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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Voice of the shows enters state equestrian body's hall of fame

ABOVE: Graeme Barker where he was most comfortable - out in the middle of the rings at a horse show.

THERE are voices that are instantly recognisable, Morgan Freeman is an example in movies, Bert Newton on TV and for the Australian horse community it’s Graeme Barker.

This week Equestrian Victoria awarded him "hall of fame" status for his service to the equestrian industry as one of Australia’s finest commentators.

Graeme is the son of Ern Barker, who rode on the first Australian Equestrian Olympic team at Stockholm and who for so many years remained a top rider in showjumping and horse trials.

ABOVE: Graeme Barker riding at Trafalgar Show as a youngster. Picture: VIVIAN HARRISON

Like many kids of the time, Graeme grew up on horseback. He was a top boy rider and among many wins was named champion boy rider at Royal Melbourne Show.

When he took up eventing, he rode with success in the famous Gawler Three-Day Event and in 1966 placed on Never Mind in an open field at the Melbourne Three-Day Event. In a class dotted with Olympic heroes it showed he was no slouch as a rider.

Graeme was working for the Melbourne Showjumping Club committee, carting equipment around the country to shows, building courses, helping with judging and, occasionally, getting behind the microphone and explaining to the crowds what was going on.

Show organisers realised that his skills as a commentator were adding to the spectators’ enjoyment and began asking him to do the same at their events.

He told the jumping club he could earn more by doing commentary, and his encyclopaedic knowledge of horse sport – from showjumping to tent pegging, horse trials to show classes – meant that for more than 40 years, people going to big shows learned what was going on through his pleasant and informative words.

He was the voice of the Barastoc Horse of the Year and covered 43 royal shows in four states, countless country shows and state and national showjumping championships.

If you watched a major horse event on television during this period, it is quite possible it was Graeme you were listening to. He was so familiar with every horse sport and personally knew those who were competing that those watching got to know and recognise the riders and the horses as well.

Now retired, someone like Graeme, with such a wide knowledge of each horse discipline and enough experience to make his commentary so interesting to listen to, is almost impossible to replace.

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