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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Fire & feathers: Clydesdale crosses the perfect sport horse

Updated: Jun 17, 2023

ABOVE: Georgie Birrell and the Clydesdale- Thoroughbred cross Terminal Velocity. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG

THE Clydesdale horse is so often referred to in Australia as the “horse that built a nation” and it’s true.

Australians have a great affection for the great horses of Scotland and the breed has graced the paddocks and show rings of Australia for more than 100 years.

But it’s not just “the white and honest faces and the power on the traces”* that the Clydesdale has contributed.

Poet Will Ogilive also refers to “all fire and feather” and the Clydesdale, like a true Scot, has courage and personality and is a big active horse.

They have crossed very well with other breeds and are very much the quiet achievers in the sport world.

The Clydesdale Cross Sporthorse Association is a group dedicated to celebrating the versatility of horses with part Clydesdale heritage.

It was established nearly 20 years ago and has a register of more than a 1000 Clydesdale crosses.

Breeds represented include (but are not limited to) Thoroughbreds, Anglos, Arabians and the warmblood breeds, competing in everything from show and dressage to eventing and tent pegging.

ABOVE: Sara Love and Tulloch Ard in the Garryowen. Picture: DEREK O'LEARY

“As a true testament to the nature of these horses, our members span across every equine discipline and our horses range from hairy, large rumped beasts (not dissimilar to their Clydesdale predecessors) to refined, athletic and bold athletes, competing at the highest levels,” the group says.

In 2010, the Garryowen turnout at Royal Melbourne Show had its first Clydesdale-cross winner when Sara Love and Tulloch Ard were called out of the line-up to receive the famous trophy.

Sara said her father had bought the horse as a weanling when he saw him galloping across the paddock with his Thoroughbred mother and offered $500 for him. The big horse was a hunter as well as a show horse and, in the Garryowen, was just two points off a perfect score for manners and paces. He was one of the most popular horses of his time.

Charlie Moffat’s Mulga Bill was possibly the first Clydesdale-cross to jump for Australia.

Bought by Charlie as a three-year-old, he was by a Clydesdale stallion from a Thoroughbred Black Pampas mare. He proved to be a super jumper and Charlie and his wife took the big horse back to England, where he represented Australia in showjumping at the World Equestrian Games in 1994.

He was then sold to Belgium rider Stany Van Paeschen who kept the name Mulga Bill and

ABOVE: Charlie Moffat and the amazing Mulga Bill. Picture: ROS MEADMORE

competed on him at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

Today, the Clydesdale crosses are everywhere.

Georgie Birrell and the Clydesdale- Thoroughbred cross Terminal Velocity (known by everyone as Helga) stormed around the Melbourne three-day event two-star course at the weekend with clear jumping rounds to finish 15th of 65 competitors.

“She belonged to my dear friend Zoe Warrell, who we lost from cancer, and came to me when Zoe tried to breed from her,” Georgie said.

“She didn’t want to be a mum, so she’s been eventing since. She has such heart and try, she never says no, she scores well in dressage as she’s so compliant and she’s so careful and only has had two rails down all year.

“I find the Clyde-cross adds extra calmness. My previous quarter- cross, Marlborough View, was the same; we did three star at Adelaide together.”

ABOVE: Zoe Starkey and Carona Park Hugo Boss.

Zoe Starkey campaigns Carona Park Hugo Boss (aka Weegee), a quarter clydie x Anglo (TB x Arab) in South Australia.

She says Weegee is “her heart horse”.

“Having a Clydie x showjumper in my younger years, I always wanted another,” Zoe said. “A brown gelding with bling was my dream, and as a busy mum with a full-time job, a 6500 acre farm and two boys under six, the dream horse popped up when I wasn't even looking.

“I was the first to view him and picked him up the next day. That was January 2021. This horse is all I have ever wanted – safe but sassy.

“I have been riding for 30-plus years now so don't want boring but need safe with the lack of time and young kids.”

Since Zoe has owned Weegee, he has gone back-to-back supreme led at the annual Clydesdale Cross Sport Horse Association show and also won supreme ridden in 2022.

“He was awarded champion owner rider large hunter hack at a grand national qualifier, also carrying me to a reserve champion rider over 30 at another gran national qualifier. We like to change things up a bit and as I refine his education, we have moved towards dressage with placings in every test we have completed.

“So Weegee is safe, fun, makes me earn it without being hard to deal with. He is the perfect mum horse as I can leave him for months and drag him out without any issues.

“He is a big proud horse and I love him.”

ABOVE: Bianjka Hughes and Franjk, a Clydesdale-Percheron cross.

Bianjka Hughes is another who wouldn’t swap her versatile Clydesdale-Percheron cross Farkoolieo (aka Franjk) for the world.

Franjk found his way to Bianjka in 2016 and since then he has become the perfect allrounder, happy to have a crack at every discipline in open and HRCAV competition.

“We started out first in showing and showjumping, then tried mounted games, then dressage competitions,” Bianjka said.

“He’s also done combined training and working equitation. These days we have joined a HRCAV club to compete in three-phase equitation, dressage, showing and navigation rides.”

“We have won championships and always place well in everything we do.”

At age 20, Franjk is on a special diet for age and health issues and is clearly doted on.

“He’s such an amazing animal and more than just a big horse,” Bianjka said.

“He’s had early years of great ground work training to get to be so nimble. He can turn on a dime and do flying changes through the poles, hence his super abilities in the games competitions and stockman’s challenges.

“There is nothing this lad can’t do and is always giving his best. I am so lucky to have found this boy – I adore him.”

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