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Ad Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture jump clear cross country in the CCI4*S at Melbourne International 3 Day Event. (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)

Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture

28 June 2024 Written by VRC

Shenae Lowings and her thoroughbred Bold Venture are the perfect pairing of human and equine, and could be headed to Paris later this year. Their success is a testament to their talent and dedication, and comes as a reward for Shenae’s faith in her quirky former racehorse.

Top Australian eventing rider, Shenae Lowings has been riding since she was five years old and horses are in the blood; her father and uncle trained trotters in their younger years and her grandfather was an old-time bookie at the races.

“Every Saturday as a kid, we would go to the races, so I had a lot of exposure to horses and loved being around them. As soon as I was old enough, I asked for a pony, and it hasn’t stopped since!” laughs Shenae.

A self-confessed ‘crazy kid’ who loved to go out in the bush and jump fallen trees, Shenae soon discovered a horse sport called eventing and she was hooked.

Growing up in Western Australia, Shenae made the move east after a few years of ‘competition back and forth’ to base with Prue Barrett, at that time the Equestrian Australia High Performance Coach for Eventing. Shenae’s first Australian team nomination came in 2015 as a Young Rider but her career moved up a notch when she started riding a quirky off the track thoroughbred named Hell on Wheels, now known as Bold Venture, or Bentley to his friends.

Some may be familiar with the famous American racehorse Bold Venture, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in the 1930’s, but Shenae’s Australian-bred Bold Venture, sired in 2010 by Devaraja and out of Royal Zam, had a short and inauspicious racing career. He had three starts, for no wins and no prizemoney, before he was discovered on Facebook by Shenae, who liked the look of him and bought him sight unseen from trainer Gino Poletti for $1,000.  

Bold Venture’s first FEI eventing competition in 2018 was equally unpromising in terms of results. While Shenae won the class on another of her horses, Bold Venture’s entry onto the international stage resulted in 22nd place after a few problems on cross country, but his rider was not discouraged.

“I knew he had the ability, but he was just very tricky mentally,” recalls Shenae.

Shenae and Bold Venture accept the prize for the Best Performed Thoroughbred in the CCI4*L at the 2023 Sydney International Three Day Event. (Ashley Grant @theblachat)

“From the very beginning he was a horse that was hard to get to know and it was difficult to win his trust. I believed that he had something very special there, but I was unsure if I was ever going to be able to coax it out of him.

All of a sudden it just clicked for him but even then, I had no idea how good he would turn out to be.”

“He was always a great jumping horse and, like most thoroughbreds, he’s great on cross country, so I knew I had those boxes ticked. But it was a question of how good I could I get him in the dressage phase and, as we started to move up from 3* to 4* level I realised he was coping with pressure of movements very comfortably. The more I asked of him in the flatwork, the better he got.”

Their results at CCI4* level from 2021 onwards started to attract the attention of the Australian selectors and, with the FEI World Eventing Championships at Pratoni, Italy in September 2022, their win of the CCI4*-L at Melbourne International 3 Day Event in June, secured their selection on the squad, to take part in the World Championships as an Individual combination for Australia.

Having never competed overseas, their debut had the international eventing fraternity asking, ‘Who is this?’ when they posted a dressage score of 26.3 in the first phase. It was an impressive performance for a ‘unknown’ first time combination at a Championship, especially when it was discovered that Bold Venture was not some fancy warmblood or fashionably French-bred horse. They were now on the world stage and turning heads.

They also handled the tough cross country easily, finishing the day as the second highest placed Australian combination before dropping down slightly to finish 29th out of 100 competitors on the final day with faults in the showjumping, on a course regarded by many experienced competitors as the toughest showjumping track they had ever ridden.

“It was a big ask for us at the time” says Shenae “Obviously, we had some good performances on our record in Australia, but we really hadn’t been competing at that level for very long before the World Championships.

“To get on a plane and compete overseas for the first time at an event of that level was huge – very exciting – but we were both very green. It was a massive stepping stone in our career but I never felt we were out of our depth, I did feel confident in our training and ability, just lacking in experience at that level.”

Many elite Australian eventing riders base in the UK but, like her mentor, the triple Olympic medallist Shane Rose, Shenae prefers to campaign for major competitions from the southern hemisphere. However, she returned to Europe with Bold Venture on the very important mission of securing a Paris 2024 Olympic team berth for Australia at the FEI Regional Qualifier at Millstreet in Ireland in May 2023 where, not only did Shane Rose, Kevin McNab, Andrew Hoy and Shenae get the Olympic qualification in the bag, standing on top of the team podium, but Shenae and Bold Venture also took the individual win.

The next overseas trip could be a very big one. Eventing takes place at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in July and Shenae is a strong candidate for a hotly contested seat on the Australian team. Their lead-up campaign started well in late 2023, with third place in the CCI4*-L at Sydney International Three Day Event and they backed that up with a win in the CCI4*-S at Adelaide Equestrian Festival in April 2024, with Bold Venture claiming the Victoria Racing Club Best Performed Thoroughbred award at both events.

“He’s an interesting character but we all love him” says Shenae of ‘Bentley’. His quirkiness means that sometimes Shenae has to return to the stable to rug him or catch him.

“It can be as simple as someone sneezing or dropping his rug as they walk in his gate, but if something upsets him, then it’s all over. They can’t catch him or rug him and I have to come back – once I get to his gate, he walks straight up to me and everything is alright again in his world!

“He’s a real individual but what makes him so special is how much he trusts me and the bond we have. I honestly feel that he wants to do the right thing by me and that we have a real partnership; I ride a lot of horses every day but when I get on Bentley, we’re just completely ‘in-synch’.”

If they make it to Paris 2024 to compete at the iconic Chateau de Versailles, Shenae says they will ‘give it their best shot’.

“From what I’ve seen, it will be an amazing cross country course to ride, very twisty and very fast. You’ll need a quick horse and I’ve got one of those! But if we get there, whatever happens, I’ll have full confidence in Bentley doing his best for me.”