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BLOG: EQUITANA 2018 - That’s a WRAP!

Lara Beth & Cooper on the Obstacle course. © Donna Crebbin

Lara Beth & Cooper on the Obstacle course.

© Donna Crebbin


By Lara Beth Poynton

As Amber and I pulled into EQUITANA in November with Cash Money Heroes’ We Made It playing on the radio - that is exactly how we felt. In our minds, we had already won the Australian Brumby Challenge. From the start of the competition our goal has always been to produce two well-rounded horses that can easily fit into their new families and be successful in any chosen discipline.  

At the start of the challenge 150 days ago two wild, muddy, hairy brumbies stood in a cattle yard in front of us. Fast forward to the start of EQUITANA - there’s an immense feeling of pride knowing how far we had come with the four of us improving and growing together. “When we train horses, we train oneself”.

Emotional truths

Cooper has been a great teacher in helping me to improve the fluency of my body language when communicating with wild horses. He has also taught me that communication is about giving and receiving. Cooper has highlighted the importance of actively listening when training horses.

The challenge for Amber was quite a different emotional journey. Working with the brumbies dared her to confront her fears. The fear of failure but also the fear of success - something she never knew was holding her back from other life endeavours.

For me the 150-day challenge was less about the competition itself and more about becoming a mentor. As a coach, I have learnt there is more to coaching than just merely presenting a physical checklist of exercises. I’ve learnt how to identify when a rider has hit a barrier and how together we can overcome these physical blocks.


Lara Beth & Cooper on the Obstacle course.

© Donna Crebbin

Brumby instincts  

We cannot underestimate the pureness of the Australian brumby and their natural wild instincts. As stated in earlier blogs acknowledging the power of these instincts is a positive in our training. Throughout our training program the brumbies have been allowed to make mistakes. They’ve grown to be part of the team learning to trust in us as the leader just as they would have done with their herd in the high country.

EQUITANA 2018 – first impressions

In previous posts I spoke about the hard work we put into preparing our horses for the atmosphere and busy competition environment. As we rolled through Gate 4, I was full of confidence.

We unloaded Cooper and Wrangler. They stood quietly and began to take in their new surrounds. Cooper was on guard to protect us - his new herd (a natural herd stallion instinct). One hundred volunteers in hi-vis vests came around a corner toward us. I allowed him to make the mistake of stepping forward with his head and neck posture high before I asked him to do the opposite - lowing his head and using the backup cue. Instantly, his focus was back on me as the leader and we were off to meet the other trainers and brumbies.


Lara Beth & Cooper - a winning team in the Freestyle.

© Donna Crebbin


Australian Brumby Challenge – competition over 4 days

Day 1. Round Pen
A great success! Cooper’s condition was fabulous. Brushing was a non-issue. I could pick up all four feet and he lead beautifully, straight into the trailer.

Day 2. Pattern Class
Amber and I added a little dressage colour to the dominant Cowboy/ Cowgirl theme.
I was so pleased with Cooper - he was soft in my hands and responsive to my leg and seat.  

Day 3. Obstacles
Every obstacle in this class was about showcasing what Cooper could do on the day. We rode out to face the crowd, Cooper FROZE. Stage fright! Most of the objects were set up so that the horses had to go forward over the obstacle and toward the crowd. This would be trickier than I thought.

I had to remind myself not to get greedy - no point adding more energy or firmer cues to a nervous horse. I continued to ask Cooper for 1% and by the time we had been through the logs, under the streamers and over the bridge, I had Cooper’s feet and his focus was back in tune with my cues - he had forgotten about the 1000s of people peering over the fence at him.

Day 4. Freestyle Final & First Place Winner!

The music started and my Moulin Rouge routine began. Cooper entered the arena at a trot through our oversized red-sequined curtain. A technical turn on the forehand - a giant podium with a huge red, sequenced flag made for a great first impression. Quick costume change; in time to a music transition with Diamonds are a girls best friend, and the show had begun.

Cooper faced the crowd and was in the zone! The time taken yesterday to boost his confidence meant the show ring was no longer an issue. We picked up his diamond barrel and dragged it behind us yielding to the centreline, a turn on his haunches under our dragline before heading off into canter around and over our feature wall.


Amber Matthews & Wrangler - Freestyle finale.

© Donna Crebbin

I wanted to show how versatile Cooper was by fitting in as many simple elements as possible. The finale began with a straight canter down the centreline to halt and we finished with Cooper’s favourite part - the lie down. I left the arena so pleased with my little horse – such a great way to finish what we had started 150 days ago.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAgMDAe7NDI&t=1s

Whilst the Australian Brumby Challenge and EQUITANA 2018 have meant different things to Amber and myself – importantly - I am so proud of our achievements and that we could give both brumbies the best experience throughout their transition from wild to wonderful.

Lara Beth Poynton

For all updates go to: Brumbydiaries/Lara Beth

We would like to acknowledge the support and generosity of our sponsors throughout the 2018 Australian Brumby Challenge - Kentucky Equine Research (KER) in association with Hastings Produce, Kieffer Australia and Noble Outfitters Australia.








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