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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Fabulous four do Australia proud as riders and ambassadors

ABOVE: Meaghan Sutherland, Ashleigh Bennett, Bridget Mouat, Georgia Elias, Georgia Goss and Deziree Roos.

A TEAM of Australian Pony Club riders have been having the time of their lives in New Zealand after being selected to be part of this year’s Inter Pacific Exchange.

The four riders – Ashleigh Bennett of Young NSW, Bridget Mouat of Riddells Creek Victoria, Georgia Elias of Launceston, Tasmania and Georgia Goss of Eastern Hills WA – competed in two events while overseas, as well as fitting in a lot of sight-seeing across the 18 days of their trip.

Team coach Meaghan Sutherland, of Riddells Creek Pony Club, said the Inter Pacific Exchange was a two-to-three-week, exchange of four riders, a coach and a team manager from the Inter Pacific Pony Club Nations, which normally include Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the US.

“The idea originated from a visit in 1960 of Victorian and NSW pony Club members to the Pebble Beach Pony Club in California,” she said.

“It was such a success that the Pony Club Association of Victoria issued an invitation to the US, Canada, New Zealand and all Australian States, to participate in an exchange in Victoria in 1961.”

This year’s team, coach and manager (Deziree Roos of Hervey Bay) were announced in late October and only met for the first time in Sydney on January 7, the day before flying out to New Zealand where they joined up with the host nation team and riders from the US and Canada. (Hong Kong was a late scratching.)

There are two main competitions during the exchange, a scrambled event and the Nations Cup over two rounds.

Both events require 16 horses to be provided by the host nation for participants to ride. All riders including the host country riders are balloted mounts.

ABOVE: There was plenty of sightseeing.

The Cromwell racetrack was the location for the “scrambled” event, a combined training competition that was named the “Kevin Cup” this year in honour of the New Zealand team’s mascot, Kevin the Kiwi. Riders from all countries were randomly selected for the teams, with a coach and manager allocated to each.

Four horses ranging in experience were allocated to each team.

The winner of the Kevin Cup was determined by the combined score of each team’s three top combinations, with The Wiggles team claiming the trophy.

The Australian riders drew some impressive mounts for the Nations Cup.

Georgia Goss was partnered with Hashtag Murphys Law owned by Sophie Sinclair, a 15yo bay gelding, who has previously competed at 1.20m showjumping and 1* (105) eventing.

Ashleigh Bennett scored Vicki and Lucy Eason’s My Ultimatum AKA Munchie, 17yo Thoroughbred gelding, who as a younger horse had showjumped to 1.30m.

Bridget Mouat was very happy with Sunny Disposition, a chestnut pocket rocket mare owned by Vicki and Lucy Eason. She had competed at 1.2m showjumping and now has a junior rider.

Georgia Elias was partnered with Heidi Stephens’ Captain Jack Sparrow, a stunning gelding who has jumped 1m.

New Zealand drew first to ride, followed by Canada, the US and Australia.

Meaghan said it was a busy and exciting day for the Australian riders, who were involved with running earlier events before it was time for them to compete.

“Each country’s national anthem was played and observed by all the participating countries,” she said.

“At the conclusion of the anthems, the riders along with the managers and coaches walked the technical-but-inviting track.

ABOVE: Georgia Elias and Captain Jack Sparrow. Picture: BRYLEA EAVES

“After the first round the highest placed team was the US, followed by Australia, Canada and New Zealand, with the US being the only team to have three clear rounds and no penalties for their top three riders.

“The Australian riders did extremely well, with Georgia Goss obtaining two clear rounds and all riders improving in their second rounds.”

The finals result saw the US take the Nations Cup for 2023, with Australia in second place followed by New Zealand and Canada.

“At the end of an action-packed 18 days on tour riders, managers and coaches headed home full of inspiration and lifelong memories,” Meaghan said.

“All the participants left with an understanding of cultural differences, as well an appreciation of similarities.

“Ashleigh, Bridget, Georgia E and Georgia G were not only great ambassadors for Pony Club Australia, they were great role models and an asset to the Inter Pacific Exchange.”

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