Lucky Showjumper The Only Ex-Racehorse Competing In World Cup

As a racehorse Kilwinning Luck was average at best. He managed two wins in 25 starts and an awkward movement on his front nearside had stewards considering whether they should let him race at all. In the end it was a bleeding attack that forced Kilwinning Luck into retirement.

Nelson Smyth grew up around horses but wasn’t that interested in them until he went to watch his sister participate in pony club and discovered the disproportionately high number of girls to boys.

Nelson with the first ribbon he ever won at Pony Club.

Fast forward to 2018 and this unlikely pair has gone all the way to the highest level in Australian showjumping. Now renamed Laurel Glen Lucky Time, Kilwinning Luck is the only full thoroughbred to be competing in World Cup events in Oceania.

Nelson is no stranger to competing on off the track thoroughbreds. After discovering his natural talent and passion for showjumping as a teenager, he joined Olympian Ron Easey’s travelling team in his first year out of high school. Ron was initially Nelson’s coach and when Ron injured himself he asked Nelson to compete on his horses.

Nelson’s first big trip was to Cairns where he was named Leading Rider. He then won Champion Horse and Rider at The Royal National Show in Brisbane before being selected for the National Elite Young Rider Team. He began competing on his own horse, Classic Mischief, an unraced thoroughbred which had been re-trained as an eventer by Sam Lyle.  After a few years of competitions Nelson sold Classic Mischief to a young girl in Western Australia who also made it onto the National Elite Young Rider Team. She only retired Classic Mischief last year at the ripe old age of 22.

While Nelson was away on one of his trips his father Kerrod was offered another off the track thoroughbred, Kilwinning Luck. His trainer Lyle Rowe was a showjumper himself and was confident Kilwinning Luck would succeed in that discipline. Kerrod first put him over the 60cm cross rail and after handling that with ease jumped a 90cm barrel. Kerrod started lunging him then Nelson took over when he came home.

Nelson and Lucky doing what they do best.

“He was a bit of a naughty horse at the start but we persisted with different ways until Lucky understood what we were asking him to do,” Nelson said. “We gave him plenty of spells and when he figured it all out he improved out of sight. There’s a lot of work involved because you have to teach the horse to move in a way they never have before.”

Nelson and Laurel Glen Lucky Time competed in their first showjumping event six months later. It was the start of an exciting journey and for the next few years they travelled up and down the east coast of Australia from competition to competition.

Towards the end of 2017 Nelson and Lucky were comfortably jumping 145cm so he set a goal of competing in a World Cup showjumping event within 12 months. He made the relevant applications to the Federation of Equestrian International and in September at the Royal Adelaide Show he ticked his first World Cup event off his bucket list, finishing an impressive 13th overall. They did another World Cup event at Sale in November, finishing 12th against the best riders in Australia, New Zealand and The Pacific.

“When I first got Lucky I never imagined we’d go this far but here we are,” Nelson said. “He’s tough and he’s such a trier. Over the five years I have had him we’ve developed a really strong relationship.

“I’m proud of what we have achieved together. Some of the horses we’re up against in World Cup showjumping are worth upwards of a quarter of a million dollars.”

Now Nelson has his sights set on the World Cup Showjumping at the Boneo Classic in January.

“I’ll be happy if we continue to improve,” he said. “This will be our third World Cup event together so hopefully it’s lucky!”

Love Gun Enjoys Life In The Slow Lane After Failing To Fire On The Race Track

It takes a special kind of horse to be a successful trail rider. They need to know where to go when the rider doesn’t know how to direct them, stay calm especially if the rider is nervous and stand still when the rider decides to try and take their jumper off over their helmet and gets stuck halfway.

Love Gun is now the poster boy for Tamworth Kootingal Horse Riding Adventures.

“That happens more than you would think,” Jason Newman, Owner/Operator of Tamworth Kootingal Trail Riding Adventures said. “Our horses need to be bombproof to counter the inexperience of our riders. We don’t take chances.”

Tamworth and Kootingal Horse Riding Adventures caters for first timers through to experienced riders aged 12 and older.  Jason carefully hand picks his trail riding horses and tests them himself again and again to be certain they are suitable for the job. He has ten horses in his team at the moment and the star of the herd comes as a surprise to most.

