School riding high on birthday
HOW does a riding school celebrate its first and successful year in business?
With an outdoor event, naturally, and one that includes as many equine activities as can be packed into an afternoon.
This is what took place at Horsetalk Riding Farm in Jiggi on Sunday, when the rain held off for it to hold a combination first birthday and Christmas party and a launch celebration for a new arena.
About 60 students and family members attended the event, which was aimed at showing parents what their children have learnt over the past year, with the students demonstrating their skills on horseback in a variety of routines.
Horsetalk started as a government-supported business under the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), and was built from the ground up by Steve Clibborn and his partner Joyce Corbett.
The couple postponed the farm's first birthday party to co-ordinate with Christmas and the opening of the professional arena, the development of which Mr Clibborn described as "our biggest achievement".
"We invested more than $20,000 into building the arena, which is built to professional standards and consists of a proper sand base, full post-and-rail surroundings. It will be supported by equine round yards, full sporting facilities catering for barrel and flag eventing and introductory jumping facilities," he said.
The stables have also been renovated to cater for the influx of new students - some of whom come from as far away as Woodburn and Byron Bay - and now provide wash bays for up to four horses at a time.
"The first year of business was a boomer," Mr Clibborn said.
"The business has gone from strength to strength. We started from scratch and have grown to around 50 regular students, aged from six to 56 years old."
Mr Clibborn and Ms Corbett are veteran competitors in the sport of endurance riding and bought the 55ha property to use to train their own horses.
Ms Corbett has excelled in the long-distance cross-country competition, winning the coveted Tom Quilty Cup, and representing Australia in the World Equestrian Games in Germany and South Africa.
The couple were motivated to open the farm "to pass on our experience and knowledge to our students", Mr Clibborn said.
"Most of our students come to us with virtually no knowledge of horses," he said.
"Our programs teach them everything from catching the horse in the paddock to grooming, saddling, preparing to ride, riding and ongoing equine management.
"There is a large emphasis placed on safety."
On Sunday there were seven events to show off the students' skills, including flagging, teach the parents and, to much laughter, instruct the instructor.
Horsetalk's range of activities will increase in the new year, to include horse maintenance, agistment, training in dressage and endurance competition and campdrafting.