Horse trials to celebrate 21 years this weekend
EVENTING: Absolute credit for the creation of the Warwick Horse Trials Club goes to Sylvia Roberts.
Due to her drive, it was on January 30, 1996, that Sylvia, Roger and Jolene Roberts; Mick, Cherry and Cassie Lawlor; Simon Goddard and daughter Alison; Possum Richards, Reg Weatherill, Sue Weatherill (nee Grzesiczak), Katie Grzesiczak, Jan Walker, Anne Sands and Katie Skinner met at Morgan Park and it all began.
The club would grow from nothing to a membership of more than 300, with assets valued at least $1 million and would provide access to eventing for many, many people. Perhaps just as important were the enduring friendships, the experiences and the memories.
Possum Richards was president in 1996 and then Simon Goddard took over from 1997 and went through to 2007.
During this time, Cherry Lawlor put in a massive job as treasurer for the duration. Sylvia and Roger Roberts were always on the committee in various roles, as was Mick Lawlor.
We were well-supported by Bruce Green, then mayor of Warwick, and through some good business planning, a lease was secured and loans arranged.
We hired the polocrosse grounds from 1996 until 2007 as a base for events and this helped us put funds into the course.
To top up funds, we borrowed jumps from the pony club and ran training clinics until the course proper was constructed. Rob Bondfield was the contractor who cleared the first course. During the construction, there were 70 full weekend working bees in two years.
Our first big event was the State Championships in 1999.
We were getting quite a reputation as a top-level course and we bid for the State Equestrian Centre. Sadly, this was highly political but we became known as the State Eventing Centre. The year 2001 saw the club run the National Championships, a massive event with more than 360 riders.
In 2003, we moved into the big league and started hosting the Eventing World Cup qualifiers.
To see the club name up there, beside clubs in Russia, Poland, the USA and at least 15 other countries was a huge thrill. The winner of these events travelled to the final in Europe.
Quite some advertising for Warwick. We contracted to host five World Cup qualifiers. However, the event in 2007 was cancelled due to equine influenza (EI). We had the biggest quarantine in Australian history, 255 horses, an average of 155 people, six weeks.
After EI, the club decided to build its own clubhouse and all required facilities. Gary McKenna took over as president and, with a fantastic team, set about constructing a clubhouse, 250 yards plus stallion yards and wash bays, toilet blocks, power and lighting, water right around the grounds, trot up track, administration office, arena, new tracks to yards, warm-up arena and fencing.
There was reorientation to the start and finish of the cross country, changes to the course, a new entrance with ticket box, commentary box at the water jump and a covered entertainment area/shed at the water.
The original committee was still there but joining the club on this massive expansion was Warwick Jones (Waz), Wally Mapes, Russell Whear and Barry Hounslow.
Partners were all actively involved as well.
We ran another World Cup Qualifier in 2008 but by then we were all out of steam. However, the club was independent with its own facilities and could sustain itself into the future.
Gary McKenna was president from 2007 to 2010 when the massive move to independence was done. Since then, Paul Charlton was president from 2010 until 2013, Michael O'Keeffe led the club in 2014 and was followed by Richard King until 2016. Taking the current committee into the future with a revamped constitution and strategic plan is Mike Reed.
Thanks to past-president Simon Goddard for writing this history for the Daily News as a forerunner to this weekend's 21st anniversary celebrations