Michelle James began riding in England when she was six years old, initially attending a riding school before eventually acquiring a pony of her own. Quickly hooked, more ponies and horses followed throughout her childhood, and she attended Pony Club and started to compete in show jumping, eventing and hacking. It was in 1988 that she moved to Australia, where an interest in breeding developed.
“I was living in Camden, NSW, and Glennis Barrey lived nearby. She was competing two horses, Livius and Leonardo 68, with huge success at FEI at the time. I purchased a Thoroughbred mare by Double Cream (who sired Trade Commissioner that Scott Keach had taken to the Olympics in Seoul), and had her classified with the AWHA,” explains Michelle. “That was the catalyst for my journey into classifying and judging. We moved to Western Australia in 1991 and that mare had her foal in November that year… a beautiful colt called Penny Hill Park Davinci.”
And so began Penny Hill Park Stud. “Penny Hill Park Davinci was the National Premium Colt with the AWHA in 1996 with the highest percentage of all colts classified,” recalls Michelle. Over the past 30 years, Michelle’s passion for dressage and breeding has taken her on an exciting journey of riding, coaching, classifying and judging.
“I started competing in dressage and was very fortunate to train with Harry Boldt. I was very involved in dressage with Harry and his wife Margo, and their association with DRTA (Dressage Riders Training Association) in Western Australia.” Michelle purchased a super mare, Pia, from Harry and Margo and competed her to Grand Prix.
Keen to be involved in all aspects of the sport, Michelle had begun classifying mares for the AWHA in 1991 and became a National Colt Selector in 2001; she is also a national warmblood and all-breeds judge. “I have regularly travelled to Europe to view stallions and their progeny. I love to go to the World Championships for Young Dressage Horses, the Bundeschampionate (Germany national championships for young horses), the Olympics and the World Equestrian Games.”
Michelle was one of the early ones to embrace frozen semen technology here in Australia and was therefore able to breed using some of the best stallions in the world. “I retained the mares that had the highest heritability traits for dressage characteristics and have also retained some of their daughters and granddaughters.” Generations later, Michelle stills breeds with frozen semen and the stud’s mares that are under saddle are flushed and bred via embryo transfer (ET).