Man About Town Jumping For Joy

Mr Manhattan was the type of racehorse anyone would love to own. He won six of his 16 starts and rarely finished outside the top three. He was easy to handle, adored by Joe Pride’s Warwick Farm stable staff and loved a treat and a cuddle when his owners came to visit.

Disappointingly, Mr Manhattan’s racing career was cut short by a condition known as Chondritis. As it worsened it affected his breathing and his form deteriorated. The decision was made to retire him straight away and he was sent to Limitless Lodge at Wyong for a well-earned rest.

Mr Manhattan salutes at Warwick Farm. Credit: Bradley Photos.

Not far up the road in Kulnura 26-year-old Mitch Carraro and girlfriend Anna Stenberg operate their equine feed and hay store, Storm Park Produce. Both are talented showjumpers who have trained off the track thoroughbreds so Limitless Lodge’s foreman decided to give them the first offer of Mr Manhattan. With several horses already in their care, they didn’t really want or need another but agreed to go and see him anyway. When they got there, they changed their minds.

“We’ve got a lot of racing clients as well as spelling farms and pre-trainers so we get offered retired racehorses fairly regularly,” Mitch said. “We’ve had about 10 thoroughbreds so far and they’ve all been great. Really athletic and willing. Mr Manhattan was a nice type and walked well so we decided to take him home.”

Mitch and Anna gave Mr Manhattan a month off to let down before attempting anything with him. Anna was too busy with her horses so Mr Manhattan became Mitch’s new project.

Mr Manhattan & Mitch in full flight at the Aquis Champions Tour. Credit: Oz Shotz.

“We decided to see if he could jump and he showed ability straight away,” Mitch said. “I took him to his first competition at Tamworth Show in late 2017 and he went well. There was a lot for him to look at but he behaved himself.”

Since then Mitch has enjoyed taking Mr Manhattan through his grades and didn’t take long before he was jumping 1m.

“We only planned to compete him up to 1m but he showed talent so we started trying him over 1.05m and 1.10m at home,” Mitch said. “The bigger the jumps got, the harder he tried.”

Last month Mr Manhattan and Mitch finished just outside the top 20 in the Group 2 1.10m Thoroughbred Championship at the Aquis Champions Tour on the Gold Coast. It was the biggest competition they had entered together. This weekend they will step up to 1.15m for the first time at the Camden Winter Showjumping Festival.

“It’s all just a bit of fun for us,” Mitch said. “We don’t set out to win, I’d be happy to jump a few clear rounds and have fun. I enjoy the whole process of preparing a horse and it’s satisfying to see how far Mr Manhattan has come. There are no concrete plans for him. We’ll just make sure he keeps his confidence.”

As for the chondritis, it hasn’t affected Mr Manhattan’s showjumping ability or given him any trouble.

“It definitely hasn’t held him back since we’ve had him,” Mitch said. “He’s a real cool dude with plenty of character. He loves attention and lets us know if we’re not giving him enough.”

Retired Racehorses Helping Troubled Teens Get Back On Track

When renowned horseman Patrick Herde walked into Burton’s Saddlery in early 2018, as he had done hundreds of times before, he had no inkling this particular visit would set him on the path for his greatest and most rewarding challenge yet. As he wandered around the shop in the heart of Armidale he struck up a conversation with owner Lee Burton who told him about BackTrack. Lee’s son Paul Dawson was working with the unique not-for-profit organisation which helps the most troubled youths get back on the straight and narrow and raved about its positive impact. Patrick looked up BackTrack online when he got home and knew he wanted to get involved too.

One of the key elements of BackTrack is the Paws Up program where participants learn to train working dogs for shows. It promotes self-control and leadership and as the current Australian champions it has given the kids a sense of accomplishment they’ve never experienced before. Having seen first-hand the emotional and psychological benefits of working with horses, Patrick came up with an ambitious plan to adapt the dog program for ex-racehorses. He approached BackTrack and Racing NSW’s equine welfare division Team Thoroughbred NSW with his pitch and in early 2019 it was given the green light.

