Part 8 Mirrabooka” horseman of the southern cross

Five men sit astride their horses in an open paddock
Samuel  Horden on the ground is talking with Franz who is mounted.

“Ok Franz, everything is organised and will all be in place by the time the Team arrives.”

“Thank you Samuel , are you sure we can’t find you a horse so you can join us?”

“No thanks very much, I’ll leave you to the riding and I’ll look after the politics and the money.”

Horden watched the Team as they rode off calmly across beautiful, lush, green fields whilst ahead in the distance, lay rugged sandstone escarpments, rising like huge walls built by some ancient giant to protect something very special.

Over the next five days, Mairinger would get a better understanding of the men and who they really were. He would develop a respect for this magnificent country he now called home. It would help him to see how his Team had been shaped as men. Though this was a team-building exercise, Franz would see the strengths and weaknesses of every man and they may well see the same of him.

The glimpse Franz got of the Australian riders at the first Games had impressed him and they had come from a different world to him, it may just as well have been a different planet. He wanted some of what they had and in time, he would give them some of what he had, which they needed. He had no doubt that once the polish had been applied, the tenacity, competitiveness and the love for their horses would shine through. The incident with Crago and the horse at the first Games had left an indelible mark on the soul of this great horseman.

The men had ridden for some hours talking and joking amongst themselves, whilst revealing some of their individual histories, whilst really getting to know each other. Eventually, the magnificent Illawarra escarpment rose in front of them, the eastern face of The Great Dividing Range where it almost met the sea. From a distance, the huge vertical cliffs seemed impenetrable; the upper part of the escarpment seemed to reach the sky and was shrouded in soft white clouds. The land in front of the escarpment was lush, green dairy country – the drought proof pasture of the South Coast of New South Wales.

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Mairinger viewed this wonderful environment, “Beautiful country Bill, it reminds me of parts of Austria where I grew up. It seems that Austria and Australia have some things in common. I must say though, I wouldn’t call these mountain ranges, more like foothills!”image

Roycroft replied, “Beautiful country alright, this is some of the most productive dairy land in Australia. Funny, some city folk would call this the bush, but this isn’t the bush. We’ll find the bush up there.”

They all looked to the top of the escarpment where a large eagle could be seen circling and calling. The white clouds were rapidly changing and building in height and density and it was apparent a thunderstorm was building and approaching.

“Kookaburras are laughing loudly Mairinger, they seem to be laughing at us!” continued Roycroft.

Morgan, in his time-to-get-things-done voice replies, “They will be if we don’t get a move on. It’s gonna piss down, we need to get to the foot of the escarpment before dark to set up camp.”

Crago, looking to Morgan with a cheeky childish grin, said, “What do you say Laurie? Murder run?”

Morgan smiles knowingly in return, “Sounds good to me!”

Lavis and Mairinger look confused whilst Crago smiles and Roycroft agrees, “I’m in.”

Lavis asks the question, “What’s a murder run?”

Morgan explains, “Let’s call it a training exercise, we pick a point, let’s say that waterfall in the distance,” Morgan points toward the escarpment where a waterfall can be seen tumbling down the cliffs and disappearing into the rainforest directly at its base. The distance seemed relatively short, it is an illusion created by the stone walls towering skywards and the steep pasture leading up to those walls. In reality, it was a good five kilometres. Over that distance the beautiful dairy country gradually gives way to more and more dense bushland. The going becomes more rugged with creeks, gullies, washaways, and green paddocks turning to wilderness near the base of the escarpment. The clouds above were looking more and more ominous.

Morgan continued his explanation, “and we ride in a straight line as fast as possible from here to there, no deviations, no shirking. What do you think Franz – are you in?”
“For now Laurie, you are calling the shots.”
Before anyone could speak, Roycroft called, “Follow me.” and he was off at the imagegallop, with the others following close behind.

 

The group of riders race across the open dairy country, clods of lush green pasture and moist dark soil thrown up by the hooves whilst cattle scattered to make way for the racing horses. The first galloping stretch is along two kilometers of slightly rising, undulating country with rabbits running for cover as the group quickly approached. The slope of the first stretch takes the edge off the horses but they are supremely fit and do not tire. Eventually, the paddock must end and as a barbed wire fence loomed, the riders came to a screaming halt and it appeared that another route must be found.

Mairinger, out of breath asks, “What now, where is the gate?” Roycroft, without comment, rides up to the fence, removes his oilskin coat and spreads it over the barbed wire. “‘No deviations’.” He quoted as he rode away from the fence line. Crago is ahead of him and he rides towards the fence where the oilskin is draped over, giving enough substance against the treacherous barbed wire for his horse, Solo, to draw confidence and pick a takeoff point. Solo jumps the fence comfortably and the other riders follow suit. As Roycroft jumps the fence last, he whisks the coat from the fence and the Team continued on.

The men ride a crazy, dangerous game of follow the leader and huge fallen trees are no obstacles. The horses jump them with a joyous zeal, they zig zag through groves of young saplings and the bush around them becomes thicker and the terrain more treacherous, all the while the storm above threatens to break and the horses power down into deep washaways, sometimes almost sitting on their haunches on the steep banks. They then drive powerfully up the other side, with thunder booming and lighting flashing across the sky.

The horses and men are at their physical limit, but both relish the fray; this is what riding by the seat of your pants is all about. They jump narrow gullies, splash through creeks and scrub and now enter a deciduous eucalypt forest. Kangaroos scatter and a wombat retreats hastily down his hole at the sound of the thundering hooves. The men ride up the last steep rise as the roof of the forest closes to become the canopy of what is now a rainforest. Huge tree ferns have taken the place of gum trees and the first rain begins to fall in massive droplets with the canopy above protecting the men and horses. The horses gallop on and the ground is now clear of scrubby undergrowth for there in not enough sunlight to support it under the umbrella above. The sound of the waterfall thunders around them as it crashes to the rocks, they are almost there.

Finally, with the horses spent, the men exhausted yet exhilarated, they come upon a large pool at the base of the falls with the spray pushed by the ever-strengthening wind, mingled and mixed with the raindrops. The horses didn’t need to be asked twice, they happily halted. The men, glowing from the rush of the ride, dismounted, breathless, yet still the beauty of the location was not lost, particularly on Franz. He gazed up at the falling water, allowing it to cool his overheated face. There was no point talking, nothing could be heard over the crashing falls, the horses walked into the pool up to their knees and drank steadily. Once they had had their fill, the men led their horses away from the falls to a clearing more suited to set up for the night’s camp.

The murder run complete; there is no victor, no vanquished, but there is mutual respect, the bonding had begun.

Part 7 “Mirrabooka”Horseman of the southern cross.

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Over the next three days, the trialists are put through their paces with lessons and testing on all three of the elements of the Three Day Event. Dressage to test the accuracy and obedience of the horse, cross country to test stamina, courage and athleticism and show jumping, which on the third day of competition, tests a horse and rider’s ability to back up after the rigours of the cross country the day before.

All rode dressage tests, cross-country courses and show jumping rounds and it was a serious test of man and beast and all under the knowledgeable and watchful eye of Franz Mairinger. The standard over the last four years had improved dramatically. Instruction and regular competition had done a large part of the work, now Mairinger must narrow down the numbers to what he believed would be a Team capable of bringing home a gold medal. Franz was full of self-belief that he had seen enough of the Australian riders and Australians in general, to recognise their resilience, commitment and never say die attitude.

Mairinger’s intention was to build on what the Australians already had – natural talent. As with working with a young horse, a smart rider takes the horse’s natural attributes and temperament and works with it. It would be a crime to dismantle the personality of a young horse and try to make it something it is not, and a good trainer/coach takes what he has and adds to it but never loses sight of why he chose to start with that horse in the first place.

Franz had plenty of experience with this and intended to apply his wisdom and experience to his new charge, the Australian Eventing Olympic Team.

The trials were over and Franz had assured all of the trialists that he would address them individually as to why they had or had not made the Team.

Roycroft and Morgan were chatting between themselves as Horden and Mairinger stood talking to the four continental trialists, who had come back from competing in Europe to try their luck for Olympic selection. The two men feared a decision had been made. Was this a congratulatory conversation?

The standard of horsemanship over the last few days had been outstanding, Roycroft and Morgan recognised this. It was a far cry from the trials four years previously; neither would be surprised if they did not make the final cut. Roycroft felt once again he had held his own, he only hoped they didn’t play the age card. Even Morgan, with his supreme confidence, was nervous and was reading bad news in to the conference taking place on the veranda.

Mairinger shook hands with the four riders he had been conversing with and approached Morgan and Roycroft.

“Thank you gentleman for your efforts over the past few days, I’m sure you agree that the standard of riding was outstanding. You are both to be congratulated. At your age, all noticed the level of the commitment you displayed. The standard of many of these riders improved, as they were aware of competing against you two gentleman.” Mairinger paused for a moment and it seemed he had been giving a ‘don’t call us we will call you speech’ then he continued. “You must also be congratulated for your selection in the Australian Eventing Team for the Rome Olympics.”

Relief flowed through the two men and a warm feeling of pride overwhelmed them, they had done it and they shook hands emotionally with each other and Mairinger. “Thanks Franz, we won’t let you down.” Franz replied, “I’m sure you won’t Laurie and you will captain the Team.”

Morgan had proven to Mairinger that he was the best man to lead the Team. He would always lead by example; Franz had never met a more driven individual. Morgan would expect of the Team no less than he expected of himself, absolute commitment. Roycroft shook Morgan’s hand again, “Congratulations mate, you are the man for the job.”

