Sandhaven Performance Horses
About the Australian Stock Horse
Australian Stock Horses were created from a small gene pool which has been heavily tested by the harsh demands of the Australian geography and work environment. Before European colonization there were no horses native to Australia. The earliest settlers in that country relied entirely on animals imported from Europe for transportation and the working stock used to clear land in the British colony of New South Wales. There were limited breeds of horses available; English Thoroughbreds, English ponies, Arabs, Clydesdales and Suffock Punches were the most widely utilized, with Thoroughbreds greatly outnumbering the other breeds. The settlers cross-bred among the available breeds to select for the most desired traits in their working/riding stock: hardiness, strength, speed and willing demeanor.
As the community of colonists in the Hunter Valley expanded, often with the help of convict labor, the size of the properties also grew, as did the need for horses for transport and stock work. Many of the large properties were located in the watershed of the Barrington Tops, part of the Great Dividing Range, at the head of the Hunter Valley. By riding over the Tops these large properties were fairly accessible to each other, and from this epicenter the Australian Stock Horse was developed in response to the need to cover long distances and work the large sheep and cattle properties, or stations, of the region. The country was steep in places, and the work was hard on man and beast, but the environment provided an excellent testing ground for the selection of the best horses.
Even as the settlements grew, the wealthiest property owners, the "landed gentry", would return to England for the social season and purchase the finest British livestock for export to their properties in Australia. These imports were crossed on the the best of the station horses, improving the off-spring with each generation. From this small, local environment a magnificent performance horse evolved- clever and fast, with a comfortable ride and incredible endurance.
The Australian Stock Horse, "The Breed for Every Need", excels in any role, from family ride to top level stock and show work. The horses are known for their resilience, great heart and wonderful minds, and Sandhaven Performance Horses is proud to present this wonderful breed to the American public.
I came into contact with the Australian Stock Horse when as a Polocrosse player in America I began to look for a horse that could withstand the exertion of a weekend of tournament play and still have a tractable mind. I had come to Polocrosse from cutting, and was a dyed-in-the-wool Quarter Horse advocate. I loved their catty quickness and good minds, but found that my cutting-bred Quarter Horses lacked the stamina for upper level play at a tournament and by the end of a weekend they were flagging, no matter how fit I tried to get them. In an effort to find more endurance I tried running-bred Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, but although those wonderful athletes could hold up to the physical demands of polocrosse, their minds struggled with the mental pressure involved in a "game of strategy, played on clever horses." Since Polocrosse originated in Australia, I wondered what horses they used and began to study the blood lines of the "Best Horse" champions in the top carnivals, or tournaments.
I soon realized that the Australian Stock Horse, (ASH), offered exactly what I was looking for- an extremely agile athlete with great stamina and a calm, trainable mind. I met with the Australian Stock Horse Society in the mid 90's and told them that I had no intentions of being the toe-hold in the US for the ASH, I just wanted to breed good polocrosse horses. (Ironically, 20 years later I am the President of the American Branch of the Australian Stock Horse Society, and now work daily to establish recognition of that breed in the American mind.)
It was not until 10 years later that I was afforded the opportunity to stand the wonderful Waldrons Starman, an ASH sire imported to America by John and Liz Gleeson. These ex-pat Australians wanted to establish a home-bred top quality Polo string based on Stock Horse stamina and athleticism. I was lucky to have played with and been a member of the Lone Star Polocrosse Club, the dominant polocrosse club in America for a decade. Lone Star is famous for the quality and depth of our horse pool. When it became known that I was planning to build a breeding program for performance horses, my friends and club mates sent some of their top mares to me. Those mares, all superb athletes with winning records spanning years, formed the basis of my brood mare band. I have imported and purchased breeding stock which have, in combination with my polocrosse mares, produced exactly my heart's desire- trainable, talented horses with the ability to work hard all day and never miss a beat. Some are brilliant, uber-athletes with a burning competitive streak (hellooo, you polocrosse mares). Others are solid, calmer characters that will carry a novice rider to success, but they are all gorgeous in my eyes and, I am happy to report, in the eyes of many judges and owners. The horses live on 225 acres of rolling grass, and are raised in a herd environment. All are intensely handled from birth, and are expected to calmly tolerate blanketing, being tied and farrier work from infancy. Those not sold before two years of age are sent to be broke using non fear-based methods, and return to "think about what they have learned" for a few months before returning to full time training.
Although we are a relatively young program (our oldest off spring was born very late in 2006) we are proud to see that Sandhaven horses are meeting and exceeding every expectation of success. We have produced champions in several disciplines, with standout performers in Polocrosse, Team Penning, Team Sorting, Campdrafting and Working Equitation.
We are now in the process of beginning to outcross my Starman mares on other talented Stock Horse sires and have imported semen from three amazing horses- Soda Justice, Palmers El Condo and Silverthorn Shotgun, Doongara Manpower, Kirkby's Stud Credit and Chalani Sunstream. Each of these sires (see the Stallion page for more info and their pedigrees) has a winning record in the competitive arena themselves, and as importantly, are building a reputation for passing their best traits on to their successful off-spring.
Our trainer, Lisa Harding, has relocated and is now living and working on the farm! We are excited about the future- Come see us and the horses at Sandhaven and get a chance to meet our happy, healthy horses- and maybe meet your next partner in success!
About Sandhaven Performance Horses
Depiction of the "Standard of Excellence" in Australian Stock Horse conformation, from the Australian Stock Horse Society.
For a fun comparison, check the ad for Soda Justice on the Stallion page. It is a pretty close match, and Justice's savvy owners are quick to point out the similarity.
Illustration from "The Man from Snowy River".