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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Bits: Stars reunited, very latest on horse deaths and Special Olympics in doubt

ABOVE: Simone Pearce and Destano shared a special relationship.

GRAND Prix dressage rider Simone Pearce has been reunited with her 2021 Tokyo Olympic horse, Destano, thanks to his owner Albert Sprehe agreeing the pair should be together again.

Pearce expressed her delight, thanking Albert for the decision.

“The big boss Destano is back and there is nothing to say but thank you a million times for this incredible opportunity to allow me to once again ride my ‘heart horse’,” she said.

“(Destano) was the one who changed my career; took me to the Olympics, made the podium in the five-star at CHIO Aachen, broke all the Aussie records and allowed me to reach dreams I never thought possible.

“It is really a dream come true and I am still just blown away by the generosity.”


HORSE owners have been reassured that it is safe to attend events following a spate of horse deaths across Victoria.

In a statement released at 5pm tonight, Victoria’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Graeme Cooke said that while the number of deaths (now 17) was high, the cause of all was considered “normal”.

“Following the announcement of an unusual level of sudden multiple deaths in horses, Agriculture Victoria can confirm only normal causes of death have been identified,” Dr Cooke said.

“Horse owners can be reassured there is no need for any restrictions on horse movements and horse events and gatherings can go ahead as planned.

“Our investigation remains ongoing until all available samples submitted to our laboratories have been tested and final results are obtained.

“We’re asking horse owners to report any multiple sudden deaths as soon as possible so we can ensure reliable testing results.”

Dr Cooke thanked horse owners and veterinarians involved for their ongoing assistance in the department’s investigation.

Agriculture Victoria provided the following background information:

  • On six properties where sudden multiple horse deaths were reported, 17 horses in total died.

  • Awareness raising has brought forward reporting on single horse deaths, and to date normal causes of death have been found such as bacterial infection and gut rupture. Toxic plants such as Marshmallow (Malva parviflora) are also being investigated.

  • The only commonality is that all horses appear to have died relatively quickly with non-specific signs of illness.

  • Agriculture Victoria staff have been attending properties, speaking with owners, vets and experts, collecting and testing samples and looking into reports made to our hotline.

  • Horse owners should always monitor their animals and conduct good parasite management and weed control, and ensure good quality feed and water is provided.

  • Horse owners should also register their horse with a Property Identification Code (PIC) – an important communication and traceability tool used during animal health incidents.

  • This system has enabled Agriculture Victoria to contact 19,000 PIC holders registered in Victoria as having horses on their properties about this current issue.

PICs are free and quick and can be done on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Horse owners are asked to report any multiple sudden deaths immediately to your local vet, Agriculture Victoria or via the emergency animal disease hotline on 1800 675 888.


THE Pony Club Association of Victoria will be holding two pony racing “taster” days in September.

They have been organised in the lead up to two pony races being held at Moonee Valley Racing Club on Friday, October 27.

Anyone hoping to participate in these official races will need to attend one of the taster days, but riders who are just interested in trying something new for fun are also welcome to come along. Participation is open to pony club members of all ages and abilities as long as they can walk, trot and canter independently and in a group situation.

Those hoping to qualify to race officially will need to be aged between 9 and 15 years and on a pony 12.2 and under or under 13.3hh.

The taster days will also be an opportunity to learn about careers in the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry.

Use the following links to register if you are a member of a pony club. If you are not a member you will need to contact your local club to join before registering.


THE Victorian Equestrian Federation has held the Young Rider of the Year awards since 1987, with many of the names on the board now famous in their chosen field. This year’s winners are Jessica Dertell (dressage), Molly Lines (eventing), Tilley Fair (showjumping) and Grace Baines (show horse).


THE Winton to Longreach endurance ride makes a return this weekend for a one-off re-running of the legendary event. It’s been 40 years since last held, with the course shortened by 30km due to national park restrictions. There will be 34 horse and rider combinations taking on the 220km challenge.


A NEW edition of the novel War Horse is to be released next week to mark the book’s 40th anniversary.

Author Michael Morpurgo and illustrator Christian Birmingham will be at the Game Fair in Warwickshire England this weekend for the launch.

War Horse, which has inspired a Steven Spielberg film and West End stage production, tells the story of Joey and follows him from his home on an English farm to – and through – World War I. It is told entirely from Joey’s perspective.

The limited edition is hand-bound and signed by the author and illustrator.

“One of the stories I wrote 40 years ago is War Horse,” Mr Morpurgo said. “It’s a book I love dearly. It’s been very good to me, and I know Joey the horse like a member of the family.”


AFTER Victoria missed out on a big sporting event when the Commonwealth Games were cancelled, Perth could be next to lose an opportunity. The Western Australia capital had been likely to host the Special Olympics World Games — described as the world's largest inclusive sporting event — in 2027 and Australian equestrians who did so well at the Virtus Games and Special Olympics overseas were excited to think they could compete in their own country .

It had won the early approval of international organisers to bring together thousands of athletes from across Australia and the world but the Special Olympics' governing body needs funding agreements to be resolved before the end of the month, or Australia could miss out.

So far, no level of government has committed to funding the games, also leaving potential partnerships with dozens of companies in doubt.

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