Ten retired racehorses from Team Thoroughbred NSW’s rehoming program were delivered to Patrick’s Deepwater property, Ballyoch Horses. Some had managed to win races, others hadn’t even made the trials, but they had all been assessed as retrainable for careers after racing. Once a week Paul Dawson from BackTrack would drive half a dozen kids the 140km from Armidale to Patrick’s place so they could help with the retraining process and in turn learn invaluable skills, form friendships and build confidence.

“Firstly, we made sure the horses were safe and once we were confident of that we started teaching the boys and girls the basics,” Patrick said. “It wasn’t long before we had bums in saddles and could ride up into the hills for a picnic and campfire lunch. I was blown away by how far the kids came in the first month alone. The horse mirrors what you are feeling so you have to control your emotions. The kids became very aware of the energy they were putting out. You would see them get angry or frustrated then realise it was affecting their horse and change their attitude.”

Patrick, Paul and two BackTrack participants enjoying a trail ride.

Some of the boys have shown such a great aptitude for horsemanship, Patrick has employed them to work at his farm. The older ones stay there during the week and go back to Armidale for TAFE.

“We are teaching them a range of horsemanship and general farm skills which will make them more employable in the future,” Patrick said. “I want to see these kids chasing their dreams and being proud of themselves. We’re certainly proud of them.”

With the first group of horses now trained up for stock work and trail riding, they are ready to be sold so new horses can come into the program. An auction and open day will be held at Ballyoch Horses on Saturday, 1st June 2019. Inspections begin at 8:30am and the kids will be parading the horses from 10:30am with the auction to be completed after lunch. People can absentee bid by contacting Ballyoch Horses. 100% of the sale price of each horse will be donated to BackTrack. There will also be working dog demonstrations, plenty of catering and taste testing of Deepwater Brewing Co’s ales.

It’s not just the BackTrack participants and horses who are benefiting for the program. The local community is too. Patrick has sourced all his building materials and feed from the region and uses local service providers including vets and farriers. They’ve also formed a polo club and are fundraising to build a field in the middle of Deepwater Racecourse.

“It’s a win win win situation,” he said. “None of us really knew what it was going to look like but we’ve all been determined to make it work for everyone. We’re looking forward to the next group of horses arriving and welcoming more BackTrack kids to the program. My goal is to create more permanent jobs for BackTrack graduates on our farm.”

Click here to find out more about the Ballyoch Horses/BackTrack Horse Sale & Open Day. 

Ballyoch/BackTrack Trained Horses For Sale

Ballyoch Tianshi

Ballyoch Noah’s Secret 

Ballyoch Star Veeda

Ballyoch Sweet Dynasty

Ballyoch Chief 

Ballyoch D’Jay

Ballyoch Mi Sassy

Ballyoch Appleberry

Ballyoch Donna Riccio 

Ballyoch Moringa’s Stroller 

 

Angel Rises From An Unexpected Place

Abandoned in a dry paddock at Yass with more than 50 other horses. Raise An Angel found herself 350km and a world away from her previous home. The little grey mare had spent her entire two-year racing career at Phil Sweeney’s Jerilderie stables. She was no star but always tried her best and was loved and cared for like a pet. Both of Phil’s jockey daughters Brooke and Sally Sweeney rode her in races and Sally even saluted on her at Moulamein. They doted on her until she was retired and sold.

Sally Sweeney pilots Raise An Angel to victory at Moulamein Races in 2015.

Raise An Angel was set to be exported to race overseas but when the red tape became too much, her new international owner threw his hands up, walked away and stopped paying the agistment bills. With mounting costs in drought conditions, the agistment property manager tried desperately to rehome the horses before Racing NSW stepped in and rescued them. They were split between Racing NSW’s facilities at Taree and Muswellbrook where they were able to rest, gain weight and get healthy again. Raise An Angel, then five, went to Muswellbrook and eventually begun retraining for life after racing.

Meanwhile in Sydney passionate equestrienne and children’s riding coach Jessica Bott, wife of Randwick trainer Adrian Bott, was looking for her next showjumping horse. Having grown up riding off the track Thoroughbreds in the U.S., they remained her breed of choice. She had heard from her friend Karen Day, Racing NSW’s Equine Welfare General Manager, about the variety of Thoroughbreds available for rehoming through Racing NSW’s programs so she made an appointment, hooked up the float and headed up the highway to Muswellbrook.

