Benalla woman takes out prestigious thoroughbred awards

By Jessica Ball

Wendy Smith feels most comfortable getting the job done behind the scenes.

But her hard work has not gone unnoticed and recently the yearling manager has found herself in the limelight.

Gathered with son Joshua Schwandt and her Blue Gum Farm colleagues to watch the 2020 Australian Stud and Stable Staff Awards, Wendy humbly accepted not only the Horsemanship Award but the Overall Thoroughbred Excellence Award.

“To be recognised and that Phil and Patti (Campbell, owners of Blue Gum Farm) thought enough of me to nominate me, I just couldn't believe it,” Wendy said.

“Just to be nominated it was enough for me but to win both was amazing.

“There's so many people out there that wouldn't be nominated that are just as deserving.”

A love of horses was instilled at a young age for the Benalla woman.

“Dad bought me a little pad saddle to put on the mulberry tree branch,” she said.

“There's a photo of me when I was old enough to have no shirt on, I was just in little shorts and topless, that's how little I was, riding this branch of a tree and then he bought me a Shetland pony and that was it.

“I started off as a young child going through pony club and doing all the horse crazy things that people do.”

The humble Wendy Smith recently won not only the Horsemanship Award but the Overall Thoroughbred Excellence Award at the 2020 Australian Stud and Stable Staff Awards.

At 17 Wendy left school, beginning a career with horses that has spanned 40 years.

She was a trotting trainer and driver, winning the Lady Drivers’ Championship in Albury, before transferring to thoroughbreds and spending nine years at Collingrove Stud at Nagambie as a vet nurse and later assistant manager.

Just over eight years ago Wendy joined the Blue Gum Farm family at Euroa, and 12 months later was promoted to yearling manager.

“I look after the weaners through to yearlings and then prep them for yearling sales which have been really successful,” she said.

“I also do postnatal care for the newborn foals.”

Some people are born to do what they do, and Wendy was born to work with horses.

“I get on with horses and I have a lot more patience with horses than I do with people,” she said.

“I'm a really patient person so very early on in my career it was clear that I bonded with young horses and nervous horses because I don't get in a fluster.

“I don't know what it is about them, I've just always got on well with them and if you treat them well you work out that if they understand what you're asking of them they'll try their hardest for you.”

Wendy Smith with her colleagues and proud Blue Gum Farm staff members Samson Sibanda, Sinead Rae and Stuart Murray.

Wendy proudly points out a photo on the barn wall.

“That's Cox Plate Day last year and three of our horses that we bred, prepped and sold all won group races,” she said.

“That was a buzz that day. I was off watching on the TV and Phil was texting me going ‘wow'.”

While Wendy gets a kick out of following the careers of the horses that go through the stables, it's not the most successful that will remain her lifelong favourite.

“We had a big horse called Wayne County, 18 hands and no-one said he'd make a race horse, he was far too big — I loved him he was my mate.

“Everyone said he wouldn't race; I think his first start he ran second and I went ‘he doesn't have to do any more for me’ and then he ended up winning.

“Sadly he broke his pelvis jumping out of the barriers and he had to be put down, so that was a bit sad.”