Samuel Horden stood at the gate to the property, which will host the training camp, where the men will spend some intense training-time with
Franz Mairinger before leaving for Europe. Horden was best known as a stockbroker and grazier he was an outstanding businessman and had played major roles in the forming of the royal agricultural society and it offiliation with the Australian Olympic comity. Horden was a good looking man 6.5 in height he was well liked and had served his country In numerous theatres of war, he had been a champion rower in his day so understood the commitment needed by athletes to succeed at a high level. Horden was a good negotiator and fundraiser he had set his sights on putting Australia on the map as an equestrian nation. His love of horses and the land his experience as a competitor ,soldier, leader and innovator together with his business prowess would give the Australian team the best support in achieving their goals .
Horden greets the riders, “Good afternoon gentlemen and welcome. I trust that the past five days have been productive?”
Roycroft answers, “G’day Sam, you should’ve come mate, you missed out on a good ride.”
In approval, Mairinger adds, “The last five days have been more than productive, not only for the Team, but also for me.”
The men like Horden they will grow to love him as a mate and Stalwart of their cause. There is nothing about him not to like, he confirms that he has completed the task he had been assigned, “Splendid then. Franz, everything is just as you asked for. The stables and accommodation are ready and the grooms have been briefed on the schedule for the next seven weeks.”
“Excellent.” Mairinger replied, “Gentlemen, we shall have four days rest and then we will commence the next phase of our preparation.”
The men had survived on rations for the last five days and were keen to get some decent food into their bellies.
Unsaddling his horse, Crago announces, “After I’ve put this fella away, I’m gonna take a nice long bath and I reckon a steak and a nice cold beer should hit the spot.”
Horden addresses the men as a group, “Franz has Olympic Committee commitments tonight, so gentlemen please give me the honour of taking you out to dinner and you can tell me all about the past five days.”
Roycroft responds, “Sounds like a date Samuel my son.”
The four Team members, along with their horses, follow a groom, who has taken Mairinger’s horse. Horden, now alone with Franz states, “It’s seven weeks this Wednesday Franz, that we load up to sail to Europe. What are your thoughts on the men? Do we have enough time?”
“The pure love for the horse that Brian showed us at the last Olympics is just as strong in all of these men. Their natural ability and bravery is equal to or better than any rider I have seen. These four men are true horsemen in every sense of the word. The cross country and jumping will come naturally to all of them. It’s the dressage, that is our biggest challenge Samuel.”
“There were more advanced dressage riders to pick from Franz.
Albert Canes had finished in the top 10 in dressage at events in Europe last year. Do you think we should have put in higher ranked dressage riders?”
“Not at all Sam, Dressage is a technical discipline, but to be successful at the highest level, the rider and horse must be as one. Therefore the connection must be absolute and these four men have such a connection.”
“So I’d be right in thinking our dressage arena will be fully utilised in the coming weeks?”
“I believe it will Sam, I believe it will.”
The mood was relaxed and jovial that night, when the Team dined with Horden. Lavis was telling a story of one of Mairinger’s encounters with kangaroos, “You should have seen the look on Franz’s face! Those two big reds stuck with him, they were nearly as tall as his horse! No matter how hard he galloped, they just bounded along beside him, eventually he pulled up and they kept going. I nearly fell off my horse laughing.”
All the men laugh at the thought of poor Franz unaccustomed to these strange animals. Trying to outrun them to no avail.
The laughter ended, with Roycroft raising a question to Horden that he and Morgan had discussed numerous times but had never come up with a satisfactory answer, “So tell me Anthony, you’re a pretty successful businessman. What’s made you want to put all this effort into this Team? I know you don’t get any money from it, in Fact I’m told its cost you plenty, So what’s the go?”
Crago chimes in, “Yeah mate, I’ve always wondered what the driving force behind you was. Why are you so passionate about this?”
The entire table waits for Horden’s response.
Horden answered them, “during the war a great mate of mine was an intelligence Officer stationed in Austria. His unit unit was seconded to the Yanks, Patton’s Third Army. He got to know the old man pretty well. He said he didn’t think he had ever met or was likely to meet another man like him. He was a one of a kind fellas, and tough, they didn’t get any tougher. Anyway, the old man gets an urgent message that the Spanish Riding School and its Lipizzaner horses are in imminent danger and they’re coming to see him. Now what I didn’t know, not only is Patton an avid horseman, he’s an Olympian.
Morgan interjects, “What? General George Patton rode at the Olympics?”
“1912 Games, Laurie, to be exact.”
“Well I’ll be buggered.”
Horden continued, “so my mate tells me, the head of the Riding School, Major Alois Podhajsky, turns up with three riders, all on these magnificent white stallions. Now Podhajsky tells the old man that the stud farm for the Riding School is under threat from the advancing red army. The Ruskies are starving, eating everything in their path, including horses. If something’s not done that’s the end of these horses and the School. Well before Patton gives an answer, Podhajsky and his riders put on a display. Now just before it ends, the riders leave the area and all that’s left is this one rider and his horse. The old man stands and focuses in on them. It seemed as though time had stood still. A silence came over the place. The rider then performed the airs above the ground.”
Roycroft comments “Airs above the ground, that is as good as it gets.”
The airs above the ground are the ultimate exercises in riding and can only be performed by the best of the best combination. The horse must be trained to the ultimate level in strength and obedience. The levade, where the horse sits and takes so much weight on his hind quarters that he no longer need his front legs to support him and he gently raises this front legs from the ground and balances with incredible strength and control for moments as the rider sits still not interfering in this moment of perfection. This is very different to a rear, where a horse, in a backward movement, pushes himself up with locked out hind legs, similar to a pole vaulter’s pole. This is about leverage, the levade is the equivalent physically of a gymnast on the rings holding himself in a cross position, arms extended.
The courbette where the horse takes that collection from the levade and in a controlled fashion, jumps forward on his hind legs like a kangaroo landing again and again in the levarde position with as many as ten leaps and lands, at the end he walks on as though he has done nothing special.
The capriole where the collection in the levade is exploded in one mighty effort as the horse leaps from the ground to its absolute maximum height and at the very top of the leap, he kicks out with his hind legs extended. Very few men or horses can carry out all three of these magnificent movements.
Horden continued with his story, “Both horse and man seemed as one, something my mate never forgot It really effected him and no doubt Patton as well . There was no doubt they were in the presence of greatness; he said they may as well have been at an exhibition by Leonardo deVinci with the man himself, or at an intimate performance by Mozart. Well Patton addressed Podhajsky, with tears in his eyes , ‘There are things in this world of such beauty that must be protected at all costs.’ He told podhasjky but he was preaching to the converted there.
And the rider who performed the solo for patten ? Well he was
Franz Mairinger. As a result of Franz’s performance, Patton mounted an operation he named “Cowboy”. They went into Yugoslavia, where the stud was located and rescued all the mares and foals, therefore saving the breed. My mate met Franz afterward and stayed in touch after the war. When he heard he was immigrating to Australia and told me, I knew that his brilliance as a horseman couldn’t be wasted, he is an artist of the finest quality and I was certain that that artistry was what we needed to compete at the highest level in equestrian sport. We had never competed at international level and the Melbourne games were coming up, so I made it a bit of a mission to get Franz involved he jumped at the chance and now I’m as tied up in it as you blokes.”
The mood at the table changed to one of reflection and awe, the men had learnt something about Franz that they hadn’t known. In his modesty, he had chosen not to brag, as most men would have, of his performance for Patton. This impressed Morgan no end. He had always found, in all of his sporting endeavours, that the quiet men are the ones to watch, as they speak with action rather than words.