2015 Melbourne Cup

2015 Melbourne Cup

Champion Jockey MICHELLE PAYNE wearing the suffragette colours of green, white and purple.

My international readers may not be aware of Australia’s most famous horse race, November’s Melbourne Cup. It’s just one race, but it seems that the whole of Australia stops to watch it. People who never bet any other time of the year will take a bet on this race, and workplaces across the nation run sweepstakes, even shutting offices and factories for the afternoon. Women tottering around in high heels and lacy little hats can be seen on their way to events with their girlfriends to yell out encouragement to their horse, and the pubs are full of loud, cheering people who took the day off to watch the Cup.

Regardless of your opinion on the matter of horse races, something amazing happened this year, for the first time in the 155 years of Cup history.

A woman won.

That would be encouraging enough, but the back story is even more fantastic. If you love underdogs becoming champions, this story is full of them. Jockey Michelle Payne is the youngest of 10 children in a horse racing family. Her mother died when she was 6 months old and her family struggled financially all through her growing up. Michelle was brought up largely by two older sisters who were also jockeys, in fact 5 of her sisters and 2 brothers are jockeys. The family went to church every Sunday and Michelle recalls that her dad consistently told her how much he had loved her mum.

The first time Michelle dreamed of winning the Melbourne Cup was 25 years ago, when she was 5 years old. When she was 7 and her schoolmates were talking about what they wanted to do with their lives, they mocked her determination to do just what she did yesterday and have continued to tease her over it ever since.

No one is mocking now.

Her journey has taken her through multiple serious falls incurring brain injury, fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and many scars, along with the hard work to keep her riding weight at optimum levels. As time went on even her dad, who had always told her never to give up, was imploring her to retire from horse racing for her own safety, but this girl is nothing if not determined. She could see it, she could smell it, she could just about taste it and she was determined to show that horse racing wasn’t just a sport for the boys.

Her horse is just as unlikely a winner. An unknown horse bought by a consortium of guys who each threw in around $5000 and kept their purchase a secret from their wives, bets on Prince of Penzance were 101/1, reflecting the general scorn with which the racing world viewed both horse and rider. Topping it all off, Michelle’s strapper was her older brother, Stevie, who has Downs Syndrome.

Yet such was her focused determination, the night before the race Michelle was thinking through what she would say to the TV reporters when she won. You can check the story out here
I love hearing about people who don’t take NO for an answer. I love hearing about women who rise above the limitations, the challenges and the naysayers, defying the disparagement of a world which demeans and mocks their efforts when they do begin to rise.

But the joy of this sort of prize doesn’t just go just to the woman who actually won the prize, but to all those other who maybe didn’t win a tangible object, but who, like Michelle’s older sisters Maree and Therese, both very good jockeys in their own rights, have used their energy, their vision and courage to break through the barriers for the little sisters who come after them.

When a person has a big picture vision, the one-off win isn’t the goal, awesome though it may be. The triumph is in the journey, the determination to break every barrier so that those who follow can have a fantastic finish.

Many more people than William Wilberforce gave their lives for the purpose of ending the slave trade. Some of them never got to see the impact their lives had, but because of them laws were changed and people were freed. They may not have personally experienced the breakthrough, but because of them, breakthrough came.

I’m encouraged by the suffragettes, women and men who broke cultural taboos in nations all across the world to demand that women be given the right to vote for who would govern them.

I love to hear about women like the 5 daughters of Zelophehad whose story you can read in Numbers 27. Through their hard work, courage and determination to not take NO for an answer, these women with no social standing but huge amounts of audacity and guts, succeeded in having the law changed so that single Hebrew women could inherit and own property.

The world is full of brave women who, like Esther and Abigail, are fully aware that the odds are against them but they have the capacity and the vision to see beyond the obstacles that deny them their rights. They are filled with faith and the awareness that they are not alone in the battle but their God is for them.

And if God is for you… tell me, who the heck is anyone else to try to make you stay in the box.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please comment in the box below.

Bev bio pic large
Bev Murrill is an international speaker and author and a consultant and mentor to many leaders. Married for 44 years to Rick, with 4 married children and 10 grandchildren, Bev’s twin passions outside of her family are the issues to do with leadership and women. She loves doing up furniture in her spare time.