Spring Valley Heritage Horse Ride 2000
Acknowledge: Australian Stock Horse Society 40th Anniversary Compendium & article by Kerry Grey
Featured Image: Spring Valley Heritage Horse Ride Map(s)
(31/03/2020: I’ve just realised that the colour-coding window of the two main rides is ‘inverted’? The North Ride should be GREEN and the South Ride MAGENTA?)
Personal Prelude: It’s my purview that this grand epic ranks right up there with some of the greatest Australian totems such as the Durack’s ‘Kings in Grand Castles’ epic and the Nat Buchanan droving fables. Its breathtaking stratospheric vision is legendary in its own right. I enjoy a somewhat smug satisfaction in acknowledging ‘locals’ Neville Holz and Joy Poole plus my very good friend and professional colleague Chris Johnson as veritable pioneering prodigies.
The Spring Valley Heritage Horse Ride was the third largest media event in 2000, behind the Olympic Games and the Torch Relay. The ride will never be forgotten by the people who left Broome on 14th April 2000, and arrived in Sydney on 13th August, just four weeks before the start of the 2000 Olympic Games.
Spending 17 weeks away from everyday life, away from the people who make up your life, learning to get on and live with 20 strangers, to work together to achieve the final goal. To shift home every day, meet a new group of people, new town, new State. A small section of life really, four months, but at times it felt like forever.
The excitement in camp started around Canberra for the Southern Ride, and Scone for the Northern Ride. We knew we were getting close: Sydney, population four million was just six days away. The final parade was pretty special, having all green lights and right of way in the biggest and busiest city in Australia. The Northern Ride entered Sydney over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, closing four lanes of traffic. The ride visited Town Hall and Parliament House, and the most moving time of that day was the speech given by our leader, Neville Holz. Neville is Chairman of Unique Australian Horse Sports and he went every inch of the Southern Ride with us.
Two of our full time riders were 72 years old – Keith Kehl and Ray Ryan. Keith’s horse slipped on concrete at a photo shoot on Geraldton and he ended up with ten stitches in his leg, but he never stopped riding. Ray had lost his right arm at the elbow in a chaff cutter accident when he was 17, but he could still shoe his own horse. Those two old fellows represent the ‘spirit that built a nation’.
We set out on the Spring Valley Heritage Horse Ride to promote the Australian Stock Horse, to raise awareness of Australia’s unique horse sports, polocrosse and campdrafting, and to strengthen the relationship between the two associations. We wanted to remind people of how the Australian Stock Horse was used in opening up our country for farming, transport and communication. We wanted people to remember the 140,000 Australian horses that went to war, where they had a reputation as being the bravest, and that only one came home.
We visited schools with these messages, and handed out 60,000 Spring Valley showbags. We took messages of goodwill for the Olympic Games from these rural children to the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Frank Sartor. We hoped that visitors to Australia for the Olympic Games were aware pf our journey and what we rode for. We know we touched the ‘Australian’ in many people we met on our ride. We carried the Australian Flag every step of the way.