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Elphinstone CFA at the Police & Emergency Services
Recently, as part of the Police and Emergency Services games, Elphinstone Brigade Firefighter and Treasurer, Mark Ware, competed and was awarded a bronze medal in two Equestrian Events – one for dressage and one for combined training (includes dressage & show jumping in the same event) on his trusty steed, a 10yo thoroughbred gelding named Teddy.
Teddy (the horse) takes up the story from here:
On the first day of competition, as a crisp Elphinstone autumn dawn was barely breaking, I knew something was up when I received my breakfast earlier than usual. Mark arrived looking sharp in new jodhpurs which caught my eye under his weathered coat – no doubt trying to keep himself clean for whatever was in store for the day.
A bit about myself, as a former racehorse - I took up residence at the Ware farm some 15 months ago, and I must say it is a very happy partnership. Mark is very busy, working a hectic job whilst raising a family of 3 gorgeous kids in partnership with Justine. He is a ‘pony club Dad’ and in his spare time he also drops everything at a moment’s notice to bravely head off to fight fires and attend car accidents with the CFA. It is not unusual to see him coming and going at all hours of the day and night when that siren goes, using his vast experience and qualifications including Lieutenant (could have made a Light Horseman in war times), Breathing Apparatus (funny looking scuba-type gear for smoke), driving accreditations and firefighting accomplishments at an advanced level. He also keeps the books and balances the Fire Brigade budget. His dedication and commitment to the Elphinstone CFA is actually a bonus for me, as he doesn’t have time to work me too hard - not like the hard slog of my former racing days – meaning when he is busy doing other things, I can laze around the well-manicured and fenced paddock in my spare time, chatting to other members of the herd, and basking my glorious chestnut coat in the sun.
Following breakfast, a smooth float ride, heading north, ensued. I always feel safe with Mark driving as I know that he has driven in some very daring firefighting situations, so a float trip is like a ‘walk in the park’ for a driver like him. On arrival at the Elmore Equestrian Park (quite a flash looking place in a broad acre setting) and on exiting my float I received an acknowledgement ‘neigh’ and request for reassurance from a couple of fellow competitors, looking slightly edgy tethered to their respective trailers. Quite nervous myself but trying to look brave, I gave them my deepest confident-sounding murmur in reply. Mark settled me with a hay net and made sure I was comfortable, whilst he went to ‘register’ me for whatever lay ahead.
Looking around I could see the area abuzz with activity, and quickly realised that I was here to compete, as a horse and rider combination as part of the Police and Emergency Services Games 2017. Wow! That’s why we have been doing those arena drills this past week. My old racing day butterflies started to jangle around in my tummy, but when I saw Mark heading back towards me from the Secretary’s office with my number, I felt a lot better with his calm approach and steady hand, as he wiped any travelling dust from my shiny coat, looking a burnished copper-bronze. My bridle and saddle, with sparkling bit and stirrup irons, had been cleaned of any signs of sweat and hair, and the clean saddle cloth slipped easily across the hair on my slick coat as my saddle was put neatly into place. Much care was taken by Mark in adjusting my gear (even more so than usual, to ensure that we were as safe as possible). Instinctively I knew this was going to be a big occasion.
Mark mounted with ease despite me dancing around in excitement. It felt good to be on the move and breathe the cool air into my lungs as we trotted off to the warm-up arena with anticipation. The arena was full of a mixture of horses doing seemingly perfect circles, including some very impressive types. The riders represented the various facets of the Emergency Services – not only Police but Ambulance, Corrections Victoria, SES, to name just a few, and our favourite of course, the CFA. Mark and I met quite a few of the competitors and I was impressed with the level of respect and sportsmanship amongst them all. I felt that it was great for Mark to have interaction and build camaraderie with these fellow, dedicated, brave service personnel in a completely different environment, rather than at an emergency event. The mounted branch Police horses (I call them the Mounties) looked very impressive with their uniformed riders and service-issued saddlecloths bearing embroidered logos – very fancy. Mark and I also made a handsome pair – Mark is tall, lean and beautifully poised – I like to think that I saw the judge nudge the penciller as we entered the arena, so impressed she was.
When it came to my turn to do the dressage test, after a lot of waiting around and even yawning (which was actually good for my nerves) I put my best hoof forward resulting in an impressive display. I could feel that Mark was trying hard to use the subtle aids of communication required in dressage, and I responded accordingly, giving him my very best efforts in each stride. The tests were judged on the best of two for each event. The longer I was there, the more settled I became. I felt exhilarated at the standard of my tests and walked out of the arena effortlessly, like I was walking on air. I secretly hoped that Mark was pleased with me.
The show jumping phase was held in a very large indoor arena. I had never been accustomed to indoor arenas in the past, so I found it all to be quite daunting at first. Chewing on my bit nervously and feeling a slight prickle of sweat behind my ears whilst entering the huge, echoing, indoor space, Mark kept his cool throughout and he gave me such confidence that I was able to jump a couple of very respectable rounds. Thank you Mark for getting me around safely – oh what a team we make!
There were around 12 or 13 riders for each class so there was plenty of competition. At the announcement of the final placings, I was not expecting too much, due to the quality and high standard of the event. I was very pleasantly surprised to hear Mark’s name announced for a Bronze medal for both the dressage, and the combined training. Double bronze at my first Games in Grade 5! I held my head up with pride at the thought of our achievements. I felt so happy at this positive change in my life. You see, back in my racing days, I was considered an ‘also ran’. In Equestrian events, maybe I’ve found my niche. My confidence has really improved and I now feel like a ‘winner’.
I hope that the Elphinstone Fire Brigade would be very proud with how we represented them. I had ‘fire’ in my belly, that’s for sure (ha ha!) One small confession – when the applause sounded for the placegetters – it was quite unsettling as the sound of the people clapping actually gave me a fright (embarrassing – I know!) In the future, I am sure I could get used to it. Bring on the Games of 2018 – and go Elphinstone!
Written by Tracey Franze, Brigade Secretary