DESPITE the drenching rain in the New England region all week, riders from around NSW and Queensland were thrilled to be at the Australian Equine and Livestock Event Centre in Tamworth for the Peel River Produce Indoor Show Jumping Championships over the weekend.
The state-of-the-art facility allowed the show to go on, with most other events along the eastern side of Australia cancelled due to the welcome wet spell.
AELEC’s indoor arena provided the perfect venue for both competitors and spectators and over 1000 rounds of showjumping were completed at the event hosted by the North North West Showjumping Club.
Renowned course designer Greg Backhouse from Tamworth built the course that increased in difficulty as the weekend progressed, giving spectators some nailbiting finishes, as well as some thrilling spills.
Friday’s classes started at 1.10 and went up in height until the big guns entered the area for the 1.30m.
20 riders from around NSW and Queensland, plus one international rider from England, jumped the 1.30 track in the first round with 12 of these clear and through to the decider.
The second horse on course, Made You Look, piloted by the seasoned campaigner, Sydney Olympian Ron Easey based in Quipolly NSW, ate up the course in a steaming time of 47.28 seconds.
No-one else came close to the time, except Ron on his second ride but Town Man had an unfortunate rail.
Krissy Harris from the NSW Central Coast and her gorgeous Waverly were the closest without jumping penalties in a time of 49.48 seconds to finish in second.
Nic Carraro, also from the Central Coast, was third on the talented thoroughbred Colombo.
Rod McQueen’s ASB Vienna, a lovely mare Rod has trained from humble beginnings, was fourth and Shane Davidson from Queensland was fifth on Fairbanks Lulu.
The feature class of Friday evening was the Forty Winks Future Stars Classic for horses just beginning to jump in the top level of showjumping.
The Backhouse course, whilst big, was very jumpable and eight clears made their way into the second round, joined by one combination, Ernest Connell and Kitara Veuve, with one time fault.
Connell, from England, showed the crowds how to ride the course, with a quick clear round leaving him on one penalty.
Up and coming young local rider James Hetherington was clear in a good time, but only managed third place.
Easey made the tight turn backs look easy on Simplistic and was set to win the class until Queenslander Stuart Jenkins returned to the ring on his second ride (after dusting himself off as a result of a fall on his earlier horse).
This time Jenkins cruised around aboard Fairview Aliquidam to take the victory (and the rug).
Jess Brown and Casco were fourth ahead of Connell and Kitara Veuve in fifth.
Saturday was sunny, which brought smiles to riders and organisers alike.
Action kicked off indoors with the Greg Bartlett Constructions 1.10m Grand Prix. 55 riders faced the Backhouse course.
Local show jumping icon Toots Gilder, who is bound to spend the rest of the week washing down the North North West Show Jumping Club gear single-handedly, thrilled the growing crowds with a resounding victory on her own bred Lark.
Gilder finished just ahead of another local girl Katie Clarke, riding the majestic Oaks Gunn by Ulixes.
Junior rider Sienna Weir from Point Piper, NSW on Not Over was third, Sally-Ann Gemenis from Wyong on Emcee Squared was fourth and Kate Johnson from Mangrove Mountain, NSW rounded out the all-girl line-up with Not Yet in fifth.
The next class had nearly thirty juniors jumping for the Ray White, Garvin and Cousens Grand Prix rug.
Eliana Dery from Sydney won the class with the imported Carassino.
Sophia Carlon from Arding, NSW and It’s Jealousy were second, Riley MacKillop from Terrey Hills, NSW on TM Admiral Adventure were third, Weir was fourth and Madeline Sinderberry from Condobolin was fifth with Cabarita I Spy.
Around 350 rounds of show jumping took place each day in the Horseland Arena 2 with classes from 75cm to 1.05m.
The lower heights were very popular and the classes were full, with jumping going well into dusk on Saturday evening.
The indoor program finished just after lunch on Sunday afternoon and the 1.05m class was thrilled to be moved inside to jump in the main arena, giving them a sense of what it is like to jump in the big time.
Rachel Smith, who moved to Tamworth in 2013, rode her self-trained, off the track thoroughbred in the class.
“The facility is state of the art and the chance to jump inside with the crowd and the atmosphere gives the amateur competitors the chance to feel like one of the elite riders,” she said.