A HORSE IN THE HUNT:
In Louise Davis, a local tradition, and a family tradition, lives on
Louise Davis and Rubble look content after their big win at the prestigious hunt teams jumping contest at the Royal Melbourne Show earlier this month.
TWENTY years after Mansfield’s champion hunt rider Dick Oliver had his greatest ever season, Mansfield can again celebrate another hunting champion.
Earlier this month, Mansfield local Louise Davis and her team from the Lilydale Hunt Club managed the perfect ride to take out victory at the Peter Ronald Memorial Hunt Club Teams Jumping Contest at the Royal Melbourne Show.
Ms Davis, who only recently jumped back on the horse after a 20 year hiatus, said she felt proud and honoured to follow in the footsteps of Dick Oliver, one of her heroes.
“I grew up watching these competitions and in awe of people like Dick Oliver, who were incredible at it,” Ms Davis said.
“Dick used to win year after year, in every event that he entered, he was incredible.
“To follow someone like him is pretty special.”
The hunting competition is a test of discipline, skill and synchronisation, involving fence jumps of up to 1.2 metres in teams of three.
The first rider performs a solo lap of four jumps, before picking up the second rider for a lap and then the third.
Without missing a beat, the riders must clear the jumps with immaculate timing while riding at a fast canter to a gallop - a ‘hunting pace’, as it is known in the sport.
The event is so named as it is deigned to simulate jumping through paddocks during a fox hunt.
Ms Davis said the adrenaline of competition and the satisfaction of winning was an awesome feeling.
“I haven’t won stuff since I was a kid – since the ‘90s – so this is pretty cool,” Ms Davis said.
“Winning something as a team is very special.”
It all came out of the blue for Ms Davis, who had never thought too much about competing at such a prestigious event.
“We did a five minute practice after a hunt one day,” she said.
“We thought maybe we should put these horses together and see if they get along – and they just clicked.
“We had a few laps of practice and thought, ‘oh well, this is as good as we can get it’, so we were just really lucky on the day that it kind of just all fell into place really.”
The competition was only the first time Davis and her team had attempted the event, but she is now hooked on that winning feeling.
“It was our first competition, and they threw us in the deep end and we won,” Ms Davis said.
“We’ve got to keep it up now – we’ve promised we’re going to go back to back.
“When we finished we were like – ‘let’s do it again’.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be that much fun, and then to find out that we won, that just took it to a new level.”
While Mansfield does not have a hunt club itself, Ms Davis said that the Lilydale Hunt Club has some great land owners from Mansfield down to Yea, who invite members onto their property to ride.
“It is very lucky and it means we get to do what we love with our horses and have a good time with a great bunch of people,” she said.
A week after her win, Ms Davis said she felt thrilled to do honour to one of her family’s favourite pastimes.
“My family has been doing this forever – I had no choice,” Ms Davis said with a smile.
“Holding that winner’s shield was pretty cool, especially for our families, because they’ve all hunted for so long and are heavily involved in it. “It was pretty special.” The victory provides a nice symmetry for Ms Davis, who fondly remembers ‘the grand old man of hunting’, Dick Oliver.
It was 20 years ago that Mr Oliver and his horse China Beach were still one of the best hunting combinations in the state, and had just won four events at the Royal Melbourne Show.
“He was such a nice man, just an incredible rider, and we all looked up to him,” said Ms Davis.
HAPPY HUNTING GROUND: (From left) Amy Herbert on Casper, Louise Davis on Rubble and Jessica O’Donnell on Kerry jump their way to victory during the Peter Ronald Memorial Hunt Club Teams Jumping Contest at the Royal Melbourne Show earlier this month.