Mark Radium Record Jumping Waler Pony

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The star of the times, what an amazing pony!

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Mark Radium: The Legendary Waler Pony That Jumped into the Records

News photos of Mark Radium with Jack McGee up This jumping style was called “The Australian kick”- the rider throwing himself in the air in an effort to lessen the load on the horse

Small, ugly, mean – yet the star of the times! He was bigger than any filmstar – when Mark Radium competed at shows he was so popular that sideshow alley closed down – nothing caused that ever again. He’s not descended from Radium the camp-drafting TB now made popular by the ASH, but from a Radium far better known in those times – an unlovely chestnut with a white blaze. Radium was Australia’s champion showjumper, by Hadrian, out of an ‘Arab’ (brumby) mare. Radium’s bloodline went into in several Olympic horses. Great chest and quarters.

News photos of Mark Radium with Jack McGee up This jumping style was called “The Australian kick”- the rider throwing himself in the air in an effort to lessen the load on the horse.

Radium was bred by Mr. Gill of Mount Perry station, Queensland. Gill had also bred his sire Hadrian – out of Princess (never registered); out of a station mare Princess was by Medallion, he by Nordenfeldt, he by Musket, sire of Carbine. Hadrian’s sire was Captivator (imp.) Captivator was bay, little white if any. Hadrian was never registered. The Arab mare, dam of Radium, was a tough brumby run in from the Bania area where the brumbies were thought to contain Arab blood and were extra good. Radium was sold at 15 months old to Mr Anderson of Childers and had his career in Queensland and NSW, keenly followed by the public, breaking the then Australian high jump record in 1912 at Casino NSW jumping 6 feet 11 inches. In 1913 he made a Queensland record jumping 6 feet 10 inches at Royal Brisbane show. After his career Radium stood stud on Disputed Plain, north east of Casino. He died in 1925, aged 23, and was buried in a marked grave on Disputed Plain, owned by the Armstrong family. Radium had thrown many champion showjumpers and hunters and won thousands of pounds is in prize money.

Radium threw a horse named Master Radium out of a station mare. He was sold as a colt to Alex G. Stewart of Taree as he was small, and difficult to ride, but a grand jumper, clearing 7 feet. Alex was an experienced horseman, jumps rider, judge, hunting man and bred horses. Master Radium was kept entire and threw many champion jumpers and camp[1]drafters including the NSW champion, and hunters. He was put over a mare by Magpie out of a little station mare.

Master Radium (sic. Mr Radium), by Radium out of a station mare, was the sire of Mark Radium. Photo, State Library of Queensland.

Mark Radium’s dam was described as a rogue, put in foal as nothing else could be done with her (!) Magpie was black, no white, said to be the most handsome horse they’d seen by all who saw him; imported from England he ran well here and threw staying winners including a winner of the Melbourne Cup.

The foal of Master Radium and the Magpie station mare was Mark Radium. The Radium family were bred as Walers were then, TB and bush horses. Foaled in 1932 at Taree N.S.W. he inherited some of his parent’s difficult nature (let’s blame that on the TB imports in his line shall we? ahem!) Nonetheless he was very willing and enjoyed jumping. Big prize money meant horses were bred to jump, and men, desperate for a living in the 30’s and post war, rode them for owners and made a good living as well as gaining hero status. Mark Radium was chestnut like his sire Master Radium and his grandsire Radium, only more baldy in the face with less leg white. He was bred by Mr. Alex G. Stewart of Number One Station, Upper Manning, Taree, who owned his sire Master Radium and jumped him at shows. In fact he bred three full sisters to Mark Radium – one named Radium Mark – a pony too, she jumped 7 feet 3 inches at Wingham in 1939, aged only four! In 1937 Mark Radium was owned by Alex’s brother Ross Stewart and leased at that stage to George Bell of Auburn, for whom as youngster he jumped 6 feet 6 inches and 6 feet 9 inches.

In 1938, Mark Radium won three high jumps at Melbourne Royal ridden by outstanding jumps rider Les Blackwell – jumping a show record of 7 feet 3 inches. A 14hh pony yet he mostly jumped in open class against horses two or three hands higher. At a Sydney Royal when he started out with George Bell, he was carefully measured and put in the 14 hands pony jump class, which he won jumping 6 feet 6 inches.

