In her role as Manager of the Adelaide Equestrian Festival’s main arena, ASHLEY COPPING is well placed to report on this prestigious event.
The Adelaide Equestrian Festival, held this year from the 20th to 23rd of April, drew a record crowd of 37,000, and showcased the skills of some of Australia’s top eventing combinations.
Olympian Shane Rose and Virgil made their mark in the event’s history books by winning the 5* for the third time, and special mention must be made of Monica Spencer and Artist’s superb 5* dressage test. Monica was topping the leader board at the end of the first day, but an unfortunate cross country tumble put her out of winning contention.
And Shane not only took out 1st with Virgil and 4th with Be My Daisy in the 5*, qualifying both horses for Paris in the process, he also won, by 1/100th of a second, the hotly contested Eurilla Jubilee Cup, awarded to the rider who is closest to optimum time across country (he and Virgil have to be the ultimate partnership – nothing fazes them!). The cup dates back to when the event was held at Gawler, as does the prestigious (and very large) Jack Walsh Trophy, which was presented to Shane by Jack’s son Richard.
Towards the end of the 5* cross country, an interesting situation occurred at the water jump, which competitors had to negotiate twice from different directions. Two riders had had a refusal on course which changed their timings, causing them to meet in the middle of the water! They were very close when they passed each other – and let’s not forget that you’re riding at speeds of around 570 meters per minute – but thanks to their precision, control and great horsemanship, a potentially hazardous situation was averted.
Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture were leading going into Day 3 of the RM Williams CCI4*-S, and although they collected a minor time penalty in their jumping round, they were still overall winners.
Oliver Barrett and Sandhills Special put in a terrific performance to win the Racing South Australia CCI 3*-L ahead of a field of more experienced competitors. Nineteen-year-old Oliver claimed the lead from Day One with an excellent dressage test, and was also awarded the Bates Young Rider Championship.
For me, one of the highlights was the dressage masterclass given by eventing and dressage rider Spencer Sturmey, who had travelled from the UK to be with us. Two young South Australian riders, Sophie Gardner and Clare Nitschke, brought their horses in for the masterclass.
Spencer rode both horses to get a feel for them before presenting the class, which covered the basics of managing temperament in a competition setting. Sophie’s horse was quite agitated in the ring, so Spencer talked the crowd through how to manage your horse when they were in an atmosphere they hadn’t faced before, and how to train for transitions to ensure they always comes back to you. It was really very interesting.
Also fascinating was Stuart Tinney’s masterclass. Stuart went through the basics of training a horse over a skinny fence, and how to build up and change obstacles so they don’t scare the horse and put them off. He did this with incremental changes to the fence, starting with taking the wings away and then altering the rails. Megan Jones and her young horse Ted participated in the class, and Ted, who is currently only doing 95cms and hasn’t had much exposure to narrow fences, certainly benefited. His eye was drawn to the center of the jump and he tackled everything asked of him with confidence.
Besides these events, there was plenty to keep visitors of all ages entertained, including a polo match, a working equitation demonstration, and a mounted games display from the South Australian Mounted Games Association. For our younger visitors, we had a play area where they could learn how to plait manes and tails, and prior to the festival, we ran a competition for children in conjunction with Chanel 7. The prize was to ride in the show’s main arena, and on the morning of the second day we had around 50 or 60 kids, some of whom had never ridden before, circling around the arena on horses and ponies brought in for the occasion by local riding clubs.
Overall, the festival was fun and entertaining. The schedule was structured so that people could come back from the dressage or cross country in time to watch a sporting display and then finish the day with a masterclass – so there was plenty of opportunity to learn something new to take home to work on with your own horse. And I think that that’s where the Adelaide Equestrian Festival strikes a great balance. Yes, you can watch elite equestrians compete, but you can also learn from the experience and hopefully go home better informed than you were when you arrived.