Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

In June, 1954, it was announced that Australia would send an equestrian team to the Olympics for the first time; the Equestrian Federation of Australia voting to spend £25,000 to send a six-man team to Stockholm.

It was expected that the funds could be raised from public donations, but the Federal Government later voted £12,000 towards the expense; Prime Minister Robert Menzies justified the grant on the basis that the quarantine laws had prevented the team from competing on their home soil, but that Australia as host nation was duty bound to compete in the event.

In recognition of the inexperience of the Australian riders, the team was named as early as January, 1955, the members selected were Wyatt Thompson (N.S.W.), Ernest Barker, of Hallam, Bert Jacobs, of Clifton Hill (also noted at Narre Warren and as the Australian flag-carrier, Brian Crago (South Australia) and head groom, Miss Gwen Stead, of Berwick (known as "Squish" to Melbourne show jumpers) with Mr. Alex. (later Sir Alex. R. Creswick as manager.

The team left Port Melbourne on 18 January, 1955 with six horses and spent 37 days at sea before arriving at Hull, England and spent nearly 14 months competing in British and Continental competitions (team members noted as winning 102 ribbons) and  selecting and training another five English horses as reserves before leaving for Stockholm where 29 nations competed from June 10 to June 17.

Expectations weren't high, but although the team failed to earn a medal in Stockholm, it recorded a fine "first-up" performance in the three-day teams event by taking fourth place, returning ahead of many far more experienced European nations.

The team returned in August, 1956 after spending just on 20 months overseas, undoubtedly the longest Olympic tour ever. Because of the quarantine restrictions, none of the horses returned, all being sold in England.

The 1956 experience however established a firm base for success in later years extending to the present day - in Rome at the next Games in 1960, Laurie Morgan (on Salad Days) and Neale Lavis (Mirrabooka) won gold and silver in the individual event, the pair combining for another gold medal with Brian Crago and a heroic Bill Roycroft who rode Our Solo on the final day of the three-day team event, despite suffering a broken shoulder, a dislocated collarbone, and concussion and being air-lifted to hospital after being thrown from his horse in the cross-country section the day before.

Despite the supposed cost of transportation, there were 159 entries from 29 countries at Stockholm with representatives from five of the six continents, Africa not represented : Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Soviet Union, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA and Venezuela.

Most of the 1956 events were held at the Stockholm Olympic Stadium (Swedish: Stockholms Olympiastadion),originally designed and built as a venue for the 1912 Olympic Games.  

Our First Equestrian Team

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Rome 1960 : Australian Equestrian Eventing Team members (from left to right) Laurie Morgan, John Kelly (reserve), Neale Lavis, Bill Roycroft and Brian Crago, and below, receiving the Gold Medals from the Duke of Edinburgh, Roycroft far left.