• Fran Cleland

Judging in the tropics: Darryl Hayes shares a personal insight


ABOVE: Grace McDonald on Cards of Sefton and Ashleigh Overall on Allambie Park Belladonna.

FOR many, Darwin and the Top End is a bit of mystery.


Included in the many things that southerners don’t realise about the place is that it has a strong horse scene.


Darryl Hayes – a leading show horse judge, trainer, rider and coach – often travels interstate for events and this week he gives us an insight into what it’s like to judge in Australia’s far north.


In his own words:


“On Friday, June 10, I jumped on a plane and flew to Darwin, I had agreed to judge at a show being run by the Darwin Show Horse Club.


I had spent to previous week at the Melbourne Inglis Great Southern weanling sales helping Carol and Norm Hassell (Shadowbrook Thoroughbreds) with their eight weanlings entered for the sale, so I’d spent a very cool week with temperatures reaching a high of just 11 degrees each day.


When you fly to Darwin it’s usually on the late flight to save losing a day, so I didn’t arrive until 2am Saturday morning. I hadn’t been to Darwin in about five years so it was nice to fly in and see what was happening.


After only a couple of hours sleep, my long-time friend and host Carmen Nowak dropped me at Fred’s Pass where the show was to be held. Always green with beautiful trees around all of the grassed areas makes for such a lovely venue to hold a horse show.


There was a lot happening, with a showjumping clinic on the main arena, a dressage protocol day further down in another area with two dressage arenas set up. The show was on another lovely large grassed area with plenty of room for two rings as well as room for riders to warm up.


I must say I had to laugh when the organisers and the few helping were complaining about it being so cold. I think at that stage it was about 16-18 degrees and it was only 8.30am.


The sun was shining, hardly a cloud in the sky and it continued to warm to a top of 27 degrees. I did put a light jacket on when I first got out of the car but I think that only lasted about 20 minutes before I was in shirt sleeves. After coming from a top of 11 degrees all week it wasn’t going to take much for me to feel warm.


There aren’t an abundance of competitors in the Northern Territory but what they lack in numbers they make up for in enthusiasm.


I thoroughly enjoyed my day with keen riders, smiles and beautiful weather. I did try to offer little bits of advice after each class, and at the end of the day the organisers put on food and drink and the opportunity for riders to come up and ask questions or seek some advice if the wished. I think this is a wonderful idea.

I love judging riders who are keen and want to improve and since my last time in Darwin there are quite a new group of riders coming up.”


Show organiser Tanya Reynolds said the club was grateful for the effort Darryl put into the day.


“The Northern Territory’s show horse community were super impressed with his enthusiasm, encouragement of our sport in the NT and the constructive feedback as part of his judging commitments,” she said.


“The show is another lead into the NT's busy season just around the corner, with the Darwin Royal Show, Equestrian NT's Pre Royal three-day event and state championships coming up fast.


“Highlights were once again our leading rein/led competitor Luci Jansan's two grey ponies Royland Blue Rose and Dalbrae Viking, plus some of our champion riders and horses, including Lemrac Lucifer ridden by Hannah Gornell, Wellan Regal Edition ridden by Rhianna Williamson, Cheraton Work of Art ridden by Charli Hebbron, Lavuka Carnival ridden by Lilly-Rose Streeter and Cards of Sefton ridden by Grace McDonald Awes.”


ABOVE: (clockwise from top left) Rhianna Williamson on Wellan Regal Edition, Alex Mudd on El Gems Black Beauty, Ashleigh Overall on Allambie Park Belladonna and Hannah Gornall on Lemracs Lucifer.