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From the ground up

Eventing in South Australia just got a boost thanks to the efforts of a dedicated team of professionals, writes AMANDA MAC.

For most of us eventers, we arrive at a competition, unload the horses, compete, reload, and head home, hopefully with a ribbon or two on board. But without months of planning, financial backing, sponsorship, officials, volunteers, some serious know-how, and intense attention to every single last detail, that event you just enjoyed wouldn’t exist!

So let’s go from the ground up (literally), and take a behind the scenes peek into South Australia’s newest event, the Milang Horse Trials, which were held over the last weekend of November.

The magic began when old friends Nigel Treloar and Richard Shoesmith put their heads together. Bonded for many decades over a love of eventing, things got interesting when Richard purchased a property Nigel believed would make the perfect setting for a competition. He took his idea to Richard who thought it was a great plan and generously offered to bankroll the entire event.

Wayne and crew on the job at the water jump.

But of course the property, ideally located just 40 minutes from Adelaide, had absolutely none of the necessary competition infrastructure. Enter the Copping family, who, Nigel tells me, “are a very dynamic team!” FEI 5* Cross Country Course Designer Wayne Copping, his wife Prue Copping, a Level 2 Technical Delegate, and daughter Ashley Copping, a Level I Technical Delegate (TD), have a wealth of event organising experience, and were delighted to join forces with Nigel and Richard. On this occasion Prue was the course designer, while Wayne supplied some significant course building muscle.

The need to stay on track was paramount: “We carried lists and spreadsheets with us everywhere,” Nigel says, “so we could check and double check that the necessary people were going to be there at the right time to do the job. And we got plenty of feedback though social media that helped to fine tune the planning. Ashley’s also very good at the details and took care of the branding, the logo, promotional tasks and so on.”

But how do you even begin to plan a cross country course? Well, to start with it has to fit the area you have, and as Ashley points out, that’s not something that crosses most peoples’ minds: “It’s not just having enough space for the course, but everything else that comes into it, parking is just one example. And while you might have enough space to do 65cm, 80cm and 95cm, if you’re planning on going up to 4*, or FEI level, or to run a long format, that’s four kilometres or more of course you need.”

Building the portables off site.

It turns out that anybody can get a committee together and run an event. You don’t even necessarily have to be a member of Equestrian Australia (EA), but, and it’s a big ‘but’, if you want to run under their policies and their insurance, then you have to join and affiliate your organisation to EA. The TD will then use their rules to ensure the event is properly run.

And that means you not only need a TD who’s qualified to the level of your event, but depending on how many classes you’re running you’ll need two or maybe more, because each TD can only cover up to three small classes. Then there’s appropriate medical care. For riders, there are providers in Australia that specialise in equestrian events. For horses, only one vet is required for a small competition, but for an FEI event, a Vet Delegate as well as a treating vet is necessary.


Next on the list of ‘must haves’ are the dressage judges, pencillers, a show jumping course designer and builder, a show jumping judge, plus marshals and stewards to cover all three phases. The cross country, Ashley tells me, adds another level of complexity: “You need someone for the start and finish – and a good starter is absolutely essential – as well as thirty to forty jump judges.”

Megan Jones and Toulando starting the day off right with an impressive test (Image by Manning Photography).

Fortunately, EA makes freely available lists of all the officials who are registered with them, but it doesn’t stop there! There’re also toilets, food trucks, cool rooms, rosettes, course flags, photographers and many, many more details to keep in mind – what did we do before spreadsheets?

But wonderfully, the entire community came together to make this inaugural event a huge success. The trials included EvA65, EvA80 and EvA95, as well as an EvA95.5 (the half class brought in by EA several years ago so riders can have a run on a 95cm cross country course, coupled with a 1* show jumping and dressage test). The trials also included 1*, 2* and 3* combined training dressage and show jumping classes.

The EvA95.5 winners were more than happy with the result (Image by Manning Photography).

From Richard’s support, to the sponsors, and the prizes generously offered by the Adelaide Hill’s equestrian community, plus the great turnout of competitors (some from Victoria), the enthusiasm was overwhelming. So much so, that that there are plans to build Milang Horse Trials up to a 4* event over the next three years.

And now, thanks to the vision, financial backing, hard work and dedication of a group of eventing enthusiasts, South Australia has a fantastic new competition on its equestrian calendar.

See you at Milang in 2023!

Feature Image: Ruth Taylor and Wynara First Romance. Ruth is from HorseMed Hills and donated her time as the event’s vet (Image by Manning Photography).