The Rannock Legacy

The Rannock Legacy

Gratefully acknowledge and duly recognise the author Jeanette Gower, Box 989 STRATHALBYN SA 5255

Refer also: Australian Stock Horse, May/June 2019, pp 64 – 67

Featured Image: ‘Rannock’ by Peter Gower

Part 1

The story of Rannock is that of a horse which has been under the radar for a long time. This is partly because of his South Australian location, away from mainstream ASH breeding, but also because so many of the resulting descendants have been unregistered. Yet the Rannock influence has been incredible, considering the lack of opportunity. It is also the story of the families involved, families who knew the lines well and wanted to keep them into perpetuity. Perhaps not unsurprisingly then, the line is gaining new attention, due to its long-standing record of producing smart, good looking and reliable,  traditional stock horses which are a true HSH outcross to most ASH lines today.

RANNOCK was bred by RJ (Bob) Mackay, “Tinagroo” Scone, NSW, breeder of the famous foundation sire Panzer, to whom Rannock is inbred. Foaled a little over 50 years ago in 1967, Rannock was by Dundee (by Panzer) x Tinagroo Mersa (by Panzer) a half brother/half sister cross. All the immediate ancestors were high class polo ponies in their own right. Panzer’s dam, Nellie was a polo pony, foal recorded in the ASB studbook in 1933 but never raced due to the outbreak of WWII. She too was inbred to the Sydney Cup winning mare Diffidence which was purchased as a 17 year old by JK and WH Mackay for 900 guineas in 1913, a princely sum!

The Mackays bred Thoroughbreds to race, and like a lot of owners of the day, used them on the property after retirement. Mersa’s dam Ranmena was a successful racehorse, which also went on to become a good polo pony.

In an interview with Peter and Jeanette Gower in 1973, Mr Mackay said:“Panzer began his polo career as a rising five year old in 1949 and played until 1956 when he was 11 years old and about reaching his prime. I say this because each chukka he played was better than the one before.

“That year we won the Northern Challenge Cup at Quirindi for the third successive year but my health forced me to give up polo. Panzer retired with me, as did two of his daughters Mersa and Misra, both of whom had been playing beside him for the past two or three years. It was unfortunate for Panzer, as he would have played on for another four or five years at his top. He never developed a heavy neck as stallions do and become heavy to handle, but remained a very orthodox polo pony. He never pulled or ran on and always played off the single bottom rein of the curb.

“Although Panzer was a brilliant horse cutting out on a camp (I always used him for this work on the property) I never allowed him to competition campdraft as for me, he was a specialist as a polo pony.” As was the custom in those days, Bob McKay rarely sold a mare, preferring to sell colts, and used well performed stallions from neighbouring stations when breeding out.

MERSA, Rannnock’s dam, was the first of Panzer’s progeny to play and was a beautiful mare to play on, being completely orthodox and simple to play in a single rein curb off the bottom ring only. Literally a finger-tip control! Her dam, Ranmena, was the best of three sisters I played in the 1930’s.”

The Panzer influence is widely documented, Panzer quite rightly appearing in both the Australian Polo Hall of Fame and that of the Australian Stock Horse Society for his huge contribution to the depth and talent of Australian Horses. He is listed as a Waler Horse of Significance, and is mentioned in Peter Gower’s pedigree book as one of the 14 foundation sires of the breed. He produced such great sires as Myra Bronze (1951), Nabinabah The Gun (1957), (himself one or the most influential ASH sires), Cairo (1957), Dundee (1959), Berrico Mutruh (1962) a full brother to Cairo, Mr Tara King (1964), Checkers Alamein (1965), Prancer (1966),  Tinagroo Rommel (1973) which Bob MacKay kept himself as a replacement for Panzer, and Picarilli Benghazi (1974)

DUNDEE was purchased from Bob Mackay in 1962 and played A grade polo for a number of years until so many of his stock were playing that he was retired to stud. Progeny of this great horse formed the nucleus of all teams of polo ponies played by Angus and Hamish Munro. Some of the most noted were Swallow (twice Champion at Quirindi) Mandy, Sarich (played two chukkas in every international match by Hector Grotto for Argentina, Rommel and Sonny (RAS Champion and played in all International tests by Joe Barry for USA). Two full brothers to Sonny were used as sires on other Munro Properties.

