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Ashley Adams

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Postcard from Australia’s Wallaby Hill CCI

Photo by Ashley Adams. Photo by Ashley Adams.

Ashley Adams came away from last weekend’s Wallaby Hill Bucas 3-Day Event nothing short of enchanted. Located in Robertson, New South Wales, is home to Australia’s newest CCI1*-3* event in addition to hosting lower level horse trial and young horse divisions.

Our American correspondent had nothing but praise for the event’s above-and-beyond organization and hospitality.

“Wallaby Hill is one of those three-day events that you get excited to spend five days on one farm, even with dodgy cell service!,” she reports. “This place is by far one of the best. Words can’t describe all the amazingness of this event. From the great competitor parties, to the awesome cabins for some of the officials to stay in, to the fantastic cross country course, to the unreal Christmas decorations! It is also the only event that I have been to where Christmas decorations were needed and I was wearing shorts!”

To help us get a better feel for the place, she sent us some interviews and photos:

Stuart Tinney, Australian eventer and Wallaby Hill competitor on multiple horses

Laura Wallace, local rider competing in the CCI2* and owner of local business Horseworks

Mike Etherington-Smith, cross country course designer

Learn more about Wallaby Hill by visiting its website here.

Experiencing My First Aussie Event

Eventer Ashley Adams has relocated to New South Wales, Australia, to start her new year, and she’s graciously agreed to blog about her experiences down under. Stay tuned for more from Ashley as she experiences horses in the Southern Hemisphere. You can follow her Facebook pagefor more updates. Many thanks to Ashley for writing, and thank you for reading.

Photo by Ashley Adams.

Photo by Ashley Adams.

Last weekend I was invited by Sam and Nicky Lyle to go and watch my first Aussie Horse Trial. It was held at Wallaby Hill Farm, just on the other side of Kangaroo Valley. It was a beautiful facility to say the least, and owner Alexandra Townsend is also an upper level eventer. When I drove in, first thing I noticed were the trailers, also known as horse floats, or lorrys.

Some were your typical, all in one, large bus type thing, some were two horse tag-alongs being pulled by Jeeps or a small SUV, and some were larger flat bed trucks with more American style trailers. Virtually all of them had some kind of living quarters, so I gathered that camping was a big deal.

You also stable your horse in “pens or yards” — most people bring these themselves, or they are built there. The pens are literally just squares made out of some kind of pipe that are very, very, open. People put rubber water tubs on the floor and some hay in there. Stupidly, I asked, “What if it rains?” and someone answered, “They get wet!”

The horses can touch very easily both above the chest high bars, in between the two bars, and below them as well — crazy to me! If you bring your own yard, you set it up behind your trailer/camper.

When I got there I went and found Annabel “Bols” Armstrong, whom I had met a few weeks prior when I was riding for Sam and Nicky. She and her partner, Hamish Cargill, have a place just a few minutes from Sam and Nicky. Bols, as I was corrected to call her, had a few young horses at the event and she and Hamish allowed me to tag along as their groupie. I watched her show jump a young one and made note of the lovely show jumps.

There was not much difference from our eventing show jump courses in the States, meaning the course required a forward and accurate ride through the multiple roll backs to combinations and related lines. The warm up was significantly more subdued than ours, though!

Pink numbers indicated the equivalent of our Training/Prelim. Photo by Ashley Adams.

Pink numbers indicated the equivalent of our Training/Prelim. Photo by Ashley Adams.

No one was really getting coached or moving jumps a lot — it could have just been the event, but everyone just went in about their business. I will have to stake out a couple warm ups to see what the most common thing to do is — maybe I’ll learn a few new tricks!

All of the dressage tests I saw were ridden in large arenas. The test themselves were similar, but not identical; I think the level that had lateral work was the CNC*­­, which would be equivalent to our Preliminary. The main fashion for the dressage arena is braided tails and fancy quarter markers for the horse; for the rider, shiny helmets, mainly Antares. There were also a fair number of KEP helmets blinging around. However, under the helmets was a lot of free flowing hair, especially on cross country later on.

