DEC 2021


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DEC 2021
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A Few Words



Ryan's Rave












Para Equestrian






Off the Track




















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Caroline Wagner and Tango V. © Roger Fitzhardinge.

To say that Caroline Wagner’s life is fully intertwined in the equestrian world in Australia and internationally is an understatement. Caroline has a brilliant record in the arena and she and husband Peter run one of the finest saddleries and outfitters in the business.

“Caro competed on her at her
first Melbourne Royal Show.

Caroline is a rider who made her way through the showing ranks with great success and is now taking on the world of dressage, while Peter is an exquisitely skilled saddler and showjumping rider. Caro, as she is known, comes from a family who are involved in fashion and design; Pete was one of the last to complete a saddler’s apprenticeship under Harry Downs and Bruce Smith. Pete has now hung up his riding boots, and his focus is on the highly successful Wagners Saddlery, internationally known for its top-end custom saddles, equestrian equipment and clothing, and based at Somerville, near Western Port Bay, Victoria.

Pete and Caro make a formidable team, so much so they are like Yin and Yang — interdependent upon each other to the extent that the definition of one requires the definition of the other to be complete. Yin/Yang is not static; it flows and changes with time. There is no better description of the two!

Caroline is not one to sit back and take the easy road, nor one to beat her own drum. She gathers momentum as she feels competent and confident in her ability. She quietly assesses the needs of life and sets about making the most of every experience and opportunity. She is always prepared to step outside her comfort zone to better her future in equestrian sports. Her focus now is to diligently, conscientiously and meticulously leave no stone unturned on her trajectory towards Grand Prix dressage.

Born in Melbourne, her parents were both involved in the fashion industry — her father being a shoe designer and her mother working in fashion retail. Caro’s mother rode as a child and always had a keen interest in horses. When Caro was seven her mother took her to a riding school near their East Ivanhoe home for a few lessons and that was that! She would pay for one lesson every weekend and then work helping get the horses saddled and ready for the trail rides and eventually conducted the trail rides. For her work she would get rides and lessons in return.

Her parents bought her a pony when she was 11, a galloway palomino mare called Kinara. Caro took her to Pony Club and jumped her and evented and showed her at gymkhanas. Kinara was kept at an agistment centre on the banks of the Yarra and every spare moment Caro had was spent riding and attending to her beloved palomino!

It was three years on when, through Malcolm Ansell and Craig Rawson, Tudor Park Charisse, a 14.1 hand galloway, was purchased and Caro competed on her at her first Royal Melbourne Show. Whilst at Pony Club, Caro attributes her good grounding to two great European instructors that the North Eastern Pony Club had helping in Joe Stadelmann and Arnold Veide.

Her interest in showing came from her friends’ interests at the riding school coupled with a good dressage basis — and no doubt her background in fashion. Not one to jump in at the deep end, Caro took her time establishing the basics and doing the hard yards and working her way up. It was time to find agistment where there were stables as she realised conditioning, coat care and presentation were of the utmost importance. She moved to Jane Beasley who also had a Tudor Park hack, Cognac, and her association with Malcolm and Craig continued as Caro continued to have lessons with Craig. It was then another Tudor Park hack in Dickens. Caro had become too tall for the galloway and a friend, Judy Wright, who was a very suitable size for her, continued to show her and was super successful.


Caro finished school and worked in retail in high fashion on Chapel St and then in Myer in the fashion section. It was a chance meeting when Caroline met Peter, and where else but at the Horsemans Bar at Melbourne Royal. Pete was there with showjumpers and he and Caro have been together ever since. Her hack, Dickens, was 15.1 hands and a super competitive horse. When Caro was 18, she entered the Garryowen on the event’s 50th anniversary, and she was over the moon as every rider was given a commemorative ribbon. Caro thought at least she could say she received a Garryowen ribbon, but little did she know that she was going to win the prestigious event on its 60th and 70th anniversaries!