Love Gun is an off the track thoroughbred who failed to fire as a racehorse. He began his career with John Thompson in Sydney but poor trial results showed he wasn’t up to city class so he was transferred to Melanie O’Gorman’s Tamworth stables. In his one start for her he came 17 lengths last so she knew she had to find a good home for him sooner rather than later. She approached Jason to see if he wanted Love Gun as a trail riding horse and initially he wasn’t interested.

“I said to Mel I don’t mean to be rude but thoroughbreds are born to run and I don’t think he will make a very good trail riding horse,” Jason said. “But Mel insisted he was ideal so I agreed to have a ride on him. From the get-go he was so placid and laid back. He was only three at the time but was like a cool old horse.”

Love Gun is thriving in his new career.

After about ten rides Jason was satisfied Love Gun was going to be a suitable addition to his team and began retraining. He took everything in his stride and never put a foot wrong.

“It’s like he was born for this industry,” Jason said. “I can outrun him with thongs on but he is such a sweet-natured horse and none of the silly things riders do faze him. I am thinking of renaming him Forrest Gump because that’s the sort of personality he has.

“He fitted in beautifully with the rest of the herd and doesn’t bite or kick. It’s clear he has had a good education previously as well. That’s really important.”

It’s a relief for Melanie knowing Love Gun has gone to a nurturing home where he has a purpose. When Jason next needs a horse for his trail riding business Melanie O’Gorman’s stable will be the first place he looks.

“You still have to be careful and assess each horse individually,” Jason said. But I’d happily take another thoroughbred like Love Gun. We’ve had him for three years now and he’s just a pleasure to be around.”

Find out more about Tamworth Kootingal Trail Riding Adventures here.

“Scotty” Has New Owner Beaming From Ear To Ear

Skygge ran his last race at Orange on 23rd November. By 27th he was easily jumping 50cm under the guidance of talented young equestrienne Stephanie Mackillop.

“He raced on a Friday and I rode him the following Tuesday and he was so willing to learn and very quiet,” Stephanie said. “Even better he is showing lots of talent already.”

Skygge (orange hat) winning at Kembla Grange. Credit: Bradley Photos.

Skygge’s owners made the decision to retire him after a disappointing 11th of 12 finish. The will to win he once had was gone and their focus turned to finding him a quality home.  One of the owners Neill Ross had had Skygge, affectionately known as Scotty, since he was weanling so nothing but the best would do. He turned to his long-time friend Jock Mackillop who welcomed Skygge to his Sydney property, Highgrove, for his daughter Stephanie.

At just 22, Stephanie is a rising star on Australia’s showjumping circuit and although she has competed on thoroughbreds before, Skygge is her first off-the-track retraining project.

“I really enjoy retraining because you can mould the horses into what you need to them to be,” she said. “When you succeed on one you know it’s because of all the hard work you put in. It’s very rewarding.”

Stephanie, who owns Team Mackillop Equestrian, has spent the past few weeks taking Skygge through the basics. They have been doing flat work, cantering on both leads and going over small jumps.

“He’s been easy to teach so far,” Stephanie said. “He’s very soft, listens well and is not spooky at all.

“Racehorses need to learn to use their body in a different way for showjumping which can be quite confusing for them.

“They need to get accustomed to new gear, a heavier saddle, longer stirrups and different aids but he has taken to it like a duck to water.”

Stephanie putting “Scotty” through his paces.

Stephanie is so confident in Skygge’s ability she has entered him in the Bega Showjumping Cup at the end of the month.

“That will be the real test for him,” she said.” “It’s four days of jumping. We’ll start small and go from there.”

As a budding showjumper who has successfully transitioned from racing life, Skygge needs a new name.

“I think I am going to call him Beam Me Up Scotty,” Stephanie said. “His stable name was Scotty and he’s leaping into the sky so it makes sense and it’s a bit of fun.”

Former owner Neill Ross, who has been part of the racing industry for more than four decades, couldn’t be happier with the new partnership.

“I’m over the moon,” he said. “I worked for trainer Kevin Hayes as a young man and he instilled in me the importance of ensuring the future of each horse after racing. Kevin always found good homes for his horses and never put any through a sale yard.

“A horse is not a short term phase, it’s a lifetime commitment and Beam Me Up Scotty is going to have a cheer squad at his competitions for the rest of his days.”