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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Ponies show their woolly worth at winter gymkhanas


ABOVE: Dexter Clark had a super day on Chiltern Park Sunrise (aka Sonny) at Swan Hill gymkhana.

THEY might not cost as much on the open market as the Olympic dressage horses or Melbourne Cup champions but hairy little pony club mounts are worth their weight in gold. They come in all shapes and sizes, put up with wobbly riders and cope with being brushed roughly by tiny hands.


These heroes get passed carefully from one family to another as their riders grow out of them and – often at a venerable age – still cheerfully turn up at pony club, trotting through bending poles, sleeping in line-ups or sharing their jockey’s cheese sandwiches.


At this time of year they can be seen in their element at gymkhanas in full coat and revelling in the “winter woollies” mantra of “no plaiting”.


Swan Hill and Beaufort pony clubs have just held their winter events and both ran very well-supported topsy (and tipsy) rings for the younger, less experienced riders.


Both events provided a good mix of classes for all levels of competitors, with the littlies happily rubbing shoulders with older riders who were competing in the open show horse and pony club classes.


ABOVE: A neck full of ribbons for Hayden Farrell and Royce at Beaufort.

The Beaufort "Winter Woolies" gymkhana attracted 80 riders from all around the zone, competing in handler and riding classes, stockman’s challenges and barrel races (done at sedate speed). There were also “rider of the day” awards made to the rider showing outstanding courtesy, sportsmanship and enthusiasm in their ring, with Millicent Gardiner, Gracelyn Howie and Tanaya Stocks taking home the trophies.


Beaufort ran fancy dress classes across all age levels so they were a real highlight of the show, with many parents of the younger children bravely joining in with the themes (bunyip dad deserves a special mention).


ABOVE: Even the parents got into the fancy dress action at Beaufort. Picture: PAIGE GRAY

It was generally agreed that the fancy dress creators excelled themselves, with the outfits leaving organisers and judges amazed at the detail and thought that went into them.


First place in the tipsy ring fancy dress was Teddy Kaye, in the topsy ring Alex Frost, springers ring Stephanie Holden and vintage ring Casey McCullock.


The barrell race combined the tipsy and topsy rings with Emersyn Craige winning in 37 seconds from Amber Martin (37.18 seconds) and Hayden Farrell (44.35 seconds).


ABOVE: Angus Fahy and Macca had a successful day at Beaufort as well.

The springers and vintage rings were also combined and were considerably faster with Asha Fiedler on 29.82 seconds beating Jasmine Roberts (30.52) and Cassie Merritt (30.76).


The Stockmans challenge rings were also combined. The tipsy and topsy winner was Alex Frost from Millicent Gardiner and Lucy Kaye. In the springers and vintage section Lisa Coleman was the winner followed by Clare Clarke and Jazmine Roberts.


Winners in the show classes in the springers ring included champion handler Asha Fiedler, with Jazmine Roberts the reserve.


Champion rider was Clare Clarke and reserve champion went to Jazmine Roberts, while champion ridden mount went to Asha Fiedler with Clare Clarke in reserve.


In the vintage ring champion handler was Bianca Hodgson-Carney and reserve was Beck Maddocks.


Champion rider was Natasha McDonald, with Kelsey Mason in reserve and they reversed positions when they rode off for champion ridden mount.


At Swan Hill gymkhana – held at their new grounds at Lake Boga – about 35 riders enjoyed competing in glorious sunshine and warm weather, including 17 in the freshman’s showjumping and 12 in the games section.


ABOVE: Tai Jones and Tapu Private Rendezvous.

The most successful riders in the pony club classes received high point awards, which were won by Tai Jones on Tapu Private Rendezvous in the senior ring and Charlotte Lawn on Tessa in the junior.


Tai also won the Allen Fountain Memorial Event for the second year running.


The HERO award for retired Standardbred racehorses was won by Glenys Grivell’s Village Man, who was also named champion galloway show hunter and won the educated hack class.


In the senior open ring, the champion led galloway was Marianne Ferguson’s Willowlodge Ellen with Glenys Grivell’s Village Man in reserve.


Champion led hack was Charlotte Treacy’s Gus, with Michelle Grixti’s Duke reserve.


The champion and reserve senior riders were Pyper Tucker and Sheree MacFarlane. Sheree’s mount Gia was champion galloway, with Willowlodge Ellen reserve.


Michelle Grixti’s Larry was champion hack, with Darren Grivell doing a great job with his recently off-the-track Standardbred to take reserve.


Mia Heritage did a ripping hand gallop on Ace to secure champion show hunter hack ahead of Michelle Grixti on Duke as reserve.


Possibly the most important class of any show at this time of year – hairiest pony – went to Prince in the topsy ring, whose young pilot Leni Domaille was attending her first gymkhana.


Mission accomplished for yet another perfect pony.


ABOVE: Frankie Merrett and Leni Domaille enjoying their ponies Spencer and Prince at Swan Hill.
ABOVE: Frankie Merrett and Swan Hill district commissioner Colleen Crossfield.
ABOVE: Gracelyn Howie from Penshurst and her horse Shorty Lena at Beaufort. Picture: Picture: PAIGE GRAY
ABOVE: Millicent Gardiner with her trophy at Beaufort. Picture: PAIGE GRAY

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