After four years of working in fashion Caro moved in with Pete who had already started his business, Wagners Saddlery. Of course, Caro was the Yang with an outstanding and passionate start to showing, and with her experience in fashion what better adjunct to the Yin! Not happy to plod along… it was a shopping trip overseas in 1984 and again in 1986 to source the best of the best in clothing and saddlery for the showing industry in Australia. It is fair to say that the trends in outfitting and presenting good saddlery for the hacking fraternity have a lot to thank the Wagners for.

Caro was keen to make herself look the best and was always willing to share and help everyone else. Wagners starting sourcing fine fabrics for made-to-measure attire as well as making the clothing and saddlery fit for the winners of the Garryowen.

It was full steam ahead, all the while Caro continuing to ride and upgrade horses as she found the time, finances and inspiration to do so. Everything that Caro has achieved has always been self-funded and she has always been one to put in the hard work and not look outside her means. Pete is always supportive and, as is well known, the shop now has an amazing van that travels to events and Royal Shows where the two of them are always on hand for their expertise. They realise that service and knowledge and personal input is essential, and they really enjoy that. They are real hands-on people and are always inundated with measurements for their bespoke jackets and clothing.

There was then TP Vienna, another very successful horse; Caroline had gained valuable experience and it was time now to step up to the next level with eyes wide open for Royal Show wins. Another level of dedication and determination but progression, having ticked all the boxes before embarking on what Caro had dreamt of. Whitsun was purchased through Roy Davis; he was a stunning, big-fronted bay Thoroughbred gelding who raced until he was eight years of age. When owned by Lynne Rose, he had won the Australian Hack Championships where the English judge David Tatlow officiated. Roy had the horse in training for good friends and clients the McHughes, but they had not the time to put in to this horse and as a consequence he was for sale. As luck would have it, Caro ended up with Witty, as he was known, and the successes flowed.

A super attractive horse with great manners, paces and rideability, Caro loved the preparation and lessons she had with Witty. In 1990 they were Champion Hack at Melbourne under Margaret Pennefather, won the Esquire Turnout Class and were third in the Garryowen — and second the year after. Witty was always the bridesmaid and was second at so many Royals that Pete and Caro lost count. He was an amazing horse and Caro loved every ride she had on this charming horse.


Gary Weir had a wonderful white horse, Ark Royal, a superb type and well-mannered. Caro had her heart set on him but Gary was reluctant to sell. Pete and Caro eventually wore him down and bought him in 1992. In that year they won the Turnout Class at Sydney Royal and the Garryowen at Melbourne Royal. Ark Royal was a seriously stunning hack and had an amazing air about him. Caro was certainly the ever-achiever being third in the Garryowen in 1990, second in 1991 and then winning in 1992. Caro and Ark Royal were a striking pair who proved a formidable combination in the show ring.

It was 1994 that was really their year. They won Barastoc Horse of the Year, Reserve Champion at Brisbane Royal and won the Pope Cup and Champion at Sydney Royal. They then also won the Garryowen again. They knew each other inside out and the polished performances were admirable. Unfortunately, Ark Royal was retired in 1995 after he slipped and injured a hock. With a huge amount of love and care he did come sound and was ridden and he carried a young rider to a few good wins before retiring in luxury under Pete and Caro’s care.

Caro had a bit of time away from the rigors of the show ring and concentrated on the shop. She trained in these years with Roy Davis and what a professional and expert he was. During this period Roy had the famous Carrington and Caro actually was offered the ride on him in the Garryowen where she was second again on countback! She also rode another in Trent Nathan, the wonderful elegant black horse, and she won her third Garryowen on him. There was no question that the knowledge of feeding, conditioning and preparing horses and riders for the show ring was going to put Caro in good stead for her future dressage passion, and in some ways she had a head start, as showing really teaches you presentation and ringcraft that are needed in the dressage arena as well, which many don’t realise!

Pete still had a great interest in showjumping; one day good friend Dale Plumb called him to say he had a brown Thoroughbred mare that was off the track and looked as if she may have some talent as a jumper. Pete went and looked at the 16 hand, lean and athletic brown mare by Ruling Story. She had not been the best horse on the track and also had a few barrier issues. But as a four-year-old, Pete took the punt and bought her. He trained her and jumped her around a few tracks with success but she was a very careful and expressive jumper, even at the lower levels, and Pete found himself being jumped off a few times. He competed her at Canberra Royal where good friend Chris Chugg was keen to have a ride. Next thing she was off to the Chugg training facilities and Diamond B Farm.

