Sandra tells her story…
1985 ~ 2002 The beginning
I was born and bred on the land: I grew up on an 11500 acre beef cattle property west of Mundubbera in Central Queensland.
Horses, cattle and dogs are well and truly in my blood. I was as close to ‘born in the saddle’ as you can be: Mum mustered while she was pregnant with me and I was going mustering at six months of age, safely nestled in my father’s arms. To be honest I can’t actually remember learning how to ride – just like most people can’t actually remember learning to walk or talk. I could always ride a horse!
I grew up chasing cows, breaking horses, learning how to trim and shoe a horse, going to country gymkhanas and campdrafting, and winning many ribbons at Karagra (Chinchilla, Queensland, for those who know it). My interest in the English style of riding grew through my father’s involvement in the local Ag Show and his love of show jumping.
My interest in jumping grew, helped by my parents who encouraged me to pursue this on my ponies and their stockhorses through primary and into high school.
High school at Fairholme College, Toowoomba, introduced me to a higher level of competition through the Queensland Interschool Equestrian Association (QISEA).
I competed against the likes of fellow Queenslanders Dom Schramm (now a USA-based 3venter), Robert Moffart (now a World Cup Show jumper) and Robert Goodwin (now also a World Cup Show jumper). Competition was tough in those Show jumping, Dressage and Combined Training competitions.
To both my parents’ and my surprise I did quite well – winning many ribbons, with my proudest moment taking out the Darling Downs Senior Combined Training title on ‘Thooruna Trigger’. Consider this: I was riding Mum and Dad’s stockhorses; was only ever lucky enough to get a handful of lessons a year; only rode on holidays and trained the horses myself with Mum and Dad acting as the ‘eyes on the ground’. I did pretty well up against professionally trained horses and riders.
In 2000 we decided to purchase another stallion for the property, looking for a dual purpose sire to breed both property horses and competition horses for me. After looking at many, we purchased ‘Jaybee Calibre’, a yearling colt from Bev and John Edwards, Jaybee Farm, in the Lockyer Valley, Queensland.
2003 ~ 2004 Education Time
By the time I finished high school, I definitely knew I wanted to continue my horsey ambitions in a very serious way. My aim was to be accepted into Marcus Oldham College’s equine program in 2004. So while continuing to compete my horses, ride my colt and work on the family property, I decided to study for a Certificate in Sports Horse Massage in my gap year. At the end of 2003 I received my Certificate and was also accepted into Marcus Oldham College in 2004.
I was delighted to be shortlisted for and receive the Equestrian Scholarship, which covered 50% of my tuition. I took two horses with me: ‘Castellano Damascus’ a 5-year old gelding and ‘Jaybee Calibre’ my 4-year old stallion.
I graduated from Marcus with a Distinction in Diploma of Equine Business Management. I didn’t graduate with only a diploma: I learnt many things and my time there helped me to clarify what I wanted to do with horses.
While at Marcus I spent three invaluable weeks during the breeding season at Windsor Park, New Zealand (the breeders of the racehorse ‘Might and Power’, Australian Horse of the Year 1998 and1999). Windsor Park is one of the biggest thoroughbred studs in NZ. During my time there they had 100 mares in the foal centre and planned to handle the foaling/breeding duties of over 400 mares and seven stallions that season.
Back in Australia, during 2004 I also attended a reproduction short course delivered by the Goulbourn Valley Equine Hospital and led by Dr Angus McKinnon, a world leader in equine reproduction science. My love of breeding horses was well and truly established! Work experience that year was a few weeks with Chris and Helen Chugg at Diamond B Farm in Sydney, NSW. My time at Chugg’s led to a job there in 2005.
2005 ~ 2006 Industry Education
After Marcus I wanted to continue my learning experience and went back to the Sydney show jumping stable of Diamond B Farm with ‘Demi’ (Castellano Damascus) in tow. Chris and Helen have produced multiple national and international show jumping horses.
What a very steep learning curve for me! I was groom for up to 12 horses at national level shows and I have the honour to say I groomed ‘Vivant’ (IMP/EXP) at his first World Cup shows! It was an eye opener and an invaluable experience.
After learning the ropes at Diamond B for 5 months I moved on to John and Pip Cooper’s stable, Falcon Park on the NSW Central Coast, where I filled the head groom role for 18 months.