Raise An Angel receives plenty of love from Jessica.

“I didn’t think I’d need the float but ended up coming home with not one but three horses,” Jessica said. “My close friends Bernie O’Regan and Emily Inwood made the trip up with me and also bought into the horses. Raise An Angel wasn’t my first choice but Bernie thought she had a lot of scope. She had a fluid movement and was brave over jumps and Bernie wouldn’t let us leave without her!”

Once home, Jessica’s plan to prepare Raise An Angel for showjumping hit a stumbling block. The mare was hot and fizzy on the ground and fired-up on the lunge. With the guidance of friends and more senior coaches Jessica persisted, and within a couple of months Raise An Angel was a different horse.

“I sat on her and she felt so different to how she looked,” Jessica said. “I took her trail riding and just enjoyed spending time with her. She was more like a therapy horse for me. My training of her was sporadic due to work commitments and supporting Adrian but she impressed me beyond her years.”

Jessica Started having lessons with Alison Rowland and Sarah McMillan. Sarah’s partner Nelson Smyth rode Raise An Angel when Jessica couldn’t to help with the retraining process. With each session, the little grey mare showed more and more talent for showjumping. They had their first outing together at Sydney Jump Club where they jumped clear. One of Jessica’s teenage students, Sophie Hatch – a top junior showjumper, then took Raise An Angel to Interschools where she performed well again. Jessica continued competing on Raise An Angel, constantly impressed by the way she took each challenge in her stride.

Jessica on Raise An Angel and husband Adrian on Retrigger (also from Racing NSW’s rehoming program) enjoying a quiet ride.

“She is bold and brave and has a natural desire to jump a fence clean,” Jessica said. “She has never so much as thought about pulling up at a fence. As a breed Thoroughbreds are intelligent and eager to please.”

Earlier this month Jessica and Raise An Angel faced their greatest test – the Aquis Champions Tour on the Gold Coast. In the Group 2 1.10m Thoroughbred Championship they finished in the top 10 – an outstanding achievement for any horse, let alone one who had been found neglected in a paddock just 18 months before.

“She is phenomenal,” Jessica said. “It just goes to show it’s worth taking a chance on a young horse and investing in quality coaching. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and she does still have her quirks but we’ve turned a corner and I am so proud of her.”

When researching Raise An Angel’s breeding Jessica discovered the most astounding link to youth. Her grand sire, Fusaichi Pegasus, was the same sire as the life-changing gelding Jessica owned while studying at university in Kentucky.

Jessica and Raise An Angel shining at the Aquis Champions Tour. Credit: OzShotzPhotography

“Ramsey was a star and I used the money from selling him to come to Australia,” she said. “I have a lot to thank Fusaichi Pegasus for!”

For now Raise An Angel is enjoying a well-earned spell at Evergreen Stud in the Hunter Region and will be stepping up to 1.15m at the Camden Winter Showjumping Festival next month.

“I’m just aiming to be more competitive with her and enjoy the relationship we have,” Jessica said. “I trust her to get me from a to b safely and she’s impressing me all the time. She really is something special.”

Click here to see some of the retired racehorses available for rehoming now via Team Thoroughbred’s programs. 

Retired Racehorse Representing Australia In Eventing

Last November 19-year-old equestrienne Hannah Klep had a six-month goal of competing in three star events with her off the track thoroughbred, Reprieve. This week they will represent Australia at the Oceania Eventing Championships in New Zealand, blowing even Hannah’s own expectations out of the water.

“I have dreamed of representing my country since I began eventing but I can’t believe I am actually here,” an ecstatic Hannah said. “It’s been a whirlwind and it’s so exciting.”

Just four exceptionally talented athletes make up the Australian Young Rider Team and of the four horses they compete with, two are thoroughbreds. The second is Silver Force, a former West Australian galloper who is now partnered with Tayah Andrew, a trackwork rider from Perth. The team completed an intensive camp last week and the training has continued in Taupo.

