Highlights of 2019

The Dressage Showjumping Hobby Horse Challenge

The achievement of competitive goals for many of Australia’s leading dressage and jumping combinations rested on the outcome of the World Cup Qualifier for Showjumping and the Pacific League Dressage Final, both of which took place at the 2019 Boneo Classic from the 25-27 January 2019. Participants and fans of both disciplines gathered on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula understanding that the stakes were high and pressure was on!

The Boneo Park Classic team take great pride in work behind the FEI’s permission to host these important international competitions and a program that heralds Australia’s “coming of age” as an equestrian nation.  Winners and highly placed combinations in all categories place great value on the opportunity to boost to careers and improve their chances of representing Australia at future Olympics and/or WEG’s.

Boneo Park’s Managing Director Fiona Selby said, “The Classic was conceived five years ago to introduce equestrian sport to a wider audience and the Australia Day weekend program has grown into spectacular that provides first class competition and activities which focus on family fun.  Boneo Park is a family owned business and we acknowledge the cooperation and teamwork of our sponsors and the affiliated businesses who share our vision and have helped to make the 2019 Boneo Classic such a wonderful success.  100 people are involved in the organisation and approximately 200 people camped on the grounds this year, making it a real “holiday” atmosphere with benefits to the local community.  The international accreditation of the two feature competitions has brought top overseas judges to Boneo Park and we enjoyed extending “legendary Aussie hospitality” and bidding them farewell with fond memories our wonderful country.”

Back row left to right: Scott McNaught, Director of Boneo Park and Jumping Manager.  Aengus Wright: Sound and Commentary  Stephanie Wake: Marketing Manager
Front row left to right: Karen Lawrence, Director of Boneo Park and Competition Manager.  Lizzy Schirmer: Dressage Secretary, Fiona Selby: Managing Director Boneo Park.  Justine Quayle: Event Team Boneo Park – volunteer and stabling manager.

As day two of the three-day program came to a close, Saturday night’s entertainment promised light relief with time out to mix with old friends and new, re-charge the batteries and prepare for the final day, feeling relaxed and refreshed.

With the exciting new restaurant development almost complete, Arilla will be open to the public all year round from April 2019, and the innovative design brings together world-class facilities for dressage and showjumping with the communal walkways, combined hospitality and catering creating the central hub that was the heart and soul of activity for 2019.  By late Saturday all spectator areas adjoining the restaurant were filled to capacity with many standing under umbrellas or in walkways to get a glimpse of the stars in action.

The evening got off to a great start, capitalising on the friendly rivalry between the showjumping fraternity and their dressage peers.  Seldom do fans have an opportunity for a meaningful contest to decide superiority, so the Boneo Park creative team put “thinking caps” on and came up with a formula for the “ 2019 Boneo Park Hobby Horse Challenge” with teams from each sport matching skills in a friendly interaction between the most respected stars from each sport!  

Each of the teams was made up of a male rider, a female rider and a discipline-specific official.  For Dressage, Brett Parbery and Justine Greer were the rider nominations and Judge Jane Ventura put her best foot forward as the sport’s official.  For Jumping, Brook Dobbin stepped forward with Amber Fuller as the rider reps and Kevin Taranto put on his running shoes, to do his bit as the official for the sport.

After the introductions, the teams met and serious discussions took place to consider strategies for success!  Keeping the competition fair and orderly, also acting as the announcer was jumping “officianado” Liz Richardson, she explained the rules, then Stephanie Wake from Boneo Park handed the hobby horses to the first runners … the starter’s signal was given, and the race was on!

For dressage, Justine Greer jumped out quickly to establish an early lead, but the crowd seemed confident that Amber Fuller’s experience would give her the edge over obstacles and help to put her team in a winning position.   But the outsider Justine was not having any of that, and showed her versatility (or perhaps she has remembered the words of wisdom shared by her Showjumping partner Mark Nicholls???) and cleared the jumps in fine style to retain her lead. She was the first to pass the hobby horse baton over to her team partner, and Brett Parbery securely grasped the stick torso with tenacious intent!

Amber Fuller gained ground and quickly exchanged the baton with teammate Brook Dobbin who grabbed it with single-minded conviction, hoping to do his bit for team success.  Brook had a challenge ahead, but rose to the occasion and gained ground to make a real competition out of the second leg of the Boneo Classic Hobby Horse challenge. 

With just a small edge, Brett completed his leg and passed the hobbyhorse to teammate, the stylishly dressed judge Jane Ventura.   Jane always looks a picture of elegance and today she was on-trend in her tailored slim-fit skirt. A hush came over and jumping fans smiled, Jane’s attire appeared somewhat inappropriate for the athletic performance required to maintain her team’s winning edge and appeared to give the jumping team an unexpected but welcome boost.

In the true spirit of sportsmanship (sportswomanship in this case!) Jane hiked her skirt up, shed her shoes, and employed a never-say-never approach, leaving all jumping hopes pinned on the run of Kevin Taranto.  Kevin tightened his abs and defiantly embraced the orang-utan team mascot, highlighting his intention to make up ground and cement victory for his team.

Unfortunately, the need-for-speed and balance clashed, Kevin hit the deck awkwardly and lay motionless, physically and mentally broken!  Glum looks gave rise to fears that the “green screen” may be employed to shield the crowd from any unpleasant removal of a body.  Boneo Park officials were less concerned, believing that the soft resilient going of the grassed showjumping arena would buffer Kevin’s fall. To elated cheers of jumping supporters, their man was up and bravely keeping hopes alive.

Kevin clearly did not take into account the tenacity and spirit of dressage’s representative and the hopes that were pinned on Jane’s success!  With a burst of energising fervour, the possibility of ripped seams, a ripped reputation or other tragedies were cast aside, and Jane successfully negotiated all obstacles and sprinted down the straight and across the finish line, making it a resounding win for dressage. 

To the deafening applause of dressage fans and sighs of defeat from the jumpers, the joy of the victors was evident. They did not handle the win with any sense of humility and Brett Parbery accepted the trophy, and the team passaged and cantered a victory lap in celebration of this momentous occasion. 

Well done to the dressage team … commiserations to the showjumpers who will have to wait until 2020 to even the score, leaving many to wonder if this could become an Olympic sport in the future???


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