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News from Vicki

24 March 2015

Time for an update...

Lots has happened since I last ‘blogged’ (is that the correct term?), but now there is so much happening in our beloved sport that I feel I have to give my humble opinion on the state of things.

1. Hendra.  Where do I start?  Yes, what a horrible virus, but so is Ebola, so is AIDS, both similar viruses that, like Hendra, can only be caught through exchange of fluids, unlike Equine Influenza, that is an AIRBORNE virus.  Hendra is also a frail virus, it is killed by exposure to sunlight, or soap and water.  After the unfortunate deaths of 4 people in Queensland and many horses, there was a general panic about it, and a huge push to develop a vaccine, which was done I’m sure at great expense by Zoetis and their parent company Pfizer.  Suddenly EA (Chaired nationally by a vet, Warwick Vale) deemed it necessary that all EA registered horses attending EA events had to be mandatorily vaccinated, despite the FACT that there has never been a horse diagnosed with Hendra at an EA event.

Zoetis were doing their bit by publishing full page ads in all the Equestrian magazines indicating that all children were in mortal danger.  If that was the case, I think we would have had a lot of dead kids by now.  As it is, the tally stands at zero.  Yet the Pony Clubs have also deemed it necessary for horses, even ancient, unsuitable candidates for the unregistered, minor use vaccine to have to be vaccinated.

And at this stage, vaccinated horses are not allowed to be exported to Brazil, where the next Olympics are in Rio.  So who cares about Australian horse for that?  Which leads me onto my next point:

2. EA  High Performance in this country is in a shambles.  One reason is the time, money and effort being expended on the above Hendra stuff, but principally because we now seem to have a huge excess of paid High Performance employees and bugger all funding for the horses and riders that will comprise future teams.  Not sure about the other Olympic disciplines, but in Jumping over the last 10 years we, and I am talking about such clever, dedicated minds as Peter Cooke, Stephen Lamb, Graeme Watts, Rod Brown and me (not to put me in the same category as those guys) who are all VOLUNTEERS put together plans and programs and selection procedures that gave us our most consistently successful performances at both Olympics and WEG (Beijing and Kentucky) that we have had for a long, long time.  Now the current High Performance administration seems determined to dismantle all that, and bring on board new Panels and Committees, a situation that caused a lot of the problems prior to Sydney 2000 (but that is a whole other story....!)   They are trying to re invent the wheel, but what is sad is how Euro centric they have all become, and ignoring the needs of the developing horses and riders out here.  Also focusing on the developing riders, all well and good, but we have a wealth of them, but it is way more important to focus on the needs and development of the horses, of which the high quality ones are a rare commodity.

On the Euro centric theme, Annie Lever and Chris Webb are pushing the Agenda that none of our own coaches are good enough, they need to import Oliver Lazurus to coach the HP riders.  Oliver who?  He has participated in the last 2 WEGS, and is a 26 year old from South Africa.  I’m sure he’s a perfectly wonderful person and good coach, but he has nowhere near the track record of our own coaches such as Chris Chugg, Rod Brown or Greg McDermott.  Between those guys and yours truly, not only have we been able to get into the Top 10 at past WEGS, World Cup Finals and Olympics, we have PRODUCED Grand Prix horses from scratch, something I’m not sure Mr Lazurus has done.  Trust me I’m not looking for any extra work, but I am just appalled at this ‘cultural cringe’ being pushed forcefully by our EA High Performance people. In an email I sent to Chris Webb and co I pointed out that one of critical successful factors of the top showjumping nations such as the Dutch and the Germans is that they consistently support their own people and coaches at all levels.

And the dream I had as National Jumping Chair to have 4 to 6 4* level shows in this country, so that we could get closer to the Europeans seems to be vanishing in favour of funds going to Europe or Europeans.  My hope was that our riders could achieve a sufficient standard here so that they would only have to travel to Europe in the year of the major Ch’ships, which has now been done successfully by Chris Chugg, Jamie Kermond, and a few years ago, me with the wonderful APACHE. These guys have no idea of the pressures of being away from home for any length of time, unless you have the wealth of an extremely generous sponsor, and they are a bit thin on the ground.  If you have a fabulous horse, you are being constantly pressured to sell it for megadollars, refer to one of the previous points in that high quality horses are as rare as hens’ teeth.

On that note I have been fortunate in the last 6 months to have been given the ride on a couple of seriously lovely horses, BELLHAVEN JAZZ and BELLHAVEN SANSKRIT, bred by the very dedicated Deb Heindl from Queensland.

My two new stars at Muswellbrook Show. 
Both bred by Deb Heindl. 
Thanks Sophie Frazer for the photos

Deb, along with other breeders, such as Alice Cameron, Yalambi Stud, Noblewood Stud,  Diamond B Farm, Finch Farm and many others are trying to do just that, produce high quality Olympic class horses, and with our superior climate and country, we should be able to do that.  These are the people who should be getting help and support!  BELLHAVEN SANSKRIT I believe has all the scope and ability to be a genuine 1.60 horse, time will tell, but for sure he feels in the class of CACHE and CONGO Z.  The two Bellhaven horses, along with Congo and the lone thoroughbred ST JAMES PALACE have been giving me excellent results at all the shows recently, so I can only thank them, and my outstanding sponsors PRYDES EASIFEEDS, GPA helmets and riding wear, and my newest sponsor, PROTEQ Equine bedding.  Watch this space...


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