested in state-of-the-art technology including a water treadmill, they take on a wide range of cases, from abscesses where the owner doesn’t have anywhere dry to keep the horse, through to complicated post-surgery and soft tissue rehabilitation cases.

REHAB TO RETRAINING

“Having RESET horses here that transition from rehabilitation to retraining works really well, because by the time we come to retraining the horse, we already know that horse really well from the rehab process. We’ve done groundwork, it’s used to being here, and we’re all comfortable with each other,” Sam explains. “In turn, that’s made the retraining process quicker and smoother than it would be if you had to send the horse to someone for rehab, and then to someone else for retraining.”

The first RESET horse to arrive at Spring Creek Equine was Piemonte, a beautiful 2015 bay gelding by Fiorente. After winning $53,710 from six starts for Griffiths de Kock Racing, Piemonte unfortunately strained two front tendons in February 2020 and was retired from the track. In June this year, following a 10-month rehabilitation and retraining program at Spring Creek Equine, Piemonte was successfully placed in a new home.

“Pie’s gone to a lovely adult riding club home,” says Chris, with a clear smile in his voice as he reflects on the journey that led to a perfect outcome for this very deserving horse. “He’s up near Ballarat being pampered, living his best life, and having lots of fun.”

While Sam and Chris are always on the lookout for horses who share their own aptitude to compete at the highest levels of eventing – Chris has competed to 5* level and Sam to 3* – they appreciate that every horse has its place, and the potential to reach a level of soundness and capability that will allow it to both lead a fulfilling life and bring much happiness to its owner.

“With Piemonte, for example, the two front tendon injuries meant he was not suited to a high-level performance home, but he was a very pretty horse with a lovely nature and he moved really well,” Sam explains. “So we immediately knew it was not going to be a problem that he wasn’t really suitable for jumping. Whereas with the two latest RESET horses we have here, King and Sharkara, we see no reason why they won’t suit jumping in time. That will affect their retraining, and to some degree their rehab as well.”

SHARKARA IMPRESSES

Sharkara, a nine-year-old mare by Sharkbite, is currently completing rehabilitation at Spring Creek Equine for a fractured wither and has now commenced the retraining process. Known as Shakira around the stables, she is an impressive type with movement to match, and Sam and Chris are excited about her future.

“Sharkara is now under saddle, she started her retraining a few weeks ago. Because of her wither – and this is where the water treadmill is really useful – we were very careful to do a strengthening program over her back and hindquarter, and of course her neck to some degree, before she started ridden work,” Sam explains. “So she spent plenty of time being lunged, but also working wet on the water treadmill to get her core engaged and make her really strong before we put a saddle back on her. As a result, her retraining is coming along fairly quickly, but she still does a couple of days each week on the water treadmill. I would say she’s in a quasi-rehab state at the moment where yes, she’s being retrained, but she’s also still being rehabbed to a fair degree.”

“We’re being careful with her, insofar as she’s only been getting three days a week under saddle rather than five, which they traditionally would get, because we didn’t want to make that wither area too aggravated or too sore from the introduction of the saddle,” Chris adds. “But in a few more weeks she’ll be in full ridden work and almost ready to find her new home.”

King Cranach is the third RESET horse Sam and Chris have welcomed to Spring Creek Equine. A 2015 gelding by Lucas Cranach, he raced 15 times for career earnings of $18,255. Having recently had a sarcoid removed from his heel, King is being given all the time he needs to recover and feel comfortable under the watchful eyes of the Spring Creek Equine team.

“He was actually sound with the sarcoid, but when you take a sarcoid out, because they are so aggressive, you need to take a really big margin. As a result, because of being right on the back of his heel, it made his foot quite unstable,” Sam explains. “It’s the instability in the foot that’s making him a bit uncomfortable, so we have changed his shoeing and done a whole lot of things to stabilise the area, and now he’s healing much better and looking sounder all the time, so we hope to start ridden work soon. It’s strange sometimes, that you need to take a step backwards to take a step forward.”

