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Equestrian Australia's Founding Fathers
From the time equestrian sport was introduced into the Olympic Games in 1912, Australian riders and horsemen longed to see an Australian equestrian team take part. When, in 1948, Australia was awarded the 1956 summer Games, the time had come to make that dream a reality but there was a snag - there was no sport of equestrian as such in Australia, let alone a national body organising equestrian sport.
For a country to participate in an Olympic sport, it needs a national sporting federation, that national federation needed to be recognised by that sport’s international organising body and by the Olympic Committee of the country concerned. So, before an Australian equestrian team could get to the 1956 Olympics, we had to organise a national equestrian organisation, first on a State by State basis, and then a national representative organisation.
The Equestrian Federation of Australia or EFA was firstly formed on a State by State basis and then those States formed the national body, the Equestrian Federation of Australia, in 1951/52. The sole reason for the national body’s formation was to facilitate gaining acceptance of an Australian equestrian team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The persons driving the push for the EFA were no doubt many, but four stand-out - these were Samuel Hordern, who was then President of the NSW EFA, Jim Barnes, who was on the committee of the NSW EFA and (Sir) Alec Creswick and Tom Luxton of the Victorian EFA. All were represented on the governing bodies of their respective Royal Agricultural Societies where the State Branches originally sourced from.
EFA’s acceptance as the national representative body for equestrian sport was not clear-cut in early 1952 when the EFA was formed. Although Samuel Hordern could report to the National Council of the EFA some 60 years ago that as a consequence of his trip to Europe in late 1951, the EFA had the clear support and mandate of the Federation Equestrienne Internationale (FEI) and the International Olympic Committee, to take an Equestrian team to the 56 Games, the position of the Australian Olympic Committee in recognising the EFA was not so clear, due no doubt to the strong rear-guard action undertaken in a number of State Olympic Committees by the then Australian Horse Society though a body called the Amateur Equestrian Union of Australia.
Despite 4 years of furious politicking by the likes of Samuel Hordern, Jim Barnes, Alec Creswick and Tom Luxton across the globe and across the country in the years leading up to the Games in Stockholm, it was all touch and go whether we would get an equestrian team to the 1956 Olympics notwithstanding that in 1955 we had already sent our first team went away to England to “learn” Eventing in anticipation of being Australia’s representatives at Stockholm.
Samuel Hordern, who was EA’s inaugural Chairman from 1951/52 until his death in 1960, was inducted into EA’s Hall of Fame as a Founding Father last year.
This year we have the privilege of inducting Alec Creswick, Tom Luxton and Jim Barnes as Founding Fathers as well. This is significant as the decision has been made to add no additional Hall of Fame inductions to this particular category.
Alec Creswick, who was President of the EFA Victoria. played a critical role in getting support for the 1956 team, including providing horses and raising funds and making substantial personal financial contributions. He went to Stockholm as Team Manager.
Tom Luxton held many roles within EFA Victoria and his contribution in working with the various levels of Government to have quarantine laws relaxed in time for the 1956 Olympic Games as well as worked closely with the FEI cannot be underestimated. While the quarantine laws were not able to be relaxed, Tom
Luxford’s lobbying work ensured equestrian remained in forefront of the AOC’s collective mind in the lead-up to the 1956 Olympics.
Jim Barnes, who went on to became President of EFA NSW, worked extensively on the fundraising campaign to help send the team away in 1955 and he continued his involvement with EA and its teams for many years, including as national President.
Together with Samuel Hordern, these three men are honoured as EA’s Founding Fathers. They were pioneers in establishing equestrian sport in Australia and it was they who oversaw the catapulting of this country’s horses and horsemen and women onto the international equestrian stage. Their 1956 Eventing team is also being inducted into the EA Hall of Fame for its most creditable fourth in Stockholm and today, as a direct consequence of their efforts, equestrian sport is pursued by thousands here, in Australia.
We salute our Founding Fathers for their hard work, dedication and foresight in laying the foundations for what has now become Equestrian Australia.