Hannah and Reprieve in New Zealand.

“Reprieve flew over to New Zealand on a special flight on Monday night and I got in on Tuesday,” Hannah said. “Like always, Reprieve has taken it all in his stride and settled in really well.”

The Oceania Eventing Championships run from Friday to Sunday and include three phases – dressage, cross country and showjumping.

“Cross country is a significant test here because it’s a longer course than normal but this is where Reprieve will excel,” Hannah said. “Being an off the track thoroughbred Reprieve has the natural fitness and stamina to keep jumping and galloping at speed.

This is the first time Hannah has taken Reprieve overseas and it’s given her an invaluable insight into the demands of a being a professional rider.

“Representing your country is a massive deal and I am feeling the pressure to perform to the best of my ability but I am trying to put that out of my mind and just appreciate the experience,” she said.

“The camp last week and the training this week has really built my confidence and confirmed to me that Reprieve is in top shape.

“The are Olympians here both in the Senior team and as coaches and training alongside them has been priceless. The Australian coaches have been fantastic and literally by our side 24/7.”

Hannah first met Reprieve when she was 14 years old. Her horse went lame and her coach arranged for Hannah to borrow him. At the time Reprieve hasn’t long been retired and was being retrained by Kylie Higginbotham, a stablehand at Joseph Jones Racing where Reprieve had spent most of his racing career. She saw the bond developing between Hannah and Reprieve and agreed to sell him to her a few months later.

Hannah took Reprieve to Pony Club and continued regular lessons with him. They began competing at introductory level and completed 14 pre-novice events before qualifying for One Star. At age 15 Hannah and Reprieve represented NSW at The Interschools Australian Championships for the first time then progressed to two star competitions.

Coaches Will Enzinger and Sam Lyle give Hannah and Reprieve directions.

“He was learning while I was learning and he was just so good every step of the way,” Hannah said. “I think going through that journey together created our bond. He’s my once in a lifetime horse.”

Hannah hasn’t set any goals beyond the Oceania Championships. Instead she’s just taking it all in.

“We will come home next week,” she said. “I will put him on the plane and two vets will fly with him. The goal is the get him home safe, sound and happy. He is proof that hard work and persistence are the keys to success.”

Click here to help Hannah with the financial pressure of representing Australia internationally. https://www.gofundme.com/f/assist-hannah-and-reprieve-get-to-taupo-nz

The Warrior & His Princess Living Happily Ever After

With his shiny black coat and athletic 16.1h frame it’s easy to see why Brittanny Grovernor instantly fell in love with Cherokee Warrior, but the friendly young stablehand had to work a lot harder for reciprocal affection. When Cherokee Warrior arrived at the Joseph and Jones Racing stables where Brittanny worked he was shy, timid and didn’t want a bar of anyone.

“He was the most beautiful horse but so unfriendly,” Brittanny said. “I really felt sorry for him so I decided to make him my project.”

Every morning Brittanny would drop hay at Cherokee Warrior’s door and watch from a distance as he gobbled it up. Each day she would take a step closer until eventually she could stand in his box. She would talk softly to him and often just sit with him after hours on her mission to earn his trust.

“I spent as much time with him as I could,” Brittanny said. “I was going through a bit of a tough time myself and I could relate to how he was feeling.”

Cherokee Warrior in action at the races. Credit: Bradley Photos.

Over time Cherokee Warrior let his guard down and Brittanny became his favourite person, the one he looked to for love, care and reassurance. His newfound comfort showed on the track. In his second preparation for Joseph Jones Racing he notched three wins. But after failing to win a race the preparation after, his owners decided to sell him. Luckily for Brittanny Cherokee Warrior’s new owners were also local and he was sent to Mick Smith‘s Queanbeyan stable for a change of scenery.

“I found Mick at the races and told him everything I thought he needed to know about Cherokee Warrior,” Brittanny said. “Feed him dry leaves, put a girl apprentice on etc. Chelsea MacFarlane was Mick’s apprentice at the time so I messaged her on facebook. I wanted to make sure they understood him.”

