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Equitana 2008 - a BIG success

Nicola Turner, EFA National Office, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Equitana Asia Pacific 2008 has come to an end. What an action packed four days it was. The crowds flooded in to the new venue at Melbourne show grounds despite the schizophrenic weather which included heavy rain, hail, gusty winds and occasional sunshine.

Equitana was the ultimate Equestrian retail experience. It is the largest single collection of equine goods and services in the Southern Hemisphere. Over 300 exhibition stands offered shoppers a smorgasbord of equestrian products.

Equitana also provided the most diverse Equine educational opportunities. There were 300 educational sessions on every aspect of horsemanship in every imaginable discipline. 31 breeds were displayed in the Breeder’s Village (as well as a miniature donkey called Trouble courtesy of the Saddle Club). There were clinics with Eventing Silver Medallist Clayton Fredericks, Linda and Pat Parelli, Olympic Jumping reserve Chris Chugg, Danish Dressage star Andreas Helgstrand and an All Stars clinic featuring 7 top horsemen from various disciplines. There was also The Way of the Horse competition where 3 contestants demonstrated their methods of connecting with an unbroken horse over two days. Each trainer selected a young unbroken horse and demonstrated the unique method they use to work with the horse building trust, respect and amazing progress in what the horse is prepared to do for its trainer especially in the intense atmosphere of Equitana. The contestants were Dan James (WA), Warwick McLean (Vic) and Shane Ransley (NSW).

The competition programme was also jam-packed. The wide array of competition events included Intermediate 1 and Grand Prix Dressage, various jumping events including a World Cup Qualifier class (won by 2008 Olympians Laurie Lever and Ashleigh Drossel Dan), Cutting Masters Championship, a Reining competition, Saddle Horse and Rider championships, Mounted Games, a Polo exhibition match and Carriage Driving.

The entertainment was non-stop and of an excellent standard. The 3 evening shows, an Evening with Guy McLean, the Western Spectacular and the Dressage Spectacular were sell-outs each filling over 4,500 seats in the Grand Pavilion.

Thursday night saw Guy Mclean work with an unbroken horse – within two and half hours Guy was not only ridding the horse he was standing on it’s back cracking two stock whips. A truly incredible display of how to earn the trust of a horse.

The Western Spectacular was a full blown rodeo with all the action and excitement that comes with raw danger. The roof was lifted off the arena as the crowd cheered for Dressage rider (and former Cowboy) Brett Parbery who rode a saddle bronc - for the full 8 seconds. (Youtube link to come).

“They told me they would give me an easy one,” laughed Brett after the ride which was anything but easy.  

“It was great to be back behind the shoots with boys, they are a great group of fellas.”

Brett then came back into the arena on a Dressage horse to demonstrate his versatility. I am not sure who was most impressed the Cowboy crowd or the Dressage crowd.

The Dressage Spectacular on Saturday night was a feast of Dressage excellence. The program featured the Grand Prix Freestyle which was won by Heath Ryan on Dr Margaret Evan's imported Rubinstein stallion, Regardez Moi with 72.65%.

The crowd were also treated to Danish Dressage champion, Andreas Helgstrand (2008 Olympic Team Bronze Medallist), who performed a freestyle to music riding Dr. Kerry Mack’s Weltmeyer stallion Whisper. Andreas is also famous for his 2006 World Equestrian Games Freestyle on Blue Hors Matinee.

The Sunday (late afternoon) All-Stars clinic was simply hysterical. The All Star Clinic was a gathering of experts in 7 disciplines - all coming together, under the same umbrella to share ideas and training methods. The clinic featured Chris Chugg (showjumping), Clayton Fredericks (Eventing),Sam Gairdner (Polo), Brett Parbery (Dressage), Alan Hannaford (Cutting/Campdrafting), Warwick Schiller (Reining) and Guy McLean (a category all of his own), all of whom demonstrated and explained their particular horse sport.

The real entertained started when they all swapped horses. Chris Chugg swapped with 5-goal polo player Sam Gairdiner. Sam was coaxed (by Chris and the crowd) into jumping Grand Prix Jumping Stallion Vivant over a tall vertical and to his credit did it very well.

“Wow this saddle is so soft and this horse is so nice to ride, I could play polo on this guy!” laughed Sam. Meanwhile Chris hit the plastic polo ball around like a kid in a candy shop.

Brett Parbery swapped horses with reining champion Warwick Schiller. Within seconds Brett discarded the German training scale was executing some high speed spinning and sliding stops. Warwick rode some Dressage movements and looked at ease with it all -  except the sitting trot!

Clayton Fredericks swapped the 17.2h Eventer that he was on for Alan Hannaford’s 14.2ish palomino cutting/campdrafting horse. Alan said that they needed the forklift to get him up so high. Whilst Clayton or “Mr. Beijing himself” as Alan called him had no trouble pretending to work cattle on the quick little campdrafter, Alan was not so keen to jump an arrowhead. The crowd was not going to let him out of the arena with out at least an attempt. Alan said he had not been in an English saddle since he was 12 year-old (I am guessing that may be about 40 years ago, apologies if I am wrong Alan), however he picked up canter and went straight over the jump.

These established horsemen were able to ride each other’s horses very well showing that a great horseman is a great horseman – although there were plenty of laughs to be had along the way. When they were given their own horses back - free time was declared and it became a case of boys and their toys gone wild  - all in the arena at once, and the crowd loved it.  The Dressage horse played polo and jumped, the Jumping horse was working like a campdrafter, Guy McLean was getting his horse to sit down so he could pick the ball up off the ground to throw it to the others, the polo player and campdrafter were playing cat and mouse with each other.  If they weren't all so skilled it would have been chaos.

Equitana 2008 was HUGE success and a great triumph by Definitive Events who put together this logistical nightmare and made it seem easy.

Well done organisers, instructors, competitors, exhibitors and everyone who braved the freezing Melbourne weather to be a part of Equitana 2008. We look forward to 2010.

For full competition results and all Equitana information please see the web site www.equitana.com.au







Andreas Helgstrand

Andreas Helgstrand teaching in one of the Demo arenas

Brett Parbery (white hat on top of shoot) gets ready to ride a saddle bronc

Ready to open the gate for Brett's Cowboy comeback

Ride em'cowboy Brett - kids do not try this at home!

5 of 7 All Stars on their own horses

Brett Parbury- swaps with Warwick Schiller and looks at home on Reining super stallion Smart like Smart.

Reining Champion Warwick Schiller prepares for his Dressage Debut on Welt Hill

layton Fredericks and Alan Hannaford swap horses - I think Ben Along Time's job is safe

I am not sure who looks most out of place

5 Goal Polo player Sam Gairdiner test drives Jumping star Vivant

Brett introduces Dressage horse Welt Hill to polo!

Perhaps you need a longer mallet Brett?

Guy McLean amazes the crowd

Guy McLean jokes that he is yet to work out how to saddle a horse

The Grand Prix presentation - winner Heath Ryan and Regardez Moi who also won the Freestyle

The CSI-W winner Laurie Lever says a few words

The CSI-W drew a big crowd

People queue for Heath's signature at the EFA stand

Megan Jones has a photo with a fan

Something to show the kids at school

More fans

People enjoyed putting their faces in the picture to be an Olympian at the EFA stand

Clayton Fredericks gives a clinic

One of the Exhibition Halls

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