A Horsey History

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Have you ever wondered where your passions developed from, whether they were inherited, nurtured, spontaneous, or even adopted from someone else?

My father, Merv Hein, on Tactful Queen, winning the  1952 Frances Handicap, Naracoorte, SA.

My father on Tactful Queen, winning the 1952 Frances Handicap at Naracoorte, SA.

As many of you will know from visiting Friday Feast, I’m a passionate foodie, yet my mother never cared about cooking, produce or anything cuisine related. She loathed gardening too, whereas I love growing my own food. Dad reads, much more now he’s a bit housebound with looking after Mum, but Mum never did, whereas I’m a complete bookworm. My brother is sporty. I’m an enthusiastic participant but somehow the genes governing easy athleticism and co-ordination passed me by.

My love for all things equine, though? Ah, well, now that’s what is known in the vernacular as a no-brainer.

As happened in those days, my father was indentured as an apprentice jockey when he was 11 years old. It would be impossible to think of an eleven-year-old today leaving home to work and live with a racehorse trainer but Dad did it, thrived and had a bit of success too. I have the most marvellous, if a little battered, whale bone whip in my office which Dad won as the winning rider of Tactful Queen in the 1952 Frances Handicap at Naracoorte, SA.

The whale bone whip prize presented to my father, Merv Hein, as winning jockey of the 1952 Frances Handicap.

The whale bone whip prize presented to my father as winning jockey of the 1952 Frances Handicap.

But I guess he was only following in the footsteps of his forebears, because my grandfather was also a jockey, and my great-grandfather rode jumps races. I have a book I’m currently using for research called Personalities in Pink Coats by Brian J. O’Connor, which covers the history of the Cover of Personalities in Pink Coats by Brian J. O'ConnorMount Gambier Hunt Club. A club of which I was also once a member. There’s a wonderful story in it of a veterans race held on September 12th, 1931 to help celebrate the club’s Golden Jubilee. It was run during the local Winter Race Carnival, I assume at Mount Gambier’s Glenburnie Racecourse, although that isn’t specified. The SA Jockey Club allowed the race on the proviso it was run under SAJC rules and that the jockeys were amateur.

The veterans were aged 60 and over and among them was my great-grandfather Lou Hein, aged 63, riding Kings Street. The eldest rider was Jim Hanlon aged 77. As you can imagine, the race drew considerable interest. Perhaps some locals expected carnage. Not a chance. These riders were all true horseman and had been all their lives.

My great-grandfather Lou Hein circa 1900.

My great-grandfather Lou Hein circa 1900.

Lou was the only Mount Gambier man to ride, the remainder were from over the south-east of SA and western Victoria. I would love to say he won, but he didn’t. That honour went to 71 year old Jack Stock, riding 2/1 favourite Bonny Deen. According to Personalities in Pink Coats, Jack was a bachelor but won a lot of lady admirers that day. It was the silver cutlery that did it.

My great-uncle Clarence also rode and there’s a wonderful family tale of how, in 1928, Clarrie, aged sixteen, travelled from Mount Gambier across the Victorian border to Coleraine for a race meeting. When the meet proved unsuccessful, he headed back to Casterton where, the next day, he rode King Sam to victory in the Casterton Cup. Fast forward to 2008 and there’s Clarrie, aged 96, once again at the Casterton Cup, only this time presenting the prize to the winning jockey of the same race he’d won eighty years before.

My grandfather, Lloyd 'Torchy' Hein on horseback.

My grandfather, Lloyd ‘Torchy’ Hein

With this kind of family history it’s little wonder I was born horse mad. Fortunately I had Dad on hand to help teach me horsemanship. He was no longer a jockey, his career having ended at age twenty-one when his apprenticeship finished and he’d grown too big for the job, but there are some things you don’t forget. My teenage years are a blur of horses and horse events. Pony club, trail riding, saddle horses, dressage, eventing, showjumping, hunting – if it involved a horse and riding, I was probably in on it. I even worked for a couple of racehorse trainers riding exercise in my gap year before university.

Sadly, I no longer ride but I’m still horse mad and it’s a pretty fair assumption that when you pick up one of my books there’ll be a horse or two woven into the tale. I simply can’t help it.

Science may not have proven the existence of a gene for horse-mania, but if my family history has anything to do with it, something’s sure going on.


8 thoughts on “A Horsey History

  1. AvatarPaula Beavan

    I grew up horse crazy too. I spent every moment I could listening to my grandfather’s stories of his horses when he was a kid. When we moved to the Hunter Valley from Sydney, I was 10 and used to steal our neighbours horses to ride bareback with a badly homemade bridle as my only tack. My parents took pity on me at about 12 and bought me a horse. I no longer have a horse as we live in town now, but I still dream of moving back to the land and buying another one, though it will need to be bombproof LOL I’m getting to old to bounce.

