Barbara Ivill, who passed away last Wednesday aged 89, is being remembered as a wonderful horsewoman who devoted a lifetime to horses, particularly the Victorian thoroughbred industry.
Friends and colleagues say one of her biggest achievements was the mentoring of many women.
Ivill and her late husband Ted established Little Plains Stud on a 100-acre farm at Laceby, near Wangaratta, in 1968.
The Ivills were both well known in the equestrian world before they established their stud which was named after a river in Ted’s New South Wales hometown of Craigie.
They bred thoroughbreds, sold and prepared yearlings and also stood stallions, including Barbara’s beloved Demus.
Back when Barbara celebrated her 80th birthday on May 20 2013, she told of her love of working outdoors with horses and other animals, including her cattle dogs, and said that as long as she was in good physical shape she’d didn’t know when she’d hang up her boots.
“When Ted passed away 17 years ago, he’d been sick for some time, so it wasn’t a huge transition for me to keep running the farm,” she said at the time.
“It hasn’t been easy but it’s been a lot of fun and certainly hasn’t been boring.
“You have to be jack-of-all-trades running a commercial property. I was once a nurse so that’s helped me in the veterinary side of things.”
Little Plains Stud had 15 yearlings go through Melbourne Premier the year Ivill turned 80 and she was certainly no stranger to the sales.
“I remember the first-ever sale at Oaklands when it was owned by Dalgety,” Ivill recalled in an interview.
“It was hot with a howling wind and there weren’t any trees.”
Inglis paid special tribute to Ivill on the opening day of last week’s Great Southern Sale.
Inglis’ bloodstock general manager and auctioneer Jonathan D’Arcy said she had been a great supporter of the company and a constant fixture at the sales.
“I just said that I wanted to mark her passing and send our condolences and wishes to her family and friends and what a remarkable woman she had been,” he said
“She was a great mentor to a lot of young staff that came through the industry.
“She was a wonderful lady and I went up to the farm probably half a dozen times and she was lovely and she will be missed by a lot of people.”
And while Ivill bred many top horses, the Group 3 winning Widgee Turf (Turffontein x Greyhound) was one that she was particularly proud of after selling him for $4,500 as a weanling at the Great Southern Sale in 2014.
Only retired in March of last year, the Patrick Payne-trained gelding raced 42 times for 11 wins, 10 seconds and four-thirds and banked $1.26 million.
Ivill’s long-time friend and neighbour Leeanne Smith, who operates Bucklee Farm at Greta West, between Benalla and Wangaratta, said they were also a show jumping family, which continued with their son, John.
“They were also drovers and Barbara and Teddy would go droving,” Smith said.
“She had been a horsewoman all her life and a very good horsewoman and a very good mentor.”
Ivill sold Little Plains in September 2020.
Smith said that Ivill was well known in the area for foaling down and throughout the industry she was equally well known for mentoring and helping others.
“There was an incentive for Aboriginals, I can’t tell you when but many years ago, but they came to Little Plains and they taught them breaking in and what have you,” she said.
Smith recalls that the Ivills were predominately horse breakers when they first established Little Plains and they then became breeders and stood stallions.
“I was taught years ago by Thelma Harris, she was one of the first stud mistresses in Victoria, and then I went training for a few years and met Barbara up here when I shifted up to Wangaratta,” she said.
“I worked for Barbara doing foaling down and different things during the stud season before going out on my own but she has had many, many good people through her hands.
“She mentored an awful lot of people and I can just picture now some of the girls.”
While Ivill was associated with several top horses, Smith it was Widgee Turf that gave her so much in interest in her later years.
“And earlier Demus was the love of her life. He was a lovely stallion and she sort of reaped the benefits by having him,” she said.
“She truly was a stalwart in the industry.”
Smith, who has operated her stud for more than 25 years, said it was lovely when Inglis recognised Ivill’s involvement in the sales and the breeding industry.
And she said two of Ivill’s grandchildren are also heavily in horses. Matt Ivill has his training licence and sister Grace is an accomplished show jumper. Her other grandchildren are James, Rory, Ned, and Florence.
Smith described Ivill as a quiet achiever, kind, and a stalwart of the industry who was always fair in her dealings and knew the value of hard work.
Stockwell Thoroughbreds’ Mike Becker said Ivill had been a popular figure around the sales for many years.
“She was a wonderful woman,” he said.
“She was unique in several ways and was a great horsewoman in her own right but probably in her later years, and others will reflect on it too, but the number of young girls and women that she employed and taught and imparted her vast knowledge made her a real trendsetter in that area.”
Becker said there would be a lot of women in the industry very thankful for what Ivill had taught them.
It was only fitting that Ivill would be farewelled with a service to celebrate her life in the Grand Oaks Room, Wangaratta Turf Club on Wednesday, June 15 at 11am.
A private cremation will follow the service.