EQUITANA Auckland ambassador Gina Schick may not be riding at the event, but she’s very personally involved with a number of horses who will be both competing or part of clinics and demonstrations.
The mother of four from Cambridge retrains and rehomes up to 300 off the track thoroughbreds a year through her EventStars business. It’s something she is passionate about and loves nothing more than to see one of her ‘babies’ do well in their second lives.
“I can’t wait to get there to learn, watch and soak it up,” she says. “I love to follow horses I have sold. It just makes my job all worthwhile when I see them or get emails from happy owners. It is an amazing feeling.”
It was while she was doing a law degree that she opted to make it a full time career. “I was doing a few thoroughbreds on the side to pay for my degree and decided it was far more fun to be doing horses,” she said. Gina grew up riding young, green ponies in Kawhia on the West Coast. “We had to create something from nothing and I guess we were moderately successful.”
She was indeed, competing at both Pony Club eventing and showjumping champs and chosen as part of the Inter-Pacific team to compete in Canada. “We certainly had lots of fun.”
Before thoroughbreds, Gina had been training Kaimanawa horses but found those bred to race were far more accessible. Her business EventStars was initially created around 10 years ago to produce eventers but these days, her horses are everywhere – from showing to showjumping, Pony Club to happy hackers, dressage, polo and more. “Thoroughbreds are forward thinking, genuine, have had a lot of good experience in their lives and come to me with a lot of mileage,” she says. “They learn fast and try hard and are generally pretty easy.”
But it’s a real pick and mix when they arrive. “They roll off the truck and I will know their names and ages, and that is about it. Unwrapping these horses is what I really love to do. I adore watching them improve and understand things more.”
She’s discovered a few stars along the way including a couple of have ended up with New Zealand’s golden couple of eventing, Tim and Jonelle Price and – just quietly – she has a “nice little one in the paddock” in Start Wondering, a triple Group 1 winner who she’s quite fond of. “It is always tempting,” she says.
It was seven years ago she picked up a contract with the Hong Kong Jockey Club that sees her rehabbing, retraining and rehoming up to 70 horses a year. “When you get a shipload of 20 arrive it can be a little overwhelming but I just break it all down, turn some out, start some and just get going. You do have to be very organised and there is always a lot of paper work to be done.”
She has two full-timers and a part-timer working for her and 14-year-old step son Jonty is a huge help feeding up in the weekend while eight-year-old Lucy, six-year-old Oli and five-year-old Jimmy chip in or on where they can. “The kids are always there and I find thoroughbreds are generally good at lowering their energy and being kind around kids,” says Gina whose husband Rodney, who runs his family own Windsor Park Stud, is a huge supporter of all she does too. The stud stand eight stallions and Rodney has around 700 horses in his care. The two businesses – EventStars and Windsor Park – are run independently and at separate properties.
“The best thing about what I do is the end result – happy horses with happy owners,” says Gina. She does a lot of educating of people as well as horses. “Some of these horses who have issues on the track are fine when they are just being ridden or competed elsewhere. Things that can preclude them from racing just don’t affect them off the track.”
Her first thoroughbred had a wind problem but went through to 4* with her sister Kelsey and is now happily competing in Australia.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, her biggest challenges come from people. “Unfortunately to rehome the number of horses that I do, I need a big following. I am not here to be famous or well known. A lot of people who see a snapshot of something on line comment, thinking they know best, and I am sure some of them do have good intentions.”
But others don’t. Gina works closely with a top-notch team of vets, dentists, bodyworkers, farriers, riders and others who ensure the very best of treatment for her horses. “I never think we know everything, but it does get frustrating when people are looking for the negative. Some days I just wonder what I am doing it all for.”
And then she remembers. It’s all about the horses that she does love so much and that makes it all worthwhile.
//21-24th November 2019