Who better in Australia to talk to about a life infiltrated by equestrianism than Carolyn Lieutenant? Intriguing, forthright, competitive, talented, fearless, straightforward, witty, and above all, fascinating, are words that spring to mind when I hear her name mentioned.
I have known Carolyn Lieutenant (nee Law) for many years and admire her love of sport and horses, whether it is dressage, eventing, showjumping or racing. In fact, her undeniable thirst for becoming a more avid enthusiast in any horse-related activity is relentless and passionate. Carolyn is open-minded, but for sure can sort the wheat from the chaff in the blink of an eye, and is no keyboard warrior but simply upfront! There are no flies on her and at the age of 80 her passion is not waning!
What is going to be so enthralling with this series with Carolyn is to hear her opinions… of which there is no shortage! The changes she has seen in her years of competition, judging and coaching. Her trips internationally with horses. The many international coaches that she learned from along her path, and what their principles were. The modern-day changes in the view to producing a Grand Prix horse. The riders she has coached and her thoughts about what makes a top rider who is competitive and wants to win. How life changes when you are with horses. What it’s like to have to stop competing and then stop riding. The trials and tribulations and the heartbreak that go hand in hand with competition horses. What motivates and what is there left to do? It’s going to be a great series and I am so looking forward to hearing the life and times of Carolyn Lieutenant. So, let’s start at the beginning…
THE EARLY DAYS
Carolyn Law was born on the 9th of the 9th 1939, making her a Virgo. Common traits are well known, such as liking animals, nature and cleanliness, disliking rudeness, never asking for help and in no way taking centre stage.
Carolyn’s mother, Betty, was born and raised on a property on the Canterbury Plains, in the South Island of New Zealand. She was one of two siblings and did not take a great interest in riding horses; she did, however, have an interest in heavy horses and her family imported them from England in the days when they were used in the fields, even taking them to the occasional show.
Carolyn’s father, George, was born in Blackpool, England, and joined the merchant navy before embarking on a career on passenger ships. It was on a voyage that he and Betty met and had an on-board romance that ended with George migrating to New Zealand and marrying there. They settled at “Wairere”, a 1000-acre property near Gisborne, in the North Island, to raise sheep and cattle. George had never ridden a horse or had anything to do with farming, but with the help of a farm manager it was a successful venture and Carolyn has pictures of herself in nappies perched in front of her father riding; she thinks this was probably where it all begun. Her earliest memories of riding are of the station hands coming in for morning tea and tying their horses to the fence. She would often untie one and go for a ride while they had their break!
“In those days you really had to make your own fun and entertainment. I used to try and ride the farm cow, make carts for the pet lambs and dogs to tow about, and basically taught myself to ride,” Carolyn recalls.
The neighbouring children all had ponies, so Carolyn’s parents bought her first pony, Minnie. Carolyn, with a wry chuckle, proclaims: “It was a three-year-old chestnut mare… just broken in!” As it turns out, that pony went on to become quite the legend.
Carolyn went to school on the school bus from the end of the road. It was during these early years that the local Pony Club took shape from all the neighbouring families and was held in a flat hay paddock at their property, as the area was very hilly. “We were so fortunate to have a very good horseman there, Horace Sheriff, and we all learnt very good discipline and basics. My sharp and hot pony was a challenge, but she progressed well and I really enjoyed the journey and the tribulations along the way.”