Dungowan horse breaker Lindee McNaughton conquered extreme nerves, severe competition rust and 89 other competitors to achieve something she thought impossible – and did it by leaning on a five-year-old mare she calls her little freak.
The campdrafting community call her Candy Woman.
This week at AELEC, McNaughton – a 41-year-old married mother of three with an agreeable disposition – was shocked to learn she had won the Australian Performance Horse Challenge final at the prestigious Landmark Classic Campdraft and Sale.
“Good God, no,” she replied when asked if she thought she could win. “It’s everyone’s dream to final. But I just wanted to do a really nice job with my mare. And yeah, if I finaled it would be awesome.”
She added: “I had no idea I had won … I figured I’d placed in the lower placings – seventh, eighth, 10th or something. I was sitting there and they called out my name. It was a huge shock. I never pictured that happening.”
By McNaughton’s side was her husband, Scott, a leading campdraft competitor. He was also by her side when they purchased Candy Woman for $7000 at the Landmark Classic sale in 2016, with the sole purpose of preparing her for the Australian Performance Horse Challenge.
“She’s an absolute bargain,” McNaughton said, adding that one horse in the final cost $30,000. “That [the Challenge] was my little project, little dream,” she added. “I saw it and thought I’d be really keen to go in it and see how I went.”
So together with her little freak, her “rock star”, she prepared for competition, something she had only done a few times prior over the past decade – motherhood and domesticity severely curtailing a sporting passion first embraced as a young girl.
And then there were the nerves that garrotted her throughout the three days of competition and almost forced her withdrawal on the eve of the event – her biggest sporting triumph.
She said: “It was terrible, awful ... I was that nervous I didn’t think I could do it. My husband said I’d regret it if I didn’t compete. He said just try and enjoy it – and look what happened. I ended up with a three-horse float!’
McNaughton – who breaks horses with Scott on their 1.6-hectare Dungowan property – also won $8000 plus a host of prizes including a servicing for Candy Woman with a highly suitable Queensland-based stallion.
“She’s an exceptional little horse … She steps up when you need it. That’s what happened in the final … I owe everything to her. She’s my little hero.”