Of Roseita, Dundee’s dam, Mr Mackay says, “I played her first chukka for several years; a very fast mare and top quality. Her dam was also a polo pony by Nassau (imp). Roseita was by Orby Anthus a 16h TB which sired good polo ponies and drafters, such as Ken Mackay’s Radar.” This makes Rannock a full TB on bloodlines, though every bit a true Hunter Valley stock horse on breeding and type.

RANNOCK was sold to Mr Alan McGregor of “Roskhill” SA as a yearling, to be used  for polo and as a sire. Unfortunately, shortly after being broken in, he received a paddock injury which blinded him in one eye. He was sent to another property, “Willalooka” in the SE of South Australia,  Said Mr MgGregor, “He ran with the station mares who were a rather rough bunch. One day a station hand rode through the paddock and his gelding was attacked by Rannock resulting in injury to the rider’s arm.  Rannock acquired a “reputation” from this, and that, together with his “thoroughbred breeding” was something he had to overcome in conservative SA for the rest of his life. I brought him back to “Roskhill” with a couple of the better progeny, and turned him out with my polo mares.  When I saw the first foals I thought “what have I done! – they were all ‘pretty’ chestnuts, with no neck, but I soon learned they would stretch out later and have lovely rein.”

Having received only this minimal amount of riding as a two year old, Rannock was not ridden again until rising 7 years, when, in May 1974, he was ridden a couple of times for inspection by ASHS classifiers. Brenton Matthews who rode him, stated how impressed he was with the temperament of the horse and that of the progeny he had been breaking in for Mr McGregor, the oldest of which were now 3 years old. “They were real naturals, you could just play them right from the start.” Rannock was not ridden again until purchased by Peter and Jeanette Gower of Echunga in Sept 1975.

By a rare quirk of fate, Jeanette (as Secretary of the Branch) and Peter Gower attended that classification. Jeanette says “In spite of his paddock condition, and obvious lack of education, he was cool, relaxed and friendly. We instantly fell in love with the horse. He was in fact the most magnificent quality horse we had ever seen, true to type, and we couldn’t believe it when we saw his classic breeding. Better still, that he was inbred to a horse like the mighty Panzer! The progeny were peas in a pod, with his head and compact type. My knowledge of genetics told me that this was the horse to send a mare to; little did we think we might ever be able to purchase him!”

“One day, Peter received a call from Mr McGregor asking if we knew the best way to advertise him. Without even discussing it, or asking a price, Peter said “look no further, we’ll buy him!” It was done. Alan had bought another stallion, the thoroughbred Romantic Gentleman, which later proved to be a good cross over the Rannock mares. However, when the first of the Rannock’s progeny hit the polo field, Alan realized he’d made a mistake and asked to buy him back, sending mares on several of occasions. John (Patto) Patterson, who started and played many of them in those early days, described them as “easy to play horses and very tough. No matter the question, they would rise to the occasion.”

Jeanette continues “At that time, we only had our horses on agistment so we made arrangements to keep him at the riding school of Peter’s mother, Mrs Nancy Gower, at Echunga. We set up a paddock where he could run with his mares, and we would show him straight from the paddock, only washing him the night before. He always kept a smooth coat. He had no feather, a fine silky mane and almost no forelock.

