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GALLERY: Hunter Valley Vaulting Team bound for World Championships


Learn, embrace, enjoy!

That’ll be the last-minute directive coach Sharna Kirkham delivers to her Hunter Valley Vaulting Team ahead of its global debut.

The seven-member squad – featuring Newcastle’s Sabine Osmotherly, 24, Ourimbah’s Eloise Tate, 22, Warners Bay’s Lydia George, 19, Elderslie’s Zoe Caddis, 18, Port Stephens’ Poppy Loveland, 19, Rutherford’s Willow Vitu, 11, and Freemans Waterhole’s Arabella Read, 15 – will represent Australia at the ECCO FEI World Championships 2022 in Herning, Denmark, from 6 to 14 August.

For the uninitiated, the best way to describe vaulting is “gymnastics and dance on horses”.

It’s a harmonious bond between mount and athlete that creates awe-inspiring acrobatic displays of skill and precision.

And, it also requires plenty of toil, according to Kirkham.

“To get a team of six or seven to dedicate themselves to the training – two or three times a week – that it takes to reach that level is a feat in itself,” she said.

“It’s a pretty big commitment.

“But, they all signed up for it.

“So, we were over the moon to find out we’d be representing our country overseas.

“Although I was quite surprised, I sort of expected it, too, because we had put in a couple of really hard years of work and pushed the boundaries.

“During the NSW Titles in June (2021), the Equestrian Australia (EA) selection panel called us in for a meeting.

“They sat us down and said: ‘we’re considering you for the world championship squad… what do you think about that?’

“We were in a state of shock – and excitement.

“It’s all snowballed from there.

“We’re [now] really excited.”

Kirkham said it was a great example of “hard work paying off”.

“You can only take out what you put in,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“And, the girls have put in hours and hours, as well as a massive amount of effort.

“Thankfully, we boast a phenomenal horse in Cruise.

“Plus, the Hunter Valley Equestrian Centre has been our training base for more than a decade.

“The beauty of the Black Hill venue is that it’s an indoor arena – we can train rain, hail or shine.

“That’s an added bonus [on this journey].

“The core foundation of the squad has been together for seven years, too.

“We’ve had a few changes here and there with one or two girls.

“However, the main four have been around from the beginning.

“I’m just so proud of all of them.

“It really is a huge achievement; it’s taken me a while to get my head around it.”

Facing the “best of the best” is daunting enough but Kirkham is confident her team will rise to the challenge.

“Experience” and “opportunity” are now key words.

“We’d love to win,” she said.

“But, we know that we’re going into the event as underdogs.

“So, it’s a chance to take it all in, be part of it on a grand scale, and soak up the atmosphere.

“We can set the bar and show everyone what we’re capable of Down Under.

“We’ve been working away, working away, working away at our goals for the past few years – and achieving them.

“The EA officials acknowledged that at the NSW Titles.

“They said: ‘You’ve got what it takes and we’d like to support you in the next chapter.”

So, the Hunter Valley Vaulting Team is leaving no stone unturned in its preparations.

The talented members will fly out of Australia on 5 July to give themselves every hope of success.

“We’ll be based in Germany beforehand with a team called RV Equus,” Kirkham explained.

“They’re also lending us a horse for the world championships because it’s not financially viable to take Cruise.

“The two major components of vaulting are compulsories and freestyle.

“We’re judged on a number of things, such as degree of difficulty, the horse, music interpretation, composition and performance.

“In other words, a lot of parts have to come together on the day.

“However, it’s certainly worthwhile when it does.

“So, we’ll spend the month training and working with that horse four or five times a week.

“It’ll be an amazing way for the team to bond.

“We’re all very close but this will cement memories.”

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