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by Penny Rose
winergy.gif (2735 bytes)Perfect weather saw a brilliant event at Albury Wodonga Equestrian Centre over the first weekend in March. The rider lists read like a "who’s who" in Australian eventing with six of the ten Australian based ‘shadow team’ riders competing. Being on the border of Victoria, New South Wales and not that far for the South Australians, this is fast becoming an event not to miss.

The facilities are sensational, a sand enclosure easily fields four full size dressage arenas. Along the long side an embankment provides excellent spectator viewing. Below the embankment the sponsor tents line the roadway and the other side powered truck sides back up to the huge security stable area. Here there are covered and uncovered yards as well as full size stables - infrastructure fit for a future Three Day Event.

The ‘training’ event was run straight though on Saturday, The first class was won by Jane Griffin (Booby Trap) on 59 with Kate Wallis (King William) 2nd on 65.4 and Shannon O’Brien (The Gamekeeper) on 65.4 in third. The second division winner was Louise Baston (Boambee Greystones) on 69 with Kristy O’Brien (Grandstander) second with 70.8 only 2 penalty points ahead of Heath Ryan on Hon San Succi. The Junior Introductory class saw Kathryn Backhouse a winner with Table Top Eton on 54.6 a clear winner from Kathine Wallis (Brandon) and Tom Nielsen (Resilient).

Dressage only for the graded classes meant that the cross country and showjumping fitted comfortably on Sunday. The course, designed by Mike Creber and built by Mick Pineo and Ross Spalding, is quite beautiful. Imposing, safe fences with Mike’s usual artistic flair. The keyhole jumps, in particular, are built in the centre of a grove of blue foliage Eucalypts with tree branch foliage cleverly laced to provide the ‘holes’. This is followed by an interesting brush complex. Bottlebrush bushes (not in flower at this time of year) form an inescapable box, from which riders have a choice of exits, one with several strides running off line to the left and the other with one stride straight through, both inviting but technical.

Near the end of the course is a huge bank complex offering a variety of ‘ways’ across for the different grades. This didn’t really cause any problems for the horses that were ridden boldly and the arrowhead on the way down the banks for the Intermediate caused only one or two safe run outs.

The water jump is two fences from the finish and has spectator facilities. It consists of a small lake (pond?) with a large solid cross in the centre and arrowhead options out for each class. It caused the usual dunking for a couple of riders – nothing serious, just wet and a source of amusement or, dare I suggest, envy from the spectators because it was hot enough to go for a swim. Most notable among the swimmers were Olivia Bunn and Michael Baker, both from Victoria. This is a serious course, encouraging the forward ridden, straight horse and time was such that these riders made it easily but those taking options collected time penalties for their temerity.

Amanda Benson took out the first section of the Pre Novice event bny more than 13 penalty points riding Lily Rood to finish on her dressage score of 45. The second division was won by George Riley (Jedi Heart) and close behind Wendy Schaeffer (Koyuna Sun Smoke) and Lyn Coombe (Jose). This was a much more closely fought contest with only 0.6 points separating the first three place winners.Junior Pre Novice saw Elsie Nielsen (Lion Heart) 0.6 points ahead of Tally Fletcher on Table Top Firelight, aanother close finish.

The Novice classes again found Louise Baston (Borambee Sprinbok) in the winning circle with a first place on Boambee Springbok and local rider Holly Parker not so close after a shorjump rail. In the second division, Janelle Pitts on Mr Showoff narrowly beat Robyn Brown on Bondir.

In the Intermediate classes, the showjumping provided its own excitement and in both classes the leading riders were very close with clear rounds essential to retain a placing. In the first division, Sammi Macleod broke her first placing drought with a sensational clear round – never looking like touching a rail after Louise Baston had completed a lucky clear with several very long spots and rattles to finish in second place by only 2.1 points. Amanda Ross (Otto Schumaker) and Tara Trebilcock (Howard’s End) took out third and fourth, some 16 points behind. The second Intermediate was a tightly fought contest with four riders separated by only 2.9 penalties when the shorjumping started. The first three of these all jumped clear, leaving the pressure well and truly on Ross Spalding (Trilogy). The combination went beautifully right up to the last fence (an upright Road Closed) when a rail relegated him to fourth place. This left Kadi Eykamp and Is’bella Rosselini in first place with Amanda Ross on Wynella Rialto second from Shane Rose on Beauford Miss Dior, third.

There was a lot of interest in the performance of the Robert Slade’s Beauford Miss Dior (Willy) and his parents, Ron and Pam, had driven eight hours to watch her perform. The mare has been brought back to Australia following Robert’s untimely death and given to Shane with the hope that she may perform well enough this year to meet Robert’s dream of her competing at the Olympic Games. Although only back in work after a long break, the mare looked sensational.

The organisers may tell you of all the disasters, like the finish stewards being at the wrong finish as the first ‘training’ rider came through and a few early glitches with the ‘training’ cross country scoring. That’s nothing new for events, but from spectators and competitors points of view, it all went brilliantly. Jodi Crawford and Ross Spalding and their many helpers did a wonderful job. The natives were friendly, the scoring quick and efficient and the final ceremony well orchestrated.

The support of the Winergy people was great. Jeff Sampson, the CEO, is a very keen supporter of eventing – he prefers hunting, but that’s the ‘pommy’ in him. He sashed the placegetters with expertise – the winners garlands stayed on and looked great for the two winners in the Intermediate. The speeches were incredibly short and Winergy "Balance" (yellow), "Extra Energy" (red) and "Calming" (green) were much appreciated as prizes. Having looked after us with MARS for the people, PAL for the dogs, it is the horses’ turn with WINERGY – and if it is in the same taste bracket, it should be a great success.

It is hard to know whether we should declare this the Year of the Volunteer, the Year of the Sponsor or the Year of the Groom/Mum/Dad/Spouse. The organisers were thrilled that so many people travelled so far to be a part. Louise Baston from Coffs Harbour, Heath Ryan and Sammi McLeod from Lochinvar and Wendy Schaeffer from South Australia – your team efforts in supporting the event was much appreciated.