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Posted by Equestrian Victoria on 29/08/2014.


Equestrian Victoria is saddened by the recent passing of Peter Gahan.

A Memorial Service will be held at St Arnaud on September 15.

Peter was one of the sport’s statesmen, serving for years on the Equestrian Victoria committee and working for the Victorian dressage club. He was also a great support to his wife Marie, a Grand Prix dressage rider. A man of strong character and principles he was married to Marie for 48 years.

He is probably best known as being the father/creator of the world famous Barastoc Horse of the Year Show that deserves its title of “The Greatest Show on Turf.”

He created a show that has led the way and been copied all around Australia. It has given show horse competitors Newcomer classes, Show Hunter classes, Owner Rider classes Working Hunters, Performance Ponies and has always worked to give every level of competitor a reason to want to attend.

The show has been attended by visitors from interstate and overseas, and attracts thousands of hits on horse oriented websites as those that can’t attend follow what’s happening

Peter was at the time an EFA committee member and mill manager for what was then Hutmill horse feeds at St Arnaud and with the late Fred Wiltshire, thought it would be a way to get competitors to support country shows, with the top ten point scorers in hack, Galloway and pony at the end of the season getting to compete. Points were earned at Victorian agricultural shows (five points for champion, four points for reserve champion and three points for a first placing). Peter named the show Barastoc choosing the first letters of BAlanced RAtions for STOCk, Ba Ra Stoc.

The first Barastoc Hack, Galloway and Pony of the Year was in 1970 when organisers of the Victorian Showjumping Championships, held at Melbourne’s Olympic Park dog racing complex on the banks of the Yarra River, decided the show horses would be a good fill-in for spectators to watch in between jumping events.  Horses warmed up on the banks of the Yarra beside busy Batman Avenue and worked out around showjumps on the Olympic Park arena. Parking was tight and horses had to be either tied up to floats on the bitumen carpark. Barastoc soon became the event every show rider wanted to win.

In 1977, it was decided to use pre-set workouts designed by Peter and Marie Gahan after problems getting the three invited judges to agree on a workout.

In 1979 the points system had to be scrapped as the event had become so popular, parents were keeping their children away from school and birthday parties in
order to qualify and was moved to the Melbourne Showgrounds in Ascot Vale, which meant more horses could qualify and compete in preliminary classes in the morning, with the final ten chosen to compete in the afternoon’s finals. A fourth event, the Shetland of the Year was added in 1989 and in 1990 a small pony class was added.

The show continued to grow and in 1991 moved to the Werribee Park National Equestrian centre.

Peter retired as Ringmaster after the show’s Silver Anniversary but kept a close eye on in its running in the years that followed.

Much of the profit from the Barastoc Horse of the Year show was put back into Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre including the surfacing of the main drive which carries his name. Works offices, portable toilets, and many other facilities were provided for all disciplines use by Peter’s committee.

He created an event that became a word – it doesn’t need the Horse of the Year added. Say to someone “are you going to Barastoc?” and they will know exactly what you mean, a horse sold as being of “Barastoc quality” would be expected to be nigh on perfect, one sold as “placed top ten at Barastoc” would leave potential buyers in no doubt as to what to expect.

It’s a fitting tribute to a strong and determined man.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends in this difficult time.

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