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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Avenel shows no sign of slowing down in its 66th year

ABOVE: Georgina Birrell and Fonzy riding for the win. Picture: DEREK O’LEARY

AVENEL, one of Australia’s longest running and favorite horse trials, shows no signs of fading away in its 66th year, with almost 500 horses and ponies competing.

It is now in its third home at Greenvale after first being run at David Knox’s property at Avenel in 1967, before moving in 2005 to Oaklands Hunt Club, the first home of the Melbourne International Three-Day Event.

Through these changes, it has had no loss of prestige and is still an event very much looked forward to by riders of all levels.

When it began there were two classes, open and novice. Now there are 15 sections, ranging from three star down to 65cm.

And where it was once the Thoroughbred’s domain, now there is every breed, from warmbloods to Welsh ponies and cobs. This year in the 65cm class, a Friesian, Mystic Shadows Little Miss Gypsy shown by Rachel Dargue, placed second in a large section.

ABOVE: Rachel Dargue and Mystic Shadows Little Miss Gypsy. Picture: DEREK O’LEARY

Erin Callahan and Danson Lincoln added just 0.8 cross country penalties to their dressage score to take out the three-star class.

In the two-star, Georgia Spangaro’s Thoroughbred, Peninsula Park Joker, led right from the dressage phase in a section where the other places changed dramatically.

There were two sections of the one-star, both filled with nice young horses coming through. The winners were Lucy Gunn’s Blackall Park Tooleybuc and Fleur Barling’s Mr Kitch.

There were four sections of the EA 95cm, demonstrating the huge popularity of horse trials. The first, a class for young horses of six and seven years of age, gave Erin Callahan her second win for the event with Gun For Hire.

The other three 95cm winners were Samantha McLean on Ballahowe Cruising, Gracienne Stockdale on Undercover Albert and Paige Leamey on AEA Talent.

The EA 80cm section for young horse five and six years of age was also split into four sections, with the first going to Isabella Walsh riding OPT Velvet. The other winners were Alana Gebert on Two To Tango, Terry Delbridge on Northern Discovery and Chelsea Priestley on Makers Mark.

All four winners were in the top three in dressage in their section.

The EA 65 cm always show a wide variation in type and in the first division the winner was a pony, Ballahowe Limited Edition ridden by Asha Lloyd, with an off-the-track Thoroughbred, Daniella Gagliardi’s Rich Business, in second place and another pony, Joanne Murphy’s Koolaroo Crown, third.

Georgina Birrell riding Fonzy won division two, and the young horse section for four and five-year-old newbies was possibly the only one for the weekend where dressage had a much less influence on the placings than the jumping rounds, with Hayley Stephenson and Signature Thyme rising from sixth after dressage to win.


(Click any image to expand)

All images DEREK O'LEARY

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