Newly-elected ESNZ president Sue Hobson is known for her direct approach to life. “If you ask me a question, expect an answer,” says the long-time equestrian official. “I think a lot of people know that I am very straight up and down – it probably comes from all the judging I have done. It is very important you don’t molly coddle people – people need to know what they need to know.”
It was a two horse race for the presidency, with Sue taking the win. Sue is the current national judges officer for Dressage New Zealand, a position she has held for 12 years and carries with it the responsibility for the training and development of all the nation’s national judges. In her four-plus decades of involvement in equestrian, she has competed in eventing, showjumping and dressage – the latter for New Zealand in trans-Tasman teams at Prix St Georges and Grand Prix level as well as for New Zealand in the World Dressage Challenge. She has been head of the dressage ground jury at the Horse of the Year Show for a decade and judged on both sides of the Tasman as well as Europe, Asia and the United Kingdom.
Sue came to New Zealand from the United Kingdom in 1974, living first in Upper Hutt before moving to Pahiatua where she and husband Brian set up Hobson Horsecoaches. Back then she was an eventer, but a new-found friendship with Claire Daniel saw her move her focus more to dressage.
“Claire was hugely passionate about dressage and had previously been head coach for Canada’s eventing team. She wanted to get more New Zealand riders doing better basics,” says Sue. “At that stage I had a horse that was good at dressage, so that’s what I did. If you look at all the world leaders in equestrian, their initial work is flat work. Getting those basics correct helps all disciplines.”
She tasted success in dressage and the rest is history. She sadly sold her young horse a couple of years back when she decided to judge full time. She is one of four FEI4* judges in New Zealand.
While you won’t see her inside an arena, don’t think for a moment she has lost her competitive spirit. “I am a very competitive person and it is the same when you are judging – you are competing against yourself when you judge. I find it exciting and very rewarding.”
Through Hobson Horsecoaches, Sue knows many people from across the disciplines. “It was our livelihood for 43 years,” she says. “We were the first ones to build committed luxury horse coaches. We started part time just working after work and weekends and it snowballed from there.”
Their business initially sponsored eventing in New Zealand, and then were offered a chance to sponsor, the now Challenge Super 5 Dressage Series, which they have continued to sponsor for more than 35 years.
Sue, who is a life member of ESNZ is looking forward to getting her teeth into her new role. “I want to make sure our communication is top notch,” she says. “I know people don’t always read everything they receive but they are far more open when they know and understand what is going on so making everything more user-friendly is important to me. I just love the sport – it has been part of my life since moving to New Zealand. I love talking to people and meeting people, talking with sponsors and encouraging more to be involved in positions like stewarding, judging and volunteering.”
She’s looking forward to getting out and about at more competitions when not judging.
“I am really chuffed to have won the presidency,” says Sue. “I did find it quite stressful as I am not one who is a campaigner, rather a ‘get things done’ kind of person.”
With that now behind her, Sue is amped and ready to go in her new role.