“I’ve never struck a horse with the quality that still had the temperament of a kid’s horse, and a stallion to boot! Not once in all those years of owning him did he put a foot wrong, being ridden or tied up amongst the school horses and children. Despite being blind in one eye, he showed a natural aptitude and boldness over jumps. He could be ridden bareback amongst his mares and I would sometimes lead horses off him. If you introduced him to something new, he just did it; there was never any fuss or scariness: I even did a bit of sidesaddle with him as he had the type of back that would sit a side-saddle well”

“He was a beautiful looking horse with an outstanding head, long arched neck, roomy gullet, well defined wither, great elbow room, short back and cannons, with strong, square hocks. Although 15.2h, he felt like a 16h horse to ride, with a brilliant walk and long easy gallop.  He was never known to disunite at the canter and his progeny inherited this attribute. They were easy to sell,  as they were kind, surefooted, smooth downhill and consistently of the taller “polo height” 15.1-15.3h, which fitted so well into the SA scene.”

Shown only in led classes, in his first season he was Champion or Reserve ASH or Open Stallion at all shows in which he competed in 1975-76, perhaps the two most prestigious awards being under judges Maurice Wright and June James. One time a well-known competitor in the line up next to us came very close with his fiery Arabian stallion so as to intimidate Rannock into misbehaving. Rannock stood rock solid, and his own horse swung around dangerously with an impressive roar. With that the man yelled out “keep your horse away from my stallion!” Rannock took the Championship.

In the next season, he won and placed at dressage, English and Western pleasure, trail and Western Riding, always giving a relaxed and comfortable ride. He went in everything a one-eyed stallion could compete in and as there were no stock horse type events at that time, he competed in big open western classes against imported horses, showing his temperament and versatility.

During the 1975-76 season, Rannock’s oldest progeny began playing. Glen Devon Holly (1972), owned by Hugh MacLachlan proved an outstanding novice pony and went on to play brilliantly for many years in Victoria, and NSW, being one of the smartest ponies around, very quick on her feet.  She was out of Rosalie, by Emborough.

Others soon followed; Roskhill Question (1972) played by John Kelly, was Adelaide Club’s Champion Novice pony, 1978 and was second in an Open campdraft at Nangwarry, her only start, for Brenton Matthews. Roskhill Swop (1972) played brilliantly for John Patterson and was a finalist at the SA Open Campdraft Championships, Tintinara 1980. John Patterson (now at Wondaby, Vic) played many of the Rannock progeny in those early years, describing them as horses that would “always rise to the occasion, no matter what was asked of them.”

Roskhill Narrator (1973), played  1981 Easter International Polo Tournament under Aust Team Captain and coach Jim McGinley, Roskhill Action (1974) Roskhill Briquet (1972) and Roskhill Brittle (1975)

Soon to follow were Genevieve, who played from 1983-1990 for Nick Simpson. Chalani Gyprock and Littlewood Montego, both stallions played alongside one another by Andrew Gray, later to make their mark as sires. The Gowers  donated a service to Rannock for the Champion Novice Polo Prize presented at each State Tournament, the first of which was won by the Reids of Kojunup WA and later won several times by Rannock produce.

At this point, Rannock progeny also began to dominate the SA performance scene.. In 1980 he sired no less than half the winners of the 22 classes at the SA Central ASH Branch’s Championship Show, including the Supreme Led Exhibit, three Champions, both Yearling Futurities and the Three Year Old Maturity. Several later went on to become very good eventers, as despite not being the typical height, they were bold jumpers and had a lot of scope.

From the Gower’s first crops were:

Chalani Rimfire (1975): Winner 2 years running Trail Class, All Breeds gelding show (79-80), winner of the huge Expo 80 Hack Show, and outstanding performer for some 20 years

Chalani Garnet (1976): Winner first SA Reining Futurity 1980 and undefeated in open reining patterns over a two year period before being sold for polocrosse

Chalani Skelter (1975): Winner Expo 80 Trail Class, and High Point Snaffle Bit Horse of the 1980, runner up to Garnet in reining on numerous occasions.

Chalani Aspen (1978): A grade polo pony for 5 years, Champion Led mare Adelaide Royal 1987, whilst heavy in foal,  and always hunted during the winter for Whipper-in, Andrew Gray, who described her as a “very fast, go anywhere mare with an amazing constitution”. At the age of 20 yrs under the tutelage of stunt-master Bill Willoughby, she was used in the making of films for the SA Film Corporation. She was one of the favourites at Chalani.

