For more than 60 years, Carleen McPhie’s love of horses has kept her saddling up to compete in showing and dressage events.
McPhie recently celebrated her 80th birthday and has no intentions of giving up the sport anytime soon with the Kelly’s Plains resident gearing up for the Australian Stock Horse Nationals in Tamworth starting this Friday. Even a broken arm hasn’t stopped her preparing 16-year-old mare Hyuna Curio for the dressage events at the championships.
“I ride every day. It is a challenge and my love of horses [that keep me going],” she said.
“And my husband, he encourages me all the time and he is my groom. I couldn't go to Nationals without him because I can't do a girth up.”
McPhie took up riding when she was 14-years-old and rode 40 to 50 kilometres to get to pony club in Narrabri with her first pony Banner.
“We didn't have horse floats in those days and if we wanted to go anywhere we rode,” she said.
“A little 12hh pony called Banner and he used to buck you off all the time and I rode bareback all the time because I didn't have a saddle. I went to Narrabri Pony Club and ride horses for other people in the shows.
“Then I went on and off and didn't do too much with the horses until I got married.”
She passed on her love of horses to daughters which ended up with her rediscovering the sport.
“I bought a stallion and all these little mares and bred ponies. The trouble was the kids all grew up and wanted big horses so I was left with all these little ponies and that is how I got back into riding.
“For years everyone knew me riding my little ponies.
“Then I came to Armidale Riding Club and that's when I got the best horse I have ever had and that's Curio.”
For seven years McPhie and Curio have turned out in dressage and showing events locally as well as competing at four previous Stock Horse Nationals, bringing home ribbons on every occasion.
The pair also won the Australian Ladies Stock Horse Association trophy for dressage last year.
“When I got her she was a little stockhorse that couldn't even go up the centreline,” McPhie said.
“She only knew how to do rollbacks and fast canter so it took me a couple of years to train her into dressage. She has found her niche in life, coming and living with me and just doing nice, ladylike dressage and she loves it.”
The pair will compete in multiple events over the course of the championships but it is the Friday night performance event McPhie is most excited about.
“The one I love doing is the freestyle dressage, you make it up and you make your own music, you dress up - one year I went Irish so I was in all green,” she said.
“This year I am doing the Man from Snowy River.”