The team announced is Laurie morgan riding “saled days” Bil Roycroft on”Sabre ” neil Lavis on”Mirrabooka” and Brian Crago riding  “our solo ”    has made his second team he has a point to prove after his efforts at the last games when he gave all to rescue the horse of the fallen german rider, he has grown considerably as a person over the last four years  his experience at the previous games will prove a great assistance to the team, he is painfully aware of how close they were at the last games  he individually had finished 4th without the drama of the fallen horse he would have taken a medal. The team he has around him has all the potential needed to go to the next level. In reality cragos horse was not up to speed he had performed well at the trials but every one including crago doubted his ability to go all the way. Bill Roy croft had two good horses both capable of taking bill to the games, it was decided that Brian  would take one of bills horses, Bill had a soft spot for his big horse sabre, sabre was a good sized horse, Bill had schooled him from the start and they clicked well as a combination. Our solo was a bit smaller he had started out as a polo cross horse so was a little more touchy to ride but ridden well he could hold his own with sabre. Brian was a little fellow more suited size wise to our solo, bill decided to keep sabre and hand solo over to Brian he was a little tricky but hopefully things would work out.

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The final preparations would commence immediately; the men would stay with Mairinger in Bowral and train twice daily. Mairinger was also keen to build on the Team ethic and he had arranged for the men to gather with their horses at a location on the south coast of NSW. There was no further information and the men arrived as directed.

Morgan observed, “It’s a pub, are sure this is the right place Bill?”
“Those were the directions.”
“Okay, let’s go in and see what’s up.”

On entering the pub, the four men encountered Franz Mairinger who was dressed immaculately with pressed trousers, a white cravat and his green Australian Olympic blazer.

Franz was excited to see the men and there was a sense that this meeting had been planned and choreographed. A table was set for the party in a private corner and as the men entered, five beers were brought to the table.

Mairinger greets the men with warm handshakes. “Gentlemen, please be seated.” He looked at each man, “Firstly let me welcome you to the start of our Olympic campaign. We are now a Team. We will represent this country at the upcoming Rome Olympics. You and your horses have been chosen as this country’s best chance at success. However, there is a much more important reason that you are all here. Let me explain. Four years ago, the Olympic Committee presented me with this jacket. When I enquired as to these two strange creatures that are on your Coat of Arms, I was told one was an emu, a strange looking bird that can’t fly, and the other was a kangaroo that can only hop. My immediate thoughts were, what ridiculous creatures to have on a country’s Coat of Arms. You see, I am used to a country showing their strength by having creatures such as eagles, lions and even dragons on their Coat of Arms. This year, I was given my second Olympic blazer and I asked Mr Horden why we have these two animals on our Coat of Arms. His answer was simple; they’re both native to Australia, and their significance is that neither can take a step backwards. That simple answer made me realise that not all about this country and its people is always, as it seems. You see gentlemen, you have been chosen because I believe that you too have shown that you will not take a step backwards. And I have a feeling there is more to learn about you, the Australian horseman.”

 

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Mairinger had every intention of building this Team into a tight unit that must be willing to die for each other. They would show respect and dedication to their Teammates and each man will give his all.

Swimmers love to win a race but there is no greater feeling than to win a relay as part of a team. A surfer enjoys riding a wave, but five men sitting shoulder to shoulder in a surf boat as it screens down the face of a wave, share an experience that can make your heart feel like it will burst through your chest. To develop this camaraderie was a major part of Mairinger’s game plan, he knew that this mateship was part of the Australian culture and it was something that he admired greatly and he would use it to the Team’s advantage. It was also something he himself was keen to be a part of.

Lavis, who had spent time with Mairinger in training over the last four years, knew the man very well. He would fit nicely into the Australian way and Mairinger had already proven himself as a mate and mentor to Lavis. “Too right, Mr Mairinger, there ain’t anyone here who’ll take a step backward.”

Morgan loves the feeling Mairinger has created with his simple speech. “We’re with you Franz. What have you got in mind?”
“Firstly Neil, please call me Franz, we are all equals here and I have as much responsibility as any man at the table. Our Olympic preparation prior to leaving for Rome will be broken into two parts. In the first part, you will teach me about mateship, being Australian, and the National Anthem.”

Mairinger takes a map from his top pocket and places it on the table in front of the men. Pointing to two Xs on the map, Mairinger says, “We are here.” Whilst pointing to the second X he says, “We will ride as a Team to here.”
Lavis looks at the map intently, “Jeez Franz, that’s about a two week ride!”
“Gentlemen, look at the map more closely. We have five days.”
Roycroft pipes up with a knowing smile, “We’re goin’ over the mountain range fellas.”
“Well done Bill, exactly.”
Morgan points to the second X on the map, “And what’s here Franz?”
“That gentlemen, is the beginning of the second part of our preparation.”
The barmaid arrives with a second round of beers, “Anything else Mr Mairinger?”
“Five meat pies and please keep the beers coming.”

Mairinger raises his glass and toasts to Rome, the men raise their glasses and Morgan adds “To old man emu, never a backward step.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 6 ” Mirrabooka” horsemen of the southern cross.

Australian equestrianism had arrived. We had a style; it was gung-ho, up the guts, no holds barred “never take a backward step”. Of course none of this was at the expense of our horses.

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Franz Mairinger now had four years to mould a Team, find the right horses and train properly to produce the best Team he could. In the first Games, only three riders were required on the Team, if one did not finish, the Team was out. A new rule allowed for four Team members with the final score calculated on the best three results.

Australia had begun to compete abroad and riders with financial backing could go to Europe where Australian riders, after Stockholm, had gained some notoriety.

Back in Australia, Franz Mairinger ran clinics and training camps regularly. The first proper Three Day Events were being run as well as regular One Day training events. The standard was rising. All through this period, Roycroft and Morgan dominated the Australian scene; their determination and commitment after not making the first Team, had only strengthened.
Morgan, within reason, had sorted his differences with Mairinger, but there was always a challenge for Franz to get the message across to these men who took the attitude: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Franz knew better. There was no doubting, that between the quality of Australian Thoroughbreds and the fearless style of the Australian riders, they could more than compete in the cross country and jumping phases, but dressage needed to be worked on. The Australian way of just ‘make it work’ didn’t hold up in the loneliness of the dressage arena. Trying harder doesn’t necessarily make it better. The winning riders could sometimes finish on their dressage scores with no jumping penalties. This had to be the goal, but to win overall, the Australian dressage scores had to be n the pace.

Morgan and Roycroft had driven with a loaded double horse float from Victoria to Bowral in New South Wales, for the next and final Australian training camp. Soon they would know if the work they had done over the past four years had been in vain. Would Mairinger still secretly hold a grudge against Morgan for his prickly hard-to-deal with attitude? Would Roycroft’s age of 45 go against him as it did last time? Morgan himself is also 45, but the difference between Morgan and Roycroft is Morgan’s fitness and strength.

Both men are exceptional riders but we are all a product of our past. Aside from his equestrian prowess, Morgan had been a supreme athlete; a Victorian heavyweight boxing champion, four years with the Fitzroy Football Club and a State representative in rowing and polo. Laurie Morgan’s equestrian achievements were extraordinary, but he excelled across disciplines. Rowing is an exact sport. Every single aspect of the stroke must be mastered and then implemented in a calm, relaxed yet powerful way. There are elements of the sport that cross directly into riding; there is the softness and the flow of a rower as he recovers down the slide to prepare for the next stroke, which requires gentleness, and a caress in order not to adversely interfere with the run of the boat. Only elite rowers understand, there is the moment of the catch, a fraction of a second where every fibre of the athlete’s musculature is switched on, the self control is finite, the connection between the bottom of the rower’s feet on the foot chocks and the end of the oar blade in the water could easily be compared to the connection created between a rider’s seat, legs and hands. Any slip or lack of control in any of the joints of the body will let you down. Anyone who has done both sports to any level will know. Morgan had developed his concentration and self-awareness through his rowing and other sporting experience, this was his point of difference and no-one in the Equestrian Team could have equaled him. He was truly a product of his past.

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In Bowral, all trialists from around Australia had gathered and the results of all competitions throughout Australia, and indeed competitions where Australians had featured throughout Europe, had been monitored and Mairinger was acutely aware of every detail, of every result, of every rider and horse. This was the first time they had all come together in one place and some of the competitors had never met each other.

The men had gathered together on the lawn of a beautiful homestead in the picturesque Southern Highlands. Most are dressed formally in riding regalia with Morgan and Roycroft standing amongst the group noticing that there were plenty of riders with whom they were unfamiliar.

