When anyone talks about Bob and Joan Stringer in the Canterbury region, they are unanimous in saying that these are two great people. Some say they are “equestrian royalty” in Canterbury, others say “they don’t make them like this any more”. But let’s hope that they still do – as where would our sport be without wonderful people like Bob and Joan? Only time will tell!
Bob and Joan have been involved in equestrian events for about 50 years. Bob himself said he never rode, but it was their children’s interest in the sport that got them involved. When the girls wanted to go to Pony Club, their parents became involved as well. Joan remembers this as if it was yesterday. “Bob opened his mouth at a pony club meeting and told them how they should do it, so they made him president!” Of course every good president needs a good secretary, so Joan took up that role. That was in 1972 and the pair have been involved ever since. Since then, Bob has filled the roles of Branch President, show jump judge, cross-country judge, technical delegate, manager of championship teams, District Commissioner of Hurunui Pony Club, area chairperson and a guardian of South Island Show Jumping. Joan, too, has had many roles. As well as secretary, she has been delegate to Area meetings and scorer at numerous Canterbury events. She had to be extracted from the scorers’ caravan at Rangiora to come and pose for the photo!
The children, Tracey Chapman and Amanda Ferguson, both ride, and both have children who ride. Nicole Chapman and Melissa Scarlett both compete, including in eventing, and Hannah Fergusson shows miniature horses. Emma Ferguson was riding at the Springer Trophy competition in Rangiora, on My Pocket Rocket.
Being involved in equestrian sports has taken the couple and their family all over the country. Bob recalls some of the fun they had on their trips. “Canterbury Westland winning the teams section of the NZPCA Eventing Champs for the first time in 1987 was a highlight. Amanda was in the team. It was held in Auckland, at the Avondale racecourse, and there were a great bunch of parents involved.”
The team that year consisted of Amanda on Whetu, Anne Nicoll on Zebabee, Joanne Jarvis on Casper, Angela Wilson on Shamas, Shelley Creelman on Fernleigh Lad, and Nigel Grigg on Just Dougy.
Of course, Bob has seen many children start pony club over the years and go on to do well in the sport. Amanda Brown, Jonelle and Tim Price are just some of the ones Bob remembers. “Tim came to the champs with us, he was a bit of a character as a child!” Another rider who both Bob and Joan have great admiration for is Anthea Dixon. Joan recalls going to see her when she was in Burwood Hospital and Anthea telling her then that she was going to get back on a horse and ride at the Special Olympics. Bob describes her as “the most determined person I have ever met.”
Bob and Joan were both involved with the Windsor Pony Club initially but when they moved to Hawarden, North Canterbury, they became involved in the Hurunui branch – and still are! It was the Hawarden people who came up with the idea of the Stringer Trophy which has been going for about ten years now. This is for inexperienced riders; those who are just starting out. Once riders have competed at the Springston Trophy, they are not eligible for the Stringer. This year there were 30 teams involved – a record – and the event was a delight, with so many families enjoying the best things about being involved in equestrian competitions. It is a team event in a combined training format (i.e. dressage and show jumping), and all the riders in the team do their dressage at the same time in the different arenas. Those who finish their dressage tests first have to wait at the arena sign for their team mates to finish, then they all ride out of the dressage area together. The support shown to each other through the show jumping phase is also great. It is a perfect start for children in equestrian sports, and having the Stringers on hand was such a bonus. Bob judged a bit of show jumping and, as already mentioned, Joan helped with the scoring.
As people keep saying, the Stringers are “one in a million”. To Bob and Joan – all of us involved in equestrian sports thank you very much.