Show Horse Magazine Australia Online
The Road To The Garryowen... Part One
The Garryowen Perpetual Trophy is a turnout trophy which is a part of the Melbourne Royal held each year. The Garryowen has been held since 1934 and is perhaps the most prestigious event of showing.
The event is held in memory of Violet Murrell who sadly perished in a stable fire in March 1934, along with her highly decorated champion mount, Garryowen.
After her death the Garryowen Turnout Perpetual Trophy was named in her honour and has since been held at Melbourne Royal for the past 78 years, this year representing the 79th year. Each year the winner is presented with a replica trophy, a sash and a medallion featuring a photo of Violet and Garryowen.
In the beginning years, competitor line ups would count around twenty horses long, gradually these numbers have grown and it is not uncommon for competitors to wait for four hours for their workout.
The Garryowen is open to lady riders aged 18 and over competing in riding classes at the Melbourne Royal. Horses must be over 14hh to compete and also must be entered in saddle classes. Though you do not need to own the horse, you can borrow a mount as long as you fit the guidelines.
This year will see the first Standardbred to join the competitor line up, with Kathleen Mullen, a rider based in Melton, Victoria.
Riding since she was four years old and competing from the early age of eight, Kathleen was born into a harness racing family and has always been involved with standardbreds, showing them since she was fifteen. Training with Manu McLean for good dressage basics and the well known Mark Kenzig for show ring polish, Kathleen has had many successes in the ring with her standardbreds.
“The Garryowen has always been one of those events that you'd love to do if you had the right horse and an unlimited bank account, neither of which I ever in my wildest dreams thought I'd have! I had actually virtually retired from the ring when the right horse came along in a completely unexpected package (a Galloway size standardbred?!) and I have been lucky enough to gain sponsorship from a number of organisations keen to see the Standardbred become accepted into the wider equestrian community as a viable pleasure and performance horse. I also really love the story behind the trophy; that Violet was so devoted to her horse she lost her life trying to save his is so tragic but it reflects the partnership between them and I really think that’s what the Garryowen should be about, a stunning combination of horse and rider, presented immaculately and working beautifully as a team.”
Successfully competing in the Garryowen requires a special type of horse, with movement, conformation, manners, ring etiquette and superior education. Kathleen’s very special standardbred will this year make an appearance in the line up.
“MF Hollywood is affectionately known as James at home. We bred and raced him, though he managed just 4 pretty dismal starts as a 3yo before being sent for a spell. I broke him to saddle while he was spelling and he showed so much ability that I pretty much pinched him from Dad and ended his race career. He has blossomed as a show horse, having developed a very cheeky personality however he is also extremely trainable and doesn’t know the meaning of no, he’ll just keep trying for you until he gets it right.”
Of course a standrardbred is certainly not what you would expect to see in the line up of the Garryowen with most mounts being thoroughbred hacks, warmblood/thoroughbred crosses and the occasional riding pony cross too.
“I have been involved with the breed my whole life and have been showing them for the past 15 or so years, I'm extremely passionate about disapproving the myths regarding their looks and their ability to be educated to a high level under saddle. I showed my stallion to royal level in open breed classes and his own Standardbred classes but a small part of me always wished he was a gelding so he could also prove himself in the open ring, now James has taken over the mantle and is able to show that the right Standardbred, with the right education, is more than able to hold their own in the show ring at the highest level.”
There is a lot to be said for preparation in the lead up to this prestigious event. Between organising perfectly fitting, highly expensive clothes which are specifically ruled to be used in the event, reflectively polished gear and that’s not to mention the horse!
Jackets, vests and breeches should be tailor made with jackets traditionally made in black cavalry twill fabric with a neatly hand stitched edge with all button holes able to undo including the sleeves also a button hole in which to wear a gardenia in memory of Violet. Breeches are hand stitched and made in cavalry twill, to be done up on the second and third buttons. Stocks must be freshly tied and free of creases, most riders have four or five stocks just in case they crease one. Gold oval cuffs links connected with a chain are essential on hand stitched cuffs, with the shirt cuff just visibly poking out from the jacket sleeve. Top boots must be immaculately polished including the soles, with correctly fitted spur straps buckling in the middle and sitting precisely level, never to tip up or down. To finish the ensemble, a leather covered hacking cane to match the saddlery must be carried in woollen gloves with a pearl button. Although bowler hats were traditional, riders have been required to wear an approved helmet with safety strap since 2003. For tradition purposes, riders must carry a gold coin in one pocket and a white laced hanky in their right pocket. Riders must also have very understated make up with hair neatly tied in a bun with no visible hair pins or panty line.
Asking Kathleen was she had been planning in the lead up to the event, she seemed very busy!
“A lot of boot polishing and stock tying! Well, in all seriousness this has been nearly 12 months in the planning, it began at Equitana 2012 where the idea was first floated that organisations such as Harness Racing Australia would be prepared to sponsor us in terms of the massive outlay of outfitting both myself and James. Without this sponsorship there’s no way we would ever have been able to compete so I am incredibly grateful to those organisations who all pooled in a small amount each to be able to get us to the Garryowen. Unfortunately we are both on the smaller, rounder side so it was hard to find second hand gear that wasn’t made for 5’9, size 6 supermodels so we had to go with mainly new gear. Caroline Wagner (5 time Garryowen winner) from Wagner’s Saddlery has been an absolute god sent; she has worked so hard in perfecting my outfit and has been a wealth of helpful hints, tips and advice. She will also be helping dress me on the day which is a huge weight off my shoulders as I know she will have everything spot on and it will then just be up to us to get the workout right!”
Scoring the Garryowen is a collaboration of six judges each judging a separate score. The six sections of scoring are manners and paces, riding, saddlery, rider costume, conformation and soundness and general appearance. Each judge scores each horse and rider and these are tallied together equalling a total of 200 points. The combination with the most points is the overall victor. Once a decision has been made, all competitors are called back to the arena and places are announced starting from sixth upwards.
“We have been training very hard over the winter break to get both of us fit and strong and working at our best, but I have really tried to keep the lead up pretty much the same as the usual run into a new show season, just starting a bit earlier. We are attending Adelaide Royal as a bit of a warm up, which will give James a chance to experience a royal show atmosphere before we head to Melbourne Royal a week or so later.”
With the prestigious event not far away at all, preparation has reached its peak with all of the final details being brought together.
Saddlery must be perfectly matching and shiny clean. Bridles are doubles, with a bit and bradoon, plain flat leather noseband and browband with all buckles done up on the middle holes. Saddles are special turnout saddles with covered buttons, double layered and stitched girth points with buckle guards. Stirrups are worn without tread and the set is finished with a leather girth. This is all sat upon a fitted sheepskin numnah matching the colour of the leather.
** Be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2 of Kathleen & James' journey to compete in the Garryowen, where we will catch up with Kathleen and get all the details of how they went in the event.
Article Written & Compiled By: Sophie-Lea Upson
Show Horse Magazine Australia would like to wish Kathleen & MF Hollywood all the very best of luck in the 2013 Garryowen Equestrienne Turnout Competition