Big Mak a treat for top sporting team

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Strong and reliable Mak has one more important job to do before retiring – for the second time.

The 20-year-old thoroughbred is heading for Sydney this week, where he will carry the Ripplebrook Equestrian Vaulting Academy team through their performances at the National Vaulting Championships.

It will be his last major event before returning home to a quiet life of light riding and pampering.

Mak’s first retirement was 12 years ago when he was known as Homme, a successful racehorse who left the track with several wins and $171,910 in prize money.

The big bay had a few years of relaxed farm riding before being discovered by Riding for the Disabled vaulting coach Kay Fowler, who was looking for a suitable horse for her new vaulting academy.

Mak in action. Picture and feature image: Rebecca De Vries Photography

“I heard about a big, strong thoroughbred who would be OK so I went to have a look and found he had a beautiful canter and was a real gentleman,” Kay said.

“Over time, he’s developed so he can hold a canter in a circle and just keep going. He’s solid, flexible, well balanced and athletic.

“He would never take off or buck, he protects his riders and vaulters.”

Equestrian vaulting is described as gymnastics on horseback and Mak carries up to three vaulters at a time through their routines, which are set to music.

He and Kay are driving across Australia together in a carefully planned, four-day trip while the rest of the team fly to Sydney.

Off the Track WA is sponsoring Mak and the team at the championships, held at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre, 3-6 October 2022.

Kay, right, and the team prepare for the vaulting championships

Kay, who still coaches for Riding for the Disabled as well as her own academy said the team includes athletes of all abilities and of various ages competing at a range of levels from preliminary to advanced.

“Usually horse sports are one horse to one rider but vaulting is a genuine team sport,” Kay said.

“Vaulting seems crazy at first. Who wants to go backwards on a horse or upside down? But once people start, they just want to do more and more. It brings people out of their shell.

“The horse is a key member of the team and the catalyst for it all.

“Mak is the reason why everyone has done so well. He’s a favourite and has given many riders and vaulters a solid start from RDA, PCAWA and club members to reach national level.”

Mak’s second career has been just as successful as his first and Kay is now hoping a younger thoroughbred called Bart, whose racing name was Cocky Dodd, will step up to the role.

Susan de Ruyter

Final practice. Picture: Rebecca De Vries Photography