Northland’s Barbara Woolhouse is over the moon to be named as the recipient of the 2018 Chris Hodson Scholarship to promote and further the education of FEI officials in Equestrian Sport.

The Chris Hodson Scholarship is awarded annually to an aspiring New Zealand FEI official. It was first established in 2015 in recognition of Chris’ service to ESNZ as a board member (1998-2015) and as president (2011-2015).

The scholarship is awarded to support the development of a dedicated New Zealand official who is deemed to have potential and a drive to become a higher level official. ESNZ sees it as a long-term investment in someone they hope will continue in their role for many years to come.

“It just means so much,” says Barbara who is a level two FEI eventing judge looking to move up to level three.

She needs to complete two assessments from listed mentors – all of whom are northern hemisphere based. “I am hoping to achieve one assessment in New Zealand in 2019 but to achieve the other, I need to travel to the northern hemisphere.”

Getting the nod as the 2018 recipient was a huge confidence boost. “It means the federation thinks I am a worthy candidate and they have faith in me. It means I can train more and make myself a better judge. I am always looking to learn and improve,” says Barbara.

She has twice judged at the South African National Eventing Championships where in 2012 under the Global Exchange Programme she tagged along behind the FEI seminar and learnt all she could. She has also judged at the 1* at Werribee in Australia where FEI board member Jeff Sinclair was the 3* technical delegate.

“He was hugely supportive,” says Barbara. “His wife Jill was judging the 3* so I was able to sit with her and observe.”

It has been challenging though to find offshore events that will take her on as a judge. She was hopeful of being able to judge at Tattersalls in Ireland but instead will be there as a shadow judge in the 3*. “We are short on 3* events here in New Zealand and as a judge we need to have done so many a year to keep our qualifications. When I wrote to Tattersalls asking them to consider me as a 3* judge, they looked at what I have done over the past two years and said I needed to do more at 2* before stepping up to 3*.”

Barbara has also approached Bramham Horse Trials in the UK and Marilyn Payne in the United States to see if there is anything there she could be part of. “There are only 12 mentors in the world and all are in the Northern Hemisphere. Marilyn is the only one in the United States and the rest are all in the UK and Europe.”

Horses have always been part of Barbara’s life. As a child growing up in Northland she competed across the disciplines and would get her mother’s homebred horses going well to be sold on. She rode alongside Blyth Tait at Maunu Pony Club too. At 16 her mother took her to a judging day in Kaikohe where Cliff McIntosh – father of Olympic showjumper Colin – was instructing. “He was a real mentor for so many and got a lot of judges going. He was a bit of an army man and a stickler for doing things correctly.”

“After that course I would ride my horse and then go and judge other classes – I guess there weren’t many doing it at that age.”

Later in life she was taken under the wing of ESNZ judge’s officer Graham McCrosky who also influenced her career.  She is hopeful the international experience she will gain, thanks to the scholarship, will mean more overseas judging in the future. “The scholarship is a big incentive to go further.”

She and husband Kevin have a dairy farm in Waiotira. Kevin had a stroke three years ago and lost his fine motor skills but is still more than capable. They had leased the farm out for a decade while Barbara worked for Fonterra.

“Between us we go well at our own pace, I love it; I prefer being my own boss and managing my own time.” From July to December she is committed to the farm but with an excellent release milker down the road and a helpful brother and children, it’s not too hard for her to escape to her world of eventing.

Two of her four children share her love of horses, with daughters Loretta and Mary-Ann both riding for Northland. Loretta, a mother of five, is still involved breaking and handling horses.

Previous winners are national head veterinarian Tony Parsons and FEI Level 2 jumping judge Kaye Williams.

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