Hazel Shannon was a relieved young woman when she left the arena after show jumping clear and thereby winning the Adelaide CIC4* on her much-loved Clifford. The pair finished 14.5 penalties ahead of Wilhelm Enzinger on Wenlock Aquifer, with Andrew Cooper on Evergem Perfection a further 0.7 back in third. Wil was also fourth on Britannica MVNZ.
“I was nervous,” said Hazel. “I watched the first four just to see how everything was riding, but I didn’t want to know what Wil or Andrew had done as that would just mess with my mind. I managed to keep myself pretty busy today; we are leaving tonight so I started packing up the gear and Clifford went for extended grazes. I can’t believe this; I think it will take a few weeks to sink in.”
She wasn’t planning anything tonight except the long journey home to her base in Newcastle, but she said she would be reliving the moment all the way and would perhaps treat the team to a large ice cream.
Eleven-year-old Clifford will now get a break and it is hoped Adelaide will be the next four-star event for him. “He is still really young, so it will be just keeping him fit, not overworking him.” Riding at the World Equestrian Games is a long-term goal for Hazel, so she is hopeful today’s result will help towards achieving that.
Hazel is originally from Mutchilba, around an hour and half west of Cairns in North Queensland. Her mother Melanie came to Australia “a long time ago” from England and grew up with horses. Hazel’s dad and brother camp-draft, so there have always been horses in the family. Hazel, who’s now 24, moved to Newcastle to work for Heath Ryan when she left school, seven years ago. Second-placed Wil Enzinger also did his ‘time’ with Heath, spending four years there when he left school.
Clifford is owned by Wendy Ward, who is the Ryans’ next-door-neighbour. She was overcome with emotion after her horse’s win. “It’s so very special. It is very emotional, as my late husband had a close attachment to him. I feel like he is here.”
This is Wendy’s first trip to Adelaide. She arrived on Saturday morning after pressure from Hazel. “She kept making the excuse that she had horses to look after. We cracked her eventually. Eventing is a bit outside her comfort zone – she’s into dressage – but now she’s had a taste of it, we hope she’s here with us more often!”
Wendy’s sister bred Clifford, who Wendy describes as a failed racehorse. “He was named after my grandfather, as he was out of my grandmother’s mare. Hazel had the choice of naming him for registration and she asked if he could keep that name, which was great.” The chestnut gelding is by Passing Shot out of a Double Income mare, Twin Pearls, and was seventh in the four-star here last year with Hazel.
Wendy may have been the good luck charm this weekend, but Hazel certainly prepared well for the event and delivered a polished performance. Her only jumping fault (0.4) was for being one second over the cross-country time.
Heath Ryan, never short of words, had lots to say about Hazel. “She is one special kid.” When Hazel arrived at his place, she had never ridden a one-day event. “She comes from way up north; it would take her five days to drive down here ordinarily. She came down and stayed and worked and stayed and worked.” He also talked about how his neighbour Wendy wanted Clifford schooled and then sold on. “Hazel formed this amazing bond with him, and Wendy has just been one of those quiet backers.”
Heath thought Hazel’s performance was “inspirational” especially given the level of competition. “This sport is held down by some wickedly good riders, gold medallists, but they are so good they have made it very difficult for the kids to penetrate that standard of excellence. To see someone like this come in from the bush and just very quietly, without any grandstanding – so opposite to me – do so well. This is just the beginning.”
As well as the winner’s cheque, Hazel collected the series prize of $10,000 for the most points at both Melbourne and Adelaide three-day events. Next year it will be a triple crown competition with Sydney joining in the series.
At the press conference, all three top-placed riders talked about how competing last year had helped them consolidate their horse’s performance, and how they were more prepared this time. This will be music to Andy Daines’ ears, as he reflects on his first four-star completion. He said afterwards that he intends doing ‘a lot’ more. Andy finished on 144 points, after four rails down and a time fault in the show jumping phase.
“We will take him home and have a few weeks off and then make a game plan. I don’t want to rush him now. I thought I rode the jumping really soft, and thought I didn’t get too bad distances. He just felt a bit tired today. It’s been awesome, and no, the social life hasn’t been a focus but it is going to pick up tonight!”
Look out Adelaide!