Both John and Pip have been leading riders at state and national level, Pip in dressage and John in eventing. John told me once he’d competed on every continent that had eventing competitions: Europe (including UK, France, Ireland) and North America, all at 3 or 4 star level!
Although Falcon Park was about half the size of Diamond B, I was responsible for all the horses on a daily basis, plus training the girls that worked under me. I learnt a lot about horse and farm management at John and Pip’s.
I also worked on and received my NCAS EFA Level 1 General Coaching qualification while at Falcon Park.
By the end of 2006 I had itchy feet to return home with ‘Demi’ and continue the enterprise that had been started in 2000 with the purchase of ‘Jaybee Calibre’. I was keen to try my own hand with breeding competition horses.
2007 ~ 2014 Swing Time Performance Horses ~ Part 1
The name ‘Swing Time Performance Horses’ was the brilliant idea of my sensational mother! However, the location of the stud in cattle country was not conducive to the direction the stud needed to take, so we purchased a property at Gootchie, between Maryborough and Gympie, Queensland.
We developed it from a blank canvas into a very neat and tidy equestrian training and breeding facility, with everything you could want to breed and train dressage and show jumping horses.
During these seven years I bred, trained and sold some very lovely horses. Many of them are now out and about competing in dressage, show horse, show jumping and eventing: go to ‘Where are they now’ to read their stories.
I also spent many hours teaching – and being taught. For dressage I found the legendary Linda Schmerglatt who trained in Verden, Germany and ran a stable in the USA before returning to Australia and being longlisted on the dressage team for the 2000 Olympics. For show jumping I returned to David Finch, a World Cup rider who is also now a Level 3 Show jumping specialist.
As I primarily focused on training and selling my young horses during this time, I didn’t keep and develop a top level horse. ‘Demi’ had made it to Medium level dressage and Pre-Novice level eventing, but as that was about the end of his scope I decided to sell him. He went to a great young rider who wanted to learn the ropes, and he has been a top schoolmaster.
During this time I took ‘Swing Time My Cosmo’ (another young stallion that we bred and I started) through to Medium dressage and Pre-Novice eventing, before he developed a niggling injury at the end of 2009. After two years off (while I was in NSW) ‘Calibre’ went to Elementary level dressage and I had started eventing training with him: he looked to be a real star but unfortunately a paddock injury finished his career as a riding horse in 2010.
At the start of the 2014 season I decided I wanted to keep a long-term horse for myself and got two horses up and going, ‘Gilbachtal Portia’ and ‘Torrent ST’. I brought ‘Portia’ in 2011 and rested her as she came to me with some old injuries and very little actual training. ‘Torrent’ was a gelding we had purposely bred to event.
Both are hugely talented horses and started the year at Introductory level eventing and finished the season successfully competing Preliminary level. ‘Portia’s’ back injuries however were more serious than we thought and caught up with her by the end of the year; I decided retirement as a broodmare was a good option. I’m excited for the day when I finally get a chance to ride her babies: I think they will be real stars!
During this time, my parents were also trying to manage over 4000 acres of grazing country spread over two properties, four hours away from Swing Time. I spent as much time as I could helping with the cattle, and I worked at a local school and call centre some of the time in order to help pay the bills! The situation we were in wasn’t working and during 2014 my parents decided to separate and go their different ways
2015 and beyond (2017 or so…) More Education!
They say ‘You need to build a house three times before you get it right’ and ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ and I believe that’s right!
My parents’ split resulted in the necessary sale of some properties. After much consideration we decided relocation of the stud further south would be a good long-term move. However after some more, careful consideration, I also decided that if I was going to sell most of the horses to enable a relocation, I should head overseas before I permanently relocated.
I will keep a small band of horses that will be ‘Part 2’ of ‘Swing Time Performance Horses’.
For some time, I have felt the need to go overseas to continue my education at a high level, but running ‘Swing Time’ and helping my parents have taken all my available time and resources.
The sale of our current location and subsequent sale of the horses brings me to a unique position where I can afford to relocate for a few years.
My plan is to head to Europe and America in 2016 and work with some top professionals in the eventing, dressage and show jumping fields. I especially want to study the training programs and breeding lines used by the European 4* Event riders and the training system of Buck Branermann.
60m x 20m fenced all weather dressage arena
- Round yard
- Jump paddock
- Single paddock agistment with shelter
Swing Time Performance Horses
5220 Brooweena-Woolooga Rd
Woolooga QLD 4570
Please contact Sandra to arrange a visit we would love to see you!