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Young Rider: Ebonie Lee

This article is from the November 2020 Horse Deals magazine.

Age: I just turned 18 on August 26th.

Lives: Whittlesea, Victoria.

Education/occupation: I have finished school and am now a full-time Trainer/Rider at Tamrie Park Stud.

How would you best describe yourself? Very passionate about horses and horsemanship as a whole.

Family history with horses? My Pa was in the Light Horse Brigade. When he came back from WW2, he was a stockman and drove cattle to market, then he broke in and trained racehorses. Pa taught my mum (Lyn Lee) to ride on a Shetland. He said if you can ride a Shetland you can ride anything, that was his motto. Mum went on to ride a little showing, country race meets and a bit of showjumping, but found her passion in novelty racing and that is where she met my Dad (Paul Lee).

Dad’s history was a bit of everything from eventing, cross country, to a bit of jumps training, but his passion was also novelty racing (I think that was mostly for the social side). Basically, most of you would have watched my mum and dad novelty racing at Melbourne Royal, especially in the evening events. Then, when my eldest sister Sherrie was out at a show, she turned and said to them “I think I would like to do that”. By that, she meant “showing”. And that’s how we all followed suit.

What age did you start riding? I started riding as soon as I could walk. It was easier to look after me on a horse than on the ground, as both Mum and Dad competed.

Tell us about your first pony. He was a Shetland called Waspee, who I called Waspee the Wonderhorse. He was a small harness Shetland that was retired from competing at Sydney Royal and the owner wanted him to have a good home for his retirement. I always appreciate Kevin Twaddell from Kevelle Stud in Goulburn, NSW, for giving Waspee to me at Sydney Royal.

Why showing? Well, I don’t just like showing, I’m really open to trying everything; jumping, dressage, horsemanship. I love a challenge. The real reason we show is because of my eldest sister Sherrie. We all just followed on and loved it.

What was your first competition and how did it go? I have no idea. Because I was the fourth child, I just followed where my family went, but taking a guess it would have been a pony club show fun ring.

What are some of the highlights of your success? Some of my highlights would have to be winning Rider Under 12 at Grand Nationals and getting to compete in the first-ever Grand Champion. Champion Rider 15-17 at EA Nationals and winning my rider five times at Melbourne Royal with four Champions. I have also won my rider around 15 times at Royals all over Australia from Queensland to Tasmania.

Talk us through what you were thinking during your National Champion Rider 15-17 Years workout. That was the most nervous I have ever been and I’m sure Zena could feel that! She wasn’t settled in the sit trot so I had to make a few last-minute changes to the workout. I decided not to do a sit trot lengthen and add two flying changes which I knew had to be perfect to get up. I did put a lot of pressure on myself but in the end, it all worked out and we performed a great workout, of which I was so pleased with.

Ebonie and Zena PPH after taking out National Champion Rider 15-17 Years at The 2019 EA Nationals.

Ebonie and Zena PPH after taking out National Champion Rider 15-17 Years at The 2019 EA Nationals.

What did this win mean to you? This win actually meant a lot to me because I have put a lot of time, hard work and tears into Zena’s training. Finally winning at such a prestigious event on a horse you have done all the work on means more than if you bought or borrowed a going horse. This win was so big for me in many ways as the four months before Nationals were not great for Zena and I. But it just goes to show no matter how much we got knocked down, we kept getting back up and managed to get into the ring that day.

Can you tell us about your partnership with Zena? We purchased Zena from Caroline Price as a four-year-old Warmblood mare that had done a little showjumping. She is my first hack which I fell in love with when I first saw her advertised. The journey has not been easy. She has taught me to be patient and hold on. Zena was a very smart young horse who seems to challenge me, but when we work together we are amazing, she is an amazing ride. After three years we now seem to understand each other and our partnership is built on trust.

What is the secret to your success? Hard work and determination. I would not be where I am if I didn’t put the time into my training and riding. I always know we never stop learning. If times get tough don’t give up just try something else, work harder.

How many horses do you have in work at the moment? We have 24 horses in work, 9 of which I ride and train.

