We visit a board­ing school in Ar­mi­dale, NSW, where stu­dents can bring their horses.

IT’S A THREE-MINUTE WALK from the board­ing dor­mi­tory to the sta­bles for the stu­dents of New Eng­land Girls School (NEGS) at Ar­mi­dale, NSW, who rise early to feed, change rugs and check on their horses be­fore school. At the end of the school day, the rid­ers re­turn with a sense of pur­pose and an­tic­i­pa­tion, ready to be­gin the week­day train­ing ses­sions. The even­ters and showjumpers as­sem­ble at their are­nas, while the polocrosse and cam­p­draft rid­ers head to the fields. Six­teen-year-old boarder Cassie Drum­mond, from Mel­bourne, com­petes in event­ing and showjumping on her bay geld­ing Tan­gles. “The Eques­trian Cen­tre is so close to the board­ing house and is on the same cam­pus as school, which means I can visit my horse eas­ily and when­ever I want,” she says. “I love that I can ride straight af­ter school — it’s so re­lax­ing and calm­ing. Tan­gles is bold and brave and puts his heart into it; he loves his job and al­ways tries his best.” Avail­able to St Johns Ju­nior school and NEGS stu­dents, the Eques­trian Cen­tre has 80 horses and 125 rid­ers and of­fers event­ing, dres­sage, cut­ting, showjumping, cam­p­draft­ing, polocrosse and show rid­ing. Seven spe­cialised coaches pro­vide guid­ance for com­pet­i­tive and recre­ational rid­ers. Imtiaz Anees, a former Olympian who rep­re­sented In­dia at the Syd­ney 2000 games, ran his own eques­trian cen­tre in At­lanta be­fore mov­ing to Ar­mi­dale 18 months ago to take up the role of Head of Eques­trian at NEGS. “I love that I can make a dif­fer­ence in the girls’ lives and that was one of the big­gest rea­sons for me to move from the US. This cen­tre is unique in the world for a school,” he says. “The horse is im­por­tant for the stu­dent’s growth; it gives them a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and also helps with their school work. One of the big­gest ben­e­fits from a board­ing school point of view is that it re­ally takes care of the home­sick­ness; they have their horse to love and look af­ter.” Horses are able to stay at NEGS with stu­dents from Year 6 and can re­main at the cen­tre dur­ing the mid-term hol­i­days, or be trans­ported home, de­pend­ing on the stu­dent’s needs. Jaimie Mcel­roy, 17, a two star even­ter from a 40-hectare prop­erty at Gunnedah com­petes on her liver ch­est­nut thor­ough­bred Hawke. “I was home­sick for first term when I started board­ing and hav­ing a horse at school def­i­nitely helped keep my mind off things. I’m al­ways count­ing down un­til the end of school so I can go down to the eques­trian cen­tre,” she says. “I’ve im­proved re­mark­ably since com­ing here in Year 7 — I’m sur­rounded by coaches and other rid­ers that sup­port and en­cour­age me to do my best.” In the past year, Imtiaz has grouped the stu­dents into teams with high-per­for­mance, de­vel­op­ing and young rider squads. They wel­come new and ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers and a holis­tic train­ing pro­gram is cus­tomised ac­cord­ing to the stu­dent’s goals with fit­ness and nutri­tion pro­grams ad­justed to their com­pe­ti­tion sched­ule. Seven­teen-year-old Lucy Ram­say, is a one star even­ter from a cot­ton farm in War­ren in cen­tral NSW, who rides the seven-year-old warm­blood, Ghost of Ken­lock. “Even though many girls that at­tend NEGS ride in dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, we are still a very tight-knit com­mu­nity,” she says. The cen­tre’s fa­cil­i­ties in­clude in­door and out­door are­nas as well as a full one star cross-coun­try course. The school re­cently ran its first of­fi­cial dres­sage com­pe­ti­tion to ad­vanced level and will be hold­ing their an­nual NEGS horse tri­als event in Novem­ber. “It’s about giv­ing the girls op­por­tu­ni­ties and as much ex­po­sure to com­pe­ti­tion as we can,” says Imtiaz. “They are so driven, they train re­ally hard and even if they don’t com­pete they love com­ing here to ride in the beau­ti­ful grounds with their friends.” Elise Payne, 14, from the cen­tral coast of NSW com­petes reg­u­larly in event­ing through­out the state with her horse Tulla La Lea. “The overseas ex­cur­sions to places like Amer­ica and New Zealand are in­cred­i­ble as they give you an in­sight into the pro­fes­sional world of the eques­trian sports and ca­reers. To be able to ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­ni­ties at such a young age is a priv­i­lege,” Elise says. Help­ing stu­dents achieve their goals is close to Imtiaz’s heart. “I had great op­por­tu­ni­ties in my life and I had peo­ple bend back­wards to help me achieve; com­ing from In­dia and get­ting to the Olympic games and be­ing the only rider ever to do that is not easy. This is the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for me to grow and give back to th­ese girls.” For more in­for­ma­tion, tele­phone (02) 6774 8717 or visit negs.nsw.edu.au/negs-eques­trian

A dres­sage sad­dle in the sta­ble at the New Eng­land Girls School Eques­trian Cen­tre. FAC­ING PAGE Some of the rid­ers at NEGS (stand­ing, from left) Madeleine Keddy, Bri­die Tilse, Estella Martin, Brid­get Cad­zow, Ash­lee Petch, Annabelle Simp­son, (on horses) Brooke Mckenna, Grace Brown, Akasha Beres­ford and Emma Mur­ray.

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