By Christine Armishaw, Equestrian Australia
As riders galloped round the cross country track at the Adelaide International Three Day Event (Aus3DE) in 2018, many spectators would have noticed the adornment of little soft toy horses.
Strapped in to body protectors and holding on for the ride, plush Peppermint Fred toys brought a smile to the faces of those who rode with them, and to the spectators who cheered the riders on.
The significance of these fluffy XC hitchhikers is in the association they have with Olympic great, Gillian Rolton, who personally dedicated so much to the Aus3DE, the then only four star, now five star, event in the Southern Hemisphere.
Gill became the first Aussie female equestrian to medal at any Olympics when she won Gold in Eventing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
She achieved much notoriety at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics after slipping on the flat at the half-way mark of the cross-country course and falling from her horse. Gill broke her collarbone and ribs but soldiered on and remounted only to fall again at the next water jump. Miraculously, despite her injuries, she completed the 6000m course and posted a team score, helping the Australian Eventing Team win Gold.
At both Olympics, she rode Peppermint Grove (Freddie), a horse she’d purchased as a gangly, barely broken in four-year-old. She brought him up through the grades to reach Olympic level.
Over the years, Gill went on to offer so much of her time to the sport, as a coach, committee and board member, national selector, FEI judge and so much more.
Diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2015, Gillian approached Cancer Council SA to do something to raise funds to support those impacted by women’s cancers. True to form, even in this challenging time, Gill was still looking for ways to continue to help others.
Ahead of the 2017 Aus3DE, Cancer Council SA established a partnership with the Aus3DE team. Gillian (61) passed away on 18th November 2017.
After Gill’s passing, Cancer Council SA continued to work with her husband Greg, to build on the partnership and honour Gill’s legacy. In 2018, Greg and the Aus3DE team decided to create a soft toy horse. “Peppermint Fred”, named after Gillian’s beloved Olympic horse, was born.
The toys were sold at the 2018 event to raise funds and awareness for Cancer Council SA and proved to be a great success. Riders rode with them on their horses, and at the end of the competition, drove with little Peppermint Freds sitting proudly on their truck dashboards for the journey home.
Through the sale of Peppermint Fred toys and generous donations at the event, $12,360 was raised to support Cancer Council SA.
The money raised through the event has gone towards funding Cancer Council’s research, prevention and support programs, helping South Australian women and their families throughout every stage of their cancer journey.
As an organisation which is 95% community funded, fundraisers like this play a huge role in enabling Cancer Council SA to continue to do their vital work.
“We are unbelievably grateful to Greg Rolton and the Australian 3 Day International team for their support, which is a credit to Gillian and her legacy”, shared Natasha Baugh from Cancer Council SA.
The Cancer Council SA will continue to work with Aus3DE as their partner charity in line with Gill’s wishes, and are looking forward to building on and evolving the partnership in future years.
So, if you head to Adelaide to compete in, or watch the Aus3DE this year, remember to get your own Peppermint Fred, or get your current Peppermint Fred some more herd mates!
The memory and legacy of the incredible Gillian Rolton will continue to live on and help others, just as she set out to do while she was still here.