Do you have a current favourite? My favourite at the moment is Arcadian Dreamboat or Harry as everyone knows him as around the stables. He is the best pony to have around, just so easy. He does have a massive personality and the cutest little face that always makes me happy.

What are your tips on managing a nervous or hot horse in the ring? Firstly you cannot be scared or nervous yourself, otherwise they will feel that through your seat and hands, so staying calm is the key. I would usually try and get them to bend and a bit of shoulder in to get them listening again or if I need to, I would just turn a small circle to get myself away from other horses. If your horse is playing up you should always use ring craft to check if something is upsetting the horse and try to find your own space so you don’t interfere with other horses in the ring. This has also helped me to be aware of other horses around me, and how the riders are managing themselves, I have often helped others to calmly leave the ring.

Ebonie and Whitmere Palace Secret at the 2018 Sydney Royal Show.

Ebonie and Whitmere Palace Secret at the 2018 Sydney Royal Show.

Do you have any bad riding habits? Yes of course, everyone has them. Mine is hanging on my right rein and sometimes not keeping my legs back far enough. But if you ask my dad, he would tell you it’s me riding the horses bareback with a halter and lead.

How did you juggle study and horses back when you were at school? I used to go out and start the horses at 5am, letting them out into their day paddocks and cleaning stables. If I had time to ride one I would, but normally I would ride when I got home from school.

Share a typical day in your life now. My typical day is up at 7am with Ellie, my niece, making sure everyone is up, then a coffee and the Wiggles before starting outside at 8-8.30am. Let all 21 horses out of their boxes and feed breakfast then onto cleaning stables, hay and waters. We usually try and get a few horses worked before lunch. After lunch, we will make dinners and put them in the stables ready for the afternoon. Work the rest of the horses we have left to do, then bring horses to stables after 3pm, check and feed outside paddock horses, then harrow the arena so it’s ready for the next day. On the way back to stables, give the horses their supper (wet feed) and one last poo pick up and shut the roller doors and head inside for dinner.

Who’s your idol? I don’t really have just one. I admire Charlotte Dujardin, Edwina Tops-Alexandra and Edward Gal.

What is it like competing with your sisters? It’s very challenging. We are all super competitive and work hard to achieve our goals.

Who is your coach and what are their best words of advice for you? I have been coached by many, just to mention a few; Virginia Creed, Maree Tomkinson, Daryl Hayes and Roger East. I believe we can learn a little from everyone and I enjoy the journey each coach has taken me on at different stages of my career. The best advice was “ride because you love to” as it is a lot of hard work.

How do you manage the highs and lows of the sport? I have had a lot of highs and lows in the past year. I have just kept my eye on my goal and never gave up. I personally always rely on close friends and family to be there to celebrate with me on my highs and to help me get up when I’m down.

Ebonie and Zena PPH after winning Champion Rider at the 2018 Adelaide Royal Show.

Ebonie and Zena PPH after winning Champion Rider at the 2018 Adelaide Royal Show.

With competitions on hold, what have you been working on? Just because shows are on hold doesn’t mean we are sitting still. We are the busiest we have ever been with breakers and training up and coming newcomers, foaling down etc. Normally at this time we would be on a show run. Over the COVID break I have broken in a lot of different breeds from our first Miniature and Gypsy Cob to Warmbloods, Welsh and Riding Ponies and Shetlands.

What are your future plans? My future plans involve hoping to go overseas to a showing or a performance yard in the UK, just to learn more about how other stables train and show their horses.

What do you like to do outside of horses? My life does revolve around horses but when I get the chance I love to catch up with school and show friends.

What is your advice for young up and coming riders? Never give up. Never be afraid to set your goals high and keep working towards those goals. The more you fall the better rider you will become because you will realise it hurts so you will do anything to stay on board. The real success stories started dreaming big.

Can’t live without? I cannot live without my family but most importantly all my wonderful sponsors.

3 things we don’t know about Ebonie?
1. I left school in year 10 to chase my dream.
2. The night before an interschool event my friends pierced my ears in my room with horse needles. Not recommended.
3. I am very particular who rides my horse (sisters included


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