ROW upon row of gleaming white horse trucks stand all with impeccably rugged horses attached.
Jodhpur clothed girls and boys flit in and out of them, occasionally glancing nervously at their watches or responding to a loudspeaker call-over for an up and coming event.
A tall blonde, faultlessly poised glides past on a shining chestnut horse heading to the main dressage arena.
It could be an adults exclusive equestrian event, a serious qualifying event or even regimented training camp,.
Actually, it’s the Hamag Young Riders EFA junior Victorian dressage and show jumping championships, or the pinnacle of junior competing aside from Melbourne Royal, which is fostering the talents of a fiercely increasing pool of Australian riders.
Although Victorian in its title, the field of competitors is riddled with South Australian, New South Wales and New Zealand entrants.
At this four day-event a young rider can make his or her mark in the brutally competitive Australian equestrian world.
Ask any of the focused youngsters waiting patiently for their name to be called what the target is, and without hesitation “the Olympics”.
A desire given fuel after 23-year old Matt Williams made the Olympics team through shining at the Hamag young riders’ festival.
“This is the young riders version of the Olympics,” says chief executive pf equestrian federation Jackie Woodhead.
According to Maggie McDonell, the director of the key sponsor, Hamag, the event plays a pivotal role in fostering a talent pool that struggles to gain support.
But the high cost of the sport often handicaps theyoung competitors.
“If this same event was in Germany there would be 70,000 plus in the stands,” Mrs McDonnell says as she waves a hand at empty viewing stands at the Werribee dressage main arena.
Yet in Australia Mrs McDonnel said a dire lack of sponsorship means equestrian is always fighting the wrong battles – money, not harnessing talent or improving the horse genetic breeding pool.
“This is the grassroots and that is why we (Hamag) have come on board.”
*Extract from report to appear in Stock & Land, April 30.
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