You are in site section: Exhibitions

In the ring and on the field

Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

In the ring and on the field

Neale Lavis and Mirrabooka sail over fence 5 of the Rome Olympics cross-country course, 1960.
Neale Lavis and Mirrabooka sail over fence five of the Rome Olympics cross-country course, 1960. Courtesy: Neale Lavis.

Australian horsemen and women have always competed to test their knowledge, courage and skill, and their horses’ training, ability and quality. From the 1820s, agricultural shows offered riding, driving and breed classes. Team field sports, cross-country riding tests and circus acts featuring performing horses soon followed.  

Today, these events have developed into organised sports such as showing, carriage driving, polocrosse, hunting and vaulting. Australian equestrians and their horses participate at the highest levels of international competition. To date, riders have claimed six gold, three silver and two bronze Olympic medals, all in eventing.

Explore some of the stories and objects

 Mary Willsallen’s sulky
Mary Wilsallen's sulky

A pony-sized Sydney sulky from about 1940, owned by a champion horsewoman and breeder.
 
 Sydney Spring Fair medallion
Sydney Spring Fair medallion

Won by champion show-ring jumper Emilie Roach in 1927.
 Philip Wirth’s crop
Ringmaster Philip Wirth's crop

Fashioned from a wooden umbrella handle, and owned by the famed circus ringmaster.