Long line-up of ladies for the Bonalbo clinic
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.
HOW IT’S DONE: Instructor Deb Curtin working with her trusty steed Binnia Idaho at the Bonalbo Ladies Clinic.