Above: Wendy Smith at Blue Gum Farm
Much to Wendy Smith’s surprise, not only has she been nominated she is one of two finalist for the Horsemanship award in the Australian Stable and Stud Staff Awards. As yearling manager at Blue Gum Farm, Wendy has just been ‘doing the job’ but her incredible dedication and talent has been recognised by not only her colleagues at Blue Gum Farm but also by the Thoroughbred Industry.
‘I didn’t start out in the Thoroughbred Industry, I started in the trotting industry’ stated Wendy. ‘The quality and care taken of the horses is what attracted me to the Thoroughbred Industry.I managed a small farm in Western Australia and transferred to the Thoroughbred Industry.’ After four years in Western Australia, Wendy moved back to Victoria where she took up a role at Swettenham Stud, formally Collingrove Stud as a Vet Nurse. She remained with Swettenham Stud for nine years and after just four years at the farm was promoted to Assistant Manager.
Wendy had the passion for horses from an early age, growing up on a cattle farm there was no sight of horses. It wasn’t long before her Dad who was excellent at animal husbandry soon added horses to his repertoire with taking Wendy eventing. His visits on the farm looking at cattle soon included spotting horses for Wendy.
‘From a very early age I was horse mad! I remember when I was about five years old, there is a photo of me sat on a branch of a tree with the saddle that dad bought me. We lived on a farm but couldn’t afford to have horses. Dad was a stock and station agent and mum was a house wife.’
Wendy’s parents were hugely supportive of her passion with enrolling her into pony club, eventing and transforming the farm to accommodate her equine pursuits.
All of Wendy’s experience has been learning on the job and this has been testament to her expertise in the industry. ‘I applied to go to Glenalmonston Colleage after I left school. I got a job in the interim at a Trotting farm and deferred my college placement for twelve months. I felt I was just learning so much more with hands on experience so decided not to go to college.’
Wendy’s passion is the care of the horses and is still using her experience she gained as Vet Nurse with handling the post-natal care of foals during the foaling season in addition to her role as yearling manager.
‘I have a great deal of patience and have always specialised in young horses, even with the trotters I use to do the breaking. I found I have an affinity with young horses and being involved with the education process is what I love to do.’
‘The people in the industry are great. Blue Gum Farm is very family orientated and the care of the horses always comes first. There won’t be a branch in a single paddock at Blue Gum to alleviate any risk of injury.’
Above: Wendy Smith with Colleagues at Blue Gum Farm
Wendy Smith has not only made as a finalist of the Australian Stud and Stable Staff awards but she is also the only Victorian nominee which is a fantastic achievement. ‘It really does mean a huge amount. I was blown away when Patti Campbell told me I was being nominated. I am just in the barn working away so to think that they thought enough of me to nominate me I was over the moon. The awards showcase people who in other instances wouldn’t be showcased so it is great. I couldn’t believe that I had made the top five let along the top two!’
‘There has been some horses that touch your heart along the way who I follow through their racing career. Sartorial Splendour is a favourite one of mine who is actually back spelling at the moment. You learn with age that you can’t get too attached to any of them. Working in the yearling barn we sell 90% of the horses, you love them all but then need to hope they go to a nice place that look after them well.’
‘I love the Victorian breeding side of things and the stud farms. Everyone in Victoria is so friendly. I was born and bred in Victoria and I wouldn’t consider working anywhere else.’
The advice that Wendy would pass on to someone wanting to start in the industry is ‘You have to follow your dream and you need to come in for the love of horses. If you are coming in because it is just a job, then it is probably not the job for you as you need to have the passion. If you work hard and are diligent then you get rewarded and the horses reward you every day. You need to be here for the love and the horses and their welfare comes first.