Brian Crago, the only member of the first Team from Stockholm who would be backing up to trial, approached the pair. “G’day Bill, g’day Laurie,” he welcomes, shaking hands with both men. “I was hopin’ you two guys would give it another go.”
Morgan replies in a friendly, but as always, slightly defensive tone, “I told you at the last tryouts Brian, you hadn’t heard the last of us.”
Roycroft, noting the unfamiliar crowd observed, “Bloody hell Brian, who are all these blokes? I don’t think I’ve seen half of ‘em at any of the events I’ve been to in the last couple of years.”
“Yeah most of them are continental riders Bill.”
“Continental riders! I thought this was to pick the Australian Team!”
“Oh they’re Australian Bill. Since we sent our first Team to the Games, any bloke who could afford it has been in Europe for the past couple of years competing with the best to try to make this Team.”
Horden and Mairinger interrupt Crago as they walk out onto the verandah to address the trialists. Horden takes the floor. “Good evening gentlemen and welcome to the 1960 Australian Equestrian Olympic Team trials. Over the next three days you will be competing for a place in this Team. Your performance here, along with results from local and abroad over the past three years, will determine your place in the Team or not. Several of the continental riders gave a knowing smirk and nod to each other. Morgan turns to Roycroft “Here we go.” Horden continues, “I will be taking everything into consideration when selecting the Team to be coached again by Mr Franz Mairinger to represent our Nation in Rome next year. Gentlemen, I wish you all the best in competition and on behalf of our generous host, extend an invitation to you all to partake in light refreshments before tomorrow’s competition.” Waiters mingle amongst the men with trays of refreshments. The group of men go through the formalities of introducing themselves to one another. A man dressed in the finest riding attire approached Crago who was still in conversation with Morgan and Roycroft. He pushes his hand out to Crago in greeting, failing to acknowledge the two older gents. “Crago isn’t it? William Clayton-Thomas, nice to meet you, you’re the only one trying out from the last Team I understand.”
“Nice to meet you. That’s right, other blokes have families and bills to pay, for me I felt like there was some unfinished business to attend to. This is Bill Roycroft and Laurie Morgan.”
“Indeed,” Clayton-Thomas not overly interested in the introduction, “you put up a fair show last time, but hasn’t the sport come a long way?”
Crago responds, a little embarrassed and annoyed at the treatment of his mates. “You might say that, but it’s still just horses and jumps.”
“Yes, I’ve purchased a few good horses whilst I was competing in Europe last summer, a nice stallion, might be able to improve the Australian stock.”
Roycroft, suddenly interested, forces his way into the conversation “What sort of horses you riding?”
“Warmbloods of course, they seem to be taking out everything at the moment, bred for the purpose.”
Now Roycroft is a staunch fan of the Australian Thoroughbred and he believes there is no substitute when is comes to the Three Day Event. “So Thoroughbreds can’t go with ‘em?”
“Thoroughbreds are racehorses Mr Roycroft.” Replied Clayton-Thomas somewhat arrogantly.

This is an interesting perspective on Thoroughbred horses and it still exists today, even more so. The Thoroughbred was bred to race yes, but the great stallions to come to Australia had bloodlines that were developed for steeplechase, hurdles, point-to-point racing and flat racing. Many of these Australian Thoroughbred stallions originated from Ireland where jumps racing was more popular than flat racing, so for 400 years Thoroughbreds were bred to travel at speed with endurance over jumps. Roycroft was very aware of this, but was not interested in sharing his thoughts with this know-it-all. Besides, it gave him an edge that he didn’t want to relinquish.

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A fifth man joins the group and he shakes hands with all. “Nice to meet you, I’m Lavis,
Neil Lavis.”
Morgan, directing his attention to Lavis, “Now here’s a bloke with an interesting horse, what is he mate? Half Draft?”
Lavis replies, “Mirrabooka? Just a splash of Draft Mr Morgan, but he’s 9/10ths Thoroughbred, that’s where he gets his speed and stamina.”

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Mirrabooka was a big solid horse, Morgan could be forgiven for thinking he may have been half Draft. He had a big head with a roman nose and was close to 17 hands. Roycroft found it hard to give a compliment to anything other than a Thoroughbred, but quietly he admired this big friendly fellow. He had all the attributes of the athletic Thoroughbred but with the quiet stoic work ethic of the tiny splash of Draft blood that flowed through his veins. The Draft breeds have been bred for their temperament and work ethic for thousands of years. Though Mirrabooka could run with the best of them, his ancestors had helped build this country by snigging logs, dragging wagons and clearing roads. They had been line bred for their ability to work with people, to know their job and do it willingly. Many Australian Thoroughbred horses have in their lineage the odd “bred from a station mare”. A station mare was often an all-rounder, regularly tainted with a splash of Draft, though this was not readily admitted and so the Australian Thoroughbred has a little hybrid vigour. In reality, this is what Mirrabooka was, for all intents and purposes, an Australian Thoroughbred. He had just never been registered. The Draft breeds tend to be more upright in the shoulder than the long striding Thoroughbred, this leads to a more elevated front action, a trait sought after and developed in the European Warmbloods. Mirrabooka, by sheer luck, had been born with it and he was a nice mix. The name Mirrabooka, is Aboriginal for Southern Cross.

Directing his conversation to Clayton-Thomas, Roycroft comments, “Speed and stamina, that’s exactly what you need in a horse Neil.”

Clayton-Thomas responds with a I-know-better-attitude, “As I said Mr Roycroft, Thoroughbreds are racehorses. Good day gentlemen, see you on the course tomorrow.”

Roycroft can finally say what he thinks, “Bloody Warmblood, I thought half the competition was about speed and stamina.” Roycroft is in good company, all of the men are strong supporters of the Thoroughbred, three will ride ex-racehorses and Lavis’ horse, though bigger, has unmistakable Thoroughbred breeding.

Morgan, calming his loyal and passionate Thoroughbred supporting mate, “Settle Bill, we’ll sort that out tomorrow; we’ll show them why you can’t go past a Thoroughbred. Now are we gonna walk this course? Lavis, eager to learn from this well known and experienced horseman pipes up, “Do you mind if I join you Mr Morgan? ”
“No, you’re right mate, and Bill can have a talk to you about that horse of yours.” With that, the four men walk off laughing and immediately begin to walk the course.

Mairinger and Horden watch as the four men walk away, Mairinger turns to Horden “That could well be our Team there Sam.
“You could be right Franz, let’s see what the boys coming back from Europe are like. Both Bill and Laurie have had some good results in some of the local events. Age doesn’t seem to stop them.” Mairinger, slightly confused at the direction the men were walking comments, “They do know they’re walking in the opposite direction that the course will be run tomorrow, don’t they Sam?”
“It’s a funny thing Franz, I’ve noticed that men from the land who compete, always walk the course in the opposite direction the day before they ride it. They reckon it gives them a true indication of the lay of the land.” At this point, he is pulled aside to be introduced to some dignitaries, leaving Mairinger alone to look at the four men walking into the sunset and he comments out loud to himself, “You are never too old to learn something new.”

 

Part 5 “Mirrabooka” Horseman of the southern cross

A week later the Team for the 1956 Olympics is announced; Wood, Jacobs, Crago, Barker, Winchester and Thompson. Both Roycroft and Morgan are conspicuous in their absence. It was largely believed that Roycroft, in his 40s, was omitted due to his age. Most of the riders selected were in there 20s or early 30s.

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Roycroft was not impressed; he believed he had done enough to be selected. He had put his life on hold at the time, which for a father with a young family, was a much bigger deal than some of the young guys who were being supported by their parents. He had shown his abilities and he felt he had more than equaled all of the other trialists. It came down to age, something he couldn’t control. Roycroft was far from finished, though outwardly he supported the effort, just below the surface of his polite exterior was a burning desire to prove that he could do it. He would now have to wait for the next opportunity and continue to improve himself in four years and being four years older, push for another chance. As always, the challenger needs to be good enough to knock out a champion to prove his supremacy, take the referee out of the equations by being so good that they can’t leave you out. And in doing so, he would leave no stone unturned.

Morgan was filthy; he had no doubt that he had gotten off on the wrong foot with Mairinger. But he should have been shown more respect; no-one had worked, or was willing to work, as hard as him. There was talk that he was a risk due to his professional status as a football player. In these days the Olympics were strictly amateur, any hint of professionalism could be an embarrassment to Australia in the midst of holding its first Olympics. This didn’t placate Morgan and as he argued the point, he tried to rebuke his professional status but underneath he felt no matter what he did, he had ruined his chances of making it to the Games. Morgan wasn’t finished and he pooled his resources and garnished assistance from friends and relatives. When the Australian Team left for preparation in England, he was hot on their heals. Maybe someone would pull out, possibly an injury or illness, and should that opportunity arise to grab a spot, he would grab it. He entered all the competitions that the Australian Team entered and on most occasions beat most of them. He was proving to everyone that he was the better athlete and he would show them that they had made the wrong choice. Mairinger would have to admit he had made a mistake.

Maringar could not help but admire Morgan’s tenacity, what a competitor, what commitment, what potential. Morgan’s efforts were not wasted and they had been noted and stored by Franz for a later date, but for now he needed to focus on the task at hand.

The Australians competed at every opportunity, they rode borrowed horses and with limited preparation performed admirably. They developed a reputation for dash and courage, riding rounds on the cross-country fearlessly at high speed, but unfortunately there is nowhere to hide in the dressage arena and weaknesses were exposed by keen but green riders on horses sound and honest, but unfamiliar.

The Australian riders were gathered in a hotel room in Stockholm Sweden, the location for the Melbourne Olympic equestrian events. A newspaper article heralded the arrival of the Australian Jumping Team with a cartoon depicting an Australain aboriginal riding a kangaroo in the style of a bushranger.

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Dave Woods, the Captain of the Team, throws the paper on the table, “Looks like they are taking it pretty seriously.” he said with an air of disappointment.

“Any publicity is good publicity.” replied Horden. He had achieved his goal, Australia would compete and anything more from this point forward would be a bonus.

“Look on the bright side,” said Bunty Thompson, “if we don’t aim up no-one at home will even know about it!”

Crago is quick to find a positive in the room full of doubt. “Yeah, and when we win the gold medal no bastard will know about it either.”

The men’s laughter is broken as Mairinger enters the room. “Good to see you in good spirits gentleman, could I have everyone gather around the table for a moment please?”

