Last week while I was away with my mother visiting my birthplace of South Korea, I was trolling through my Facebook feed and saw one of those annoying posts that links you by your birth month to some celebrity. Usually these mindless posts just get scrolled past but this one was a little bit different in that it linked you to horses of note. I was intrigued to be likened to a horse called Tom Melbourne and as he was the only one that I hadn’t heard of on the list I thought I’d look him up. As it turns out, the association couldn’t have been more apt.
Tom Melbourne is a racehorse trained by Chris Waller at Rosehill – a trainer better known for training Winx, a mare who retired in April on an unbroken streak of 33 wins and with career earnings of more than $AUD26 million (£14 million). Tom Melbourne is also a well regarded racehorse with $AUD1.3 million (£700,000) in earnings. However, he is best known for a 30-run streak of not winning a single race, although he did manage 2nd in 11 of these.
I’ve often described myself as the ‘best, least successful’ rider in New Zealand. Outsiders will look at the fact that I trained my very first dressage horse to ride at the Olympic selection trials, at the fact that I was selected for the New Zealand team, that I’ve placed at multiple internationals including a regional World Cup final and assume that I must be used to winning. The truth is, I have never won a title in dressage. Ever. At any grade. I’ve been runner up at Regionals, Nationals, International shows and Premier Leagues. I’ve won qualifiers and local shows, but never at a big competition. I have never won a rug, nor taken home a trophy.
I’m perfectly comfortable with that. I’ve gone to big shows and been completely delighted with my performance and with my horse’s performance. I’ve gone out and done my absolute best and shown off my training and our partnership to the best of my ability. That is all I can ask from either of us. At the end of the day there were combinations that did better than me. I have no control over them, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want them to perform poorly, just so I can take home a red rosette.
As I was coming up through the grades and learning the basics of this discipline, I was often pitted against those who had been at it for years. As a galloping housewife riding an RoR or crossbred I was competing against the professionals on flash imported horses. It never bothered me. They performed better and would take home the ribbons and prize money, I would go home with the satisfaction of nailing a movement I’d been struggling with or the knowledge of a lesson learned in management and preparation. I honestly believe that by competing against the best that there was, it inspired me to learn more and train better. I don’t think I would have had the same incentive if I had the option of being ‘good enough’ by winning an amateur or grassroots championship. There were years that I didn’t compete beyond the local shows, because I didn’t qualify for anything else. It did nothing to take away from the joy of the journey or the experience I was gaining.
In short, I’m quite happy to be Tom Melbourne. He’s a very useful member of the team and has given his owners and trainer much joy. And who knows, I may yet break my ‘losing’ streak in spectacular fashion, just as he did when winning the listed Carrington stakes back in January.
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