A couple of months later Brittanny landed her dream job as Head Girl at Jock Paget Eventing. She kissed Cherokee Warrior goodbye and boarded a plane bound for England.

“I stayed up to watch all of his races and my friends would go and find him and take pictures to send me,” Brittanny said. “The Cherokee Warrior Fan Club was never far away.”

Brittanny returned to Australia in May 2018 and her first stop was Mick Smith’s tie-up stalls to see her favourite horse. It was then Mick asked if Brittanny would be interested in adopting Cherokee Warrior once his racing career was over. She jumped at the chance and started planning for his arrival.

Brittanny and Cherokee Warrior share a special bond.

On 5thOctober 2018 Cherokee Warrior ran his final race. At big odds he screamed home down the outside to run second, much to the delight of Brittanny and his owners who were there to cheer him on. But when he returned to the mounting yard it was clear something was horribly wrong. He could barely walk, prompting the jockey to jump off and stand him still. On-course vets gave him pain relief and X-rays revealed he had an incomplete fracture of his cannon bone.

“Mick asked if I still wanted him even if he could never be ridden again,” Brittanny said. “Of course I did and Mick and the owners paid for his treatment. They loved the horse too and wanted to do the right thing by him.”

After three months of box rest at Mick’s place, Brittanny was finally able to take Cherokee Warrior home. She lives in a one bedroom apartment so she has him agisted at Wallaroo with a group of other retired racehorses. Ironically Brittanny had an accident of her own and ruptured her ACL so she won’t be able to ride for at least another six months.

“I’m even more lame than he is,” Brittanny said with a laugh. “It will give him plenty of time to recover. When I can ride again we are just are going to do trails and have fun. I’m not interested in competing anymore. For now, we are happy just hanging out together. He was my bestie when I was a bit low and now I want to reward him.”

Elissar’s Love Of Thoroughbreds Runs In The Family

One of Elissar Maalouf’s favourite childhood memories is going to races with her father, Elie. Randwick, Rosehill, Canterbury, Warwick Farm. She loved admiring the horses, especially those owned by her Dad.

“My favourite was Grandiser,” she said. “He won four races from seven starts and even raced against the great Lonhro.”

Elissar and Still The Man competing.

By the time Elissar was 11 watching the horses wasn’t enough. She wanted to ride them. Her parents enrolled her in riding lessons and a year later she was confident enough to take on a horse of her own. Elissar’s then coach picked out a reliable Canny Lad gelding who was older than her. He never made the racetrack due to an oesophageal injury but had excelled in showjumping ever since.

“He came to me trained up and trained me up,” Elissar said with a laugh. “He was the most wonderful horse, never put a foot wrong. I learned so much from him.”

After a few years Elissar was ready for the challenge of a second horse she could train herself. She knew she wanted another thoroughbred and found the perfect match in a former Tara and Philippe Vigouroux gelding by the name of Still The Man.

“The day I first went to see him it was clear he was very green,” Elissar said. “He was a bit clumsy and unbalanced but came with the basics including trot, canter, left and right. He was so sweet and I wanted a horse I could take further so I adopted him.”

Elissar began retraining Still The Man straight away on an agistment property about half an hour from her home in Parramatta. She renamed him “Fresco” and spent all her spare time with him, teaching him to forget about being a racehorse and learn to be round and on the bit. In November 2016 Elissar and Fresco lined up for their first competition together – 80cm and 90cm events at Sydney Showjumping Club.

Still The Man winning his race at Scone in 2015. Credit: Bradley Photos.

“He knocked over a few rails and had a tendency to drift but tried his hardest,” Elissar said. “Our second competition was better and you could see he was learning. He was a lot straighter. He’s just so eager to please.”

Since then the pair has participated in showjumping events at Hawkesbury, Tamworth, Camden and Sydney International Equestrian Centre at Horsely Park. Just last week they entered their first competition for 2019, going clear in the 90cm and knocking just two poles down in 110cm.

“That was due to rider error,” Elissar said modestly. “We’ll go clear next time. My aim is to step him up to 120cm this year and take him to more national shows.”

