Long line-up of ladies for the Bon­albo clinic

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - Front Page - An­gela Grice

THE Bon­albo Show­ground was bustling with ac­tiv­ity as women from across North­ern NSW gath­ered with their horses for the an­nual Bon­albo Ladies Clinic on the Fa­ther’s Day week­end.

It was an easy choice for many par­tic­i­pants to ditch their hus­bands to hone their horse skills and camp out among friends in­stead. Rid­ers were treated to a week­end of ex­pert in­struc­tion across a range of horse-rid­ing dis­ci­plines – stock horse pat­terns, dres­sage, cam­p­draft train­ing and more.

“The best thing about Bon­albo Ladies Clinic is that it gives women a place where they feel com­fort­able rid­ing – with­out hav­ing the pres­sure to per­form or com­pete,” this year’s clinic or­gan­iser Colleen McQueen said. “The aim of the week­end is to build peo­ple’s con­fi­dence with their rid­ing and pick up some new skills – in a fun and en­cour­ag­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

The idea for a ladies clinic at Bon­albo Show­ground came about in 2008 – as an off­shoot from the long-stand­ing kids’ camps.

“Back then, a lot of the women who were sup­port­ing these kids’ camps were ei­ther begin­ners, or had not ac­tu­ally rid­den them­selves for 20 to 30 years,” said Libby John­ston, head of the show so­ci­ety’s cater­ing com­mit­tee.

“We were re­ally keen to ride but had lost the con­fi­dence. It was time to change that and get some­thing go­ing for our­selves.”

And so the Bon­albo Ladies Clinic be­gan.

Ac­com­plished horse­woman Glo­ria McCor­mack, of Tun­gle­bung, played a vi­tal role in the early years.

“Glo­ria, with the help of other lo­cal women, cre­ated the op­por­tu­nity for us to get back on the horse in a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment. And the men weren’t in­vited so we wouldn’t be judged. Se­ri­ously, this was a re­ally big deal for those first 30 par­tic­i­pants back then,” said Ms John­ston.

The orig­i­nal phi­los­o­phy has con­tin­ued.

“The rapport among the women is fan­tas­tic; and the di­ver­sity of lessons makes it all the more fun,” said par­tic­i­pant Suzie Farrell.

“You get the chance to trial things you wouldn’t do with­out the ex­pert in­struc­tion and safe en­vi­ron­ment.”

And the ic­ing on the cake? The snacks and meals from the cater­ing com­mit­tee, which drew spon­ta­neous out­breaks of thun­der­ous ap­plause in appreciation.

PHOTO: GE­OFF BATE­MAN

HOW IT’S DONE: In­struc­tor Deb Curtin work­ing with her trusty steed Bin­nia Idaho at the Bon­albo Ladies Clinic.

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