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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Show ring legend didn't mind a club sandwich and a 4am start

ABOVE: Peter Barry and Stuart Robinson with the colt bred from 20-year-old semen, Mirinda Royal Occasion.

THE show horse world lost a true gentleman when Peter Barry died last week.

He passed away on the Gold Coast aged 86 and will return to Victoria for burial.

He was an enormous influence on show horse breeding when he imported the Welsh Section B pony stallion Keston Royal Occasion to Australia in 1983.

It took some heavy negotiation with the British owner to secure the purchase as the stallion was already a leading sire of show ponies in Europe – but it was worth it.

Keston Royal Occasion was syndicated and became an immediate success in Australia. Today, almost 30 years on, almost every current winning show pony and Galloway hack carries his name in their pedigree.

He topped the Australian Sires Rankings eight times.

The stallion died in 2001, aged 29, and is buried at the Barry’s Mirinda Stud.

The Barry family retained his frozen semen and in 2017 Peter and his wife, Robyn, decided to try to breed a foal from their champion show mare, Mirinda Spellbound.

“We examined the semen with the vets,” Peter said, “and they said that it really wasn’t that good, because of its age and because the techniques used back then were not as good as those today, but they felt it was still worth a try.”

Try they did and 20 years after the death of his famous sire, the result was a cracking chestnut colt described by his breeder as the image of his great sire.

Mirinda Royal Occasion grew into a handsome youngster and was placed into the hands of professional show producer Stuart Robinson, of Suburban Lodge, for a show career.

After four shows for four championships, and with people already asking if they could use the youngster at stud, his owners decided to travel the same road as with his world-famous sire and syndicate him, so that people who take shares can be sure of a booking.

“We know he is fertile, we test mated him to one mare and she is in foal,” Peter said. “He was too young for more mares but will be used at public stud this year.”

The stud repeated the mating and Royal Occasion has a year younger filly to join him in the show ring. It seems, long after his death, one of the world’s great pony stallions continues to produce winners.

Stuart Robinson showed Peter’s ponies during the last years and says how fortunate he was to work with him.

“A wonderful, kind gentle and giving man with a wonderful foresight to Riding pony breeding in Australia,” he said.

“For me, it wasn’t the winning ribbons and flowers that I will miss most, it was the wonderful time I got to spend with Peter, talking history, talking future and talking all things Mirinda – from breeding plans of ponies, to his wonderful collection of birds.

“Pete would arrive to my place with a smile, club sandwiches and coffee in hand ready for a chat and to see his pride of all his ponies.”

Robinson said it was the trips to the royal shows he would miss the most.

“Pete wouldn’t mind a 4am start if it was show day. It was a pleasure to have known Pete and I’m so lucky to have got to enjoy the time I did with himself, Robyn and Mirinda Stud.”

A funeral service for Peter Barry will be held at the David W Bull Pakenham Funeral Home, 190 Princes Highway, Pakenham, on Thursday, May 19, at 1pm. The burial will follow at the Berwick Lawn Cemetery.


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