There’s a new team heading up ESNZ Jumping at headquarters in Wellington.
Long time equestrienne Marilyn Thompson has taken up the role of jumping sport manager, with Rebecca Griffith supporting her as jumping administrator and communications, and short term contractor Tess Williams continuing through the hand-over.
Marilyn comes from 20-plus years in the corporate sector and is relishing being able to combine that business acumen with her equestrian passion. While her recent years have seen her involved with show hunter, she comes from a successful background of showing, area trials and jumping at A and B FEI grades.
Growing up in the South Island, she started riding at 11 and can lay claim to a number of special victories, including Marlborough Show’s prestigious Teschmaker Trophy.
Home is in the Waikato on a rather large lifestyle block – complete with horses – and she plans to spent about four days a month in Wellington.
“A lot of what I do is with sponsors and at shows, involving time in the field with all our stakeholders, and prospective interested parties as our sport continues to grow,” says Marilyn. “I am really looking forward to it. It is working in the sector that I love. Equestrian and particularly jumping, has always been my passion. This sees me applying my business skills with my working knowledge and bringing those skills into the sport.”
As a judge’s advisor for show hunter she also has a number of commitments for the coming season and is on the Auckland Show Hunter Group Committee, where she has particular focus on the technical aspects of organising the large show of the year in November. Marilyn has a homebred six-year-old in Bojangles who she would like to compete in the not too distant future and interests in race horses in Singapore and New Zealand.
Her most recent work was an account manager for a global IT company which saw her working with large corporates throughout New Zealand, helping them with their business challenges, working on solution strategies and overseeing the delivery of projects.
Marilyn says there is plenty of scope and vision to grow the sport of jumping. “We want to connect more at grass roots level, at Pony Club and with show organisers. We are looking at ways to further enhance the lives of volunteers too.”
She’s looking forward to contributing to making jumping grow and be more fun for more people across all levels.
Well before she applied for her new job, Marilyn organised tickets to the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games and she is excited to see the best of New Zealand’s jumpers taking on the world.
Rebecca too shares a lifelong love of horses. She will be moving from Auckland to Wellington to take up her new role. Rebecca started riding at seven at the local riding school, with her parents relenting and buying her a pony a few years later. Sadly that one went lame and was replaced by another rather naughty but much-loved pony, Jedi.
“I still have him,” says Rebecca. “He’s very much part of the family. He’s 18, still very sprightly and is leased to the riding school where I first learnt to ride.”
Her own riding career went on hold while she completed a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in marketing and commercial law, but she did get out last season for a little low level showjumping on an older but inexperienced thoroughbred, Finn the Human. Sadly, he will be sold with her move.
Rebecca has followed in the footsteps of her mum Adaleen Griffith, who has spent the last decade casting her eye over rings as a national level judge. Rebecca is in her second season as a candidate judge, and it’s something she plans to pursue.
“I find it gives you quite a different perspective and is really helpful for my own riding too. You have a better understanding of the rules and learn so much from other judges and officials.”
Most recently Rebecca has been working in a timber export company where, as part of a small and very tight team, she did a lot of everything – from administration to documentation and everything in between.
The chance to work in a sport she loves so much is a bit of a dream come true. “I am very excited about it all and looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding of how the sport works and what goes on behind the scenes. I will be doing my best to help improve things and help grow the sport.”
But not everyone is as happy about her move. Her boyfriend Neal is staying in Auckland with their one-year-old border collie Cashew.
“My boyfriend was living in Wellington when we met and moved to Auckland to be with me so he’s a bit grumpy now that I’m leaving town.”
She’s counting on more than a few air miles being clocked up over the coming months.