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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Garryowen winner started off on a 'four-legged pram'

ABOVE: Ebonie and Brynie Lee celebrate Ebonie’s Garryowen win. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG PHOTOGRAPHY

THE remarkable Lee family is proof that a love of horses means a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Paul and Lyn Lee, and their four daughters Sherrie, Tamara, Brynie and Ebonie have created a show horse training complex at Whittlesea that has built on their already strong success in the very competitive horse world. This week at Royal Melbourne Show, Ebonie, the youngest of the four girls, won the famous Garryowen trophy in its 88th year riding Simone Padoin’s Wynara Signature.

It was the first time she had entered the prestigious turnout event.

The girls have all ridden from a very young age. They have competed in sport horse events and showjumping as well as show horse classes and have represented their state in national competition.

Paul, who has had wide experience ranging from racing through to equestrian, met Lyn when they were both competing in flag and bending races at shows.

Lyn, who is the horse secretary at one of the biggest agricultural shows in Victoria at Whittlesea as well as being the main family strapper said it was the girls’ idea to get into show riding.

“All the girls started in sporting events but one day Sherrie looked over at the show horse ring and said ‘I’d like to try that’,” she said.

“We have always encouraged them to try different things, so here we are.

“I said to Paul, uh oh, this will be expensive, and it has been, but so worthwhile. Very few horse families have kids that get into trouble. They learn to care for a living animal, and by competing, that you don’t always win, it’s a healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally.”

ABOVE: Flashback to when Ebonie (centre) was just a girl with Sherrie, Lyn, Paul, Tamara and Brynie.

Sherrie, a chiropractor now married with her own child, is an organiser like her mother and was chief horse steward at Yea Agricultural Show. She has competed in the Garryowen class and has had a lot of success showing hacks and hunters.

Tamara runs the professional breaking and training stables for show ponies and horses and is achieving her ambition with help from her sisters and parents. She shows horses for clients, while her three-year-old daughter Ellie is following in the family footsteps and made her debut in the leading rein section at Melbourne this year.

Tamara has been moving into dressage competition in the last year riding Hollands Bend Iona with success.

Brynie has been really successful as a rider and has ridden overseas showing horses for a professional stable and works alongside Tamara. She also rode in this year’s Garryowen but horses will be horses and her mount decided to have an off day. Previously she won the best first-year competitor and placed third at the last Garryowen before Covid.

Being the youngest and growing up around show rings, Ebonie has been on ponies before she could walk.

“It was easier than carrying a toddler,” Lyn said. “She would happily sit on a pony at a show to watch the others compete from her four-legged pram.

“She was competing herself as soon as she could make us let go of the lead rein.”

After winning the Garryowen at just 20 years of age, Ebonie’s next ambition is to do the same as Brynie to travel overseas and to ride at some of the biggest shows in England.

“I’m very lucky to come from a family that has been doing it for years so we had a lot of the gear necessary for the class, but I have had to borrow things like boots and breeches which I’m so grateful to the kind people that are still willing to lend,” she said.

“We actually didn’t know if the gear was going to fit this horse and have just thrown together gear here and there to make this all happen.”

The very close family now has two of the next generation who will have their own “four-legged pram” to introduce them to the world of show horses.

No doubt we will hear their names on the winners list.

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