While recovery of the sarcoid removal site is critical, Sam explains that elements such as physiotherapy play an important role in each horse’s rehabilitation and preparation for retraining.

HOLISTIC APPROACH

“We look at each horse’s healing holistically and every injury rehab does have an element of physiotherapy when they’re with us. For instance, Sharkara’s had quite intensive body work to ensure that she can cope with the work and she feels really good. The last thing we wanted to do was put a saddle on her if she didn’t feel 100%; that’s obviously not going to help her retraining process, let alone her rehab process,” Sam explains. “As for King, he may still be a little bit uncomfortable on that foot, but he’s been on box rest for quite a while, and there’s nothing worse you can do for a horse than keep it still and not let it move. So he started doing some really gentle walking just to get him moving so that he doesn’t become too much of a potato. You also have to think of their minds, he’s been very kind in his box but after prolonged periods of pain and discomfort and being locked up you’ve got to make sure that a horse feels 100% in its whole body, not just in the area that you’re treating. That’s a key focus for us, we never look at a horse’s issue in isolation.”

With events and outings regularly being cancelled in recent times due to Covid-19, Sam and Chris have not just used the spare time to become RV Acknowledged Retrainers, they have also used the opportunity to further develop their facilities, adding walk-in, walk-out stables and yards, and – in Sam’s case – to take on a new project horse.

“Like a lot of people, we had a bit more time on our hands, we weren’t going to shows, and I thought I’d buy another project. I bought a horse through McMaster Family OTT Retraining and Rehoming, which is funny because they’re actually RV Off The Track Retrainers themselves!” Sam laughs.

“One of the things that did probably sway my decision at the time was that Racing Victoria were incredible to their Retrainers through Covid, and actually gave us a small amount each month towards the maintenance of those horses (this was funded via RV’s Equine Welfare Strategic Plan, which pledged $25 million towards a range of projects focused on the post-racing care of retired racehorses), because we weren’t able to show them to people or take them anywhere, so it was hard to sell horses, and obviously that was a really tough time for the Retrainer network,” Sam explains.

It was a decision that paid off; Sam’s project horse, a chestnut gelding by Testa Rossa who raced as Bertone and now competes as Giovanni Georgio (named after a house music composer Sam follows), went on to win the five and six-year-old Young Eventing Horse class at Dressage & Jumping with the Stars with Sam in the saddle earlier this year.

“I’ve also had thoroughbreds who are
… the most laid-back horses.”

‘ELITE PROSPECT’

“He’s one of the best horses in the barn and we’ll certainly keep him as an elite prospect,” Sam enthuses. “So it’s the little things like that that – support from Racing Victoria at a critical time – that can really make a big difference to a horse’s long-term trajectory.”

Giovanni Georgio isn’t the only thoroughbred in Chris and Sam’s personal string of horses that they have high hopes for. There’s Tattersalls, who raced as Tata My Pick, who won the five-year-old classes at both Dressage & Jumping with the Stars and Melbourne International 3-Day Event with Chris in 2019, and was ready to step up to 2* level pre-Covid, then had a few minor foot injuries.

“We think he’s absolutely an elite horse for the future,” Sam says. “So is Quick Justice, another thoroughbred that will go to 2* level this year if we have a chance to compete. He’s brilliant but he’s that thoroughbred you don’t want to take to Pony Club! He’s sensitive, he’s spooky, he’s absolutely beautiful, 10 out of 10 to look at, the prettiest horse in the barn, but he’s not for everybody! But I know one day I’m going to get on him on the final day of a three day event, and there’s not going to be a tired bone in his body.”

Having ridden and worked with countless horses of all breeds and types over the course of their professional careers and earlier junior years, Sam and Chris are well qualified to comment on different breed characteristics, and how these influence a horse’s suitability for various disciplines and riders. Yet when it comes to describing characteristics that are typically found in thoroughbreds, Chris hesitates.

