Mounts on loan for Cup

Central and North Rural Weekly - - HORSES FOR COURSES -

SARA Grills has lived and breathed stock horses her whole life, from us­ing them on her fam­ily’s farm as a child and util­is­ing their skill and agility dur­ing polocrosse matches, to suc­cess­fully breed­ing them through the fam­ily’s Ber­ra­goon ASH Stud.

Add into the mix that two of her chil­dren, Lucy and Jim, were re­cently named in the Aus­tralian polocrosse squad, both vy­ing for a spot on the 2019 Aus­tralian Polocrosse World Cup team and it is fair to say that Sara knows a thing or two about the classic, ver­sa­tile Aus­tralian stock horse.

Sara said the fam­ily had long links with the breed.

“My mum started in 1974, not long af­ter the Aus­tralian Stock Horse So­ci­ety was formed,” she said.

“We had a fam­ily prop­erty at Hay and horses had al­ways been a big part of our lives.

“We used stock horses on the farm and my sis­ter and I were in­volved in pony club.

“I joined the busi­ness in 1979 when I fin­ished school, so have been in­volved in breed­ing for nearly 40 years.

“My hus­band Charlie, sis­ter Deb­bie and I took over the busi­ness in 1987 and have been run­ning it ever since.

“Now our chil­dren, Lucy and Jim, and their part­ners, Matt Dav­i­son and Katie Wills, are in­te­gral to the stud’s suc­cess. It is a true fam­ily busi­ness.

“It prob­a­bly dates back to the late 1800s when my great-grand­fa­ther was a mem­ber of NSW’s first polo team.

“We still have his silks, which is pretty spe­cial.”

Ber­ra­goon ASH stud is on about 1620ha at Hol­brook, NSW that spe­cialises in ar­ti­fi­cial breed­ing.

The stud will be a source for horses loaned for use in the Ad­ina 2019 Polocrosse World Cup to be held War­wick, Queens­land.

“Many of our su­pe­rior mares are polocrosse horses, so the ar­ti­fi­cial breed­ing al­lows us to breed prog­eny from them with­out tak­ing them out of the com­pet­i­tive cir­cuit,” Sara said.

In the 12 months lead­ing up to the World Cup, three Aus­tralian horse scouts go to matches across eastern Aus­tralia to see which horses are per­form­ing, seek­ing tough­ness, speed, en­durance, re­silience and agility.

All se­lected horses are put into a pool to en­sure the se­lec­tion process is fair across all teams, with an even spread of graded horses.

It may seem ex­tra­or­di­nary to loan horses to strangers, but it is a part of the sport.

“We are lucky to cur­rently have quite a few nice polocrosse horses at Ber­ra­goon, which means that we can loan out A-grade horses while keep­ing a few of our most valu­able breed­ing mares safely back at the stud. It is re­ally im­por­tant to loan high-qual­ity horses – the sport re­lies on it,” Sara said.

“We have be­come even more at­tuned to this since our kids started play­ing at a na­tional and international level.

“We rely on oth­ers to loan horses so our kids can per­form at their best, and we do the same in re­turn.

“We do it to sup­port the sport. Also, there’s noth­ing bet­ter than see­ing one of your horses per­form on the field, whether it be with a young ju­nior player, or see­ing a B-grade horse turn into A-grade magic when paired with a world-class player – al­most as ex­cit­ing as watch­ing the kids play.”

Sara said the event or­gan­is­ers took great care of the horses, cov­er­ing all feed­ing costs, vet checks and in­sur­ances.

PHOTO: GER­ARD WALSH

TOP COMPETITOR: Aus­tralian polocrosse squad mem­ber Lucy Grills. Her fam­ily’s stud will sup­ply horses to the World Cup in War­wick next year.

PHOTO: DEANNA MILLARD

Sara and Charlie Grills.

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