Tomorrow the competition begins with the Dressage. To prepare a horse properly for the Olympics takes five years, we have had five months. Dressage is the specialty of the Continental riders, they have practiced it here in its classical form for 2,500 years. You have worked hard and are well on the right track, however five months can be no substitute for generations of tradition.

Do not be surprised or dejected if, at the end of the first day, we are behind. The second day is ours – speed and endurance. It has been generations since the Europeans rode this style for practical reasons. In Australia however, your lives have been based on it. As children you trotted miles to school, jumping all obstacles on the way. As adults you have ridden as stockmen, for hours mustering cattle and sheep. This is where we will come to the fore.

Gentlemen, you are the first Australians to compete on horseback at the Olympic level. Where you place is irrelevant, you have achieved your Olympic Dream. We are here, go out and do your country proud. The enormity of what has been achieved hits home suddenly and the relaxed air is gone. Yes they were behind the eight ball, but it is not the Australian way to just go out there and compete. There is stirring in the gut of the men as they contemplate the task at hand and they will certainly give it a serious crack.

In the warm up area for the cross county, Dave Woods rides up to Brian Crago who is about to start his round. “Lickety-split mate, don’t look back.” Crago replies with his usual humorous vibe, “By the time I finish this round they’ll be mentioning my name with
Betty Cuthbert and Dawn Fraser.” He smiles but his normal confidence is dented by the enormity of the occasion.

The starter commences the countdown with Crago on his horse standing in the 10 second box. Today he is riding for his country, it’s not about money it’s not about impressing the girls, this is the real deal and he will give it all he has. “4,3,2,1” Crago explodes out of the box and he attacks the first jump like it is the last he will ever ride; he is away. Over the loud speaker, the commentator crackles “And there goes the 3rd Australian rider, after a very poor day yesterday the Australians have been impressive to say the least on a daunting course, their previous two riders have gone clear and fast, and a good ride by this rider Crago, could actually see them in the standings.”

Crago rides like a man possessed, the crowd cheers as he shows no respect for the intimidating cross country course, his borrowed horse is bold, not the kind of horse he is used to, but he has obviously bought into Crago’s belief that nothing is too hard. At the halfway point, Crago’s round is the quickest to this point and he is starting to make ground on the rider in front of him, a German competitor who started his round a minute in front of his. It gradually becomes apparent that Crago will need to pass him. It is touch and go as to whether he should try to pass him prior to the next jump. Crago decides that patients is the better option and he slows his horse to a trot in order to let the German negotiate what is a fairly complicated water combination. A massive woven log of 1.2 meters with an equal spread,  a 1.5 meter drop into the water, one stride to a structure of giant woven bottles in the water with a height of 1 metre, two strides then up a 1 metre bank to exit the water.

The crowd has gathered at this jump though the line is straightforward, the water is relatively deep and many have fallen here today. The German’s horse is struggling with the round; he is obviously tired and needs to be urged on with the crop. He is put off slightly by the crowd, and finding a bad takeoff point at the first element, he scrambles over the massive woven log dragging his back end, the landing in the water is awkward to say the least  the one stride to the next element becomes a bumbling trot, he stops and hesitates before launching At the jump, his impetus all but gone The rider urges him on, he jumps early but the heavy water holds him back and he lands in the middle of the woven bottle element. The jumps construction is flimsy and with the horse scrambling all over it, it begins to disintegrate. The horse is now in a horrible tangled mess, trapped, his hindquarters awkwardly in the air he is unable to free himself and it is a life and death struggle to keep his head above water level.

image

 

The German is thrown clear and is stunned as he surveys the scene and he hasn’t got a clue where to start. No one from the crowd moves to help. Crago, who has been held up and has watched the drama unfold, can see that if nothing happens quickly this horse will get a lung full of water and will be doomed. Crago jumps from his horse, and without hesitation enters the water. In a split second he is at the horse’s head, placing his knee under the horse’s cheek he holds the horse by the nose. Once he has broken the alignment of the horse’s spine, the horse surrenders as a zebra to a lion. The struggling ceases immediately and Crago holds the horse calmly, reassuring him until help arrives and the jump is dismantled. Crago releases the horse who has a big shake and is led, hardly the worse from the experience, out of the water.

There in no doubt Crago has saved his life. Unfortunately, Crago’s round is a mess and he now has 60 penalties for dismounting on course and with the extended delay in rebuilding the course the individual times are horribly mixed up. Crago receives ridiculous time penalties but they are irrelevant, the 60 point penalty for the dismount has ended the Australian Team’s slim chances of a medal.

Later in the day, Teams are seeing to their horses, washing down and packing up. The German Coach approaches Franz Mairinger. “A nasty incident out there today Franz.”
“Yes, you almost lost a horse.”
“But you lost a medal, what that rider did is tantamount to treason.”
“It is a pity about the medal, but that horse would have drowned.”
“There are many horses Franz, sometimes sacrifices must be made. No doubt your rider will be disciplined”.

Mairinger is disgusted at the attitude of the German Coach, who obviously puts medals well ahead of horses’ welfare. Franz loves the competition but not as much as he loves his horses.
“This attitude is the reason I left the School, the love of horses is being lost on the continent. These Australians still have the belief that a horse and rider are partners; the horse is not a machine to be discarded at the drop of a hat. It is for this reason that they will win medals, no, not at these Games, but as long as they can maintain this honest respect for their equine partners, the medals will come.”
The German scoffs at Franz’s honest spoken heartfelt words. “Beautiful words Franz, but words do not win medals.”

Maringar approaches Crago who is shattered that he had let his Teammates down. Crago speaks before Mairinger can get a word in. “I’m sorry Franz, I really am, I’ve let you down. I know I cost us a bloody medal. I’m sorry Franz. I just couldn’t leave that horse to drown mate. I just couldn’t do it.”

Mairinger, smiling, places his hand on Crago’s shoulder, “You have nothing to be sorry for. If anything, I want to thank you.”
“Thank me? For what?”
“For reminding me of the reason I took this job and how much I love horses. We certainly have something here amongst us Australians that is sadly missing elsewhere. I am heartened by what I have seen and found here amongst you and your Teammates. We will be back.”

Maringar places his arm warmly around Crago’s shoulders and they walk off. The ice has been broken, now the serious work with four years to prepare horse and rider for the next Games to be held in Rome, begins. No stone will be left unturned.

re training the ex racehorse part 10

 

Once the work in hand and lunging are established it is time to start the horse under
saddle. All of the systematic work previously carried out has led us to this point.
If the horse is working with the four essentials, forward contact on the outside reign,inside flexion, tempo and Rhythm you can be pretty certain that there will be a smooth transition to the ridden work.
By this time, any idiosyncrasies the horse may have should have been exposed, if at any time you are uncertain about mounting the horse seek experienced assistance.
Every workout at this point should move through work in hand into a minimum of 20
minutes lunging or however long it takes to have the horse traveling as you would like him to whilst ridden.

.

“Prince Thorbro” blue print for the life of a racehorse.

My old man was a punter and a pretty serious one at one stage. As I got more and more involved in horses Dad and one of our mates, Thorny, decided they would breed a racehorse. Dad decided he wanted to enjoy the journey, a good idea considering most horses bred to race don’t even make it to the track.

Dad got into it, researching bloodlines and decided what he wanted to breed. It so happened that a girl I was working with was looking to lease her thoroughbred mare as a broodmare for a season so Dad looked at the breeding and it suited the stallion he wanted to use. Now truth be known, all thoroughbreds trace back to four stallions and it wouldn’t matter which bloodline you follow, it will lead you to some champion who did something impressive within a generation or two.

So we picked up the mare, she was small, not 15 hands but she was solid. We put her on the float and drove her to the stallion up in the Hunter Valley. This was all an adventure for Dad who hadn’t had much hands-on experience with horses. We met the stallion, a big solid fella of 16 hands. County was his name and as Dad constantly reminded us, he was the son of Vain and he was by the great Wilkes. Didn’t mean much to me but it had Dad psyched.

You should have seen the excitement when we got news of a positive pregnancy test, champaign all round! We picked the mare up and bought her back from the Hunter. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in a paddock full of massive shire horses at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Valley. Dad visited her every couple of weeks and gave us in-depth reports of how the pregnancy was going. As the big day approached, Dad moved down to the farm and stayed on his own with the mare, he wanted to be there for the birth “in case there were any issues” not that he would have known what to do in any case. He got there 10 days before the birth because “they do sometimes come early”. 10 days after the due date, Dad was still waiting. Finally, it looked like this would be the day, the mare was waxed up and things were looking imminent. Dad sat with her in the heat all day long. The foal didn’t arrive so he sat there all night; still no foal, he was starting to worry. At 6.00 am he went to bed exhausted, at
7.00 am the caretaker woke him up to say “Congratulations you have a new foal.”

The excitement cancelled out the disappointment of missing the birth. “Prince Thorbro” had arrived. There was much conjecture over the name but it had to have the word Prince in it, one of our friend’s big draft mares had died in foal a couple of days earlier, her name was Princess and Dad had nursed her through her final hours.

I was with Prince as early as I could be on the day he was born. I wanted to implement some imprinting principles. Ideally you want to be there at the birth, but you can only do your best. I sat with Prince and his mum all day, by the end of the day I could handle him all over, I could restrain him, move him around with finger pressure and touch him all over. He had had the clippers on him a halter and was leading gently, he was happy to be with me and his mum was fine with it.

image

In the first week I put him on and off the float, bagged him down and put a girth on him. After a week, I left him alone with mum to do as he pleased. My friend wanted to separate him from the herd so he wouldn’t get hurt, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as naturally as possible. No one educates horses as well as other horses. Prince spent the next six months with mum at Kangaroo Valley in the herd of giant Shires playing with foals his age that were as big as his mum.

