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The Beginning of Bella and Bill’s Beautiful Journey


With an affinity for standardbreds in her lineage, it was inevitable that young Bella Wilson would find herself in a beautiful partnership with a harness racing retiree.

Bella is the granddaughter of long-serving Harness Racing Victoria’s Clerk of the Course, Geoff Church, and the daughter of passionate standardbred owner Sara.

“I was on the hunt for a new horse for myself, to support Bella with her riding”, mother Sara explains.

“Bella had been riding ponies and had a couple of nasty accidents which knocked her confidence to an all-time low.

“We initially brought Bill (a retired pacer who raced as Corporal Bill) home to be my riding partner. He was quite fresh from racing and he had only had a handful of rides under saddle.

“Bill had been with the same family and trainers from birth until he retired from racing at six years of age.  I think it was a big shock for him to finish the only career he had ever known, then to be sent off to a retrainer and rehomed to us all within a very short space of time.

“Bill was a bit shut-down when first arrived, so I decided that the right thing to do by him was to take things slow and go back to basics.

“We spent a lot of time just  getting to know Bill, taking him for walks around the property and letting him have a good look at things.

“We took care of some body niggles, started him on a new diet and got him all rugged up and ready for a chilly Mortlake winter. 

“Once Bill had settled in, I started to work with him under saddle. I didn’t want to rush him, so each new skill was introduced in his own time. I felt he really just needed time to reset.

“It was around that time that Bella took a bad fall off her pony and her confidence just plummeted.  She started to join me doing groundwork with Bill and this helped her to build confidence around horses without being aware of it.

“One day, out of the blue, Bella decided to get on Bill and have a ride. She was comfortable right from the get-go, as he was a nice size for her and they’d built this great bond together.

“Bella started to ride Bill more and more and naturally gravitated towards him instead of her ponies. By then I knew I’d lost my horse”, says Sara with a chuckle.

“We took Bill out to a few events across the 2022/2023 season, to give him a bit of exposure to new environments.

“Bella would show Bill in the led classes and I would jump on and take him into the ridden sections.

“We were often joined on our trips to shows by my best friend Leah Kinman, whose family was connected to Bill during racing, and we enjoyed taking our standies for adventures together.

“The sense of community is definitely one of my favourite things about being involved in standardbreds. Everyone says ‘hello’ and is willing to help you out at events.

“As a mum, I have never felt bad entering Bella into classes full of adults. Nobody involved in standardbreds has ever made her feel inferior and she’s received a lot of encouragement and support. It’s been a very positive experience!”

“Recently, Bella and Bill attended the 2024 Standies for Breast Cancer Trials, where Bella competed in her first ever ridden class.  The pair were awarded the broad sash in the Foundation Ridden section, which has just done wonders for Bella’s confidence. She’s now circling upcoming events on the calendar!”