I did see more top hats in the CNC2* division than I had seen in a long time. So much so that I asked if it was still in fashion here. Most people said that they just liked them and thought they looked better.

There were not as many sponsor plugs on outfits as we see in the U.S. After talking to a few riders, I would attest that to the lack of large corporate interest in the sport here and the lack of large equine related businesses based here. As I have found first hand, getting any U.S. based company to ship things over to this side of the world costs a small fortune. However, most things are cheaper in the States, so you have to weigh the difference on product cost.

One fact that I did notice on cross country day was that a lot of riders do not wear air vests. In fact, I would say that at least 40% of riders had one of those old vests — one you would see in a early 90s eventing photo! One rider I spoke to said he wore the all-in-one air vest and, that might have been the case for others and I just couldn’t tell.

As for the cross country course, it looked pretty familiar, minus the different colors of the numbers. To the best of my ability, I have deciphered the levels of the cross country jumps in the: purple numbers (EV­80) are our BN/Novice, red numbers(EV­95) are our Novice/Training, pink numbers (EV­105) are our Training/Prelim, yellow numbers (CNC*) are solid Prelim with extra skinnies, green numbers (CNC2*) are our Intermediate.

Green is the U.S. Intermediate equivalent. Photo by Ashley Adams.

Green is the U.S. Intermediate equivalent. Photo by Ashley Adams.

This was the first real event of the year for most riders, and I asked Sam how he thought the levels looked as far as difficulty. He informed me that for each level they were pretty textbook, nothing over the top or stupid simple.

One large difference that I noticed on was that they ran the horses one minute apart — it was as nuts as the drivers on the roads to me! A rear­ end collision seemed moments away, however most riders were respectful of others and if they got too close they either passed or just slowed down.

I am hoping to keep teaching and coaching some here as well as acquiring some rides here and there when I can…hopefully more here than there! Overall I am of the firm belief that going outside your comfort zone and hitting the just do it button can really be the best. That is what I hope to get from this experience—more experience!

While I jest about this great rock known as Australia and am constantly looking around every corner for things that will without a doubt kill me, I am excited for what I am going to see, learn, and do! I miss all my friends “heaps” (that means a lot) and I am keeping up with all of you from over here!

Cheers, Mates.

Are You There, Australia? It’s Me, Ashley

Eventer Ashley Adams has relocated to New South Wales, Australia, to start her new year, and she’s graciously agreed to blog about her experiences down under. Stay tuned for more from Ashley as she experiences horses in the Southern Hemisphere. You can follow her Facebook page for more updates. Many thanks to Ashley for writing, and thank you for reading.

Out for a gallop on the beach.

Out for a gallop on the beach.

G’day from tomorrow, mate! Ok, I don’t really talk like an Australian now, but I thought I would keep things authentic. I have been in Australia for a month now and, just to set the record straight, the toilets do not go the opposite way…I checked. As some of you may know, my boyfriend is in the Australian Navy and has been in the states for the past two years. When it came time for him to come back to his mother country, I decided to tag along! Rod and I are now located in Nowra, New South Wales.

Nowra is just south of Sydney by about two hours. We are very close to several beautiful beaches and equally close to several mountains and national parks. While the nature is beautiful, however, most of the wildlife is deadly and the town of Nowra and surrounding towns are pretty rural. I really had no idea where to start on this big adventure but luckily, we have several really friendly Aussies in the States, so I reached out to them to get some advice.

There are so many things that I can tell you about my first month on this side of the world. First, a quick story about day one to paint the picture of what is going on here. We got off the plane after a rather nice flight; Rod was able to upgrade my ticket to business class so we had beds! We arrived in Sydney and headed down a extremely hot corridor with about a million other people to customs. Picture herding cattle.

We went to get the rental car and — after living out of a suitcase for several months we had a lot of bags — so we asked for a medium or large car. What the Aussies consider a large car, though, could literally fit into the back of any American soccer mom’s Suburban!

Once we pushed and squeezed all the bags into the car we headed to Nowra. It was a beautiful drive with lovely coastlines and super green land. After being gone for two years, there obviously was no food in the house when we got home, so we headed out to the shops. When we got there I decided to run into Subway because everyone knows never to go to the grocery store hungry.

