Harness enthusiast Claire Goble considered giving up on her passion after the Pinery fires tore through the outskirts of her property.
However, her dedication to the sport was rewarded recently with the Chairman’s Award at the 2016-17 Harness Racing SA awards function.
Ms Goble had been involved in harness racing for about 30 years – she and partner Dennis Lyle developed Clarenden Standardbreds at Wasleys about 20 years ago.
The Vocation, Education and Training teacher at Trinity College worked tirelessly over the past two years to overcome adversity and had a very successful 2016/17.
However, Ms Goble said she’d only attended the awards for her horses and didn’t even consider bringing home a gong.
“I was a bit surprised… I was very humbled by the award – I wasn’t expecting it, but it was a real thrill,” she said.
On November 25, 2015, the Pinery bushfires raced through the Clarenden Standardbreds property, but fortunately swept around the main house and a group of the nearby sand yards saving a number of horses.
“When the fire went through, the first part of it was just dealing with the aftermath of the fire – a lot of the horses were burnt and so we spent a lot of time, probably three months, nursing them and trying to get them back to normal health,” Ms Goble said.
“We had Blazeaid here for about three months pulling down fences and trying to build a perimeter – for about a year after the fire it was pretty horrible, it was very windy and dusty and black ash was blowing up everywhere from pulling down burnt houses and sheds.
“So we didn’t really focus on that much racing – it would’ve been quite easy just to give up, but we’re quite passionate about our harness racing.
“It’s only been really in the last year that we’ve got back on track with (harness racing).”
Incredibly, three of the horses on the property that day, which would have been subjected to the extreme conditions were Clarenden Hustler, Clarenden Valour and Emilys Vacation – all finalists in the 2016/17 Horse Of The Year awards.
Ms Goble only had those horses and Clarenden Daydream in work during the 2016/17 season, and their records were amazing.
Clarenden Hustler had 13 starts for five wins, one second and three thirds; Clarenden Valour had 12 starts for three wins, three seconds and three thirds; Emilys Vacation had 26 starts for three wins, four seconds and three thirds while Clarenden Daydream had 30 starts for four wins, six seconds and three thirds.
Ms Goble credited the horses’ comeback partially to the generosity of the harness racing community which donated hay and helped to house about 30 horses for extended periods of time.
“(After Pinery) I didn’t even think of (racing) really because it was such a traumatic thing, so you don’t really think about things like that, you just go day to day and try to make the best of things,” she said.
”One of the main things from the fire was how good the harness racing community really were at getting behind people and really helping them when they’re at a very traumatic time in their lives.”
Apart from her job at Trinity plus training and caring for the horses, Ms Goble has also had to assist her partner in the rebuilding of their fire damaged property, which is still ongoing.
So far, they have re-fenced about two-thirds of the property, replaced all of the piping, cleared the burnt trees and scrub, and planted 400 trees in the last three months.
They have replaced the insulation batts in the main house and the blinds, plus knocked down and removed the old house which was destroyed by the fire, replaced hay sheds and a tack room.
Ms Goble said she believes the community is “getting there,” but admits a lot of people are still struggling, as many were under-insured.
“I know of other people caught in the fire as well and they were very traumatised, even more so than us because they lost their whole belongings and all their horses – it was quite a horrible situation,” she said.
“Insurance is very expensive and I think a lot of people go through life thinking ‘it won’t happen to us,’ so I think a lot of people in the community have struggled and continue to struggle just to get back simply because we were all under-insured.
“I guess I’ll probably work until the day I die to replace what I had, but we think it’s worth it – we’re probably about halfway there.”
Ms Goble still gets emotional when she thinks about that horrible day in November, but said she’s glad to be getting back on track.
“There were people that lost their homes, and two people lost their lives, so I always think of that – I think really we were probably a lot better off than a lot of people," she said.
“If you're always grateful for what you’ve got then I think that makes things easier and more determined to get back to where you were.”