At around six months, we brought him to Sydney with mum, we had a paddock in Coogee believe it or not. In the middle of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, backing onto a Defence Force property, I had about five horses there, a round yard, a massive dam and a full cross country course which I had built to train on.

Prince was an independent little fella who didn’t hang around with his mum, but spent time with the other horses. He ate with mum and this worked well because she was a great eater, he learnt that if he didn’t eat up, he missed out. Being a good eater is imperative for a good racehorse, you can’t run without fuel.

Prince spent less and less time with his mum. At the same time, I had a half draft mare in the paddock, she was to have foaled but it had turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. She went through the whole process and nothing happened, she did however produce plenty of milk, which Prince discovered. I’m not sure who adopted who, but Prince was soon feeding happily from the big girl, he was happy with his wet nurse, she was happy with her surrogate foal and mum got rid of that pesky foal who was eating all of her tucker and ruining her boobs. Shortly after, we returned Prince’s mum to her owner. Mum didn’t fret, Prince didn’t fret and it was the easiest weaning you could ever ask for. Dad spent more and more time with Prince, he hand fed him and spent day on end just hanging around with him, it was good for both of them.

I did loads of groundwork with him over the next year or so and I think he saw me as his big brother, the imprinting done at birth was worth every minute, he trusted me implicitly, farriers, vets, dentists none could believe how easy he was to deal with. On one occasion, when someone left the gate open, Prince, my leopard Appaloosa, our son’s miniature pony Tuppence and Archie the shire horse; and at that time the biggest horse in the southern hemisphere, decided to go exploring. I was working at the Mounted Police at the time and we got a call to say that there were horses running loose on Anzac Parade. The location was about halfway between my paddock and Randwick Racecourse. I had my fingers crossed that the runaways were horses from the track. No such luck; the motley crew had galloped for about three kilometres down the medium strip on Anzac Parade in peak hour traffic. Anyone who knows Sydney, knows how busy that road is in the morning. Luckily no one was hurt and Prince made the papers before he even started racing. I rode the big draft horse home with the motley crew following behind.

 

It was about this time that tragedy befell my family. My younger brother, aged only 27, died of cancer. It was devastating. We all have to deal with this stuff in our lives, but things like this really do change who we are, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. My Mum and Dad did it tough, you’re not supposed to outlive your kids. Prince became a bit of a crutch for Dad and he spent every minute he could at the paddock, sometimes just sitting and quietly watching and sometimes hand feeding or fixing fences. Prince was a great distraction – something to focus on. I just made myself busy. Prince was a part of that, I just kept busy as it stopped me thinking; I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being busy since.

image

As a result of our constant hands-on contact with Prince, he was like part of the family. He was the centre of every conversation – he was something positive we could all share. By the time Prince had reached the age to be broken in, he was so well handled it was just a matter of getting on and riding him. I worked and educated him as I would one of my eventers, or a Police horse. He worked around the streets of the eastern suburbs calmly in the traffic, he built a nice dressage foundation and popped over a few fences. To get him used to working confidently amongst other horses, we did troop drill with the Mounted Police. We worked in a section of four and even did a practice for the Police Musical Ride with the Police Band. We did light half-pace gallop work around a local Australian Rules football field. His dressage was going so nicely I decided to enter him into a competition. He performed admirably at a local show and came home with a first place ribbon. He competed up to elementary level.

image

Occasionally I rode him to Maroubra beach before light and did laps at the canter in the soft sand, before coaching a rowing crew at the same beach and then going to work at the Mounted Police followed by working my competition horses in the afternoon. As I said, I kept busy. We did the same thing at Brighton beach. When we lost our paddock at Coogee, we kept Prince at an abandoned lawn bowling club at St George in Sydney’s south; a few warm up laps on the green, a 10 minute trot through parks and along grass verges to the beach. When the tide was out we could gallop half pace on the firm sand or in ankle deep water for 15 minutes without having to stop, it was a bit hairy in the dark but what a wonderful experience on a warm summer’s morning. We went swimming in Botany Bay once a week, right next to the runway at Sydney airport, he didn’t even sweat jumbo jets taking off and landing beside him.

Finally it was time for Prince to become a racehorse. One of my friends, Karen from the Mounted Police, was married to a vet who had decided to take up training racehorses. Karen was a great rider and horsewoman, short-listed for the Sydney Olympics. She was to ride Prince in his trackwork, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Prince floated from the trainer’s place where he lived, to Rosehill racecourse for work each day, with Dad turning up regularly to watch him work and keep us up to speed on his progress. Prince lived in a paddock, no stressed-out stable life for him, he was very happy. His training came along nicely and when he spelled he came back to me and when possible we snuck in another dressage day, even race-fit he was obedient and relaxed.

The day came when Prince was ready to race. He was to start at Cessnock, a country track in the
Hunter Valley. Myself, Dad and our mate Thorny, the Thor in “Prince Thorbro” traveled three hours in the car, it was a stinking hot day in the high thirties. Prince arrived and was more fired up than I had ever seen, pawing and anxious in the tie up stalls. Karen got him out of the stall and walked him around the parade ring and we went to checked him out; he was in awesome condition. However, as he was not stabled, his coat was bleached out and he had gone from a dark bay to a wishy-washy light brown colour – almost buckskin. Two experts stood beside us as we watched him parade, “Now you can tell this one hasn’t got a hope, look at his coat you can tell he isn’t healthy, probably shouldn’t be here, looks wormy.”

image

 

They went to the barriers, one horse played up for a long time, refusing to go in. Prince stood sensibly until the troublemaker was scratched. The tension was terrible it was like your first kid’s first day at school, all excitement and pride and still concern for how he will cope.

They were off. Prince jumped well and went to the front immediately, he had led in a race. We heard his name over the loud speaker! “Prince Thorbro leads by a length and a half.” We looked at each other with a satisfied smile; the journey had finally come to the racetrack. Prince was battling on, Dad and Thorny, as seasoned punters, were concerned, could he hold on? I was choked up with the emotion of my baby running in a race. They hit the straight, Prince still had the lead, the finish line was looming and it looked like he was gonna win! Was he gonna win? He is gonna win!! He is gonna win!!! Woooohoooooo!! He Won!!! He Won!!!! He Won!!!!!

image

Now to say we were excited was a serious understatement, I lost all control of my emotions; I was like another person, I was almost speaking in tongues. My gosh, we had won a maiden at Cessnock, there was no doubt in my mind that the serious, hands-on approach of breeding, raising, breaking and pretraining Prince made the experience all the more emotional but what must it feel like to win the Melbourne Cup? I don’t think I have another level of emotion to go to, I fear I would just spontaneously combust into a pile of ash on the ground.

I can’t imagine owners who have just paid the bills and seen a few track work sessions could possibly feel the way Dad and I had felt that day, what a sense of achievement. Prince pulled up well and we celebrated well into the night. Prince went on to win a couple of races and at one stage someone offered us four times what we thought he was worth but we were never going to take it. What a joy it was to be involved to such an extent.

Prince retired as a four year old and went on to do a few more dressage comps. Almost from the day he stopped racing, I used him to give lessons, such was his education and the trust I had in him. I gave my kids and others lessons on him and he would lunge beautifully with constant rhythm and tempo allowing total novices to develop their seat or pop over jumps kindly and calmly, coping with clumsy hands or lack of balance.

One of my students, who particularly loved Prince and had many lessons on him, was moving to the country. She was a vet student and had spent a year with me learning horsemanship and riding skills. Prince went with her, as I knew he would be well looked after.

Prince is now in his 20s and is fat, happy and gets ridden occasionally and life is good.

This is how the life of a racehorse should read. I learnt a lot from Prince and he helped our family through a tough time, we couldn’t have done it better.

“Prince Thorbro” blue print for the life of a racehorse.

My old man was a punter and a pretty serious one at one stage. As I got more and more involved in horses Dad and one of our mates, Thorny, decided they would breed a racehorse. Dad decided he wanted to enjoy the journey, a good idea considering most horses bred to race don’t even make it to the track.

Dad got into it, researching bloodlines and decided what he wanted to breed. It so happened that a girl I was working with was looking to lease her thoroughbred mare as a broodmare for a season so Dad looked at the breeding and it suited the stallion he wanted to use. Now truth be known, all thoroughbreds trace back to four stallions and it wouldn’t matter which bloodline you follow, it will lead you to some champion who did something impressive within a generation or two.

So we picked up the mare, she was small, not 15 hands but she was solid. We put her on the float and drove her to the stallion up in the Hunter Valley. This was all an adventure for Dad who hadn’t had much hands-on experience with horses. We met the stallion, a big solid fella of 16 hands. County was his name and as Dad constantly reminded us, he was the son of Vain and he was by the great Wilkes. Didn’t mean much to me but it had Dad psyched.

You should have seen the excitement when we got news of a positive pregnancy test, champaign all round! We picked the mare up and bought her back from the Hunter. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in a paddock full of massive shire horses at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Valley. Dad visited her every couple of weeks and gave us in-depth reports of how the pregnancy was going. As the big day approached, Dad moved down to the farm and stayed on his own with the mare, he wanted to be there for the birth “in case there were any issues” not that he would have known what to do in any case. He got there 10 days before the birth because “they do sometimes come early”. 10 days after the due date, Dad was still waiting. Finally, it looked like this would be the day, the mare was waxed up and things were looking imminent. Dad sat with her in the heat all day long. The foal didn’t arrive so he sat there all night; still no foal, he was starting to worry. At 6.00 am he went to bed exhausted, at
7.00 am the caretaker woke him up to say “Congratulations you have a new foal.”

