At 4am every day Max Robinson rolls out of bed, into his riding boots and down to the back paddocks of his Berkley home. The 17-year-old knows its part and parcel of owning horses and is happy to fit in some riding, cleaning and a feed round before heading off to Keira High School. Equally at home on horseback and a motorbike but unable to devote adequate time to both, Max made the choice to focus on showjumping.
“I love going fast but you can’t have a friendship with a motorbike,” he said.
Max’s sacrifice and hard work are already paying off. At the start of the year he was one of just eight talented Pony Club riders from across NSW chosen to be part of an exciting new program in partnership with Racing NSW’s equine welfare division, Team Thoroughbred NSW.
Over the past nine months they have been helping retrain off the track Thoroughbreds for a tri-nations showjumping challenge which will be held at Sydney International Equestrian Centre this week. Riders from France, China and Australia will be competing.
During school holidays and on some weekends Max and his fellow Pony Club riders worked with Racing NSW staff and expert coaches from sun up until sundown. Most horses hadn’t had much retraining since retiring from racing so they had to start with the basics. Once they had successfully mastered work in hand, some dressage and pole work they could begin being tested over small jumps and it wasn’t long before they were clearing 1m.
“It was a great experience and I learned so much about retraining off the track Thoroughbreds,” Max said. “Working with Charlie Brister really improved my skills because he rides racehorses in trackwork and competes in showjumping and taught me the tricks he uses himself.”
Before Max even began the program he already had one Thoroughbred in his stable – Spike, an unraced Floral Dynamite gelding which he bought from Team Thoroughbred NSW in 2018 to transform into showjumper.
“He was very quick to learn and always very careful,” Max said. “We had our first competition at Albion Park at the start of this year and came 3rd in the 90cm.”
In the early stages of the program Max came across Razandies Jester and snapped him up too.
“The first thing I noticed was his lovely temperament and his size,” Max said. “He’s a nice big horse at 17 hands which is what I need as I will eventually outgrow Spike.”
“He has just been graded to c-grade at Pony Club.”
Max thought he had enough horses when Cliff, formerly trained by Joe Clearly at Queanbeyan, came into Racing NSW’s care. The pair clicked and before he knew it Max was asking his parents if Cliff could come home too.
“Dad won’t let me have warmbloods because they are too expensive but luckily he let me have Cliff,” Max said.
Last weekend Max took Spike and Cliff to Dapto Show to compete in the showjumping classes there. Spike came 2nd in the 1.10m class and 4th in 1.05m while Cliff went clear in the 75cm and had just one rail down in the 90cm.
“It was good to give Cliff another outing before the Tri Nations Showjumping this week,” Max said. “I’m looking forward to being there and cheering him on. I hope he makes good rounds.”
At the conclusion of the Tri Nations Showjumping Challenge Cliff will officially become Max’s.
“I’m aiming to get him jumping 1.3m, 1.4m and my coach Aaron Hadlow thinks he can do it,” Max said.