Other high profile performers of the time

Dandaloo Bobby Dazzler (1973) stood at stud at Trafalgar (Vic) for a number of years promoting the ASH in parades, carriage driving and demonstrations, and took out numerous Championships at Victorian pinto shows

Pascali (1977) Team Winner Aust Dressage Champs 1981 and hack winner, Alice Springs Show 1981 with numerous Hack and Dressage wins in NT to 1985).

Wirreanda Candi (1980)

Mare bred/owned by Grant Waterman and later Jo Cullen. Placed in numerous AHS and local events in mi-north SA in both Hacking and Working.

Chalani Rapid Fire (1982)

The excellent eventer, dressage and 1990 Adelaide Royal Working ASH winner, Chalani Rapid Fire, was rarely defeated in led ASH gelding classes, and was a Rannock Trophy winner.

Chalani Catlow (1983) Barry Sawyer’s brilliant mare. Champion Working Melbourne Royal inaugural Alistair Irving Memorial 1988 and Barastoc Working and Led titles 89-91. She later came out of retirement as a broodmare and repeated her successes at the age of 25 years at Barastoc 2008, with 11 year old youth rider Peter Robinson winning the working mare class. She’d won it the previous year ridden by Peter’s brother Stuart.

Ken Robinson added “She was given to me as a broodmare. When I rode her one day to move some cattle I thought she was too good, so I got her fit and started to campdraft her. She has since won many Working Championships and in 2001 she was placed in the Alistair Irving at Melbourne Royal.

Peregrine (1977), who in Endurance, frequently took out both open and heavyweight divisions under Michael Heffernan. In 1986 at Mt Crawford SA, Peregrine recorded a State Heavyweight Record for 80ks which stood for many years.

Rannock’s final foal, the well -performed sire, Master Herbert was born in 1984.

Not to be forgotten were the exceptional mounts Mrs Nancy Gower bred for the riding school, which gave children pleasure for many years.

Rannock’s story would not be complete without special mention of the extraordinary mare Timpani, which for many years was the state’s leading ASH performance mare. It is doubtful whether another as good has come along. Born in 1978, she was bred by Mrs Juliet Bleby who had enjoyed much success with her dam.

In spite of this success, SA breeders underutilised him, so in 1983, Rannock was loaned to polo player Anthony Baillieu of Mt Elephant, Vic, to be given better opportunity. Tragically he was killed by a kick from a mare before siring another foal. Saddened by this loss,  The Friends of Rannock donated an end of year High Point Ridden Trophy, a Mary Pinsent bronze, to the Branch, called the Rannock Trophy. It is still the most prestigious achievement  to be awarded in SA. Several of Rannock’s progeny have their names on this Award.

Rannock’s record as a sire is unequalled by any other ASH stallion in SA. In 1986, the only year ASH Sire Ratings were published, he was listed in the top 20 sires of the country and was the only SA stallion on the list.  He sired National and State polo ponies, Champion Led, Hacking Dressage and Working Horses at all levels, including Adelaide and Melbourne Royals and a State Endurance Record Holder.

Later the ASH Society honoured two SA horses with inclusion on the Society’s Wall of Renown. These were the mare, Chalani Cat Ballou, and Rannock, both owned by the Gowers.

With the loss of Rannock, the Gowers decided to concentrate his blood in their stud, so as not to lose this valuable line. His characteristics have flowed down through the generations – the beautiful fronts, athletic ability, muscle definition, square stance, quality and heart. Notably, his blood has withstood the test of inbreeding with no deleterious effect. Jeanette says “Rannock is the type of Hunter Valley horse that the founders of the breed imagined when they started the ASH Society. Every breeder dreams of having a successful stallion that leaves his mark on the breed. We were honoured to have owned such a horse.”

