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Non Standard Standardbred

Jarrah – A non standard Standardbred by Walter Berger

He was born on the 15th October 1986. The dam was Nubeena and the Sire Patron Score. It’s amazing how useful that freeze brand can be. He never raced according to the Harness Racing Board, but appeared to have been broken into harness, judging from some of the marks on him. And I think he would have been a trotter and not a pacer, as the canter seems to be the natural gait for him, once he is going to quick to trot that is.

Apart from the breeder, there were two owners before me. The first one I don’t know who it was apart from being a she. She apparently broke him into saddle and did a bit of riding and jumping. The next owner used him for Endurance for the short while he had him. He was only doing short rides (is 50 km short?), but developed higher ambitions and decided to get an Arab. As he didn’t want to see him wasted he was advertised as a 16’2 hand bay Gelding. That is where I come into the picture. I was looking for a trail riding horse and saw the add. When I rang, I found out it was a Standardbred and a lady had already left a deposit, but I gave my name and number anyway and kept looking. I found another likely prospect, left a deposit and arranged a vet check for the next day.

That evening I got the phone call. The lady had changed her mind and did I want to have a look. The Vet check was not until noon, so I went up there in the morning just in case. An alert and friendly Gelding and his owner met me. He was saddled up and I went for a bit of a ride in the paddock. Having ridden Standardbreds before, I knew the main thing to look for was if he would canter or pace. I walked around a bit and kicked him up into what was supposed to be a trot. I got a medium sized pigroot (the previous lady prospect fell off at this stage), which was followed by the comfortable Standardbred canter which I had experienced before. I called off the vet for the other horse, and luckless ladies deposit contributed to my loosing my deposit. I didn’t even bother with a vet check on Jarrah, as he felt so right.

That was eight years ago. Since then I found out why he wasn’t raced. When another horse came up next to him, Jarrah would slow down as if to say “You first”. Not good for a racehorse. After a year of trail riding I started looking for more. I joined the HRCAV and Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association (SPPHAV). I found out that Jarrah only had a left lead canter and could canter in a very small right rein circle in left lead. Easy fixed. Jump a small jump about four or five meters before a right hand corner. If he lands in right canter keep going for a bit, if not stop. Repeat for six or eight months. Easy really. I then started competing here and there in most disciplines. I was graded level 4 dressage and Level 5 everything else. I even tried showing, but it bored both of us. After a year we were competitive and graded Level 4 across the board. That was the year of 1997. I went to over 40 competitions that year, placing in most. We finished up being graded Level 3 across the board.

Things slowed down a bit after that, both in progress and number of competitions. I was doing more training in order to improve. This got us to Level 2 Dressage. But before a jumping comp I had to concentrate on getting him into a jumping frame of mind, as he would stop at anything around 3 foot without warning otherwise. Lots of Gymnastic grids and turning before and after jumps. It didn’t come naturally to Jarrah at that height. But he got a first and a second in the State Champion Top Team Showjumping. The year after he won the SPPHAV State Champion Showjumping.

In between all of this we squeezed in a couple of brief appearances as extras on Blue Heelers. The first time we were supposed to be Endurance riders. For the second one it was Mountain Racing. It was here at the end of the day I first discovered Jarrahs acrobatic abilities. We were cantering through a ford on the Werribee River, when a horse next to me fell. Unfortunately while it tried to get up, it hit Jarrah in the chest and a barrel roll was attempted over the top of the other horse and we landed upside down. Belief me, horses are heavy. I was lucky and just got a bad bruising on one leg. Every now and then I pull out the video.

But what we both enjoyed most was the Eventing. We were hardly ever unplaced since getting upgraded to Level 3, getting a number of seconds and thirds. But first place eluded us until a comp in Upper Pakenham. I think it was the toughness of the course combined with the toughness of the horse. We were the only combination to finish on our dressage score in our level. At the next event in Yarrambat we placed second and were subsequently upgraded to Level 2. This only left showjumping for us to point ourself up to Level 2. That was to be attempted after the SPPHAV championships.

At a Showjumping comp in Monbulk we were going well towards collecting the final points needed, when Jarrah decided to demonstrate some more of his acrobatic abilities. After a jump he attempted a forward somersault, but I don’t think he made it all the way as I appeared to be upside down when I hit the ground. Or so I am told. Anyway it gave us both a break for a couple of months while the screw holding my collarbone onto my shoulder settled in. My Christmas present to Jarrah that year was a short ride in a nice soft arena with a monkey strap on my saddle, but he behaved impeccably. He was probably too fat to do anything else. But I think his serious showjumping career his over, even though he still loves to have a hoot over 75 cm jumps. And as he is Level 2 for Eventing, that leaves dressage.

So it is back to where it all began more or less. Every now and then I trail ride when I get the time. The occasional small jump is enjoyed. The main thing that is concentrated on is dressage, which sis still improving. He is only 15 so there are still quite a few years to go. Every now and then you strike a bit of the “he is only a pacer” attitude. But mostly it is “You’ve done well with him” or “I didn’t know they could do that”. Knowledgeable people even still call him a Warmblood or a Thoroughbred. But after years of competing, many people out there know that he is a Standardbred, even though I don’t pull his mane so short that his freeze brand shows. This I show proudly when I get asked what he is.

PS it is now a few years later. Jarrah is 20 years young, acting the 4 year old at times. He has completed a couple of Level 4 short course events last year, winning at Upper Pakenham with the only Clear Time round, and placing 2nd at Upper Yarra. He also competed at the the SPPHAV Dressage State Championships, where he placed 3rd and 4th to some very nice younger horses. He did win the SPPHAV State Chamionship Showjumping for 4 years, retiring from Showjumping officially in 2003. His last win was at the Gembrook 15km Time trial in 2007 where he was acting the 4 year old for most of the ride. What a Champion.

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