Full Noise at Full Flight

EQUITANA Melbourne’s Full Flight Show lived up to its name with action aplenty before a near capacity crowd in the Aqualuma Grand Pavilion.

The Willinga Park Puissance produced plenty of heart-stopping moments as seven of Australia’s bravest combinations took on the Great Wall of Melbourne. Merrick Ubank lined up with his big grey Ego Landmark, Warango Landidon and the lovely chestnut Alantinus; Hayden James made the long trek from his base with James’ Continue; James Arkins had his striking Kiwi bred grey Waitangi Skynet; Leon Carroll was aboard the showy DeLisch and Stephen Dingwall on the 18.1hh homebred Cavalier Ludicrous...

All were chasing Gavin Chester’s 39 year old Australian record of 2.32m and pick up the $80,000 prize money. Fittingly Gavin designed the course for the puissance – a class steeped in history and while common in years gone by, is rarely seen these days.

Round one saw the Great Wall of Melbourne set at 1.7m with four fences to be cleared first. Movie stunt double Merrick and his trail blazing Ego Landmark had an unfortunate rail at the triple bar to collect four faults and while they cleared the wall that was the end of their efforts.

Next out was Hayden and James’ Continue who also bowed out after two refusals at the wall. Stephen and Cavalier Ludicrous were the kings of cool posting the first clear round of the night – much to the delight of the crowd.

Clears flowed from then, with Merrick aboard both Warango Landidon and Alantinus, James on Waitangi Skynet and Leon on DeLisch all progressing to the second round.

With the wall pushed up to 1.9m there were a few nudges but clears came from Stephen, Merrick with both his horses, and James. At 2.05m in round three things started to get really serious – the tension was palpable and the crowd on the edge of their seats.

Merrick and Warango Landidon took the top of the wall to end their quest, but he continued on with Alantinus; Stephen and Cavalier Landidon rode a spectacular clear; while James and Waitangi Skynet saw blocks tumble and bowed out. “I’m almost relieved I don’t have to go through to the next round,” he said.

The bevy of EQUITANA’s Prydes EasiFeed volunteers were on their tippy toes as they added another layer to the wall bringing it up to 2.17m for Stephen and Merrick. The big top erupted when Stephen and Cavalier Ludicrous gave it their best shot but took the top off the wall. Merrick and Alantinus gave it their best shot but pulled out at the wall to concede the win.

While the record wasn’t broken, the puissance showcased the talent and bravery of some of Australia’s best, delighting the crowd and pushing riders to their limits.

Everyone picked their favourites for the Fibre Fresh Knockout Championship where the young guns took on the more experienced with some surprising results. Speed demon Patrick Everingham was the star of the show, just edging out the very promising Hayden Parker who at 13 years of age being likened to (British showjumping superstar) John Whittaker. In the B final, James Arkins edged out pocket rocket Zoe Waller for third place.

The EQUITANA Australian Open Exhibition Eventing title came right down to the wire. Dressage leader Sarah May and Charlie Bean didn’t have the best of days in the jumping phase and finished the day in 11th place. Sophie Fox and Mr Pig, who were in sixth after the dressage, pulled through to take the title on 49 penalty points.

Coming into the jumping there was just a rail between the top 10. Seven of the 16 combinations tried the joker – where riders risked adding eight penalty points to their score or being rewarded with four faults off. It proved a real bogey fence for many, with just Erin Callahan and Danson Lincoln successfully clearing it. Georgina Birrell and Marlborough View were the only ones to finish without jumping penalties, but no-one made time. A related line between two skinny brushes mid-field proved very influential, claiming half the field, with an upright off a corner early in the course was also problematic.

Results –

Willinga Park Puissance: Stephen Dingwall, Cavalier Ludicrous 1, Merrick Ubank, Alantinus 2, Merrick Ubank, Warango Landidon and James Arkins, Waitangi Skynet =3, Leon Carroll, DeLisch 5.

EQUITANA Australian Open Exhibition Eventing: Sophie Fox, Mr Pig 49 1; Georgina Birrell, Marlborough View 50.6 2; Benjamin Tyson, Chilli Class 55.8 3; Erin Callahan, Danson Lincoln 60.6 4; Daniel Draft, Mount Anakie Crescendo 65 5; Charlotte Sheldon, Townshend LS 67.2 6.

Fibre Fresh Speed Knockout Championship: Patrick Everingham 1, Hayden Parker 2, James Arkins 3, Zoe Waller 4.