Travelling Full Circle

Jackie Allen and Eliot Ralph return to the Yarra Valley of Jackie’s childhood and the very house that Jackie grew up in, to raise their own children and embrace their passion for polo

As a youngster, Jackie Allen grew up with ponies and horses. Her parents took on a blackberry-infested small acreage abutting the Yarra river at Tarrawarra, on the outskirts of Yarra Glen, and constructed a compound there with stabling, loading, tack-rooms, feed storage and groom accommodation alongside a substantial new home, whilst reclaiming the flat and fertile paddocks for their horses and fitting them with loose-boxes, a menage, and an adjacent shed for mounting, storage, and washing-down. They trained in show-jumping, whilst Jackie and her sister developed their riding and dressage skills. For the horse-crazy girls, it was a perfect childhood in an idyllic setting.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Jackie found herself married to Eliot Ralph, a manufacturer and importer of defence and aerospace electrical componentry, and living in a swish apartment in a high-rise building on St Kilda Road. “Albert Park was our back yard, the nearest open space, and I used to take Frankie (their eldest daughter) there in the pram for a walk, and for a bit of fresh air,” Jackie explains. Around this time, Eliot’s business took him to the USA, and a work colleague suggested that both men take part in a cattle drive around Reno. For a week, they herded 400 cattle cross-country on horseback by day, sleeping around a campfire under the stars at night. “It was a real-life version of ‘City Slickers’ – at the end of that week, you could have smelled me from a block away!” Eliot laughs. When he returned to Australia, it was more than the sweat of horses that had worked its way under his skin; “That experience converted me. I knew that I wanted to do some kind of horse sport.”

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Article: Michael Anderson | Photography: Dr. Khoi Bui