“Jordan’s Princess Haya
fell in love with her.”


The next year she won five big Futurities and in a full year of numerous shows and wins she never touched a rail in competition. To say she was talented and a bit of a freak was an understatement. WS Scandal (aka Flo Jo, after the runner — dark, beautiful, fast and a champion!) as she was named, then went the following year to Sydney Royal with Chris and was selected on an Australian team to travel to Europe looking towards qualifying the Aussies for Atlanta. Flo was the only one that qualified for the Olympics at the Falsterbo Horse Show in Sweden.

She was noticed by all and sundry and none less than Jordan’s Princess Haya fell in love with her and made an offer that the Wagners could not refuse. The mare was sold in 1995 and was ridden at first by Paul Darragh with great successes, including an amazing win in the Aga Khan Trophy for Ireland. Princess Haya won Grand Prix classes on her herself. She was a superstar and knew it. Athletic, powerful and stunning looking with an elastic back end and a will of iron to never touch a rail. What a horse and what a story! She did produce a couple of foals but they were not in the league of their mother and Scandal was retired to spend the rest of her days in the grassy pastures at Newmarket.

The showing bug got the better of Caro and WS Jordan was purchased (his name coming from the sale of Scandal to the Princess of Jordan). If ever there was an imposing brown horse it was him. Tall, leggy and elegant with a distinctive white blaze and socks. He was a real mover but was not the easiest of Thoroughbreds to train. Caro was patient and took her time gaining his trust and confidence to build another winning combination. Troy, as he was known, notched up 17 Royal Show wins and took out three Royal reserves. He was third in the Garryowen on a countback when there were three equal firsts. At this time Caro also had WS Applause, the cutest chestnut that was also purchased from Gary Weir. A Royal Show winner and also Reserve Champion at Barastoc and numerous open and lady hack classes at Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney Royals.

On returning to Australia, Caro was all for calling it quits with showing as she felt she had achieved enough, but along came Black Label, an imposing black Thoroughbred gelding with a white stripe on his face and four white stockings. In true form, Caro produced him; looking a million dollars and with all her experience Black Label swept a path of wins before him. Caro was Champion Rider of the Year in Victoria on him, and he was the Victorian Barastoc Hack of the Year. Together they also won the Garryowen (a fourth time for Caro) in 2014 and won the Pope Cup at Sydney Royal, as well as his open classes at Sydney and Canberra. Caro and Pete had a great offer for the horse and Caro decided it was time to call it quits from the showing world and move on to the Olympic discipline of dressage. Black Label was sold to the Widowsons and went on to be successful for them.

Caroline says she wanted to move into dressage for the challenge. “I found that dressage was a much greater challenge and I love the mental tests of the intricacies of schooling the dressage horse. The day-to-day training is always progressive and the diversity of the movements and the exercises is ever challenging. The day-to-day feelings that you achieve from this are exciting.

“I loved all my rides on the show horses
but this is next level!”


“I loved the training of the show horses but dressage is more stimulating and also the chance of international competition and recognition, if you get that far, is a thrilling thought. It’s not about the competition so much but the feelings that you get to have every day in training. This is what I love about dressage. I guess the discipline of the sport, the rules, the structured judging, the recognition and the amazing bond that I create with the dressage horse, and those extra movements like piaffe and passage… they are sort of intoxicating! I loved all my rides on the show horses but this is next level!”

Caro started her dressage riding under Anna Auer, and knowing Rob and Mary Hanna she also went to them in the hope they had a horse to start her journey with — and what a winner that was. Nevada, or Neville as he was known, was purchased as a medium/advanced horse and gave Caro a great start. He was an uphill chestnut by Dutchman, with the most unassuming attitude and trainability, and Caro admits that she didn’t make it always easy for him, but they made it through to Grand Prix and he proved to be a very respectable horse at that level. What an introduction. Neville was not the most elastic and expansive mover but he had a heart of gold and tried hard to always please. Perhaps a little on the lazy side at times but the real deal and a once-in-a-lifetime companion and sweet horse.

