For the love of the horse

Sassy Mare A Swinging Success In Deepwater

Julieanne Horsman

For a town of just 300 people, Deepwater on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales punches above its weight. The population swells more than tenfold for the annual race day in January which has earned Deepwater Jockey Club an award for NSW Community Race Club of the Year. The local craft brewery wouldn’t be out of place in the trendiest parts of inner Sydney and now Deepwater can add a polo club to its list of local facilities.

Mi Sassy and Perry, one of the young men who helped retrain her.

Deepwater Polo Club hosted its first clinic this month and more than one third of the horses involved were off the track Thoroughbreds. Among them were several retired racehorses from Team Thoroughbred which were retrained by a group of “at-risk” young people under the guidance of Patrick Herde from Ballyoch Horses. Over the course of four months, they re-educated ten Thoroughbreds in the basics of ground and ridden work, while building self-confidence and learning skills to help secure employment in the future. The Thoroughbreds were then offered for sale at an auction which saw more than 200 people from far and wide descend on Deepwater.

“The program and auction were hugely successful and it was very satisfying to see some of the Thoroughbreds involved making a smooth transition into the next phase of their lives,” Ballyoch Horses owner and Deepwater Polo Club President Patrick Herde said.

Hamish Webb, who lives in Uralla about 160km from Deepwater, purchased Tianshi, Mi Sassy and Deejay from the auction and all three participated in the clinic. Hamish grew up playing polocrosse and recently made the transition to polo. While his trio had been given some polo training at home, the Deepwater clinic was their first outing since the auction.

“All three were very quiet and well prepared so I was able to go straight into riding them with a mallet in my hand after I brought them home from the auction,” he said. “They are quick learners and eager to please. They all tried really hard at the clinic but Mi Sassy was the standout. She’s speedy and such a gutsy little mare. She isn’t afraid of anything.”

Former Rod Northam-trained racehorse Mi Sassy (bay) in action at Deepwater Polo Clinic.

Most of the 20 riders though had never picked up a polo mallet before but professional polo players Jock and Jen Mackay and Beau Blundell from Wirragulla Polo Club were on hand to show them the ropes. They spent the first day learning the rules and from the morning of day two it was on.

“I’m amazed at how quickly both the players and horses picked up the game,” Patrick said. “We ended up playing some really good polo and it was so much fun. Everyone needs a hobby, something to take them away from the pressures of work or the farm and I love the way horses can do that.”

Deepwater Polo Club has purchased a small amount of equipment and is currently building a polo field in the middle of Deepwater Racecourse. They plan to host tournaments there in the future and already have strong support from the wider community. Many have expressed a desire to get involved which will not only benefit the town but also provide more opportunities for off the track Thoroughbreds to find new homes playing polo.

“To see the effort Deepwater Polo Club was putting in to create something new was inspiring and I had to be part of it,” Hamish said.

Team Thoroughbred NSW is a Racing NSW Initiative