After a five-year wait, Mount Gambier show horse talent Sally Bond finally received the chance to perform on the big stage at the 2021 Hufglocken Grand Nationals in Sydney last month.
When a freak accident created an unexpected road block in a promising career, Bond was forced to put all of her personal ambitions aside just to get back on the saddle.
However, the 20-year-old made it to Sydney with her beloved horse Lucas and showcased their skills alongside the best rider-horse combinations in the country.
She said it was eye opening just to witness the Grand Nationals again, let alone compete in it. “It was a privilege to be there,” Bond said. “It was the first national show horse competition since the end of 2019, so it was amazing to see competitors from every state in Australia together again.
“The standard of horses and riders now is twice if not three times stronger than before COVID because everyone was so eager to get back and the atmosphere was incredible.”
Bond competed in two events across the four-day competition. The first was the Open Large Galloway class where the presentation of Lucas was analysed to the finest detail, while the Rider 17 to 21 year category saw Bond’s expertise on the saddle put under the microscope.
The Mount Gambier pair gave it everything, but could not break into the top 10 and Bond admitted she was disappointed with the result. She said allowing mistakes to creep into her usually immaculate preparation time proved costly.
“When you compete at the national level you put a lot of pressure on yourself to get the best performance possible, but that means you can over-think things or disregard your usual routine,” Bond said.
“I went into it thinking how can I get better and what can I change to make sure we covered all bases for the perfect performance. “A lot of people also put forward suggestions and I took those ideas on board, but in the meantime I disregarded what usually works for me.
“I had a set out structure to prepare, but that all went out the window on competition day because I took too many ideas, so we overdid it.”
Bond said it was easy to overcomplicate things with the exhausting build up towards a single event beginning as soon as she ventured into Sydney. “We got there on Tuesday and both our events were not until Friday, but from the moment you arrive you are preparing your horse by either washing, grooming, riding or training to get them focused,” she said.
“If you want your horse to get a look at the arena before the event you must get up at ridiculous hours of the morning, so they are extremely long days.
“On the day of our competition I went out for our first class and it was not our best performance and the period between the first and second events was so stressful and by the time we headed out we were overworked.”
Despite not meeting expectations, Bond enters the winter break in a good frame of mind ready for some big challenges ahead. She has already qualified for next year’s Grand National and will get another big chance at the top level in December during the prestigious EA Australasian Show Horse and Rider Championships.
Bond will hone her skills seeking guidance from one of the best riders in the country during the break and is excited about the road ahead. “We have had people say to us Lucas and I as a combination have the potential to win nationals and beat the professionally ridden horses, so if we keep fine tuning things we can get some good results,” she said.
“Quality wise I know Lucas is in the top five in Australia, but performance wise he is not quite there, so that motivates me to get everything 110% and possibly achieve a fantastic result like a national title which is the dream.”