HorseVibes publisher Fiona Todd grew up on the North Coast of NSW on a dairy farm and developed a love for animals from a young age.
“I spent hours playing with my dad’s trusty stock horse, Smokey,” she says, “and I eventually got my own horse when I was 12. She was the first in a long line of chestnut mares! We had no float to go to Pony Club so it was a 10km ride there and back, which was huge fun. We’d stop in paddocks along the way to have a hoon and jump logs, and having friends complete the same journey with me every fortnight was a memorable time.”
Fiona decided to pursue a career as a press photographer in Sydney and gained a cadetship at Cumberland Newspapers, becoming one of the first women in Australia in her trade, and winning the prestigious Nikon Award for her work. Unfortunately the cost of keeping her horse was not a viable option, so many years without owning a horse or a dog commenced.
Returning to the North Coast to work and raise her family Fiona found photographic opportunities were rare in the area so she changed direction and built a catering company. She also worked in Human Relations, whilst completing a University degree, majoring in Accounting and Marketing.
When Fiona’s daughter Emma started nagging for a horse, it didn’t take an enormous amount of convincing for Jellybean to become a member of the family. Emma’s love soon turned to show jumping and as she progressed, two more chestnut mares appeared.
“When Emma was ready to leave home I realized that all the years of being involved with horse people was going to come to an end,” she says, “so initially I started my saddle company, the Saddle Hub, as a way to keep in contact with the equestrian world. HorseVibes was originally created as a way to promote saddles, but it has grown exponentially, and become a wonderful magazine in its own right. We are on a very exciting journey with it.”
Fiona’s desire to see people set goals and work hard for them is the foundation of much of the magazine’s content. “I’m also very proud of our newly formed Delivering Dreams Scholarship,” she says.
Candida Baker has been editor of HorseVibes since 2017, steering the magazine through a major transformation in both content and design.
As a journalist Candy has been editor of The Weekend Australian Magazine, Arts Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and a feature writer for seven years for The Age.
Her horse, photography and writing lives have existed in tandem with her journalism career. She is the author of 14 books – including fiction, non-fiction, anthologies and children’s books.
Candy grew up with horses in England, and worked for a show jumper in France for a year when she was 19, before she emigrated to Australia. She rescued her first horse when she was 22, an abandoned Arabian stallion with an extreme attitude problem. She rehabilitated him, and he was re-homed to a family where he lived happily for the next 30 years. That first rescue led to a lifetime’s interest in natural horsemanship, horse welfare, horse psychology and horse physiology. She has personally rescued, rehabilitated and re-homed dozens of horses.
Reflecting on the many different styles of riding she’s undertaken over the years, Candy says: “I think, of all the riding I’ve ever done what stands out to me is the wilderness riding. There’s something about riding through a pristine landscape with only the sound of your horse as you travel through the natural world that is the most peaceful thing I’ve ever known.”
In conjunction with several of her close horse friends, Candy has recently started a Charity, Equus Alliance, with an emphasis not just on rescue but on welfare, education and advocacy.
She also runs an FB page, The Horse Listener, and she is an accredited Equine Facilitated Learning practitioner, running one-on-one sessions as well as clinics and workshops.
Candy’s latest book, The Secret Language of Animals, will be published in 2020.
UK-born Amanda McWhinnie’s love affair with horses began when she was four-years-old.
“I was with my parents at a show jumping event when a dappled grey horse caught my eye as it cleared jump after jump with a carefree swish of its luxuriant tail. I was entranced,” she says, “and it started a lifetime love affair with horses.”
By her late teens, Amanda decided that she wanted to qualify as a British Horse Society Assistant Instructor (BHSAI), and was soon a working pupil at the renowned Moat Riding School in Benenden, Kent.
“My family had relocated to New Zealand, and after I qualified, I moved there to join them,” she says, “but after several bad falls, I had to make the heartbreaking decision to quit riding.”
With a career change now essential, Amanda turned to another love – words – and became a copy writer for a local radio station. That first job was the start of a long career in the media. Since then she’s written feature articles for a national Australian magazine, worked as a university media liaison officer, consulted for a public relations firm, managed a peak industry association’s publications, and won a major Community Broadcasting Association of Australia award in the documentary category.
Says Amanda of her eclectic career which has also seen her recently move to the Northern Rivers: “It’s been crazy, but oh, so much fun.
