Maddy Seivwright (nee Crowe) had plenty to love about being based in the United Kingdom. She had her then fiancé James with her, best mate and mentor Clarke Johnstone, and was surrounded by some of the best in the business at Zara Tindall’s Aston Farms.
But she’s far happier being back in the Southern Hemisphere.
“The Kiwi team there (in the UK) is phenomenal and it was awesome being part of that and getting to know all of them,” she said. “It was something else really. Every single one was amazing to me. Riding amongst the best int the world was incredible too.” But there’s a big but at the end of the sentence . . . Maddy simply says she just lost her spark and enjoyment of riding.
It was Clarke who eventually laid it bare for her at lunch one day. “I was miserable,” she said. “Clarke just said ‘go home’. I love him so much for that. It was the best thing he could have said and within a week we had our flights booked.”
James, a jumps jockey who hails from the UK, had put everything on hold to support Maddy in her UK mission. “Even though he is English, New Zealand is home for him. He just doesn’t like it up there and he was vocal about that before we went but he is such an amazing person so was there for me. He is phenomenal.” James had decided it was time for him to head back Down Under so it wasn’t a tough decision for Maddy to pack up their lives and head back after 16 months.
But they haven’t quite made it back to Aotearoa, New Zealand, and are instead based with Tim Boland in Australia. Maddy had previously based with Tim and called her to see if she knew of anyone who would be keen to do thoroughbred breakers for the season. “I gave him James’ number thinking he may know someone.” The rest is history and while James works with thoroughbreds, Maddy works with jumpers and pre-trainers.
Her journey in horses started as a kid on the family dairy farm. Her non-horsey Mum sorted them riding lessons. “She thought it would be a good sport for us kids and we had the farm, so she figured we had to ride. Dad was a dairy farmer who grew up riding.”
Maddy did Pony Club and then her parents bought her Sir Callaghan – “a very strong-willed eventing pony”. “I was nine and he was insane . . . actually while he may have been very full of himself, he was really cool and took me through to pre-novice.”
The pony was 13.1HH and happily jumped to 1.1m. “He was a freak and amazing.” It broke her heart when at 12 she got too tall for the pony who she credits for turning her on to eventing. “Nothing else interested me after that. He was brave and that made me pretty brave too. I was very lucky. He was a cracking little pony.”
Together they did the six-bar at the Christchurch Show, made the Springston Trophy team at 10 and were on the winning team a year later as well as being members of the winning Show Jumping Champs team three times on the trot.
“At the time you don’t really appreciate it but once you are older and are trying to win things you realise how good it was.”
Maddy showjumped in the summer and then evented over winter. “He did keep me very grounded. At home he would either try and buck me off or I just couldn’t catch him.”
At 12, after taking a rail with her foot in one of their last big competitions together, she moved on to a 15.3HH horse called Iroquois. “We evented up to pre-novice and was a bit of a dude really.”
Indian Rebel also joined the team but it was Iroquois who she jumped her first intermediate course on. “He just started playing the game a bit more.” At 16 she bought a Brogan from Annabel Wigley. “He was epic and was my young rider eventing horse.”
She headed north with him to base with Clarke in the Waikato and she and Brogan won the New Zealand Young Rider One Day Champs and went on to make the national Young Rider team for Melbourne. “It wasn’t our best result there but it gave me a taste of international competition and made me hungry for that higher level,” she says.
She based with Clarke for three weeks when she was 17. “I knew we needed to be better and was figuring how we get from there to the next step up.” She wanted to be in front of selectors and with limited events in the south, moving north was the only option. “I didn’t even really know Clarke then but saw he was moving back from the UK so I rang him and said I would work for him if he coached me.”
She parked her uni Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in accounting, and headed to the Waikato. She continued to do two papers by correspondence while working full time for Clarke and her riding. She completed the degree when she went home for three months and jammed six papers to graduate on time. She later put it to good use, working as an accountant for three years.
“Working with Clarke is 100% the making of me. I wouldn’t be anything without him. We had a very unique friendship and mentorship from the start. Over the past eight or nine years, we have lived together for the majority of the time. He is my dearest friend.”
Clarke was the celebrant at her wedding – “the best day of my life”.
“Clarke taught me everything – how to run a yard, best preparation of horses, fitness, animal health, feeding and just everything. He is so particular and thorough in the detail. And of course, he taught me to ride.”
The other star in her world is Waitangi Pinterest, or Lush to her mates. This is the mare she had to work so hard to ger her parents to even let her try it, but in their first season together they were second at the national one day champs, and third in the 3* at Puhinui.
They went on to win so much and were members of the fourth-placed New Zealand team at Aachen where they placed 11th individually and completed the 5* at Pau. Lush has shown herself to be the consummate international traveller and has now settled happily into her life in Australia, just as she did in the UK. “She is such a professional. She looks phenomenal and hasn’t missed a beat.”
The mare is independent, sassy and Maddy knows she just has to work on her terms for things to go smoothly. “When the going gets tough she just gets on with it.”
Maddy and Lush plan to start in the 4* long in Melbourne in June.
She and Lush are on the ESNZ high performance futures squad and most certainly have the 2024 Paris Olympic Games on their minds. Long term, she and James will certainly come home to New Zealand, but for now, they are happy across the Tasman.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