Elissar also has a goal of taking in one of hers or her father’s racehorses in retirement. Elissar currently has a small share in Salina Dreaming, an unraced two-year-old filly while her father part owns Through The Cracks. Both are trained at Gosford by Angela Davies.

“Retraining one of our ex-racehorses and competing on it would be the ultimate full circle experience,” she said. “I’ve only ever sat on thoroughbreds and never felt the need for a chunky warmblood when I have such athletic and willing thoroughbreds to work with.”

Golden Horse Healing Hannah’s Broken Heart

As Ethereal was entering the history books as the winner of 2001 Melbourne Cup, Hannah Jackson was entering the world at Sydney’s Nepean Hospital. Call it an omen or a simply a coincidence, this precious little girl would fall deeply in love with horses the moment she laid eyes on one.

Hannah begged her parents for a horse of her own and on her fifteenth birthday her wish was finally granted. “Rhodian” had been retired from racing for close to five years and had spent most of that time poking around a paddock. He was 16.1 hands and hadn’t undergone any retraining. Hannah had several years of riding experience under her belt and was working at a stable after school but wasn’t sure she could handle him. Despite this she saw his potential and so desperately wanted a horse, so she adopted him.

Hannah and Rhodian jumping for joy.

“I began with a lot of liberty-based training to get him nice on the ground,” Hannah said. “When we started under saddle he was on the lunge and I gradually introduced more exercises. Since he had spent close to five years retired he was really set in his ways. It took a long time to get him out of his shell, trusting me and listening to me. We learned together though.”

In September 2017 Hannah and Rhodian had their first competition-style outing at the Silver Hills Hunter Trials. Next it was off to Pony Club where they brought home ribbons for fourth in dressage and D grade champion showjumping. Hannah set a goal of competing at EVA 80 grade so she stepped up Rhodian’s training to five days per week and by December 2018 they were ready. But cruelly Hannah was robbed of the chance to put Rhodian to the test. On 14th December a single lightning strike claimed the lives of both Rhodian and his paddock mate Zikomo, a quirky thoroughbred mare Hannah’s mum had rescued.

“I remember the day as clear as if it were an hour ago,” Hannah said. “I was driving home from school. I was really happy because I had just got my licence. Mum called and told me to wait for her to get home and that she would come with me to work the horses that afternoon. In the car on the way there my sister broke the news both horses were gone.”

“I couldn’t believe it. My heart was shattered into a million pieces. Rhodian and I had formed an amazing bond. He had become my absolute best friend and I couldn’t imagine a world without him.”

In the days after the lightning strike Hannah continued to go to the agistment property where Rhodian and Zikomo lived. It was a routine she simply couldn’t break. A concerned family friend suggested she go to Princes Farm to see some of the retired racehorses being offered to new homes by Racing NSW’s thoroughbred retraining program but Hannah didn’t want a bar of it. Rhodian couldn’t be replaced. Not now. Not ever.

Retired racehorse Mossman’s Gold has been a much-needed comfort for Hannah.

Eventually, Hannah relented and went to Princes Farm with her mum and family friend but she wasn’t interested in any of the horses there. At the end of the road she was coaxed out of the car and into a paddock to meet a beautiful big bay gelding named Mossman’s Gold, a former Cody Morgan-trained galloper. Hannah reluctantly began to stroke his face and soon started thinking about the potential of this kind, calm, gentle horse. She returned a few days later and took him home.

When Hannah got Mossman’s Gold back to the agistment property she put a halter on him and rode him bareback into the dam. He waded straight in and loved splashing around in the cool water. Hannah loved having a horse again.

“At that point I realised I had struck gold,” Hannah said. “Here I was sitting on this off the track thoroughbred who was just so perfect. He wasn’t the horse I wanted, he is the horse I needed. Sometimes the best opportunities come at the worst times.”

For now Hannah is taking it slowly with Mossman’s Gold who she has renamed Moët. She has the same goals for him as she did with Rhodian and is excited to see how far they can go together.

“He’s helping mend a huge hole in my heart,” Hannah said. “When I want to go and hug Rho I can hug him instead. He’s such a quick learner and every day he does something to impress me.”

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.