The excitement cancelled out the disappointment of missing the birth. “Prince Thorbro” had arrived. There was much conjecture over the name but it had to have the word Prince in it, one of our friend’s big draft mares had died in foal a couple of days earlier, her name was Princess and Dad had nursed her through her final hours.

I was with Prince as early as I could be on the day he was born. I wanted to implement some imprinting principles. Ideally you want to be there at the birth, but you can only do your best. I sat with Prince and his mum all day, by the end of the day I could handle him all over, I could restrain him, move him around with finger pressure and touch him all over. He had had the clippers on him a halter and was leading gently, he was happy to be with me and his mum was fine with it.

image

In the first week I put him on and off the float, bagged him down and put a girth on him. After a week, I left him alone with mum to do as he pleased. My friend wanted to separate him from the herd so he wouldn’t get hurt, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as naturally as possible. No one educates horses as well as other horses. Prince spent the next six months with mum at Kangaroo Valley in the herd of giant Shires playing with foals his age that were as big as his mum.

At around six months, we brought him to Sydney with mum, we had a paddock in Coogee believe it or not. In the middle of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, backing onto a Defence Force property, I had about five horses there, a round yard, a massive dam and a full cross country course which I had built to train on.

Prince was an independent little fella who didn’t hang around with his mum, but spent time with the other horses. He ate with mum and this worked well because she was a great eater, he learnt that if he didn’t eat up, he missed out. Being a good eater is imperative for a good racehorse, you can’t run without fuel.

Prince spent less and less time with his mum. At the same time, I had a half draft mare in the paddock, she was to have foaled but it had turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. She went through the whole process and nothing happened, she did however produce plenty of milk, which Prince discovered. I’m not sure who adopted who, but Prince was soon feeding happily from the big girl, he was happy with his wet nurse, she was happy with her surrogate foal and mum got rid of that pesky foal who was eating all of her tucker and ruining her boobs. Shortly after, we returned Prince’s mum to her owner. Mum didn’t fret, Prince didn’t fret and it was the easiest weaning you could ever ask for. Dad spent more and more time with Prince, he hand fed him and spent day on end just hanging around with him, it was good for both of them.

I did loads of groundwork with him over the next year or so and I think he saw me as his big brother, the imprinting done at birth was worth every minute, he trusted me implicitly, farriers, vets, dentists none could believe how easy he was to deal with. On one occasion, when someone left the gate open, Prince, my leopard Appaloosa, our son’s miniature pony Tuppence and Archie the shire horse; and at that time the biggest horse in the southern hemisphere, decided to go exploring. I was working at the Mounted Police at the time and we got a call to say that there were horses running loose on Anzac Parade. The location was about halfway between my paddock and Randwick Racecourse. I had my fingers crossed that the runaways were horses from the track. No such luck; the motley crew had galloped for about three kilometres down the medium strip on Anzac Parade in peak hour traffic. Anyone who knows Sydney, knows how busy that road is in the morning. Luckily no one was hurt and Prince made the papers before he even started racing. I rode the big draft horse home with the motley crew following behind.

 

It was about this time that tragedy befell my family. My younger brother, aged only 27, died of cancer. It was devastating. We all have to deal with this stuff in our lives, but things like this really do change who we are, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. My Mum and Dad did it tough, you’re not supposed to outlive your kids. Prince became a bit of a crutch for Dad and he spent every minute he could at the paddock, sometimes just sitting and quietly watching and sometimes hand feeding or fixing fences. Prince was a great distraction – something to focus on. I just made myself busy. Prince was a part of that, I just kept busy as it stopped me thinking; I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being busy since.

image

As a result of our constant hands-on contact with Prince, he was like part of the family. He was the centre of every conversation – he was something positive we could all share. By the time Prince had reached the age to be broken in, he was so well handled it was just a matter of getting on and riding him. I worked and educated him as I would one of my eventers, or a Police horse. He worked around the streets of the eastern suburbs calmly in the traffic, he built a nice dressage foundation and popped over a few fences. To get him used to working confidently amongst other horses, we did troop drill with the Mounted Police. We worked in a section of four and even did a practice for the Police Musical Ride with the Police Band. We did light half-pace gallop work around a local Australian Rules football field. His dressage was going so nicely I decided to enter him into a competition. He performed admirably at a local show and came home with a first place ribbon. He competed up to elementary level.

image

Occasionally I rode him to Maroubra beach before light and did laps at the canter in the soft sand, before coaching a rowing crew at the same beach and then going to work at the Mounted Police followed by working my competition horses in the afternoon. As I said, I kept busy. We did the same thing at Brighton beach. When we lost our paddock at Coogee, we kept Prince at an abandoned lawn bowling club at St George in Sydney’s south; a few warm up laps on the green, a 10 minute trot through parks and along grass verges to the beach. When the tide was out we could gallop half pace on the firm sand or in ankle deep water for 15 minutes without having to stop, it was a bit hairy in the dark but what a wonderful experience on a warm summer’s morning. We went swimming in Botany Bay once a week, right next to the runway at Sydney airport, he didn’t even sweat jumbo jets taking off and landing beside him.

Finally it was time for Prince to become a racehorse. One of my friends, Karen from the Mounted Police, was married to a vet who had decided to take up training racehorses. Karen was a great rider and horsewoman, short-listed for the Sydney Olympics. She was to ride Prince in his trackwork, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Prince floated from the trainer’s place where he lived, to Rosehill racecourse for work each day, with Dad turning up regularly to watch him work and keep us up to speed on his progress. Prince lived in a paddock, no stressed-out stable life for him, he was very happy. His training came along nicely and when he spelled he came back to me and when possible we snuck in another dressage day, even race-fit he was obedient and relaxed.

The day came when Prince was ready to race. He was to start at Cessnock, a country track in the
Hunter Valley. Myself, Dad and our mate Thorny, the Thor in “Prince Thorbro” traveled three hours in the car, it was a stinking hot day in the high thirties. Prince arrived and was more fired up than I had ever seen, pawing and anxious in the tie up stalls. Karen got him out of the stall and walked him around the parade ring and we went to checked him out; he was in awesome condition. However, as he was not stabled, his coat was bleached out and he had gone from a dark bay to a wishy-washy light brown colour – almost buckskin. Two experts stood beside us as we watched him parade, “Now you can tell this one hasn’t got a hope, look at his coat you can tell he isn’t healthy, probably shouldn’t be here, looks wormy.”

image

 

They went to the barriers, one horse played up for a long time, refusing to go in. Prince stood sensibly until the troublemaker was scratched. The tension was terrible it was like your first kid’s first day at school, all excitement and pride and still concern for how he will cope.

They were off. Prince jumped well and went to the front immediately, he had led in a race. We heard his name over the loud speaker! “Prince Thorbro leads by a length and a half.” We looked at each other with a satisfied smile; the journey had finally come to the racetrack. Prince was battling on, Dad and Thorny, as seasoned punters, were concerned, could he hold on? I was choked up with the emotion of my baby running in a race. They hit the straight, Prince still had the lead, the finish line was looming and it looked like he was gonna win! Was he gonna win? He is gonna win!! He is gonna win!!! Woooohoooooo!! He Won!!! He Won!!!! He Won!!!!!

image

Now to say we were excited was a serious understatement, I lost all control of my emotions; I was like another person, I was almost speaking in tongues. My gosh, we had won a maiden at Cessnock, there was no doubt in my mind that the serious, hands-on approach of breeding, raising, breaking and pretraining Prince made the experience all the more emotional but what must it feel like to win the Melbourne Cup? I don’t think I have another level of emotion to go to, I fear I would just spontaneously combust into a pile of ash on the ground.

I can’t imagine owners who have just paid the bills and seen a few track work sessions could possibly feel the way Dad and I had felt that day, what a sense of achievement. Prince pulled up well and we celebrated well into the night. Prince went on to win a couple of races and at one stage someone offered us four times what we thought he was worth but we were never going to take it. What a joy it was to be involved to such an extent.

Prince retired as a four year old and went on to do a few more dressage comps. Almost from the day he stopped racing, I used him to give lessons, such was his education and the trust I had in him. I gave my kids and others lessons on him and he would lunge beautifully with constant rhythm and tempo allowing total novices to develop their seat or pop over jumps kindly and calmly, coping with clumsy hands or lack of balance.

One of my students, who particularly loved Prince and had many lessons on him, was moving to the country. She was a vet student and had spent a year with me learning horsemanship and riding skills. Prince went with her, as I knew he would be well looked after.

Prince is now in his 20s and is fat, happy and gets ridden occasionally and life is good.

This is how the life of a racehorse should read. I learnt a lot from Prince and he helped our family through a tough time, we couldn’t have done it better.

“Prince Thorbro” blue print for the life of a racehorse.

My old man was a punter and a pretty serious one at one stage. As I got more and more involved in horses Dad and one of our mates, Thorny, decided they would breed a racehorse. Dad decided he wanted to enjoy the journey, a good idea considering most horses bred to race don’t even make it to the track.

Dad got into it, researching bloodlines and decided what he wanted to breed. It so happened that a girl I was working with was looking to lease her thoroughbred mare as a broodmare for a season so Dad looked at the breeding and it suited the stallion he wanted to use. Now truth be known, all thoroughbreds trace back to four stallions and it wouldn’t matter which bloodline you follow, it will lead you to some champion who did something impressive within a generation or two.

