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Between the lines

Winning Champion Race Cart at the 2021 State Championships (Image by Vickiphotos).
Dressage at the 2023 Adelaide International 3DE (Image by Jenny Barnes).
Dressage at the 2023 Adelaide International 3DE (Image by Jenny Barnes).

Between the lines 

Molly Lines has long been a lover of OTT Thoroughbreds, and Tadpole, her current star, is proof that her devotion is well founded, writes AMANDA MAC. 

Molly and Tadpole secured 2nd place at the Albury CCI4*-S in 2023 (Image by Grain & Mane Photography.
Molly and Tadpole secured 2nd place at the Albury CCI4*-S in 2023 (Image by Grain & Mane Photography.

When I caught up with Molly Lines, she had just returned from the Melbourne International 3DE, where she’d competed in Restart, a class sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Racehorse Aftercare Program, and had picked up a tidy fifth place from a field of 31 competitors with her relatively new off the track (OTT) Thoroughbred Paris Pike.  

With parents who were partial to horses and riders themselves, it’s hardly a surprise that Molly has been riding for pretty much her whole life. Brought up in Mansfield, Victoria, she had a pony of her own and was a regular at Pony Club. However, up until she was around 12 years old, she was involved mainly with show riding, because, she says, “whenever I did jumping I’d always fall off and break something!”  

But the show ring quickly faded into the distant past when Molly discovered eventing. “I started eventing at Pony Club, but it wasn’t until I got my first off the track Thoroughbred when I was 13 that I started competing in Grade 3.” Sadly, that partnership came to an end when the horse passed away quite unexpectedly. It was, Molly says, “very traumatic.”  

But not wanting to give up on the sport she’d discovered she loved, the hunt was on for another horse. “We asked around and a friend put us in touch with Hayley Coman Equestrian.” Hayley, daughter of Olympian Jamie Coman, had several horses for sale, one of whom was a recently retired six-year-old Thoroughbred who had raced as Liquid Courage (Teofilo x Remy) and collected a far from impressive $1,200 during his five-start career.  

Hayley had renamed the horse Tadpole. Why? “Because he apparently looked like one,” laughs Molly, “a big head and shoulders and a skinny little bum!” 

Tadpole was the first of 10 horses Molly tried out over one very busy weekend. “He reminded me so much of the horse I’d just lost. He looked very similar and had the exact same quirks – he bucks when he knocks a rail and he’s very cheeky on the ground. He was super to ride and he had a great jump too. Although he was green, Hayley had done such a good job with him.” And just like that, Molly had found her new heart horse. 

Competing on the Oceana team in New Zealand in 2023 (Image courtesy of Molly Lines).
Competing on the Oceana team in New Zealand in 2023 (Image courtesy of Molly Lines).

However, Taddy hadn’t done any dressage and had never set foot on a cross country course, but he had done a little bit of show jumping. “So I started doing Pony Club at Grade 3, and we got eliminated at the first three events we went to. He didn’t like the water,” Molly explains. “I didn’t know that paddling or schooling the water was a thing until I started doing EA, and by the time I’d worked it out, we could finish going around cross country anyway.” 

After just one EVA80, Molly and Tadpole quickly progressed to EVA95 where they stayed while they were competing in Interschools events. Proving just how quick a learner he is, Tadpole competed in only a handful of 1* events before going 2* – and then along came COVID. Thanks to that hiatus, he’d been ready for the Melbourne 2* for two years before competing there, by which time he’d already stepped up to 3*. “So, we had to do a 2*-L before we could do a CCI-3*, but because we’d already done a CCN-3*, the step up to the CCI-3* wasn’t hard.”  

And 16.2hh Taddy took the 3* in his stride! “I can’t even remember where he placed,” Molly tells me. “I don’t think he did very good dressage, but we survived, and that was the main goal.” 

Hard to beat around a cross country course, Molly and Tadpole on their way to winning their first CCI-S 4* at Ballarat in 2023 (Image by Jay Town for Racing Photos).
Hard to beat around a cross country course, Molly and Tadpole on their way to winning their first CCI-S 4* at Ballarat in 2023 (Image by Jay Town for Racing Photos).

After a win in Melbourne’s CCI-2*J, they went on to win the CCN-3* at Werribee, followed by a CCI-3* two weeks later. In 2023 they qualified for the Oceana team, but the event was cancelled due to cyclonic weather conditions in New Zealand at the time. So they went to Adelaide instead, where Molly confesses that a mistake she made in the jumping phase bumped them down to 7th place, although they did pick up a 2nd in the Young Rider.  

Probably 2023’s crowning achievement was Molly and Tadpoles first 4* in Ballarat, where they won the CCI4*S at the International Horse Trials. After ticking that notable box, Tadpole enjoyed a well-deserved break before getting back into the groove with a CCN3* win at Werribee, followed by an 8th place at the Canberra 4* and a 2nd in the 4* at Aubrey. 

Molly and Tadpole were again selected for the Oceana team. Held in March this year, this was not one of Tadpole’s finer moments. “He was very naughty in his dressage but redeemed himself in the next two phases enough to be placed 3rd overall. Then two weeks later we were at Wandin where we won the 4*. He really is a bit of a legend,” Molly says. 

If Tadpole has a discipline that would particularly benefit from improvement, it’s dressage. “He actually can do a very nice dressage test. We’re still working out things like changes and I’m not very experienced so he’s just as good as me. We’re just learning along the way and hoping for the best really,” Molly chuckles. “We’re trying to get our dressage scores down a bit more. Wandin was a PB for us. I think we were on a 35 or 36. But we’re getting there!” 

If dressage isn’t their strong suit, cross country and show jumping certainly are. “We’re not very conventional,” Molly explains, “but he’s got a pretty good jump. His front legs are a little bit loose, but he’s got a very good back end and he’s really fast. Not many can beat him time-wise on cross country – he’s very nimble and quick.” 

Overall, Tadpole seems to be a bit of a treasure, and is, according to Molly, a joy to ride. “He’s amazing! He’s not really strong – he’s in a rubber snaffle for dressage and show jumping, and a rubber two-and-a-half ring for cross country. He’s not hard or difficult to ride. Mum calls him a Rolls Royce. She loves riding him.”  

Molly, who is studying Equine Business Management at Marcus Oldham College, is delighted to see the profile of Thoroughbreds on the rise: “It’s great that they’re becoming popular again – and off the tracks too. I think Racing Victoria is doing such a good job of promoting them.” And with more of our top equestrians competing successfully on OTT Thoroughbreds, the future is looking very bright indeed. 

 

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