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Posted by National Admin on 17/10/2019.
Sylvia Mclachlan
Photo Courtesy of Roger Fitzhardinge

Part 4: Showcase of Riders at the 2019 Australian Dressage Championships

Sylvia Mclachlan is one very special and fabulous character and a competitive lady of the sport.

Funny, sharp, witty, elegant, a great horsewoman and not at all embarrassed to tell you she was born in 1950. Perhaps she may be the oldest competitor at the show, but if you want a laugh, if you want to talk about any subject, there is no doubt that she will be captivating.

Sylvia is a very special person and is continuing to have a ball with her amazing life and above all, with her riding - look out the elementary class, make way as she is coming through.

One thing for sure, there's a saying 'you can't put an old experienced and wise head on young shoulders'; beware, as this gives Sylvia the upper hand (so long as she can remember the test).

She has a wonderful imported horse, Florino 48, by Franciskus x Florestan and is in the elementary class. 

Sylvia was born in Dunkeld in beautiful country, at the foot of the Grampians in Victoria. Her two sisters, brother and father were always involved in horses.

Sylvia remembers, or remembers being told, that she was on a lead-rein, riding around the cattle, with her father for hours from the age of three!  She was a member of the Western Districts pony club and won many an eventing competition, fearless and determined. 

On finishing school, she married Angus, who was a first-class cricketer in great Britain. A talented sportsman, he came back to Australia and took over the fabulous property at Mt Pleasant in the Adelaide Hills as a pastoralist. 'Rosebank' was amazing to say the least. Great paddocks and a merino stud. Indoor arena and magnificent two-story homestead with great gardens.

Sylvia was the ultimate gardener. The veggie garden, the huge open spaces and the fabulous ambience could tell a many historical story from the great dinner parties.

Sylvia and Gus had four sons. Hamish, who is a sports commentator of great note, Gillon, who is the CEO of AFL, Banjo, who is a barrister and then there is Will, the youngest, who is now looking after the Rosebank property.

The property was renowned for the polo factor and Gus started to play polo from Sylvia’s brothers’ involvement. The whole family played polo.

With mares from her father, Sylvia started a polo pony breeding programme. She managed to take on some of the taller ones and produced some amazing horses that were very successful in dressage.

Not to forget that the others were great polo ponies and as of this day, Gillon and Hamish play top goal polo. They've also have played internationally. Of course, Sylvia loves the game and is always keen and interested in all her sons' pursuits.

There is often a swag of grandchildren that frequent Brickmakers, Sylvia's new property. The indoor arena sees her sons heckling everyone on from the side. It’s quite the family and truly sensational to say the least. 

Sylvia also showed hacks after her first son was born, as she felt is was easier. The best one was Cob and Co, a black gelding that was raced by the Cobcroft family. Sylvia was second in the Garyowen and won the Esquire Turnout class at Melbourne Royal show.

Sylvia with her unmistakable slender, fit stature of elegance on a horse, was Champion lady rider at all the East Coast Royal Shows. She then went on to judge at every Royal show. Sylvia took a shine to dressage and took Cob and Co to FEI, taking to the arena as easily as a duck to water.

Along the way, Sylvia trained and organised international clinics with the likes of Christopher Bartle, Malcolm Barns and the Aussie Equestrian icon Vince Corvi to mention but a few. 

Sylvia is seen at all the right places and a can charm the best of them. Her stories of life in the equestrian pursuits are historical and hysterical.

She has recently bitten the bullet of dressage and imported two fantastic horses in Valencia B and Florino 48, the wonderfully put together and moving bay gelding that she will have at the championships. Sylvia is on the high-performance squad of Victoria. 

Sylvia is modest and down to earth, but be warned, she means business and is not up at the nationals from Victoria for fun. 

Make sure you check her out. You won’t miss her… she is the tallest and fittest female, with legs thin and elegant as a thoroughbred up to her armpits. Immaculate in her dress and with a wry smile that is humble but underneath steely and determined.

Sylvia is simply an inspiration to everyone and proof that sport of dressage is not only for the young ones. She will be the one with the shiniest boots and that look at me quality that she doesn't think she has, she just does.

Sylvia is no newcomer to the nationals and has had Avignon, Mayfly and Cartier to the FEI ranks to mention a few. With a new hip and recently recovering from yet another fall and several broken ribs, her family keeps her absolutely on her toes and she is no quitter. 

You may be inspired to step up and have a go. 

We wish her good luck. 

https://australiandressagechampionships.com.au

Results: https://www.nominate.com.au/Scoreboard/results/web/Reports.aspx?EventID=5762

Story by Roger Fitzhardinge 

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