PLUS: RYAN WOOD TAKES FLIGHT; LALWA MAY LEADS THE WAY; WHAT THE JUDGES ARE TELLING YOU; REBECCA WEBBER & ZAC’S PARA DEBUT; OUR EQUINE QUARANTINE SYTEM; AGE NO BARRIER FOR OTT VETERAN; AUSSIES REIGN AT MOUNTED GAMES; THE JOY OF RAISING FOALS & FRANCIS THE TALKING MULE.
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A Few Words
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Bree MacKenzie competing on the Australian Under 18 team at the IMGA World Teams Championships. Image by Fernbank Photography.
Australia has a huge future in the exciting sport of mounted games judging by our success at the ‘Worlds Down Under’ – the Under 18 Australian team made history by becoming the first ever Australian team to become World Champions!
The Australian Open team also made the podium, beating the northern hemisphere powers to place third behind England and Ireland. The action-packed event saw teams from around the world descend on Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre for the 37th annual International Mounted Games Association (IMGA) World Teams Championships. It was only the second time the event has been held in Australia.
The Australian Under 18 team were too strong and took out the championship title for the first time. Image by Fernbank Photography.
The Australian Open team finished third to make the podium. Image by Fernbank Photography.
Besides our Aussie teams, there were contingents from Belgium, England, Ireland, France, Germany, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Wales and the USA demonstrating their skills, most of whom were on borrowed pones, with a spectacular display of racing on each and every day of the four-day event.
Ponies had been supplied for all of the 100 international riders and were sourced from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. Some riders had self-sourced, while others selected their ponies after watching them being ridden by their owners. They then only had one hour to train with their ponies each day for the two days prior to the start of the competition!
After the training sessions, the teams visited Werribee Park Zoo and also jumped on a train to visit the Melbourne CBD for some sightseeing.
Competition started on Wednesday 11 October and over the four days of the event the teams completed 40 qualifying races and 24 finals races. The first session on the Wednesday was a single heat of eight teams contesting the Under 18 title. They were followed by two heats of six teams battling for one of the eight places available in the final of the Open title.
VISITORS PUT ON NOTICE
The Australian Under 18 team put everyone on notice that they would be the team to beat, whilst in the Open, Australia, England and Ireland were the early leaders.
Australian Under 18 team member Rohan Smith is all focus. Image by Fernbank Photography.
Thursday and Friday morning saw the teams ride another three sessions. Whilst the weather was beautiful on the Wednesday, it then turned to the south and was cold, blustery and wet with the European riders really feeling the chill.
After four sessions, the Open division was split into an A Final of eight teams, and a B Final of four teams. After the first Open Final on the Friday afternoon, the overnight leader was Ireland – but as the races progressed, England caught up and passed the Irish to take out the World Championship title. The Australian team – comprised of Simon Rodgers, Olly Conn, David Gardiner, Grace Perkins, Georgia Bissicks and Annie Herzer, along with coach Tim Ling and team manager Janet Teague – finished a very credible third.
Aaron Suvaljko was part of the Australian Under 18 team. Image by Fernbank Photography.
In the Under 18s, which was scored using aggregate points across all four days, it was a battle for the minor placings. The Australian team, comprised of Taleha Urszulak, Bree MacKenzie, Rohan Smith, Aaron Suvaljko, Gabe Smith and Ryan Bissicks and their ponies, proved far too good and claimed their first world championship title. Bree MacKenzie, a year 11 students from Bathurst, was thrilled to compete on the world stage. “Worlds Down Under gave me a world of opportunities and friendships that will last a lifetime,” she says.
The team’s manager, Benjamin Logue, was proud of the young riders’ performances. “I would like to congratulate our Australian Under 18s team for their win… I am very grateful and honoured to have managed this group of talented riders. They remained focused and disciplined, and as a team we stuck to our plan by riding the safest possible field combination to remain consistent with points.
Bree MacKenzie says that through her participation in the Under 18 team, she's made friendships that will last a lifetime. Image by Fernbank Photography.
“Worlds Down Under couldn’t have happened without all the sponsors.”
“As a former Australian team rider in the early 2000s I know what it’s like to ride and compete at this level. Competing on the world stage is such a buzz, thanks to the many competitors who travel from overseas. A huge thanks goes out to our international teams for making it such an amazing event and providing tough competition on borrowed horses.”
The event finished off with a Barbie-themed gala dinner with riders from all countries getting together for one last celebration before many headed off to visit different parts of Australia. Werribee Park provided the event organising committee with a great foundation to present a very well received international event, and they were actively involved with working alongside the committee’s ground crew in helping keep the competition arena and grounds in the best possible condition after the weather became slightly unfavourable.
There were enormous efforts made from the many people who brought this event together. The members of the organising committee spent years planning and preparing, while the fantastic people who lent their precious ponies were also integral to the event’s success – as were all the volunteers from the various mounted games associations across the country. And of course, Worlds Down Under couldn’t have happened without all the wonderful sponsors big and small, particularly the major sponsor, Patterson River Veterinary Centre.
Gabe Smith demonstrates the importance of the one-handed grip. Image by Fernbank Photography.
“Our riders do almost everything with a one-handed rein grip.”
HANDY SET OF SKILLS
“Mounted games is an incredible sport for young riders, as it teaches them a unique set of skills that they can utilise in other equine disciplines,” says team manager, Benjamin Logue.
“Mounted games require good timing and accurate hand-eye coordination. Unlike many other disciplines, the games rider is often required to hang off the side of the horse to place or drop items in buckets or on drums or cones etcetera. Whilst the rider is ‘out of the seat’ (bum out of saddle), they are still required to control and make fine adjustments to the horse’s pace, position or line. This requires good horsemanship given the rider only has legs and a one-handed rein grip. It is therefore important to get everything correct leading into the approach so only fine adjustments are made during the action of placement,” he explains.
“In all honesty, I teach my junior riders a lot of ‘fast dressage’; we use lots of seat and leg and the pace and position of a horse in the race line is critical. Our riders do almost everything with a one-handed rein grip.”
Australian Open team rider Olly Conn demonstrates how to vault 'on the gallop'. Image by Fernbank Photography.
Vaulting onto the horse is also required to become efficient on and off the ground. “Riders learn to vault from a stand still, whilst a horse is turning the corner or on the gallop. These are known as standing, corner or running vaults. All are used on a regular basis.”
Ben says teamwork skills are also vital. “Riders need to communicate and judge changeovers between incoming and ongoing riders. Judging horse movements and behaviour is key to maintain fast, clean and safe handovers. Races are won on speed and accuracy but overall, the team who rides the most consistent without making mistakes or only making minor mistakes that can be recovered quickly are usually the teams who are most successful.
“It’s a true partnership between horse, rider and teammates. It’s great fun for all ages and those that do it, love it!” EQ