“I feel that thoroughbreds are massively generalised into particular groups, and I actually think it’s a bit unfair. Some people tell me, ‘Oh thoroughbreds are wild, thoroughbreds are hot, thoroughbreds are dangerous’. And they’re not necessarily wrong! There are some thoroughbreds off the track that are that way, but I’ve also had thoroughbreds who are the quietest, easiest and most laid-back horses I’ve ever had anything to do with.

“So, the main attribute they have is that actually – because the breed is so big and there are so many different bloodlines – they’re so variable. I tell a lot of my students that don’t necessarily have huge money to spend, that in the bracket of $1,000 to $6,000 there are hundreds and hundreds of thoroughbreds out there that they could consider,” Chris continues. “You could line them all up and they could not be any more similar or any more different from one end of that line to the other. So one of their strengths is that they have so much variety in the type of horses they are, and that makes them potentially have lots of different positive attributes that enable them to do lots of different things with their lives. We’ve got some horses that we think are future elite five-star horses that would be the most horrible Pony Club level horses! Then we’ve got others who are the most genuine, straightforward, fun all-round horses. They’ll never jump around anything bigger than Prelim, but they’re still great horses.”

READY TO COMPETE

Sam and Chris have the ability and mindset to see the best in every situation, horse and rider. It’s this positivity that sees the pair continually kick goals and find positives in sometimes disappointing circumstances – whether that’s event cancellations due to Covid, or the inevitable horse injuries or training challenges that every rider encounters at some point in their career. Energetic and enthusiastic, they are also patient and realistic, never losing sight of the enjoyment that comes from the day-to-day routine involved in working with horses.

“Originally Adelaide was on the cards for Sam, but as that was cancelled the next plan would be to go to Wallaby Hill 3-Day Event later this year,” Chris explains. “Unfortunately the chances of being able to go to NSW are now looking fairly slim. The other issue we’ve got is having enough shows to get the qualifications we need. Particularly with Melbourne being cancelled, we needed that to qualify for Adelaide. So basically we’ve got a whole bunch of horses that are looking good, feeling good, ready to go, plus we’ve got some amazing event organisers in Victoria that have everything in place ready to go; as soon as lockdowns end we’ll have shows within three days!”

“Then longer term, from there, it will be on to Melbourne and Adelaide next year. And hopefully some of these horses we currently have can come through to four and five-star level and longer term we’d like to look at putting them on a plane and taking them to Badminton, Burghley and some of the big five stars all over the world,” Chris enthuses.

“Meanwhile we’re also focusing on producing really nice horses and really nice riders to not only go to the elite levels, but also have fun at the levels they’re doing. It’s not all about riding around at the best shows in the world. I’ve got some lovely students who are never more ambitious than doing a 95 or a one star, but they get on every day and they work really hard with the horses they’ve got to make their horses the best horse they can be in their capacity, and we really care about them holistically, keeping not only the horses going at a certain level, but also keeping the horses happy.

“We were really excited to see Peder Fredricson, who was part of the gold medal winning Swedish jumping team, put out some articles after Tokyo, that talked a lot about keeping the horses happy to be there. And I think there’s a big shift in equestrian culture worldwide – and it probably started with Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin – about not only performing really well but being horsemen and ultimately putting the horse’s welfare first in a way that doesn’t detract from their performance, in a way that enhances it. And that’s exactly what we’re aiming to do here at Spring Creek Equine.” EQ

READ MORE ABOUT OFF THE TRACK HORSES:

‘General Ready To Conquer Again’ (Equestrian Life, June, 2021)

‘Sparks Fly When Cutting Meets Racing’ (Equestrian Life, May, 2021)

‘Percy Makes His Presence Felt’ (Equestrian Life, March, 2021)

‘Maizy Lands On Her Feet In New Role’ (Equestrian Life, January, 2021)

‘Off The Track & On The Right Path’ (Equestrian Life, December 2020)

‘All Eyes On The Prize’ (Equestrian Life, October 2020)

‘Vale Subzero’ (Equestrian Life, September 2020)

‘Beacon of Hope for Brightlight Boy’ (Equestrian Life, August 2020)

‘From Racecourse to Royal Windsor’ (Equestrian Life, June 2020)

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