Away from the Games, our cover story this issue is on the phenomenally successful Australian Outback Spectacular. Now in its 18th year, the Spectacular really is one of the greatest indoor horse spectacles on earth. Adele goes behind the bright lights, thunder, music and projections to meet head trainer Heidi Mackay, and learn how she manages a team of 80 horses – and some special dogs – to perform their magic in this quintessentially Aussie show. The newest production, Heartland, is so realistic that much of the 1000-strong audience are in tears at the finale, says Heidi: “It’s very educational in that respect, for people who don’t understand what farmers go through.”
One sport that excites spectators just as much and packs out arenas overseas is four-in-hand driving. Our own Boyd Exell is the undisputed world champion – but it’s fair to say he has been helped along the way by a key member of his team, his backstepper. Hugh Scott-Barrett has ridden Boyd’s backstep for 11 years and now wants to step up and promote the sport. He tells us how the sport is drawing packed crowds at indoor events and he sees huge potential for its growth worldwide.
Endurance riding is another sport away from the Olympic disciplines, with the iconic Tom Quilty Gold Cup its most sought-after event in Australia. We meet New Zealander Ashley Cole and her Arabian stallion who not only won the 160km race this year, but clocked the third-fastest time ever. Polo is a sport that makes for a thrilling spectacle, and one David Paradice didn’t take up until he was 50. Now his own team, Scone Polo International, mixes it with the best the world over.
In Training, Kerry Mack helps us understand the path to perfect pirouettes, while in Health, Roger Fitzhardinge updates us on the horse that has stolen his heart – and how he is dealing with a headshaking challenge. Roger also introduces us to Alison Gill, who has taken a German Riding Pony to the high end of Grand Prix dressage and busting myths in the process. Mim Coleman profiles Charlotte Pedersen, an in-demand coach and successful rider who had just moved base to bring on her latest Grand Prix projects.
Our vet adviser, Dr Maxine Brain, reports firsthand on how horses cope with the dangers of African riding safaris, while Bernard Bale talks to Lady Gaga about why she loves her riding and how it began; and Suzy Jarratt lifts the curtain on the blood-thirsty horseback fighting scenes in Django Unchained in her Horses and the Movies series. Quentin Tarantino isn’t as reckless as the movie appears, she says, and yes, there is an Aussie angle!
Oi! Oi! Oi!