Fourth Generation Breeders Prepare For The Biggest Polocrosse World Cup Yet!

The Hafey name is synonymous with horse breeding. Justin Hafey is a fourth generation breeder, following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great grandfather. Hafey horses date back to the early 1900s, and today they can be found all over Australia, and internationally in the USA and UK.

Originally, the Hafey’s bred thoroughbreds over what would today be known as the Australian Stock Horse. They were used for mustering on the properties and on the weekends they could be found at the racetrack, often with a Hafey in the saddle. Back then, it was not uncommon to see four or five Hafey horses in a race at Tambo!

It wasn’t until the Australian Stock Horse Society was formed that the Australian Stock Horse really came into its own. The society created an industry and some formality around the breed. Justin and Lyndal Hafey have focused on Australian Stock Horse breeding at Jaylyn Downs ASH Stud in Tansey, Queensland for the past 20-25 years, particularly since they got more involved with polocrosse.

Beth Hafey of the Australian Polocrosse World Cup 2019 team Photo: Justine Rowe

Beth Hafey of the Australian Polocrosse World Cup 2019 team
Photo: Justine Rowe

Justin played polocrosse as a child, but then pursued other sporting endeavours like football. He got back into polocrosse in his early 20s, and his breeding activity quickly shifted to breeding the best polocrosse horses possible.

“My father and brother tragically passed away within three months of each other in separate car accidents when I was 17 years old, and I inherited their horses,” Justin said.

“Most of them were Landsdowne bred and came from thoroughbred mares. Once I got back into polocrosse, I found that a lot of our horses were playing really well and that’s when Lyndal and I got more selective on breeding specifically for polocrosse.

“Lyndal and I both have strong family links to horses and polocrosse. We have both been around horses and breeding our whole lives. Lyndal’s dad played for Tansey, and back in Tambo, where I grew up, it was not uncommon to see a whole polocrosse team made up of Hafey’s!

“The first stallion Lyndal and I purchased together was Kydee Court Breezeaway, which was a horse by Jesse James. We had many of our Thoroughbred mares classified with the ASH Society and we bred ‘Breezie’ over these mares that were doing well in polocrosse. Breeding the more electric mare with the calm stallion has produced us bloodlines that have gone on to produce many champion polocrosse horses. The most well-known is probably ‘Bud’ that Trent Collins played. Brigadoon, another of our top polocrosse Sires who sadly passed away recently, is strongly represented through his progeny on the polocrosse circuit throughout Australia.

“Lyndal and I still play, as do our four kids. The whole family played for Queensland in various divisions at the Darwin Nationals in 2016, which was a real highlight for us. In the Perth Nationals in 2018, I played in the Men’s; my daughters all played - Beth in the Women’s, Emma in the Mixed, and Laura in the Intermediate; and my son Dan played in the Junior’s. We all played on home bred horses.”

Beth Hafey of the Australian Polocrosse World Cup team

Beth Hafey of the Australian Polocrosse World Cup team

“We are all really excited for the Adina Polocrosse World Cup 2019 as we have a Hafey competing in the Australian World Cup team for the first time, with Beth being one of only four women from across Australia to be selected. She has good horses under her for training in the lead up, she shows up, and her mindset is where it needs to be.

“We are really proud of her and everything she has achieved in the sport. She is the youngest player in the team, so hopefully there will be a few more World Cups in her yet! We are also loaning four Hafey horses for the World Cup so are excited to see how they perform as well,” he said.

Beth and the Hafey horses headed for the World Cup are in full preparation mode, with the event taking place in April.

“It has always been a dream of mine to play for Australia in the World Cup, however having only been playing for 10 years, and being 20 years old, I didn’t think it would come this early,” Beth said.

“Playing for my country on home soil with the support of fellow Aussies will be something very special. It is an honour to be able to play alongside Australia’s elite players, and play against the best in the world.

“I’m focusing on getting myself into peak fitness, and spending time on racquet skills both on and off the horse. I spend a lot of time riding horses; as many as possible. You don’t know what horse you will be riding at the World Cup until the draw, so being able to readily adapt to different horses to get the best from them really helps.”

“As for the horses we are putting forward, they will all get some pre-event playing exposure to ensure they are at peak health and game fit so they perform to the best of their ability at the World Cup. The horses will also be playing at various carnivals in the lead up to the World Cup. I have just returned from a carnival in South Australia, and played against New Zealand in Ballarat in February, and will again in New Zealand in March,” she said.

Justin and Beth are both glad to see the ASH getting more recognition and exposure in the polocrosse circles and the Australian Stock Horse industry, as they strongly believe that a good horse that wants to play the game is just as important as the skills of the rider.

“A player with less skill on a champion horse can out perform a highly skilled player on a less qualified horse,” Justin said.

“The horse and rider go hand in hand. We are proud of the polocrosse horses we breed and their real eagerness to be involved in the game. It can make all the difference,” he said.

Polocrosse is one of only three home-grown Australian sports, along with Aussie Rules football and Campdraft. The 2019 Polocrosse World Cup takes place in Warwick, Queensland from 22 to 28 April and will attract 300 competitors from around the world, 2,000 international guests and 60,000 spectators, making it the largest international sporting event ever held in rural Australia.

A range of ticket options and event passes are available for purchase from the event website www.polocrosseworldcup.com.au

Linda Tillman