Despite over three inches of rain, the North West Equestrian Expo committee hosted another successful event, adapting the program to enable the exhaustive range of horse competitions to be completed.
This year attracting over 500 competitors and 560 horses, Coonabarabran’s premier school sporting event ran to normal schedule on Friday, 3 June - the first day of competition.
However, when the deluge set in on Saturday, organisers stepped in to cancel the day’s program. At a lunch-time meeting with the committee and team managers, an alternate program was developed.
“On Saturday all riders were stood down, which meant no riding at all - riders were only allowed to exercise their horses by lead,” said Expo committee member, Rebecca Moxham.
“This decision was made in view of the safety of competitors and their horses, and to preserve the ground.”
The decision proved wise, as with an earlier start on Sunday and the continuation through to 8.30pm under lights, the program of events was back on track by Monday morning.
“The lights supplied by Graincorp were fantastic,” Mrs Moxham said.
“They lit up the showground to daylight standard and allowed the polocrosse to continue into the night.
“Monday’s events ran from 8am through to 10.30pm, with an amazing polocrosse final fought out between NEGS and TAS under lights. I’m sure there were 200-300 people watching, with NEGS taking the honours and the Hirst Family Trophy.”
Mrs Moxham said the committee had received wonderful support from parents, team managers, volunteers and competitors in successfully implementing the revised program.
“When we announced the alternate plan, everyone was so very grateful that events would still run. The only event we had to cancel was the team six bar, which is pretty amazing considering the weather,” Mrs Moxham said.
“Everyone pitched in and helped, shown by the good roll-up of men early on Tuesday to erect the panels for the team penning. After the late night the previous night, we still had 30-40 turn up to help.
“The rain added a bit of extra pressure, but a big effort by everyone helped in the running of another successful and safe Horse Expo event.”
Presentations of awards were made following Tuesday’s grand parade, with William Sylvester, of The Kings School, successfully defending his 2015 title to again win the Coonabarabran High School perpetual trophy for Highest Individual Point Score.
Runner-up was Coonabarabran High School student, Octavia Whale.
Expo chairman, Kevin Sharp, congratulated all competitors on their sportsmanship and resilience in dealing with the trying conditions.
“The weather certainly produced challenges, but challenges are a part of life,” Mr Sharp said.
“I congratulate you all on the way you’ve gone about things and what you’ve achieved over the last five days. You’ve been through some horribly wet weather, and cold weather, and you coped with distinction.
“I think you are all winners, as you have had the opportunity to be here and compete under all sorts of circumstances.”
Mr Sharp encouraged competitors to return to their schools and thank their principals and staff for allowing them time out of school.
“It is important in terms of equestrian sports that we stand solid in encouraging schools to continue to allow equestrian sports to thrive in schools,” he said.
Mr Sharp said the success of Expo was not possible without the contribution of the many volunteers, service organisations, support groups and sponsors.
“This event simply cannot run without our volunteer helpers. Your enormous amount of co-operation makes a significant contribution and we thank you so much - you are most important, ” Mr Sharp said.
“We also have an enormous amount of sponsors. Nearly every business in the Coonabarabran community and surrounds take this event on.
“They have adopted us over the years and we thank we them for their continued support.”
Due recognition of the Expo committee’s efforts were obvious from an email received from Brian Marshall, whose two daughters competed as representatives of St John Paul College, Coffs Harbour.
“A big thank you to you and the team for another great year,” wrote Mr Marshall.
“Although we only had two riders from St JPC (which is actually double what we had the year before), my daughters and my wife and I enjoyed the week at Coona with all the events.
“Friday/Saturday, like your team, we were questioning why had we gone. But, on the trip home, the girls said that it was a 9.5 or 10 out of 10 week!
“Your amazing team re- organised schedules and draws at the last minute to try and accommodate 500 riders - it was an amazing outcome that we do not even try to start to understand.
“For our youngest daughter, who was experiencing the interschools experience at Coona for the first time, she is already talking about next year.
“So, a massive thank you and well done to all your team - what a massive effort, it was really appreciated.
“See you all next year!”
The 2017 North West Equestrian Expo will mark the 25th anniversary of the event.
“We are very happy with the way the Expo ran this year,” Mrs Moxham said.
“Expo is a big thing for Coonabarabran and this year it was no different - it was a very good and successful event.
“We are now looking forward to our 25th anniversary, and making it extra special.”
North West Equestrian committee chairman, Kevin Sharp, congratulates William Sylvester, of The Kings School, winner of the Coonabarabran High School perpetual trophy for Highest Individual Point Score, for the second consecutive year, and runner-up, Coonabarabran High School student, Octavia Whale.