DREAM big and work hard.
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Hazell Shannon and horse Willinga Park Clifford are proof of this adage.
Last week the Raymond Terrace-based equestrian shipped Willinga Park Clifford to Melbourne where he will begin the journey to the USA to compete in the 5* Kentucky three-day event.
Ms Shannon said “Clifford was quiet and pretty unremarkable as a youngster but he has a great attitude and as the work became more difficult he finds another gear.”
With the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon the decision was made to enter the 5* Kentucky three-day event to give both Ms Shannon and Willinga Park Clifford international experience as well as consolidating their chances for Olympic selection.
Ms Shannon said, “The last 18 months have been a dream come true.”
“I’m thankful every day for the support I have from Terry and Ginnette Snow and my coach Heath Ryan.”
The 5* Kentucky three-day event will be held in the United States at Kentucky Horse Park on 25 – 28 April, 2019.
This is the first overseas foray for Ms Shannon and Willinga Park Clifford but not their first success at the elite level.
In 2010, aged 17 years, Ms Shannon moved from Muchilba in far north Queensland to be a working student for Olympians Heath and Rozzie Ryan at Heatherbrae.
Ms Shannon had no previous eventing experience but with expert guidance from Heath Ryan she and her horse Pacific Fable quickly rose to 2* level.
Eventing is an Olympic sport which combines three separate disciplines, dressage, cross country and show jumping.
Fable was retired in 2011 and Ms Shannon started the search for a new partner.
Clifford was originally destined for the racetrack but showed no promise and owner Wendy Ward offered him to Ms Shannon to train and compete.
The following years saw the partnership flourish and in 2016 the pair won the Adelaide International CCI 4* event, the most prestigious eventing competition in Australia.
The win put them in contention for Olympic selection.
After Adelaide, Ms Ward notified Ms Shannon and Heath Ryan of her intention to sell Clifford.
With the purchase of the horse being out of reach for Ms Shannon, Terry and Ginnette Snow came to the rescue allowing Ms Shannon to continue the partnership and follow her Olympic aspirations.
Mr Snow, owner of Willinga Park a state-of-the-art equestrian facility at Bawley Point, is a well-known philanthropist who gives support to many champion riders.
With the partnership secured Ms Shannon and Willinga Park Clifford contested Adelaide International CCI 4* in 2017 finishing in 7th place and again in 2018 where they became the first horse and rider combination to win the event twice.
By Liz MUDD