Whangarei’s Stephanie Gowing found it difficult to describe a scenario during a workshop at the Northland Strengthen & Adapt Roadshow workshop, so she created one. But it was factually based on her life experiences in the equestrian scene since she came to New Zealand from England as a 14-year-old. From being the mum of four with three daughters interested in horses, she is currently a Royal Agricultural Society equine judge who is actively involved with the Whangarei A & P Association.
It’s voices such as Stephanie’s that are adding insight to the Strengthen & Adapt project, funded by Sport NZ to boost recreation among participants and athletes across all New Zealand sports and plan for the future in the post-COVID-19 era.
“I started this journey 25 years ago. My children used to compete, and I was asked if I could steward. From there, I became more involved as you do. Then I was asked if I would be the chief equestrian steward at our local A & P Show and now I’ve been on the Executive Board for five years,” laughs Stephanie.
Looking back, she says it was expensive for her family to travel to the Northland local shows from their livestock farm of cattle and horses. She adds that her daughters “certainly weren’t in the big time league, we were little fish in a small pond.”
“I find coming from an English background even though it was many, many years ago, equestrian activities were for the wealthy and the privileged. Most never have the opportunity to experience horses in the UK. I rode from the age of seven but that was at riding schools or riding other people’s ponies. New Zealand riders do not seem to realise how privileged they are, most own their animals on their own land and are fortunate to experience horse scene or have connections with someone who does,” she says.
However, she says, things are changing in the equestrian world.
“We need to work together to survive and explore what is relevant for today’s competitors and what will be relevant in the future.” Stephanie says now in these harder times, is a good time for all equestrian organisations to investigate the opportunities they provide, particularly around inclusivity.
“For example, with our complex equestrian community we had to make that decision as a show to reduce the size of our jumps and the types of our jumps, in the hope that our younger equestrian community would become more engaged. Future proof. There was a lot of resistance from some mainly older competitors who boycotted our show, however we did capture new entries. Change always comes at a cost,” she says.
Just retired this year, Stephanie now has more time to follow her passions.
“I pretty much I do a bit of everything: judging at school calf club days, ORDs Stewarding for the Whangarei A & P show, and NDRAS equestrian co-ordinator. Every weekend is busy till the beginning of Dec, and every weekend in February I’ll be judging horses. But I like it.
“My husband is a triathlete and national champion for his age group and we see the same trends everywhere. That’s why we are interested in Strengthen & Adapt as we relate to many organisations and clubs dealing with the changing environment quite a bit,” she says.
Stephanie’s views are part of the national reach out to members and non-members of ESNZ. To date 362 equestrians have come along to 22 workshops across 10 regions, and a diversity of ideas and themes are coming through. Anyone with an interest in the future equestrian is welcome to come to the final online workshop which is being held TOMORROW evening Tuesday 14th November from 7-9pm. Please register here: https://forms.gle/aNtv96cKJTMeucFC8