Irish/Arabian hospitality

Today I present for the Irish horse welfare trust in swords just out of Dublin. The hospitality of the Irish has been fenominal. I have visited numerous studs trainers and horse facilities. The horse culture is rich, historical and varied. It’s a whole different ball game to down under. I will do everything I can to promote the fact that thoroughbreds can make it any field, traditionally they have not been the choice of most Irish riders largely because of the variety of purpose bred horses over here.

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I have to thank the Godolphin/Darley organisation for what they have done for me while I have been away they are the pinical of professionalism in thoroughbred training and breeding, if everyone followed their lead in training and management the world would be a better place for horses. Of course it’s nice to have sheik Mahammad funding things but the reality is racing is a rich mans sport if you can’t afford to manage and treat horses correctly you shouldn’t be in the game.image

            Be. Our diggs at Godolphins Kildangan stud in Ireland 

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godolphin Darley head and shoulders above the rest in breeding training and caring for thoroughbred horses 

part 10 Mirrabooka horseman of the southern cross.

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 .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Part 9 Mirrabooka horseman of the southern cross.

The men woke the next morning to the raucous sound of the native birds made up of currawongs, lorikeets, kookaburras and white cockatoos. The sound was deafening and beautiful all at once and very foreign to Mairinger. In no time, the camp was packed up and the men mounted and ready to resume their journey.

Mairinger gazed up at the steep, seemingly impassable walls of the escarpment. He looked to Roycroft, “Well Bill, how do we approach this? There seems to be no way up.”

Bill replied, “Wild goats, they go up and down here all the time. We follow their tracks, it might get a bit hairy but if we can manage to stick to them, we should be ok.”

The men found the obvious goat tracks, worn by years of going up and down the escarpment. At the beginning, the tracks were easy to follow, but as they made their way up the cliffs, the paths were less and less discernable. The goats’ hooves didn’t mark the stone and at times the Team had to do the best they could to find a route to the next ledge. It was a hair-raising experience, but tenacity and courage from both the men and horses eventually paid off and they reached the top of the escarpment. They now looked back over the past two day’s terrain that they had traversed; the face of the cliffs and the open fields and rainforest country where they had galloped during the murder run.

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As was always Franz’s intention, during the next few days, the men talked, joked and generally relaxed. There had been some tension between him Morgan and Roycroft. Not serious tension, but they were all alpha personalities in their own ways; sometimes three rights make a wrong. He needed to have them with him, to trust in what he was teaching. How do you take a person successful in their small pond and tell them that in order to make it in the big pond, they would need to basically forget everything they had learnt and start again. It would be a slap in the face and would probably be seen as a power grab and it would certainly put them offside and all would be lost. No, Franz would need to be diplomatic, shape and mould the relationships, as he needed; he had to have the trust and respect of every man. Respect cannot be demanded; it must be earned, particularly with men like Morgan and Roycroft.

Franz was comfortable he could fit in, after all, they had all been military men, they all shared a common love of horses, they just needed time to develop a mutual respect. Franz already had respect for the Australian riders in their raw form; he knew how much he could improve them and he just needed them to buy into it.

As they rode through the bush, the personalities came to the fore. Mairinger had picked every man for a reason, they all had their strengths and they were all part of a puzzle Mairinger hoped to put together to create a clear picture. Every piece would need to find its place and in the end fit seamlessly into the equation.

Franz was a quietly confident man and very modest. He had his opinions but was very diplomatic in the way he got them across. His riding was relaxed and fluid and the Australians could not help but admire the quiet effective way he communicated image

with his horse, there was no brute strength, no momentary lapses of balance no superfluous unintentional movements at all, even on very uneven ground, he looked to be sitting into the horse rather than on it. He definitely had the air of a knowledgeable man, but would he have a strong enough personality?

Crago was here for the second time and very competitive when required. He was a good horseman who had a real empathy for horses, as exhibited in the incident at Stockholm. He was easy-going amongst a group, a bit of a joker who loved a bet and got on with most people. He was a fair judge of character and had decided all of the men around him were worthy of respect, but truth be known, he was not as strong a rider as the others. On a horse he had trained he was as good as any, but if he had not built a relationship with the horse from the start, he sometimes struggled to get the horse’s understanding,  our solo his horse had been trained by Bill Roycroft he was obedient to an assertive rider but assertiveness was not Cragos MO with a horse, he was a gentle horseman, almost with a feminine touch, though for all the world a real man.

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Lavis was a supremely modest man who listened well, but was not inclined to force his opinion. He took in what he liked and rejected what he didn’t; the quiet air of a horseman was all about him. No big-noting, no-boyish loudness, probably a man similar in quiet character to Franz. He could be moulded, he wanted to be moulded and he recognised Franz’s experience and infinite knowledge of horses and training. He wasn’t a big fan of loud, dominant personalities as they were inclined to take advantage of his good nature. His good nature had helped him form a bond with his horse, Mirabooka that bordered on the mythical, the horse would do anything for him and he for the horse! No one put the time and effort into his mount that Lavis did the horse was more than his ride it was honestly his mate. He was a real good bloke.

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Roycroft was a strong horseman. Like most Australian riders, he was always able to make it happen, to get a result when tenacity was required. He was opinionated and a little narrow-minded. He was well read on the skills of riding and had educated himself as well as one can from a book. But now he had one of the best horsemen in the world to instruct him. Roycroft needed to come to terms with this and it would take some time to learn how much he could learn. It is one thing to read but it is another to have a master pass knowledge on and correct every detail, develop every nuance. Book learning can be mechanical, but the knowledge passed from person to person promotes the artistic and emotional elements. Roycroft was not the artistic or emotional type.

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Morgan was a machine. He was driven, single-minded and would do whatever it took. He was abrupt and forward with his opinions, and inclined to be a little harsh with those who did not agree with him. He could well take advantage of Lavis’ niceness. He had already started to treat him like a kid at times. Not bullying as such, but direct in the manor of a dominant personality not to be questioned. He was a tough guy in every sense of the word and he would be Mairinger’s hardest nut to crack. His discipline and commitment to training had made him outstanding at everything he had done. Football, rowing, boxing and any other sport he put his hand to. The difference here was the horse, he could ride with the same determination as everything else. This would get him a long way, but Franz knew there was a good percentage for improvement in the technical aspects of his riding. Largely he tried too hard, in his other sporting endeavors it was difficult to see trying too hard as a negative, but over-riding can be a huge negative. This guy would be the hardest to work with, but his positive attributes could well be the thing at the end of the day to get them through a tight spot; he certainly had points of difference.

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After five days riding the men arrived in Bowral, where the best training facilities they could afford, had been set up. The bonding ride had been a positive experience. Now Franz would need all of his diplomacy and coaching ability to put the all-important technical and artistic detail into his Team. This would be somewhat of a challenge, but Franz had anticipated this.

Forming, storming, norming and performing are the four fazes which are required parts of the development of any successful team. There are definite periods of each of these aspects and in places, they overlap. The forming had taken part with the selection of the Team and they were well into the storming period, where each man finds his place. It can be a rigorous process, which can be the end of many teams; sometimes this period requires commitment and compromise. Franz ‘s intention was to get as much of the storming over with as soon as he could, for if they were to perform at the end of the day, they needed as much time for the norming phase, which is working together to improve and consolidate.