When Caro realised her passion for dressage was now in her veins, it was time to look for a horse with a little more movement. Neville had shown her the ropes all the way to Grand Prix under the guidance of Mary Hanna and gave her experience from local competitions, to state and national championships, all the way to CDI Big Tour competitions.

The chance to purchase the Grand Prix talent in Tango by Jazz from Mary Hanna availed itself and Caro jumped at the opportunity. Tango was a real talent but a hot potato that took a lot of patience and time. Neville, her favourite, was easier but Caro couldn’t put the time in to the two and felt she could not do them both justice. He was offered to long-time friend and great rider Helen Chugg.

Helen adored Neville and had always been a great sounding board for Caro during his training to Grand Prix, so she was delighted to take over his care and training. Caro couldn’t stand to see him not getting her full attention and knew that he would have Helen’s, so Neville was packed up with a wardrobe of the best rugs for every temperature, every boot and accessory a horse would want — not to mention the long list of his likes and dislikes — and moved to Diamond B Farm where he was adored. (Helen saying with a wry smile: “Don’t you dare tell Caro I put Neville in his yard when it was raining! And without a tail bag!)

Helen competed Neville at Grand Prix and at CDI competitions, winning the CDN at the Sydney CDI. He was always in the mix albeit a little cunning in the arena and never really showed his best that he always gave in the warm-up. He was adored by the Chuggs and was retired to live his life in grassy pastures as a grandfather to the Baluga and Vivant weanlings, which he so enjoyed — and without rugs!

“Caro persisted and won him over.”


It was onwards and upwards with Tango, who was a hot, talented, liver chestnut gelding with plenty of attitude, a whole new ball game after Neville. Caro’s experience in dealing with Thoroughbreds in the atmosphere of royal shows came to the fore; she was an expert at acclimatising horses to atmospherics and worked tirelessly on Tango. It certainly paid off and Tango became a very competitive horse, and with his experience and confidence came some good results. His sensitivity to noise made it difficult for the Freestyles but Caro persisted and won him over, winning the Dressage With Altitude CDI in the Grand Prix, Special and Freestyle, scoring over 73% in the Freestyle. He competed in every Pacific League World Cup Final from 2012 to 2015, was an Australian Champion and was on the long list for the World Equestrian Games. What a success story and another feather in the cap for Caro, and what a great combination again. Caroline and Peter never shirked putting in the hard yards and all those years showing hacks certainly came in handy with this horse’s rise to fame.

Next was the solid, bay warmblood gelding WS Donnerman, imported by Sir Donnerhall, and better known as George. He was a successful young horse winning at Dressage With The Stars (DWTS) as a five-year-old and second in the six-year-old. He was a strong horse with a mighty wilful attitude and talent. Caro was learning about the huge variations in type, movement and training of the many good horses that present themselves for the sport. She had a handle on George and competed him successfully in Australia to Small Tour. She knew he had plenty of power and talent for Grand Prix and took him overseas for her first trip with a horse of her own. They based at Ulf and Eva Möller’s barn where George went on to become a competitive Grand Prix horse and was subsequently sold, but not before Caroline competed him at the highest level, coming third at Ankum in a Short Grand Prix test.

As sad as it is with the sport of dressage, it’s that sport where you are always looking for the Ferrari that suits the rider’s wish list; buying young horses with potential and then training them to Grand Prix, the next step is sometimes that they simply need to be sold to fund the next rising hope! It was a little easier when George was sold as he had been at Eva’s for some time and Caro had left him there for training and returned home to Victoria to continue work on the saddlery front. She was not quite as attached as she was with the ones that had been in her 24-hour-a-day care.

During their time at the Möllers’ they had the chance to see so many awesome horses from super talented young ones right through the ranks to Grand Prix. Pete and Caro were always on the lookout, and when they were staying with showjumping friends in Holland, they came across an Apache Dutch-bred gelding who was immediately a star in their eyes. After consulting with Eva he was purchased and moved to the Möllers’ where Caro started to ride him. Ibicus is a chestnut with some white bling, a super type and mover. They were only there for three weeks riding with him before it was back to Australia to work the saddlery that was so busy, planning to return to Germany for another six weeks in February and March.