I walked into the shop and stood in line, only to be in front of and behind two individuals that not only didn’t have shirts on but also had no shoes on! Their feet were black from all the dirt — I looked around and several other people were also dressed like they had just escaped from a deserted beach! That was the first shock, the second was how much it cost: $11 for a 6-inch sub! We went into the grocery store, only to find more people that escaped from that same deserted beach — gross.

Personal hygiene — not a top priority. I realize it’s summer here and no one uses air conditioners, but come on!

Now on to the horsey stuff! Kate Chadderton, Ryan Wood, and Jennie Brannigan (who is essentially part Aussie at times!) gave me a few names and contacts to run information by.

The view from Sunning Hill Park.

The view from Sunning Hill Park.

Chadzy, aka Kate Chadderton — nicknames are huge here —­­ got me in touch with Nicky Lyle, who has been a huge help and very informative. When I arrived, I phoned several people whom I had been contacting via email over the last few months, and Nicky was kind enough to invite me up to the farm she and her husband, Sam, own. They invited me to come to their farm and ride a few of their horses while they went on a family vacation for a week.

The Lyles live just on the other side of Kangaroo Valley. That’s right, Kangaroo Valley. It is full of hair pin turns, narrow roads, and a mountain that cars must drive up in first or second gear. If I wasn’t scared to death to leave the 10 and 2 position, I would have taken some pictures of the spectacular views and land. People here will take their large lorrys up and down this mountain!

It was my first week driving here on the other side of the road, the other side of the car, and shifting with my left hand. Not only is first gear on the other side, but so is the turn signal, so I kept turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal! I survived and so did the other people on the road.

Through Nicky, I was able to meet George Sheridan. George is located just a town over in Berry, New South Wales. He has been introducing me to a few people closer to Nowra, down the mountain of death. Sunning Hill Park and the Berry Riding Club were two connections that I am having a great time getting involved with.

At Sunning Hill Park, I am doing some “Pre-­Train work.” Basically, I am teaching young race horses basic flat work skills and then, just before they head off to the track for training, take them for a bit of a gallop. Horse racing is huge here. Most horses that I have seen in general are predominantly Thoroughbreds. Racing is so big here that at almost every single pub you can bet on the ponies.

Sunning Hill Park is a more private family owned facility and they also have a “re-homing” operation. I’m also helping with that — teaching “sacked” race horses stronger flat work and to jump and hack out. While it is not the eventing side of life that I love, I find it very useful in getting back to my riding instincts, not just relying on my textbook knowledge but also reacting and communicating with a green young horse.

Finally out to see the beach!

Finally out to see the beach!

For those of you who know me, I don’t stay idle for long. I believe in the idea of working harder than the guy next to you, so I had yet to go see the beaches here, other than the views I’ve gotten from the road. But last week, I got to take one of the Sunning Hill racehorses down to 7 Mile Beach at Shoal Haven Heads for a gallop! It was great fun — after I dodged the fishing poles and pedestrians.

The other connection that I have made this first month is with the Berry Riding Club. Penny Rose, Shane Rose’s mother, and Judy Sweeney are the heads of the club. It is a local club that covers all aspects of equestrian activities for the local riders. I have been brought in as the Jump Coach.

The first clinic was the first of this month and another one is planned for the 15th. It was great to get out and teach and meet some more people in the area. The Club has great members and a great message and plan. I have scheduled monthly clinics with The Berry Riding Club, so come one, come all!

The hope is to help grow the club and continue to get involved in the local community, as well as get a few people converted to eventing. There is a series of local show jumping shows that a fair number of people from the club go to. The shows travel around from town to town and have everything from show jumping (up to about 1.10m – 1.20m), to equitation classes, to a ring toss to win a stuffed bear. Oh, you can also ride that pirate ship ride as well — fun for the whole family! A little different to our local shows in the States.

Stay tuned for my next blog, in which I write all about my first experience at an Aussie Horse Trial.