Showjumpers hit COVID hurdle

The Mount Gambier Showjumping Club leapt back into action for the 39th Nutrient Easter Showjumping Festival over the long weekend at the Blue Lake Sports Park Velodrome.

Despite the anticipation for the festival’s 12-month return, entries were down 75% from last year, with less than 30 riders due in part to COVID-19 and uncertainty about the grounds.

Mount Gambier Showjumping Club president David Johnson said the hesitation regarding the Velodrome was due to remediation work.

“There is still work to do on the grounds because we have a section in the middle that is quite soft and an area that is firm on the outside,” he said.

“We are hopeful we can get the grounds back to where they were because they have been excellent for a long time previously.

“Over time the top dress filled up the arena which made it high on the infield creating an inconsistent field.”

Johnson said while the number of entries were disappointing the quality of riders certainly was not.

“The lack of entries made it harder to design the course and for volunteers as events were in quick succession,” he said.

“We cannot complain about the quality of entrants, and it was great to see juniors from our club compete successfully.

“For many of our local riders it is not an easy event because the Velodrome represents a unique type of atmosphere where you ride outdoors but it feels like an indoor.

“The concrete walls work against the rider and the horse meaning they have to be riding the whole time, coming up against the walls and backing off much like an indoor arena.

“The amazing thing about the Velodrome is the unique vision it creates, giving spectators vision from all over the grounds.”

Entrants came from as far as Adelaide and Geelong with a mix of returned and new riders competing to ride away with a win.

The first major event was the David Clark Memorial won on Sunday by Mark Lindh on Six Pack.

Katrina Hope won The City of Mount Gambier Grand Prix on Oaks Gunn on Monday presenting an emotional acceptance speech that resonated with the crowds.

To round out the weekend Grant District Council John Wilshire Memorial Blue Lake Stakes round was taken out by Ally Wake on Olympia MVNZ with a beautiful display of showjumping on a testing course.

Conor Reed won the Produce Store 1.40m speed class on Leopoldo Reed beating out Hope.

Johnson said the competition would not be possible without the support of sponsors and volunteers.

International showjumping judge Kevin Taranto said the willingness to help at the Mount Gambier festival was not seen anywhere else.

“Everyone helps each other, and it is a great sense of community,” he said.

“There were no announcements over the public address (PA) system for volunteers because of all their hard work.”

Due to scheduling the second ring was unable to be used but the club are hopeful to have it running again in 2023.

Planning for next year is already under way to celebrate the Mount Gambier Showjumping Club’s 40th Nutrient Easter Showjumping Festival in spectacular fashion.

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