2016 has been a year of great highs but devastating lows for those of us who live and love the sport of Eventing.
Our Randwick Equine Centre Summer Classic kicked off the season with the added buzz of several of the combinations preparing for potential Olympic selection among the competitors. The weather turned on a picture perfect weekend and we had enormous support as well as great feedback from riders, volunteers and sponsors.
This year we changed things around with our traditional Winter event moving to September, and the midweek competition run separately in November. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side for the weekend but we are fortunate in SIEC to have great grounds (not to mention dedicated committee members who went above and beyond, donning flippers and snorkels to prepare the course during a week of rain). The Midweek event in November was almost as extreme with scorching temperatures early on then rain in the afternoon.
Hayley Frielick won the 3* in September while it was Stuart Tinney in November. It was great to see Stuart at both our events after the Rio Olympics in which he shared in the thrill of winning team bronze for Australia. It wasn’t our only great performance on the world stage this year, the Australian team at Aachen in July (and which included two more of Sydney Eventing’s regular riders, Shane Rose and Sonja Johnson) made history, winning gold and beating the previously undefeated German team. These achievements were a great team effort and stimulus for Eventing in Australia. To compete alongside these Olympians, as many riders do in our events is not only exciting but should be an inspiration to young Eventers that with passion, dedication and hard work, the dream of competing at the Olympics can be a realistic goal.
Without a doubt the most devastating low point of the year and for as long as most can remember in Australian Eventing has been the deaths of two talented, young riders. The loss of Olivia Inglis and Caitlyn Fisher continues to affect many people deeply and is a stark reminder that for all the highs Eventing brings us, it is, at the end of the day a high risk sport. While both incidents were tragic, freak accidents, they have sent the powers that be into overdrive looking at every detail of the sport. While safety has always been a priority, there is always more that can be done and these events have driven an international focus on risk management, with ideas and potential changes beginning to filter through.
At home it should be a reality check for riders, coaches and parents that cross country training is paramount in this sport. Not only do riders need to be trained how to ride different types of jumps but horses need to develop their understanding of the complexity of reading a fence. Cross Country courses are always technically challenging and accidents do happen, you need to be able to make an informed decision in the heat of the moment. Riders, we are lucky to have great coaches here –use them! Train more than you compete and be guided by your coach on whether you’re ready to move up a grade. One good run or clear round or even a win doesn’t mean you’re ready to move up. Ambition is no substitute for training and experience.
Never underestimate this sport.
As the year winds down, the Sydney@SIEC Eventing committee shifts up gear, in preparation for our Summer Classic on the 18th and 19th of February. It will be a fair and inviting run to start the season, with Stuart Tinney back to design the courses for the upper grades.
Our focus as a committee for 2017 will be on continuing to build the cross country course, new ideas and new fences with the majority of our funds going towards this. We also look forward to bringing new sponsors on board and building a team of regular volunteers without whom our events wouldn’t happen. A date for our September event is yet to be confirmed as is a decision on whether we run a midweek event.
On a personal basis, I am looking forward to getting Adelaide Hill back out after his injury and hope to also have some nice, young horses out competing. My son William has also announced he plans to ride two horses in our February competition so I’m also anticipating more time spent grooming for him!
On behalf of the Sydney@SIEC committee, I want to thank everyone who has supported our events in 2016. We always appreciate your feedback and hope you will be back to ride with us at SIEC in 2017.