Even now, 50 years on, Rannock is largely unknown outside a few circles. It is extremely important for versatility and diversity of the breeding pool and the direction of the breed,  to ensure such proven lines are not lost to the Society. They are a valuable outcross to more fashionable strains which can easily saturate a breed.

Space prevents detailing the achievements of most of the progeny, so this article will concentrate on the sire lines of influence, and predominantly only descendants which were registered. They were, in order of birth, CHALANI GYPROCK (1978), WITCHETTY (1979), LITTLEWOOD MONTEGO (1983), and MASTER HERBERT (1984).

Part II


Rannock x Chalani Anna

Gyprock was bred by the Gowers out of a little brumby mare born on Peak Hill, Anna Creek Station. She came down to Adelaide to be used in a demonstration of the Jeffrey Method of Horse breaking by Maurice Wright, so her breeding was unable to be traced, though it was known to be a cross of  TB/Arab/cold-blood. Maurice described her as the most tricky one he had ever used in a demonstration, due to her sensitivity and determination. She proved an outstanding mare when bought by Peter Gower, winning multiple championships led and under saddle. Barely 14.2h, Peter gave many stock horse demonstrations of her without a bridle, even doing so on Adelaide Oval for the opening of Expo 75. Her first foal by Rannock was Chalani Garnet, mentioned in Part 1. Anna produced an incredible four individual winners of the SA Yearling Futurity!

Gyprock was first shown as a yearling to win the 1981 Yearling Futurity at the SA State Feature Show. He became a Clerk of the Course horse at the SASRA sprint racing at Willomurra from 1982 through 1983, then was bought by Andrew Gray for polo. Andrew says
“He went straight to polo; he was just a natural. When schooling him and he’s cruising around like a horse that knew what he was doing, I remember ringing to ask what education he’d had, and was told “nothing much, he’s just a natural.” He just schooled like a made horse from the first few circles he did and just went out there and played. He just did everything you asked of him first off.”

Shortly afterwards, Andrew broke his arm, so the Gowers borrowed Gyprock back for the show ring.  Jeanette reported “we only had 4 weeks to get him ready. He was fit and very showy. We were called to work first in the 1984 Maturity workout, and the way the course was laid out, you could choose whichever direction to go through the gate. I knew I had the horse, so I chose the hardest way – backwards through the gate, swing around to close in one motion, expecting the others to copy. Sure enough, they did and messed up! It was an easy win, and he won all sections.” Gyprock won everything he was entered in, completing the season undefeated under saddle.

As a polo pony he proved outstanding even though he was barely 15h. An agile and tough horse, Andrew was known to have played him 3 chukkas, retiring absolutely sound! Andrew described him as a “dead quiet horse, a great competitor with fantastic heart for the game. He would never give up and would always play the next chukka as though he was fresh.”

Not having anything to breed him over, he was given to Philip Clarke, Wrattonbully (near the Victorian border),  for a couple of years, then to well-known endurance rider Jill Bourton at Mylor, for a few more. Brought out of retirement, at the age of 15 and with the battle scars of a paddock stallion, Gyprock competed favourably against his much younger rivals. Rarely out of a place, he won from long-reining to hack, trail and working events, with many championships to his credit in ASH classes. He came to Endurance as an “old” horse. His swansong at the age of 17 was a completion in the 1996 SA State Championships 160km.

With limited opportunity, Gyprock had few registered get. Andrew’s only mare was Gamma,  (dam of Littlewood Montego), to which Gyprock produced the top pony Anto. “I played Anto for about 15 years after umpiring with him a couple of years. Another full brother was Hughie, which I hunted. Breeding was too expensive and you’d end up with too many horses. I seemed to acquire good horses easily, so I never used either of the two stallions.”

Further progeny by Chalani Gyprock –

Chalani Wildstar (1988)

The first by Gyprock was Chalani Wildstar (1988), out of the polo mare Chalani Wildfire (by Rannock), making her a double cross of Rannock. Wildstar was only the second horse in the twenty one year history of the SA Central Branch to have achieved the ASH Society’s one thousand point Supreme All-round Award. Young Kim Ide (nee Gower) broke her in when she was only nine years of age and achieved this award over a mere two and a half year period. Chalani Wildstar won the National Director’s Trophy for Youth High Point of the Year three times in 1991, 1992, and 1993.