  2. AvatarSue Gerhardt Griffiths

    My mum was an amazing cook, she doesn’t cook much anymore or hardly ever really, her and dad prefer to eat out everyday. She never tried different recipes it made her nervous but what she did cook (and she had many recipes that were stored in her mind) was just so yum and of course it was only german food. I never liked cooking but I was brought up old school and was told when you’re married you cook for your husband so that’s what I did and I actually found I loved it. I did go through a stage where I hated it because of all my food intolerances but now there are so many different flours on the market I try everything and have even baked some amazing muffins, cookies and cakes. I’m so opposite to my mum I love trying different recipes and to see how they turn out.
    Mum despises reading but my dad loves it. It used to make mum mad because every weekend he’d have the telly on and read a novel. I thought it was funny and cute. I’m just so happy that I’m a bookworm like my dad and my daughter April also loves reading.

    I love your horsey blogs. I have to say there’s nothing exciting about our family history, that I know of anyway. Dads father and mums father never came back from the war and they both can’t tell me much of their ancestors. April is very creative: music, art, poetry and writing. I wish I new if someone down the line in our family had the artistic gene. My cousin on dads side writes a lot of poetry as do I so I’m guessing one of our first or second and so on great grandfathers/grandmothers might have been creative. It’s a shame not to know though. My maternal grandmother was a dressmaker. My mum, sister and I loved sewing. I don’t sew anymore I’d rather read, lol. That’s one creative skill April didn’t inherit. Other than what I have mentioned I have no idea what my ancestors have done or who they are which is a darn shame.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I reckon there’s always something interesting in everyone’s family history if you dig around, but it is harder when you’ve lost the people who could tell you the most. As you say, that is a shame. I’m sure there are creative people in your history. And wonderful to be a bookworm!
      Mum caught the genealogy bug many years ago and dug up all sorts of weird and wonderful things, just from paper records and research, like a long lost great uncle who’d been institutionalised as a very young child. So maybe it’s possible to find out things that way.
      Glad you enjoyed the blog and thanks for sharing some of your life too. People are fascinating, even when they think they’re not!!

      1. AvatarSue Gerhardt Griffiths

        I also caught the genealogy bug a couple of years ago but I didn’t get too far. I asked for assistance from the volunteers from the Illawarra Family History Group at the Wollongong Library but once I mentioned my family was from Germany they couldn’t help; their knowledge only extended to British family backgrounds, the lady that dealt in German heritage was no longer with them, she’d only left a couple of weeks earlier. That was a bit of bad luck. I did go see my dad though back then and asked him what he knew and he actually found his marriage certificate of sorts. It shows my Grandparents on both sides their full names which I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Dad only knew their first names so when I do start a research online I have something to go on albeit only small. Dad can’t remember his grandparents names – I did ask about it years and years ago but I never wrote anything down – such a pity. What I’m really interested in though is if we’re German generations back, on mums and dads side. Now that would be fascinating to know. I can make a small family tree for my daughter but is there any point if there’s no one to pass it down to? She and especially her hubby have decided no kids for them.
        Oh yes, Cathryn, even small things we think is nothing is fascinating to someone else we just don’t see it. I’ll be quizzing mum and dad again when I see them on Saturday.

        1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

          What a shame you missed the lady who could have helped you with the German history. That’s kinda sad. But I’m sure there is other help out there should you choose to chase it.

          I’ve been cleaning out Mum’s things today (she’s going into full-time care tomorrow) and have found some extraordinary things I never knew existed, like her baby booties and tiny cardigan. Plus a whole bunch of photos and things from her pipe band days. Even a photo given to her from an old boyfriend. It’s been quite an experience. There are stories here…

  3. AvatarSue Gerhardt Griffiths

    Oh Cathryn, that’s so sad; I thought you drove down to your mum and dads place to enjoy Mother’s Day and to have fun. That must be so hard to put her into care. I hope your dad is ok?

    Wow, to find all that stuff you didn’t know about, that’s incredible. Yeah, you could incorporate some of those things found into one of your rural stories. My mum and dad had amazing things too; especially things given to her from her mother but everything got stolen by thieving b*****ds when they broke into their house about 20 yrs ago. Dad had an incredible stamp and coin collection I think went back to the early 1930s. He also collected coins from the Australian Royal Mint – every time they released a special commemorative coin or set he’d order it. After everything was gone he had no interest in collecting anything again. And Mum had the most gorgeous jewellery from Germany and most of it was 14 ct. 18 ct. gold. All gone – nothing to hand down anymore. Too sad.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Oh, that is HEARTBREAKING, Sue. Your poor parents and the loss of those treasures for you also.

      We’re all a bit fragile here but going through Mum’s stuff is proving a wonderful distraction. I might have to do a blog post on some of the amazing things I’ve found. Mother’s Day tomorrow will be another test but the main thing is for Mum to be well cared for. Bloody hard though…

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