HOME AND AWAY
A BOARDING SCHOOL ON THE NORTHERN TABLELANDS OF NSW IS A HOME AWAY FROM HOME FOR GIRLS AND THEIR HORSES.
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.