The 20-year-old Esther Martha Stace (née Munford) of Yarrowitch made her debut at the Walcha Show of 1891. She was known as a fearless horsewoman and often took part in dingo hunts in the mountains and scrub about Yarrowitch.
The Armidale Express of April 17, 1891 reported: “It is now more than 11 years since a show was held in Walcha and the committee had to re-erect the cattle pens, provide entirely new sheep pens, erect a pavilion for the various exhibits and clean up and fence the grounds. Although the time was short... town and country people alike worked hard to ensure the success of the venture.”
The ladies jumping contest, which proved to be the highlight of the show, attracted three contestants in Maggie Fletcher of Cairnie riding Pine Tree, Mrs Stace riding The Joker and Miss Dignam riding a bay colt.
The Sydney Referee of April 22 reads: “Miss Dignam’s horse failed at 5ft 2in but the other two ladies continued until the bar had reached 5ft 6in at which point the public and the judges considered they had gone high enough and stopped the contest. Prize money for the event was five guineas and a gentleman present donated the extra money needed for the judges to award each lady a blue ribbon and five guineas. The contest was witnessed by about 1500 people.”
Mrs Stace, who always rode side-saddle and wore a scarlet plush outfit when in competition, won at many more shows at Walcha and at other country centres before making a world record jump of 6ft 6in at the Sydney Show in 1915 while riding T.E. Judd’s horse, Emu Plains. This followed earlier wins at Sydney in 1910, 1912 and 1914.
Esther was 46 when she died in July 1918. The Catholic Press of August 1 said of her funeral at Walcha: “The hearse was followed by a led horse carrying her side saddle, draped with the many ribbons she won during her long career in the show ring; then came a large procession of relatives and friends.
“The Walcha Show gave her the opportunity of making her debut over the high jumps and many old hands will remember the fine exhibitions she and Miss Fletcher gave in those early days.”
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