FORMER Albury pony club rider Jack Hayden made a nostalgic return to his hometown yesterday to launch the Albury Wodonga International Horse Trials.
The event, one of Australia’s few international trials outside a capital city, is expected to attract the cream of the country’s eventers from April 5 to 7 at the Albury-Wodonga Equestrian Centre.
Hayden, 23, cut his riding teeth at Wirlinga Pony Club, agricultural shows and high country stockman’s challenges. He is now competing at two-star level on the eventing circuit.
He is head groom and stable manager for international eventer Alex Townsend, based at Robertson, in NSW’s Southern Highlands.
He was in town to launch the trials, enroute to the horse trials at Tonimbuk, Victoria, this weekend.
It’s a far cry from the fresh-faced youth who left the family property at Bowna at 19 to break in racehorses in Sydney.
There was never any doubt Hayden would forge a career with horses and while he’s certainly proved a Jack of all trades in the industry, his passion lies with eventing.
And Hayden is relishing the chance to return to his old stomping ground next month.
“I love coming back to Albury and always look forward to the Albury Wodonga International Horse Trials – it gives me a chance to compete on my home turf,” Hayden said.
“It’s a real coup for Albury to secure these trials each year because events of this calibre are usually conducted in capital cities.”
Border business and financial advisory firm WHK also announced yesterday it would renew its major sponsorship of the event for the third year.
Trials director Angela Ramsay said the sponsorship not only helped secure the viability of the event but enabled organisers to increase prizemoney each year to attract high-profile riders and horses, including Olympians.
“The sponsorship enables us to host a significant event in the region and, because the riders and their entourage are usually here for a minimum of three days, there is a significant spend to our businesses,” Dr Ramsay said.
WHK chief executive Chris Kenny said the event was important for the community. “Being able to host the only event of this type outside a capital city and attract riders of Olympic standard is of great benefit to our region,” Mr Kenny said.
Meanwhile Hayden is champing at the bit to make his mark at an event just across the paddock from where he first trotted around at pony club.