Game on at Werribee as world gathers for championships
THE World Mounted Games Championships returned to Australia this month, giving Australian riders a chance to compete on home soil for the first time in 15 years.
Junior and senior teams took on rivals from Belgium, England, Ireland, France, Germany, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Wales and the US at Werribee Park over three days from October 11 to 14.
The championships were organised by the Australian Mounted Games Association, with volunteers coming together from all states to make sure it went without a hitch.
It had been a four-year wait for organisers, who put in the original bid in 2019 and then the 2022 event was put back a year due to Covid.
It was a massive task to mount the 100 riders, with ponies sourced from Victoria, NSW, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia.
Some riders had chosen their ponies before getting to Werribee, while others made selections after watching them being ridden by their owners.
Riders had one hour on Monday and Tuesday to train with their ponies on the competition arena before the event got underway.
Competition started on Wednesday, first with one heat of eight under 18 teams and then two heats with six open teams.
The Australian under 18 team put everyone on notice that they would be the team to beat, whilst in the open Australia, England and Ireland were the early leaders.
Thursday and Friday morning saw the teams ride another three sessions.
While the weather was beautiful on the Wednesday, it turned to the south after that and the pointy end of the competition was held in cold, blustery and wet conditions.
After four sessions the open riders were divided into an A final of eight teams, and a B final of four teams.
After the first open final the overnight leader was Ireland but as the races progressed, England caught up and passed Ireland to take out the world championships, with Ireland second and the Australian team of Georgia Bissicks, David Gardiner, Grace Perkins, Simon Rodgers and Olly Conn third.
In the under 18s, it was a battle for the minor placings with the Australian riders – Taleha Urszulak, Bree Mackenzie, Gabe Smith, Rohan Smith and Aaron Suvaljko – proving far too good. New Zealand placed second with England third.
The event finished off with a dinner, with riders from all countries getting together for one last celebration before most headed off to visit different parts of Australia.
The final placings were:
Open A Final
1st England, 2nd Ireland, 3rd Australia, 4th France, 5th Wales, 6th New Zealand, 7th US and 8th Germany.
Open B Final
1st Belgium, 2nd Sweden, 3rd Switzerland, 4th Scotland.
1st Australia, 2nd New Zealand, 3rd England, 4th Scotland, 5th France, 6th Germany, 7th US and 8th Sweden.
(Click any image to expand - 40 shots)
All images by TAMARA BAKKER of FERNBANK PHOTOGRAPHY
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