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Posted by Equestrian Australia on 20/05/2024.

Volunteer of the Month, April 2024 – Isabel Casey

Equestrian Australia knows that without volunteers our sport could not function effectively to support riders and event committees. We have chosen National Volunteer Week 2024 to launch our monthly segment to give thanks and recognition for the passion, commitment, many hours of work and special expertise that volunteers give to equestrians and horse events, right around Australia.  

It is the efforts of people like Tasmania’s Isobel Casey, our Volunteer of the Month for May 2024 that enrich our sport and enable Australian enthusiasts to benefit from their selfless efforts and unwavering dedication. Thank you Isabel.

Equestrian Australia spoke with Isabel and asked that she share some background and highlights about her role in equestrian sport and she graciously agreed, saying.

“I grew up in Westbury in the north of Tasmania where my family owned a dairy farm.  My father was a dare-devil rider and took part in high jump events at local Agricultural Shows, at a time when no one wore a safety helmet.  My mother grew up in inner Melbourne and had no association with animals or farming and was extremely scared of horses. She arrived in Tasmania when the main mode of transport was a horse and carriage and one of my mum’s first experiences with horses was memorable, for all the wrong reasons, as a bite spoiled her very expensive and much-loved fur coat and set her relationship with horses back quite a way. Sadly, my father died when I was 8, leaving my mother with a farm to manage whilst caring for 3 young children.  The family begged for her return to Victoria but mum honoured her promise to my father and kept the family farm for my brother, and sent my sister and me to boarding school at 'Our Lady of Mersy College' in Deloraine."

“My mother remarried and my stepfather brought a horse to the farm, so horses became a part of everyday life. I never had the opportunity to learn to ride formally and the closest I came was riding the dairy cows back to their grazing paddock after milking, then I would have to jump off and walk home. After I left school, I did office work in Launceston and became very involved in competitive Basketball, playing in number of teams that made it through to state finals.

“I married into a family with a history of involvement with horses and horse people, this led to meeting the Osbourne family, with daughters who were into jumping ponies.  The Osbourne’s competed at local Ag shows and our interest grew to obtaining a lovely mare and showing her in led classes. The arrival of our children Robert and Claire saw us become interested in Pony Club and I recall attending my family’s first Pony Club rally with my 6-year old son on leading rein and 4-week old baby daughter, being greeted with the news, “you’re on canteen duty today”. So, this is where I started out as volunteer in equestrian.

“We developed a bias towards Jumping, but all equestrian disciplines were of interest. Both of my children have been very involved in competing, and volunteering is a necessary part of how the community provides shows and events for local riders and people from nearby towns.  

Isabel continued. “You ask about the special horses in our lives, and for sure we have had many. I make particular mention of a horse called “BA” - a name that allowed us to call him different things at the various times in his career.  Some of the variations were, “Bloody Awful”, “Bloody Amazing” “Beautiful Animal”.  When BA started his jumping career, all of the shows had extensive TV coverage and commentators had great fun with his name.  

“BA’s talent was recognised by the now, internationally acclaimed equine trainer and behaviourist, Andrew McLean who lived in Tasmania and had commenced the horse’s jumping schooling. One day Andrew rang with a progress report and said, “he is not jumping the poles, he is jumping the wings” hence a more positive slant on the acronym “BA” became the norm.

“Many individuals have guided and assisted me through the various roles in Pony Club and EA affiliated equestrian sport. Possibility, the person I can blame for my long-time role as Jumping Tasmania Secretary, is John Ibbott who was a respected Course Designer and tireless worker for Jumping.  At a time that my son Robert was just starting in Junior Jumping, I attended an AGM for the (then) Tasmanian Showjumping Association and at this meeting, both the President and Secretary resigned. We left the meeting with no committee and no positive ideas about the future of the Association. John came to me and suggested that if I took on the role of Secretary, he would put up his hand to be President, and this is how it started. Sadly, a few years later, John Ibbott passed away from cancer, this was a great loss for showjumping and equestrian sport in Tasmania.

“Over the years I have developed new skills on a needs basis and am a proud member of Jumping Tasmania North Club which is very active in my area.  I am an EA Level 1 Jumping Judge, so I can help at events where this qualification is necessary. I also spend quite a lot of time organising seminars for officials and judges. My local area takes in the Longford Agricultural Show Society and I am on the Equestrian Committee.”

Equestrian Australia asked Isabel if there were any special events that she supports and she replied, “Refer above, but no other special events, however, I try to enjoy what I do and the people I meet along the way, and that makes it special.  The sport has introduced me to many inspiring and wonderful people and given me happy moments and fond memories.

“A career highlight came in 2012 when Equestrian Australia announced the recipients of that year's Hall of Fame honours. Inductees were celebrated at the annual Sport Achievement Awards Night on Tuesday 30 April 2012 at the Le Montage in Sydney. Standing alongside many of the celebrated luminaries in equestrian sport, I was very proud to have been named the Tasmanian Administrator of the Year.

“I now have a granddaughter who is following her mother and uncle in the sport of Jumping, so the interest has lived on through the generations and we all love following Ava’s journey as she comes up through the ranks. 

Above: Three generations, Isabel Casey with granddaughter Ava Walker and son Robert Casey.

“Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and has taught me to never be afraid of taking on new roles. It is important to remember that all volunteers start somewhere and we all make mistakes, none of us are perfect. I encourage parents to take an active interest in their children’s sport as this is where the good times and memories come from.

“I would also like to encourage all competitors to take the time and thank the show organisers, volunteers. course designer and judges that they meet, as these people put in long hard days and appreciate being appreciated.  The sport is there for the enjoyment of all and we have our ups and downs, no matter what level one competes at.  Remember the most important part of our sport is “The Horse”, we owe them the best care so that they can give us their best.

“I would like to thank Equestrian Australia for acknowledging the role of volunteers, and wish everyone involved in our wonderful sport, good luck and happiness.”  

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