And now I’ve come full circle! I am absolutely delighted to be part of the HorseVibes team, and to play a role in the production of what I truly believe is an outstanding magazine, and I’m delighted to once more be immersed in the world of the horse.”
Lainie Bracher-Towner’s career in magazine advertising spans over two decades with roles across various brands ranging from Vogue, Marie Claire, CLEO and Australian Good Taste right through to the Australian Women’s Weekly.
In 2014 Lainie took a huge leap of faith and moved to Byron Bay. “I’d been visiting the area for over 20 years,” she says “and after I move I got married and bought a hundred-acre property in the Shire.”
With more space than she could ever imagine Lainie soon acquired a number of horses, and became a ‘horse person’. Now, as the Advertising and Partnerships Manager on HorseVibes Lainie gets to mix her long time career and her love of all things equine – a passion and a profession rolled into one!
If Charlie Brister was to advertise himself for sale, he says he’d put himself in the ‘All Rounder’ category. A bush-bred boy, he grew up riding pre-track racehorses. “I’d gallop through the bush with no idea of what a rising diagonal, or a correct distance was,” says this now NCAS Level 2 Eventing Coach.
It wasn’t until he graduated with a Bachelor of Political Science from the University of Sydney that he committed himself to a career in the horse industry. “It seemed much more appealing than using my degree,” says the engaging author of our Brister’s Brief column.
As his eventing career progressed, he took his homebred gelding The Barrel of Fun to what is now CCI4* Level, and followed that with training from elite riders and coaches in Australia and internationally, most recently competing in eventing and show jumping in America.
Charlie is currently training and competing on Timmy Almighty, a Clydesdale cross the Brister family has owned since the horse was a three-year-old, with the aim of taking him up to Grand Prix dressage.
Part of Charlie’s appeal as a trainer is his patience with both horses and riders to help them fulfill their potential. He runs a training business near Western Sydney, and travels regularly to instruct at clinics, where his background in everything from natural horsemanship to equitation science and classical dressage allows him to create solutions for the many and varied problems horses can present with. His main aims are a balanced rider and a calm horse – regardless of the discipline.
Jane Camens, who grew up in Brisbane, was horse-obsessed from an early age, with most of her lessons learnt from her iron-mouthed horse Ben!
Graduating from the University of Queensland with an Arts degree, she was offered a job as a cadet journalist on The Women’s Weekly by Ita Buttrose, which led to a job as a feature writer on Cleo.
A varied career saw Jane start her own magazine, Portfolio, followed by a stint at the Office of the Status of Women in Canberra as well as in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as a journalist. During her time in Canberra Jane leased a beautiful grey horse, Belle, whom she rode through the forests and around the Canberra countryside. “I once even rode her into a cricket match where Bob Hawke was playing against the Press Gallery,” she recalls.
The next few years saw Jane’s career take a peripatetic turn, as she worked first in international PR based in Hong Kong, and later in journalism and PR in both HK and back in Brisbane, before her homeland called to her, and she arrived back in Australia, settling up near Byron Bay in 2005.
Her writing career has seen her published in an impressive array of non-fiction and fiction publications, as a writer and editor.
These days Jane is a regular writer for HorseVibes and keeps her two horses, Beauty and Harley, on local agistment. “I belong to a terrific writers’ group, a fabulous riding club, and still write. I’m very lucky to have combined the passions in my life,” she says.
Nicky has been involved with horses her entire life having been raised on, and actively involved in, her parents highly successful Standardbred breeding establishment ‘Banner Lodge’ in Christchurch, NZ.
“I started competing when I very young,” she says, “and I’ve always loved eventing, although I’ve also show jumped and done hacking. I’m currently competing on, Bilberry Star (aka Jett) an OTT Thoroughbred gelding I’m taking up through the eventing grades.”
The family heritage shows no sign of stopping. Nicky is currently Vice President of Yarawa Pony Club, where her eight-year-old daughter rides a Welsh x pony called Foxy. “Her two-year-old sister loves to hop on for a lead-around,” she says. “So there’s many horsey years to come.”
In her professional life Nicky is a senior Marketing Manager who has worked with major brands such L’Oreal Paris, Garnier and Sealy Posturepedic. Now she is living the dream, combining her passion for marketing with her love of all things equine.
Says Nicky: “I enjoy all aspects of horse ownership – breeding, breaking and bringing on young ponies and horses in order that they can become successful competition mounts.”