Equine excellence in the Hunter Valley

A tale of horses, a hotel and some equestrian entertainment among the vines.

The Hunter Valley has a reputation for producing world-class horse sport competitors and the Hunter Valley Show Jumping Club (HVSJC) was a training ground for many of them.

The club has produced more than a few Olympians, a subject that club president, Sue Middleton knows all about.

“The Hunter Valley has a strong history of equestrian sport and has produced a number of successful riders over many disciplines. We currently have Jake Hunter who won the bronze individual jumping medal at the 2014 Youth Olympics. Jake began his first jump days with HVSJC as did his mother, Gail, who was an Australian champion in the 1990s. Matt Ryan is a multiple Olympic gold medalist who originally hailed from the Hunter; and David Cooper is another local showjumping Olympian, along with David Robertson who is an international competitor. Olympic show jumper, Vicki Roycroft regularly attends our events and Lisa Martin is a para-equestrian who represented Australia at the Rio Olympics. This list goes on and it includes other equestrian disciplines such as polo, polocrosse as well as stock horse and quarter horse events,” says Sue.

The HVSVJ is a group of like minded people who enjoy the sport of showjumping and the aim of the club is to provide quality showjumping in training and competition for all, from novice to the professional; as well as to promote the sport of showjumping. It’s a large remit for a sport that requires plenty of space – something the club has long struggled to provide.

“I have been the president of the HVSJC since 2004 and during that time we have moved approximately five times. We were searching for the best grounds to grow the sport and provide safe and suitable facilities for the competitors, with horse welfare in mind.”

Enter hotelier, Jerry Schwartz, owner of Rydges Resort, Lovedale.

“Sue was coach to all three of my children and we went regularly to her arena near Lake Macquarie. The club’s events were held at an area near Rutherford and we began talking about establishing an equestrian centre adjacent to Rydges Resort in the Hunter,” says Jerry.

Sue explains further, “I was fortunate to have been involved in the facility development from the very beginning. Jerry has lots of land that he’d like to see enjoyed by locals and visitors and he asked if I could do anything on the grounds regarding equestrian activities. Of course, I didn’t hesitate!

“Having run many equestrian events and been a competitor for the last 30+ years, I saw this as a special opportunity to lay out a facility that works well for both competitors and organisers and provides a quality facility to complement the hotel. I have extensive experience in equestrian management which has given me insight into what works and what doesn’t work. We were able to develop a plan that utilised the natural features of the land and did not require significant works. We just worked with what was already there.”

HVSJC “moved in” adjacent to Rydges Resort in 2023.

“The Hunter Valley has so many horses, and riders, many of whom go to shows in Richmond, and the Northern Hunter. It is great to be able to establish such a facility, which is getting instant use.”

Read the full article in our Autumn Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Sally Maguire.