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Top trainers championing equine welfare cause

5 min read

Written by Paul Vettise (All images courtesy of Stephen Mowbray)

A group of leading Australian trainers have been at the forefront of the promotion of equine welfare and an active life for thoroughbreds after racing.

The vehicle they have unhesitatingly climbed aboard is Jump Off, a reality television production that marries racing and show jumping and in the process advances the lifetime care of ex-racehorses.

The high stakes series paired the trainers with show jumping riders to prepare thoroughbreds for the show jumping ring with $100,000 in prize money on the line.

The riders: Russell Johnstone, Peter McMahon, Vicki Roycroft, Jamie Kermond and David Cameron

Jump Off has been created by Steve Dundon, executive producer of Showmakers Equestrian. He has over 25 years’ experience in the television industry and is also a keen show jumper.

“We wanted to show that many of these horses can have a second career in equestrian disciplines.” - Steve Dundon.

“Not every horse can win a Melbourne Cup. We wanted to show that many of these horses can have a second career in equestrian disciplines,” he said.

Hosted by Hamish McLachlan, the series aired on Channel Seven with replays on racing.com and recently culminated in the grand final.

Michelle and Stevie Payne were part of the winning team

David Hayes of the Lindsay Park powerhouse, G1 Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Darren Weir, multiple Group 1 winner Mick Price, former top jockey and now successful trainer Patrick Payne and Godolphin’s head conditioner James Cummings were all involved.

“It showcases thoroughbreds in a show jumping career, there is life after racing for these horses.” - Lou Spargo.

“It showcases thoroughbreds in a show jumping career, there is life after racing for these horses,” Showmakers’ Lou Spargo said.

“The show jumping riders were the best of the best and had slightly different methods to re-train their thoroughbreds.

“They worked closely with the race trainers throughout the series.

Three-time Olympian Vicki Roycroft was partnered with James Cummings

Quality teams

Hayes teamed up with Olympian Russell Johnstone; Weir with fellow Olympian Pete McMahon; Price teamed up with former Australian show jumping champion and coach David Cameron; Cummings with three-time Olympian Vicki Roycroft and Payne with two-time Australian show jumping champion Jamie Kermond.

The $100,000 show jumping final was won by the Payne and Kermond team with Raposo, a 7-year-old by Iffraaj (GB) who won three races and was retired with earnings of just under $200,000.

The winning team of Jamie Kermond and Raposo, partnered with Michelle Payne

“When I was growing up in Warrnambool the Payne name was famous and now the years have gone on and Michelle won a Melbourne Cup and the Payne name is famous around the world,” Kermond said.

“For me, to be able to be involved with them is amazing.” – Jamie Kermond.

“For me, to be able to be involved with them is amazing.”

Spargo said each rider jumped two horses in the grand final and following episodes of Jump Off will further focus on the equine welfare theme.

“We go behind the scenes and see what went on during the final, the reality side of life in professional show jumping stables and how their teams work together.

“We follow up on the horses that were in the series and what they’re doing and where they’re at now.”

A handful of high-profile horses took part, including Price’s multiple Group 1 winner Lankan Rupee (Redoute’s Choice), Weir’s millionaire galloper Gotta Take Care (Rubiton) and Godolphin stakes winner Magic Hurricane (IRE) (Hurricane Run {IRE}).

Darren Weir

“Unfortunately, Lankan Rupee had an abscess during the training period and had to have some time off.” – Lou Spargo.

“Unfortunately, Lankan Rupee had an abscess during the training period and had to have some time off. But he was there on final night and Gotta Take Care and Magic Hurricane did very well,” Spargo said.

“The horses that didn’t make the final can all go on to show jumping careers or pony club, hacking, polo or eventing.”

Positive feedback

Jump Off was enthusiastically received by all those from the thoroughbred code and here’s what a selection had to say.

“We like to believe that after racing and even during racing these horses deserve a really good life. This is great that they’ve got something to look forward to after we’ve said goodbye to them.” –James Cummings.

James Cummings

‘We certainly like horses to have a life after racing. If we retire a horse here, we have what we call ‘the sack paddock’ for horses that have retired and they can stay there for as long as it takes to find them a home. We think that’s really important because we love horses to have a life after racing.” – Darren Weir.

“Jump Off is fantastic. It’s a confirmation of the commitment from Racing Victoria to the rehoming of off the track thoroughbreds. You’ve never seen people look after their horses better than in equestrian.” – Mick Price.

Mick Price

“At Lindsay Park we normally sell our horses with racing left in them. But then you’ll get the occasional old veteran that goes right through. If they can go to show jumping homes you know they are going to be wonderfully cared for.” – David Hayes.

Showmakers Equestrian has attracted key support from the racing industry with Racing Victoria and RV’s Off the Track program signing on as major partners. Other sponsors include Bates Saddles, Horseware, Barastoc, Coprice, Pryde’s EasiFeed, Horsepower, National Horse Transport, Willinga Park, Boneo Park and Horizon Show Jumps.

Ben Hayes