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What the? With Heath Ryan

Photo: Julie Wilson

Photo: Julie Wilson

What is your favourite or signature dish?
I am embarrassed to say that I just love spaghetti bolognaise. Rozzie has her own version which is great and it is one of the very few dishes I can cook. When Rozzie is away I do produce this for the staff of an evening and I am very happy to produce it the next day as well and the next and the next. At this stage the staff start to get rebellious so it is always a problem when Rozzie is away more than one day. Spaghetti bolognaise to me tastes just as good on the fifth day as it did on the first! It warms up great for lunch as well.

What was the last show you watched on TV?
When I come in of an evening I will sometimes sit in front of the TV but often I have no idea what I am watching. Just unwinding. I usually select sport or a news channel. My whole day revolves around driving my staff and my students into worlds of excellence that exist in the ‘ether’ and few people have seen. Basically this is torture and believing in something that may or may not be there, and then having the thoughtfulness and tenacity to put plans in place to achieve these ends, requires just such a soul search. When I watch TV or a movie at night the last thing I want to see is emotional upset. I see that all day every day and it is exhausting.

What is the best gift you have ever been given?
In a way this question really stumps me. I am one of those very lucky people that has everything I want. Probably the best thing for me was meeting and marrying Rozzie. I am not sure she can be classified as a gift!

What inspires you?
Every morning when I wake up I am teaching. My staff and my students are to me in a funny sense of the word, my family. They are all kids ranging from 18 to 40. All of them are on an Olympic program or a World Championship program. Most of these riders have been on a program for the last 4-10 years. Right now the program is maturing and some very exciting riders are about to appear on the Australian scene in both dressage and eventing. My job is to keep seeking out ‘plateauing’ as I call it and targeting the next step forward towards the ultimate goal. We use a millimetre technique which means we stay away from great strokes of genius. For me it is really important that the riders own not just top performances, but also the pathway there which includes safety considerations, producing/training the horse, managing soundness and recognising a building/qualifying program which is not necessarily winning a class. The complete commitment to this program and the vision by my staff and students is something I feel is inspirational and it is critical that I hold my ground for these riders through thick and thin. Here come the Australian kids that nobody yet knows!

What brings you the biggest satisfaction?
Of course I enjoy winning, but these days winning is really just a great big relief that says yes, I may be getting old, but no I am not so old that I can’t win against the best. In terms of satisfaction I am certainly very pleased when riders I teach do well and are excited, or when horses I have bred become somebodies special horse and brings them lots of pleasure. I also still really enjoy riding a young horse up through the grades and so feel a part of a positive production in that way.

What were you like at high school?
Funny question. I always viewed myself as an outstanding citizen who represented a decent kid. Never the less, my school reports always said that I was lazy and an under achiever and I also spent a lot of time on detention and out the front of the Deputy Headmasters office (Mr Penny), where I would be hit with the cane on my hand at least twice a week. Six of the best Mr Penny would say when he eventually decided to call me into the office and review my crimes! I was always mystified and felt it was mistaken identity or I was just being misunderstood. I hated school. If one day I become the Australian Prime Minister, being a school teacher will become the number one occupation in Australia. The school teachers would receive a remuneration beyond any doctor, lawyer or other similar professional. I would gather the cream of Australia’s inspired individuals and expose our Australian kids to them. Again a big picture project, but I think Australian production and achievement as a nation would go crazy and the arts would flourish and crime would diminish and Australia would have a culture ahead of any other nation in the world. Mr Penny would get the sack! I was a confused kid and despite always being in the lower grades and spending much of my life outside Mr Penny’s office, I was also the school captain in year 12. Go figure.

What car do you drive?
I rarely drive a car and spend most of my driving life travelling the Australian roads in the middle of the night driving either my Mack truck with 9 horses on or my International truck with 7 horses on. Mostly I drive the Mack right behind the International which is being driven by one of the kids. I have three girls that have truck licences and they all gradually go to sleep whilst driving at that time of night. You can always tell they are getting sleepy because they start to wander over the middle line or start to go slower and slower or forget to put a blinker on when changing lanes. I am on the phone telling them to pull over and replacing them with the next driver. When we have to travel long distances this is a nightmare, especially when you have to start recycling an exhausted driver. I never get tired because it is such a harrowing experience following the back of that International truck!

What is your biggest indulgence?
At Christmas time I always have at least four helpings of Christmas pudding. In the Christmas pudding are silver threepences and I am the world champion at getting the most threepences. Occasionally I am challenged, however, I am sad to say that usually this comes with collusion and cheating which is so unacceptable at Christmas! Usually we have some 20 plus people for Christmas dinner.

What’s on your bucket list?
I do dream of making more money than I need to keep this competition program on the road and use that money to develop my Heatherbrae property into a beautiful place. We have a great working facility here at Heatherbrae and my next move is to have a big outdoor all weather jumping arena with a state of the art surface and water sprinklers. I did get an initial quote of $500,000 but that is not going to happen. Where there is a will there is always a way.

What charity would you support if you won a million dollars?
I actually support a lot of charities and I am not a millionaire.

What should every rider do once in their life?
Every rider should at least once in their life give riding their very best shot. Nearly nobody gives riding their best shot. Work commitments, family, birthday parties, holidays, normal life interferences are all completely acceptable excuses however at the end of the day very, very few riders ever give themselves or their horses their best shot. When I say their best shot I mean to ride the horse every day for three months as thoughtfully as you possibly can with a lesson a week from a respectable professional. The result would leave everyone flabbergasted.

Story from Horse Deals Magazine April 2017

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