The rest is a disaster, as with Covid and the lockdown in place Caro has not seen him since. Eva presented him in some young horse classes and as a seven-year-old he competed in two Prix St Georges tests. With such a good competition record, Holland listed him as a reserve for the 2020 World Young Horse Championships in the seven-year-old class, however the event was ultimately cancelled. He is now training all the Grand Prix movements with a special talent for the piaffe.

“Win or lose,
I was ecstatic.”


Good old Covid stopped overseas travel, and with Ibicus in Germany and no horse here for Caro, they heard of another Sir Donnerhall mare for sale in Western Australia named Penny Hill Park Sophia. This stunningly elegant, bay brown mare was bred by Michelle James and had been incredibly consistent competing in her home state. With Emma Hayward in the saddle, Sophia was crowned Preliminary (2017), Novice (2017), Elementary (2018), Medium (2018) and Advanced (2019) State Champion, also winning the Prix St Georges at the 2019 Championships. She attended DWTS in 2018 and took out the champion six-year-old title, with other accolades including WA Dressage Horse of the Year, National AWHA Ridden Champion in the show ring, and the Uwe Spenlen Award among others. An impressive résumé!

Penny Hill Park Sophia is as elegant as any with a delightful temperament and trainability. Caroline immediately fell for her but as it was Covid, there was no chance to go and ride her. She was bought on a gut feeling sight unseen via video in May 2020. Caro’s gut feeling has been so right, and the talented mare has never finished below third in any competition since with scores all over 70%. She was outstanding at Willinga Park last year at Small Tour level; in fields of over 25 competitors alongside classy, classy horses and riders, she almost won every class! She is now consolidating the Grand Prix movements in training and it won’t be long before Caro has a start in Medium Tour.

It has been a long time since heading overseas to train and Caro’s focus is on Sophia now and the saddlery business has picked up in Australia with competitions resuming. By the same token, always looking on the bright side Pete and Caro want to try and get back to train at the Möllers’ once the Sydney Royal Show is done and dusted and they plan to take Sophia with then!

On asking Caro what highlights of her equestrian endeavours so far have excited her the most, she says, “It would have to be the win in the Freestyle at that fantastic CDI show at the fabulous property in Orange — Dressage with Altitude. It was the culmination of so much faith and trust in Tango and vice versa that took so much time to develop. The atmosphere and the crowd and the whole ambience were amazing, as was a score of over 73%. It was a win that I will always treasure.

“Of course, the thought of the crowd at Sydney Royal when the show was at the historic grounds; I so remember every class on those hallowed grounds. I remember above all when I rode the fabulous Ark Royal to the win in the Pope Cup. A huge class for Hacks showing thoroughbred qualities and there were so many wonderful horses in that revered class. Arky gave his all that day, it all came together and you may say we truly nailed the workout and I knew that and was so proud and elated that we were able to give the best display on the perfect day.

“Win or lose, I was ecstatic. He galloped so balanced and made three changes on the straight line and at the completion I was full of emotion and then the stand gave him a standing ovation. It was Good Friday and the stands were full. The lap of honour with that atmosphere will never fade. It was simply the best! What can you say but it all worked on the day and no doubt that win stands out as a highlight of my showing career even more so than winning the four Garryowens and simply for the fact that I know how amazing the ride was. The trust I had in Arky and he in me, it shone through. It’s sort of an unexplainable friendship when the partnership is simply totally on the same page and you just know it’s the best!”

There is no question that the Wagners are a formidable pair… Yin and Yang… an equestrian life of immense success stories and the journey still has a long way to go. There is Ibicus and Sophia… both Ferraris getting ready for a big debut in Grand Prix; but with Caro it’s the rides not the competitions. It’s the day-to-day training. It’s the building of a genuine bond between horse and human that is absorbing. A sport that has entwined equestrian sports with a lucrative and well organised business. What a great life, and lifestyle, and with international travel opening again Caro and Pete are looking forward to heading to Germany after Sydney Royal next year to continue the voyage! EQ


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