So we picked up the mare, she was small, not 15 hands but she was solid. We put her on the float and drove her to the stallion up in the Hunter Valley. This was all an adventure for Dad who hadn’t had much hands-on experience with horses. We met the stallion, a big solid fella of 16 hands. County was his name and as Dad constantly reminded us, he was the son of Vain and he was by the great Wilkes. Didn’t mean much to me but it had Dad psyched.

You should have seen the excitement when we got news of a positive pregnancy test, champaign all round! We picked the mare up and bought her back from the Hunter. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in a paddock full of massive shire horses at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Valley. Dad visited her every couple of weeks and gave us in-depth reports of how the pregnancy was going. As the big day approached, Dad moved down to the farm and stayed on his own with the mare, he wanted to be there for the birth “in case there were any issues” not that he would have known what to do in any case. He got there 10 days before the birth because “they do sometimes come early”. 10 days after the due date, Dad was still waiting. Finally, it looked like this would be the day, the mare was waxed up and things were looking imminent. Dad sat with her in the heat all day long. The foal didn’t arrive so he sat there all night; still no foal, he was starting to worry. At 6.00 am he went to bed exhausted, at
7.00 am the caretaker woke him up to say “Congratulations you have a new foal.”

The excitement cancelled out the disappointment of missing the birth. “Prince Thorbro” had arrived. There was much conjecture over the name but it had to have the word Prince in it, one of our friend’s big draft mares had died in foal a couple of days earlier, her name was Princess and Dad had nursed her through her final hours.

I was with Prince as early as I could be on the day he was born. I wanted to implement some imprinting principles. Ideally you want to be there at the birth, but you can only do your best. I sat with Prince and his mum all day, by the end of the day I could handle him all over, I could restrain him, move him around with finger pressure and touch him all over. He had had the clippers on him a halter and was leading gently, he was happy to be with me and his mum was fine with it.

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In the first week I put him on and off the float, bagged him down and put a girth on him. After a week, I left him alone with mum to do as he pleased. My friend wanted to separate him from the herd so he wouldn’t get hurt, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as naturally as possible. No one educates horses as well as other horses. Prince spent the next six months with mum at Kangaroo Valley in the herd of giant Shires playing with foals his age that were as big as his mum.

At around six months, we brought him to Sydney with mum, we had a paddock in Coogee believe it or not. In the middle of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, backing onto a Defence Force property, I had about five horses there, a round yard, a massive dam and a full cross country course which I had built to train on.

Prince was an independent little fella who didn’t hang around with his mum, but spent time with the other horses. He ate with mum and this worked well because she was a great eater, he learnt that if he didn’t eat up, he missed out. Being a good eater is imperative for a good racehorse, you can’t run without fuel.

Prince spent less and less time with his mum. At the same time, I had a half draft mare in the paddock, she was to have foaled but it had turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. She went through the whole process and nothing happened, she did however produce plenty of milk, which Prince discovered. I’m not sure who adopted who, but Prince was soon feeding happily from the big girl, he was happy with his wet nurse, she was happy with her surrogate foal and mum got rid of that pesky foal who was eating all of her tucker and ruining her boobs. Shortly after, we returned Prince’s mum to her owner. Mum didn’t fret, Prince didn’t fret and it was the easiest weaning you could ever ask for. Dad spent more and more time with Prince, he hand fed him and spent day on end just hanging around with him, it was good for both of them.

I did loads of groundwork with him over the next year or so and I think he saw me as his big brother, the imprinting done at birth was worth every minute, he trusted me implicitly, farriers, vets, dentists none could believe how easy he was to deal with. On one occasion, when someone left the gate open, Prince, my leopard Appaloosa, our son’s miniature pony Tuppence and Archie the shire horse; and at that time the biggest horse in the southern hemisphere, decided to go exploring. I was working at the Mounted Police at the time and we got a call to say that there were horses running loose on Anzac Parade. The location was about halfway between my paddock and Randwick Racecourse. I had my fingers crossed that the runaways were horses from the track. No such luck; the motley crew had galloped for about three kilometres down the medium strip on Anzac Parade in peak hour traffic. Anyone who knows Sydney, knows how busy that road is in the morning. Luckily no one was hurt and Prince made the papers before he even started racing. I rode the big draft horse home with the motley crew following behind.

 

It was about this time that tragedy befell my family. My younger brother, aged only 27, died of cancer. It was devastating. We all have to deal with this stuff in our lives, but things like this really do change who we are, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. My Mum and Dad did it tough, you’re not supposed to outlive your kids. Prince became a bit of a crutch for Dad and he spent every minute he could at the paddock, sometimes just sitting and quietly watching and sometimes hand feeding or fixing fences. Prince was a great distraction – something to focus on. I just made myself busy. Prince was a part of that, I just kept busy as it stopped me thinking; I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being busy since.

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As a result of our constant hands-on contact with Prince, he was like part of the family. He was the centre of every conversation – he was something positive we could all share. By the time Prince had reached the age to be broken in, he was so well handled it was just a matter of getting on and riding him. I worked and educated him as I would one of my eventers, or a Police horse. He worked around the streets of the eastern suburbs calmly in the traffic, he built a nice dressage foundation and popped over a few fences. To get him used to working confidently amongst other horses, we did troop drill with the Mounted Police. We worked in a section of four and even did a practice for the Police Musical Ride with the Police Band. We did light half-pace gallop work around a local Australian Rules football field. His dressage was going so nicely I decided to enter him into a competition. He performed admirably at a local show and came home with a first place ribbon. He competed up to elementary level.

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Occasionally I rode him to Maroubra beach before light and did laps at the canter in the soft sand, before coaching a rowing crew at the same beach and then going to work at the Mounted Police followed by working my competition horses in the afternoon. As I said, I kept busy. We did the same thing at Brighton beach. When we lost our paddock at Coogee, we kept Prince at an abandoned lawn bowling club at St George in Sydney’s south; a few warm up laps on the green, a 10 minute trot through parks and along grass verges to the beach. When the tide was out we could gallop half pace on the firm sand or in ankle deep water for 15 minutes without having to stop, it was a bit hairy in the dark but what a wonderful experience on a warm summer’s morning. We went swimming in Botany Bay once a week, right next to the runway at Sydney airport, he didn’t even sweat jumbo jets taking off and landing beside him.

Finally it was time for Prince to become a racehorse. One of my friends, Karen from the Mounted Police, was married to a vet who had decided to take up training racehorses. Karen was a great rider and horsewoman, short-listed for the Sydney Olympics. She was to ride Prince in his trackwork, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Prince floated from the trainer’s place where he lived, to Rosehill racecourse for work each day, with Dad turning up regularly to watch him work and keep us up to speed on his progress. Prince lived in a paddock, no stressed-out stable life for him, he was very happy. His training came along nicely and when he spelled he came back to me and when possible we snuck in another dressage day, even race-fit he was obedient and relaxed.

The day came when Prince was ready to race. He was to start at Cessnock, a country track in the
Hunter Valley. Myself, Dad and our mate Thorny, the Thor in “Prince Thorbro” traveled three hours in the car, it was a stinking hot day in the high thirties. Prince arrived and was more fired up than I had ever seen, pawing and anxious in the tie up stalls. Karen got him out of the stall and walked him around the parade ring and we went to checked him out; he was in awesome condition. However, as he was not stabled, his coat was bleached out and he had gone from a dark bay to a wishy-washy light brown colour – almost buckskin. Two experts stood beside us as we watched him parade, “Now you can tell this one hasn’t got a hope, look at his coat you can tell he isn’t healthy, probably shouldn’t be here, looks wormy.”

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They went to the barriers, one horse played up for a long time, refusing to go in. Prince stood sensibly until the troublemaker was scratched. The tension was terrible it was like your first kid’s first day at school, all excitement and pride and still concern for how he will cope.

They were off. Prince jumped well and went to the front immediately, he had led in a race. We heard his name over the loud speaker! “Prince Thorbro leads by a length and a half.” We looked at each other with a satisfied smile; the journey had finally come to the racetrack. Prince was battling on, Dad and Thorny, as seasoned punters, were concerned, could he hold on? I was choked up with the emotion of my baby running in a race. They hit the straight, Prince still had the lead, the finish line was looming and it looked like he was gonna win! Was he gonna win? He is gonna win!! He is gonna win!!! Woooohoooooo!! He Won!!! He Won!!!! He Won!!!!!

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Now to say we were excited was a serious understatement, I lost all control of my emotions; I was like another person, I was almost speaking in tongues. My gosh, we had won a maiden at Cessnock, there was no doubt in my mind that the serious, hands-on approach of breeding, raising, breaking and pretraining Prince made the experience all the more emotional but what must it feel like to win the Melbourne Cup? I don’t think I have another level of emotion to go to, I fear I would just spontaneously combust into a pile of ash on the ground.

I can’t imagine owners who have just paid the bills and seen a few track work sessions could possibly feel the way Dad and I had felt that day, what a sense of achievement. Prince pulled up well and we celebrated well into the night. Prince went on to win a couple of races and at one stage someone offered us four times what we thought he was worth but we were never going to take it. What a joy it was to be involved to such an extent.

Prince retired as a four year old and went on to do a few more dressage comps. Almost from the day he stopped racing, I used him to give lessons, such was his education and the trust I had in him. I gave my kids and others lessons on him and he would lunge beautifully with constant rhythm and tempo allowing total novices to develop their seat or pop over jumps kindly and calmly, coping with clumsy hands or lack of balance.