Mark Radium had an odd style of barely clearing the biggest jumps, but at the last second tucking his hocks high and sideways to scrape over. Because of his height – a mere pony – crowds gasped when he jumped and roared applause when he got over. After the Royal Melbourne show he was sold to Fred Englebert of Bowral who kept a string of jumpers and riders. Jacky McGee got the best out of Mark Radium, so became his regular rider. Mark Radium tossed people off he didn’t like, new riders had to give up on him for the Novice jump as he dumped them at shows. He didn’t bite or kick, he just dumped them. Good horsemen and women however, got along with him. Mark Radium had the Waler intolerance of fools! They were doing well then agricultural shows were halted for WW2. After the war shows started again. Between 1947 and 1955 they broke many records and were only beaten once, when Mark Radium was recovering from pneumonia. They broke the Geelong Show record jumping 7 feet 4 inches, then broke the Royal Adelaide record, jumping 7’ 6”.

Mark Radium’s records may have been beaten by bigger horses but he broke and held several show records – and he was a pony! In this photo Mark Radium is ridden by Winifred Holmes in the Ladies High Jump, and shows his distinctive jumping style. Sydney Morning Herald, April, 1938. They cleared 6’ 11” They travelled the show circuit, often by train, huge crowds turned out to see the little horse. In Goulburn in 1948 the sun was in rider and pony’s eyes, they crashed into the jump at 6 feet due to a shadow cast by the top rail. McGee asked them to raise it to 7 feet and they cleared it – a show record! The pony set the record at Moss Vale, that time ridden by Ron Hull. In 1947 Beryl Perry jumped 7 feet on him to win the Ladies High Jump at Brisbane Royal. Mark Radium and Jack won the annual ‘Vice Regal High Jump’ at Sydney Royal ten times. At Albury Show they jumped another show record and Mark Radium’s stunning best – 7’8”!

In 1954 163,000 people surrounded the arena to watch the high jumping at Sydney Royal. Little Mark Radium, past the age most horses were well and truly retired, did not disappoint. He was 22. He’d been jumping continually since he was three. He got a standing ovation. In 1955, still on the show circuit, Jack realised Mark Radium was going blind. The game old pony could hardly see. At the Royal Sydney in 1955, for the first time in his life, and 23 years old, Mark Radium refused. Jack knew he couldn’t see the jump. He threw down a matchbox to mark the take off point. The pony had a style of hardly running up but taking a big spring in front of the jump. Mark Radium cleared the big jump -thunderous applause – the pony loved applause. When he did his lap of honour, however, the entire crowd stood in complete silence, in tribute, it was clearly his last show. They now knew he was blind. Soon after, due to his blindness, Jack put the pony down, he had been instructed to by Englebert, who had meanwhile passed away himself, as he didn’t want the little chap to suffer. Mark Radium was 23.

Mark Radium Park, Berry, NSW, photo from Monument Australia.

Possibly hard landings over the years jarred the retinas of his eyes and they became detached. Landing was tough – the drop was enormous – the rider had to lean right back, adding weight to the impact – for a pony the drop was far greater. The better shows had a thick layer of sawdust on the landing side, as at times the horses and riders fell on landing. Mark Radium never fell. The courageous little pony didn’t break down in any other way. At Berry where the pony lived with Jack McGee he is a local hero.

High jumping as a sport ended about the time Mark Radium retired. It is still seen at some shows however the money isn’t there like the old days, due to other forms of entertainment in this electronic age. Famous jumpers of those decades – followed by hundreds of thousands like film stars – were mostly Walers such as Lady Radium, Musician, Lookout, Dungog and Gold Mead which jumped a world record 8 feet 6 inches in 1946 at Cairns Show, ridden by an army man, Jack Martin, a Tobruk Rat. He looked like Radium, and indeed, was bred at Woodenbong within travelling distance to Master Radium. Those champions were bigger than little Mark Radium, but he was the biggest star of all. Cairns Show still features the high jump – every year people try to beat the world record, officially held by a horse in Chile it was not as high as Gold Mead’s leap.

Photo credit: Mr. K.H. Dunoon, taken in 1939 at the Swan Hill Show; Mark Radium clearing just over 7ft with Jack Magee riding

Image: Mr. K.H. Dunoon, taken in 1939.

This is a very clear photograph of our ‘legend’. Here he is ridden by Jack Magee and clearing just over 7′ at Swan Hill Show in 1939. He also cleared 7’8″ at Albury Show. Note the gentlemen holding the horse behind. They obviously know their horse has been beaten.

The rider too, is staying completely off the horse’s back to reduce the weight. Some riders would jump off as the horse touched down – amazing skills they had.

Mark Radium’s progeny, for so many years have appeared in our horses’ pedigrees. Like The Man from Snowy River, he will live on!!

Posted by Enoch Waler

Waler gelding purpose bred to help educate and advocate for Walers, in person and via Facebook and Instagram.