We had a chat to long time Royal Melbourne Show competitor, Penny Greenhill, as she prepares for the upcoming Royal Melbourne Show Horses in Action competition.
Tell us a bit about your history with the Royal Melbourne Show.
I first competed at the Royal Melbourne Show at the age of two in the miniature turnout! Together with my mother Sharon and sister Tiffany we have competed at the Royal Melbourne Show every year since, except for the year the Show was cancelled due to Equine Influenza.
I love that it is our state Royal Show, being Victorian it is fantastic to see the best of the best Victorian livestock on show, competing against livestock from Australia wide.
Why do you enter the Royal Melbourne Show Horses in Action competition program?
Showing horses is a family hobby and passion. We enter the Show because it is the pinnacle of our competition. We travel around the Victorian countryside during our ‘show season’ from September to April to qualify for the Royal Melbourne Show the following September.
I love the personal challenge, working all season with your companion, your horse, always trying to improve yourself and your horse. We prepare and train through the cold winter months to be ready, to be at our best for the Show in spring.
Melbourne in spring is the best time of year, with Spring Racing Carnival, AFL Grand Final, and horses looking their best. Then its time to ‘perform’ and put all the training and hard work to the ultimate test at the Royal Melbourne Show.
Over our many years of competing, we have made life long friendships. We all live across Victoria and Australia, but we all come together for the Show. It’s a personal challenge to compete but also a social enjoyment to catch up with all your friends, friendships that have been created because of the horses.
How far in advance do you start preparing your horses(s) and yourself for the Show?
We start preparing for the Royal Melbourne Show at the beginning of June.
Our last show for the season is normally the Royal Sydney Show at Easter (late March/early April) and we then let the horse have a ‘spell’ and rest from training, it is also a rest for ourselves.
The preparation for the Show starts in June. After it is finished our Victorian show season commences, with Agricultural Shows most weekends across Victoria, along with various Horse of the Year shows dotted in-between to qualify for the Nationals in December and the Grand National in March.
I’m very fortunate to live close to the beach on the Mornington Peninsula so I use this regularly in my preparation with the horses. I use the beach as a fitness tool, as well as for injury maintenance and a reward for the horses, they love to go the beach.
I try to mix my training with the horses, riding in different conditions and environments, this results in a happy, fit, healthy horse looking their very best and ready for the atmosphere of the Royal Melbourne Show.
My preparation also consists of lots of physical care for the horses. Lots of grooming and washing to ensure their coat looks their very best. My horses also have regular massages to make sure there is no muscle soreness or tightness so they can perform to their very best.
What are you looking forward to this year?
I feel honoured to be competing in the Garryowen Equestrian Turnout and this year I plan to compete on my sisters’ horse.
This will be a challenge for me, as I only commenced riding him over winter. I’m excited to see our training put into practice in such an important event. The Garryowen is the most prestigious event for female equestrians in the whole of Australia.
Tell us a bit about your horse(s) that will be joining you at the Show this year.
As a family we will be exhibiting two horses this year.
The first horse we are exhibiting is my horse Kolbeach Party, known at home as Party. I bought him as an unbroken 5 year-old, with the guidance of my coach, I have trained him from the beginning to where he is today, a multi-Royal Show winner.
I am very proud of what I have achieved with Party, as showing is a hobby for me, I don’t compete as my profession. I’m very lucky, Party has the best nature and he is my best friend. At home we joke, we don’t think he is the most intelligent horse, he is very lazy, but I actually think he is very smart! He has worked out how to do very little but be loved and looked after like a king!
The second horse we are exhibiting is Tiffins Encore, who as a family we bred ourselves. This brings us great satisfaction that a horse we bred and trained has reached Royal Show level, and he too is a multi-Royal Show winner.
He has a quirky personality, totally different to Party and it has been a great personal challenge this year preparing the two horses as my sister has been away and unable to ride this year. I have had great help from my mum and my husband who support me in this passion!
What class(es) are you entered into this year?
We are exhibiting two horses this year, a Show Hunter Galloway and an Open Hack.
Each of the horses have their saddle classes which include their open height class, gelding class and horse suitable for a lady rider.
I will also be competing in the two Senior Turnouts, firstly the most prestigious event of all, the Garryowen and secondly the Esquire. The Esquire is a very special event for me, because everything has to be the property of the family, from the horse, to the saddlery and my riding clothes (Costume). My formal riding clothes were all my mothers, made in 1974 by Louis Epstein and I will be riding a horse we bred ourselves.
What would you say to someone starting out, or for the up and coming riders out there who want to compete at the Royal Melbourne Show?
To compete at a Royal Show is a very special experience, especially at our ‘home’ Royal, the Royal Melbourne Show, it’s a fantastic goal to work towards.
To reach this prestigious level, I believe it’s best to start at the beginning. I attended Pony Club and local gymkhanas, then onto Agricultural Shows and finally Royal Shows. The Agricultural Shows are great fun, they are also a fantastic opportunity to learn as much as you can about showing your horse and yourself.
The best piece of advice I can give is to ask for help and seek advice from people who are experienced with horses and showing, this is the best way to learn and improve. The support of family and friends is invaluable and the guidance of a great riding instructor is vital.
You never stop learning.
Showing is all about striving to be the best you and your horse can be. You may not always be the judges' pick, but that’s ok. If you worked hard training and presenting your horse to the best you can and on the day have produced the best workout you can do, that is winning, that’s the personal achievement you have reached with your horse, the ribbon is a bonus!