One of my students, who particularly loved Prince and had many lessons on him, was moving to the country. She was a vet student and had spent a year with me learning horsemanship and riding skills. Prince went with her, as I knew he would be well looked after.

Prince is now in his 20s and is fat, happy and gets ridden occasionally and life is good.

This is how the life of a racehorse should read. I learnt a lot from Prince and he helped our family through a tough time, we couldn’t have done it better.

Part 9 re training the ex racehorse

Once the work in hand has been established it can be extended to lunge work, utilising the same principles, consolidating the outside reign contact with more forward impedus. Working to the horses easiest side initially, generally the left, the best side should have become obvious during the flexion in halter work, fix a long side reign between the girth and the bit on the right side. The side reign should be adjusted so that when the horse is standing relaxed there is no contact on his mouth this will encourage the horse to reach long and low when he seeks out the outside rein contact. Take a long rope lead, slide it through the ring of the bit on the left side and attach it back to the girth on the same side. Holding the lead reasonably close to the bit ask the horse to flex to the inside then ask him to step across with the inside hind leg. Basically we are now working the horse in hand but with only the inside reign available to us, the outside fixed side reign becomes our consistent outside reign. Walk the horse forward applying all of the earlier described principles developed in the work in hand section, as long as the flexion can be maintained to the inside and contact on the outside reign, the distance the handler is from the horse can be gradually increased. Eventually the horse should be lunging around the handler at the walk on the end of the long lead. Once this is consolidate the horse can be moved into trot.

for further and more detailed information see, “Horses from courses” retraining the thoroughbred ex racehorse,  by Scott Brodie on E book available from Apple I books, kindle, Amazon and other E book suppliers.

 

Part 4 ” Mirrabooka” horseman of the southern cross

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Prior to riding out at the Sydney Royal, the competitors were gathered around Sydney Showground’s warm up area listening to Anthony Horden’s glowing, flowery description of Franz Mairinger’s past achievements and what he was offering to the Australian Olympic effort.

Morgan was unimpressed with Horden’s talk. He had been taught by some of the best Australian bush riders; he had never been unable to complete any task undertaken on a horse, he could sit the worst bucking bronco and spin a stock horse on a penny.

Mairinger though Austrian, to the average Australian, has an accent which sounds as German as his name. Australia had just lost thousands of its young men at the hands of Hitler’s regime and the tolerance of the general public of anyone foreign was minimal, the influx of European refugees had and would continue to be a sore point amongst the population.

Morgan could no longer contain his thoughts. “How come we have a Kraut judging us and coaching the Australian team? They were tryin’ to kill us not 10 years ago.”

Horden, whilst taken aback, was only a little surprised that it had taken so long for someone to raise this point.

“Sir, Mr Mairinger is Austrian. The Germans forcibly controlled his country. Gentlemen, I assure you that Mr Mairinger is 100% behind this effort. He has made Australia his new home. Mr. Mairinger comes to us from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, the most acclaimed riding academy in the world, at which he had the honour of being the Head Instructor. Let me assure you, that should you ride well enough today to make the team, you will be in the hands of one of the greatest horsemen of our time. Thank you for your time gentlemen and good luck.”

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Out on the main arena, Mairinger and Horden sat on a raised platform set up for the purpose of judging the event that would largely determine who would represent Australia as it contested for the first time in international equestrian sport. Time is not on their side. To pull together a competitive team from highly schooled jump and dressage riders is a possibility but to take this raw bunch of bush horsemen and mould them into something that could take on the might of European equestrianism, with a thousand years of development and tradition, is a massive ask. In this day and age it would be the equivalent of taking the best pony club kids in the country and preparing them for an Olympic campaign such is the lack of technical knowledge of the Australian riders, this will be Mairinger’s first real chance to see what he had to work with.

Horden was excited at the prospect of his dream finally coming to fruition. This had been some time in the planning and it had taken some effort to convince the Australian Olympic Committee to help with the funds to send a team to Stockholm to represent Australia when “real games” were to be held in Melbourne. This was Australia’s big chance to shine as a young country and our first chance to impress the world as a nation. The equestrian events could not be held in Australia due to our strict quarantine laws and this was almost enough to end the chances of Australia holding the games until it was decided that the equestrian events often held away from the main Olympic events, could just as easily be held in another country. Had Australia not secured the games, Horden may never have been able to convince the Committee to consider the cost of sending a team to Europe. As it was, there was no money for the transport of horses but this was not a major issue, as Franz Mairinger had no doubt it would be impossible to train horses to the standard required in the time available. No, they would need to purchase or borrow horses once they arrived in Europe.

A handsome chestnut thoroughbred with four white socks and a white blaze enters the arena. The rider salutes the judges and the bell rings. The combination canters boldly around the jumps, they approach the first jump and at ever increasing speed, the horse, with no assistance from the rider, jumps from an awkward spot and the rider loses his balance. On landing, the horse takes the bit between his teeth and gallops at breakneck speed across the entire arena. Horden shifts nervously in his seat and apologetically says, “ex racehorse I believe.”

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The next horse enters the ring, a nervous, rangy looking thoroughbred. The horse shies right, then shies left and also shies at the judge’s platform and as the rider salutes, the horse rears and almost flips over. As the combination zigged and zagged towards the first jump, they smash through the first rail and then, largely out of control, do a fairly good job of destroying every jump on the course.
“Love a horse with a bit of dash.” comments Horden.

There is a break whilst the course is rebuilt and Mairinger walks to the warm up area where the black horse, now without his rider on board, is quiet and relaxed.

The rider reaches out to shake hands with Mairinger. “Mr Mairinger, Wally Brown, I met you at Adelaide Show where you were riding Coronation in the dressage. Talk about your beautiful horses, how long did it take you to get him goin’ like that?”
“Yes,” replied Mairinger “a fine horse, I had been schooling him for about two years to get him to that point.”

Brown obviously shocked at the two years to school a horse; “Two years? I don’t have that sort time to commit to a horse, no wonder he went so well!”
Mairinger smiles “Nothing worthwhile comes easily. How long have you owned this fellow?”
Brown, suddenly relishing the ridiculousness of his previous comment, apologises on behalf of the horse, “Oh I’ve had him for five years, but he’ll never be any good.”

Mairinger excuses himself and returns to the judging stand. “Amazing, two years to school a horse to an advanced test is too long, but it is acceptable to ride a beast such as that for five years. There is much to be taught Mr Horden.”

A steady stream of competitors crash, rush and refuse fences. The ring announcer booms out “And in the open jump, we have clear rounds by Roycroft, Morgan, Thompson and Barker. Our last competitor in the event is Brian Crago.”

Crago enters the arena and innocently omits to salute the judges, instead tipping his hat to a group of young ladies in the stand, much to their delight. At the sound of the bell, he turns his horse towards the first jump. He is mounted on his polo pony, the same one who had jumped the fence the previous day at Centennial Park.

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At high speed, he attacks the course and the nimble little horse shines and turns as only a thoroughbred polo pony can. He has shortened the course to the absolute maximum and is the only horse and rider without a fault on the course. At the conclusion, Crago drops his reins and the horse changes demeanour and calmly canters from the arena.

Horden turns to Mairinger “Played polocrosse on that horse this morning they tell me, bit of an all-rounder our Brian. Well Mr Mairinger, you have now seen what you have to work with to pick our first equestrian team. Your thoughts? ”

Mairinger, with an air of wisdom, replied, “There is no questioning the dash and tenacity of the
Australian horsemen, however, in selecting an Olympic Equestrian Team, we must look at more than dash and tenacity. Attitude and coachability will be more important. I will have your team,
Mr Horden, by the end of the week.”

Mairinger and Horden walked through the marshalling yard where horses, still sweaty, exhausted, saddled and bridled are tied to a fence. With a look of concern, Mairinger surveys the scene. He and Horden enter a bar where the show jumping competitors are drinking and discussing the day’s proceedings. Horden and Mairinger approached Bunty Thompson and Ern Barker sitting at a table.

Horden addressed the room. “Congratulations gentleman, we will announce the team by week’s end.”

Mairinger addressed the room. “What is the most important thing to consider in showjumping?”
Barker fired back “I’d say balance, Mr. Mairinger.”
Mairinger directed his speech to Thompson “And what do you think?”
Thompson, worried it was a trick question answered, “Speed and picking the correct take off point.”

“Good answers gentlemen, but the most important thing is your horse; without him you would make hard work of the course. You must learn to respect him like a friend. Would you leave a friend as you have left your horses?”

The two men, obviously embarrassed at their failure to tend to their horses, leave the room and are followed by several others.
Mairinger looks to Morgan still sitting at the table. “And you sir, are quite happy to leave your horse outside without a drink?”
Morgan rises and follows the other riders out of the bar; there is an obvious tension.
Morgan walks to his horse and patting his rump answers Mairinger. “Let’s get one thing straight, this fella here is me mate, and I know how to look after me mates.”

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On closer inspection Mairinger notices that Morgan has left his hat filled with water in front of the horse tied on a loose rein, so that he can drink. Morgan picks up the hat, empties the remaining water, and mounts his horse. They gallop off five or six strides on, slide to a halt and spin to the left on the hind quarters two full turns, he halts abruptly and carries out the same manoeuvre in the other direction. Finally he stops and facing Mairinger, the horse takes two steps back and then lowers its hindquarters further until his front legs lift from the ground in a perfect levade.

Mairinger admires and appreciates true horsemanship, but also recognises that with limited time attitude could be a real hurdle. Morgan’s horse walks calmly away and Morgan is aware that he may have made his point to his own detriment.