The combination won Led Championships, Hacking, Western and Pony Club, Educated and Open Working classes, including the Open Time Trial at the 1993 Adelaide Royal show. After this win, Kim and Wildstar graced the front page of the local paper “The Courier”

Many times they won the High Point of the Day when Kim was the youngest rider competing. From three ODEs they were first twice and second once. Wildstar won the Open Novice Dressage at the 1994 ASH National Championships (Geelong). Kim was only 13 years old at the time.

Veloce Orlando (1996)

(Chalani Gyprock x Wortanda Matilda)

Bred by Jill Bourton, this good looking 15.1hh chestnut mare, was purpose bred for endurance, inheriting her sire’s good looks, grit and determination. She started competition in October 2001 putting in a fairly solid season, with mainly Jill’s daughter Layla on her back, gaining runner up Lightweight Points Horse, 1023km total in competition completed, including 160km Tom Quilty Gold Cup in 2002. She was described as a tough horse, with excellent recoveries and a very smooth “no fuss” ride. She is the dam of Veloce Finale, (sire Centre Braveheart, Jill’s Arabian stallion) which completed  811km total competition in  2017, in good times, his first season. This included his first 160km Championship gaining 8th place.

In June 2018  Veloce Finale won the 160km State Championship at Mt Crawford on the long weekend in just over 12 hours. He took line honours, 1sr SA Arabian bred & Best Conditioned Middleweight Horse. He did it with ease at only his second hundred miler.  Says Jill; “I am very happy with his performance and have high hopes for his competitive career in the future. He is very much a tough “waler” type..”

Veloce Mamma Mia (1997)

15.2hh bay mare  and a full sister to Veloce Orlando, Mia was a big striding and strong Arabian-stockhorse type mare, fabulous to ride, easily completing her first three novice 80km rides in  2003 with very impressive heart rates of 40 / 44 / 44. Completed 25 x Rides, 2478km total in competition, including the 160km Tom Quilty Gold Cup in 2004 . A competitive, good solid consistent horse. She had 6 years competing in Australia prior to export to Dubai in 2007.

Chalani Gyprock spent his final days with Phil Clarke and died in 1997.  Phil Clarke said, “Gyprock’s progeny were very smart and athletic but they could put it over you if you were too casual. They always performed well. I took them to polocrosse practices for training, then to polo for the season, and back to polocrosse when the season wound up. They were all beautiful looking and mostly around the 15.1h mark or bigger.

“It takes a good horse to play both polo and polocrosse. The games have different demands, and they must be calmer for polo. There is more pressure on them because of all the galloping, so they cannot run through the bridle. They must pull up and go in the opposite direction in an instant, away from the others, which is against their natural instincts. I like to stick to proven lines, as I have found that many of the campdraft lines can’t handle polocrosse or polo. Polo is a great test of a stallion. All the ones I have known that played could also be ridden by children.”

There were a number of ponies bred by the Clarkes which went on to play both polo for Penola and polocrosse for Naracoorte Club, among them Granite, and the very smart 18-goal mare Impulse, played firstly by Phil Clarke, then Rob Archibald, before being sold for $40k to England around 2007. Both are still playing. Phil Clarke remembers “Impulse was a natural. She just turned it on.” Lethal, a full brother with a “ton of guts”, is still playing polocrosse on Yorke Peninsula.

Locket, and her full sister Jingle, owned by President of the Naracoorte Club Justin Schultz, won best horse trophies in both polo and polocrosse. Said Phil Clarke “They were known for their massive heart.  Their dam was Ella, a mare I bred by Hill. Locket’s first game occurred because my main horse was out with injury, and she had only had practices. She won best A-grade horse at this, her first tournament, and went on to win many more. She retired at 15 years and is now producing foals for me.