Michelle and husband, Peter, run Kolora Lodge, a breaking, pre-training and spelling facility at Waterford approximately 30km south of Brisbane. Both Peter and Michelle have flown the flag for Australia competing overseas at World Championships, with Peter representing at the Olympics and Michelle at the World Cup Final.
Suzy Jarratt interviews Michelle Lang-McMahon:
“The Thoroughbreds I took to two different WEGs were both from the Sir Ivor line,” recalled Michelle. “Odds On was by Sir Tristram, and Double Up by Ivor Prince, the same sire as Vo Rogue.”
“Odds On went to The Hague in 1994, where we pulled a few rails; and Double Up to Jerez in 2002.”
Michelle was just 20-years-old when she did her first season of World Cups with Odds On.
“And I won a World Cup during that time,” said Michelle, which encouraged her to go to Europe to try for the Australian WEG team. She was successful.
“I was so young – it was the biggest track I’d ever encountered, and it was the first time I’d ever seen screens. I saw myself up there and nearly died!”
Eight years later she was again riding at the World Games.
“Double Up held his own in Jerez – he was exceptional. If I’d trained him over the water I’d have had a faultless round on the first day in the speed class. We had two down the second day, but he jumped so well.”
And how did she go about training these two OTTs?
“Both were very sensitive on their backs; they didn’t need much leg. They had their own motors, were a little bit quirky and both were very, very horse shy.
“They had a tendency to shoot off – and in those days you couldn’t plug their ears – it wasn’t even heard of.
“All so very different from warmbloods. The Thoroughbreds didn’t like gymnastic exercises, they thought they were being tricked up. It had to be really simple, basic training. De-sensitising them and keeping them soft.
“Thoroughbreds are sensitive and smart – and you have to ride them that way.”
Michelle makes no secret of being a pro-Thoroughbred person and in her team right now is a talented 4-year-old.
“He’s by Exceedingly Good. A magnificent type, similar to Double Up but with a bit more quality as a jumper.”
She believes that, generally, a very good racehorse makes a very good jumper. “Over time these horses have been diluted and swamped by other breeds. Twenty years ago, we didn’t care if they’d reached 7 or 8 before we started with them but now they’re considered a bit long in the tooth.”
It will be interesting to see what happens with the thoroughbreds now there is a push by the TSHA to create dedicated classes for them. The money being injected into thoroughbreds in sport will serve as an incentive for owners whose horses have finished their careers at 3 or 4, not to leave these retirees doing nothing for a year or more, which so often happens. People will be encouraged to become more pro-active and get their Thoroughbred on to the sporting horse map much more quickly.
“I am really excited that in conjunction with Strawberry Hill Stud – the TSHA’s first involvement in dedicated Thoroughbred classes has been with the Aquis Champions Tour. With future shows offering substantial prize money people will be inspired to consider a Thoroughbred as their next jumping horse.”