By Julieanne Horsman
As a racehorse Kilwinning Luck was average at best. He managed two wins in 25 starts and an awkward movement on his front nearside had stewards considering whether they should let him race at all. In the end it was a bleeding attack that forced Kilwinning Luck into retirement.
Nelson Smyth grew up around horses but wasn’t that interested in them until he went to watch his sister participate in pony club and discovered the disproportionately high number of girls to boys.
Fast forward to 2018 and this unlikely pair has gone all the way to the highest level in Australian showjumping. Now renamed Laurel Glen Lucky Time, Kilwinning Luck is the only full thoroughbred to be competing in World Cup events in Oceania.
Nelson is no stranger to competing on off the track thoroughbreds. After discovering his natural talent and passion for showjumping as a teenager, he joined Olympian Ron Easey’s travelling team in his first year out of high school. Ron was initially Nelson’s coach and when Ron injured himself he asked Nelson to compete on his horses.
Nelson’s first big trip was to Cairns where he was named Leading Rider. He then won Champion Horse and Rider at The Royal National Show in Brisbane before being selected for the National Elite Young Rider Team. He began competing on his own horse, Classic Mischief, an unraced thoroughbred which had been re-trained as an eventer by Sam Lyle. After a few years of competitions Nelson sold Classic Mischief to a young girl in Western Australia who also made it onto the National Elite Young Rider Team. She only retired Classic Mischief last year at the ripe old age of 22.
While Nelson was away on one of his trips his father Kerrod was offered another off the track thoroughbred, Kilwinning Luck. His trainer Lyle Rowe was a showjumper himself and was confident Kilwinning Luck would succeed in that discipline. Kerrod first put him over the 60cm cross rail and after handling that with ease jumped a 90cm barrel. Kerrod started lunging him then Nelson took over when he came home.
“He was a bit of a naughty horse at the start but we persisted with different ways until Lucky understood what we were asking him to do,” Nelson said. “We gave him plenty of spells and when he figured it all out he improved out of sight. There’s a lot of work involved because you have to teach the horse to move in a way they never have before.”
Nelson and Laurel Glen Lucky Time competed in their first showjumping event six months later. It was the start of an exciting journey and for the next few years they travelled up and down the east coast of Australia from competition to competition.
Towards the end of 2017 Nelson and Lucky were comfortably jumping 145cm so he set a goal of competing in a World Cup showjumping event within 12 months. He made the relevant applications to the Federation of Equestrian International and in September at the Royal Adelaide Show he ticked his first World Cup event off his bucket list, finishing an impressive 13th overall. They did another World Cup event at Sale in November, finishing 12th against the best riders in Australia, New Zealand and The Pacific.
“When I first got Lucky I never imagined we’d go this far but here we are,” Nelson said. “He’s tough and he’s such a trier. Over the five years I have had him we’ve developed a really strong relationship.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved together. Some of the horses we’re up against in World Cup showjumping are worth upwards of a quarter of a million dollars.”
Now Nelson has his sights set on the World Cup Showjumping at the Boneo Classic in January.
“I’ll be happy if we continue to improve,” he said. “This will be our third World Cup event together so hopefully it’s lucky!”