Hands on the reins

01:17, Sep 02 2014
Thelma Busby
Thelma Busby with her miniature horse Paddy.

Showing horses is in Thelma Busby's blood.

The 76-year-old has been showing and competing with horses at the Southland A&P Show since she was a young girl.

Her miniature horses are her pride and joy and she has five of the "wee guys" on her small block at Makarewa, near Invercargill.

Busby was brought up around horses. Her father, Ted Hughes, drove a milk cart at the Southland A&P Show in 1914 and 100 years later Thelma is continuing to bring home the accolades.

The Southland show, held earlier this year, was supposed to be the last time she competed in the show ring with her beloved Rosewood Ringmaster.

"This year's show was the 100th one my family had competed at so I thought it was a good time to give up.


"But I can't give up - as long as I've got good health I'll keep going," she said.

Thelma entered the show ring in the early 1950s; competing with saddle ponies, saddle hacks and hackney harness ponies before switching to miniature horses in the late 1990s.

The move was prompted by a car crash which left her seriously injured and her husband, Bob, in hospital for three months.

Unable to ride, she spent a lot of time hanging around miniature horses at the shows.

She bought her first horse, Rosewood Ringmaster, as a 3-year- old gelding and was instantly captivated by his striking good looks.

"He had a real look-at-me attitude," Thelma said.

Ringmaster, also known as Paddy, hasn't been far from Thelma's side over the past 16 years and she has won numerous awards with him along with his stablemates, Woodlees Laude Latimers Sabin and Taramoa Raiders Achilles.

"He [Paddy] has done me really proud - they all have," Thelma said.

Thelma has only geldings on her small block.

After a bad experience with an in-season mare at an A & P show she vowed and declared she would have no more female horses.

Thelma used to travel far and wide with her horses, but she sticks closer to home now.

The main shows she competes at are West Otago, which is held in late November, followed by Wyndham, Winton and Southland shows.

She used to compete at the New Zealand miniature horse shows but has given that up.

Thelma said it could take up to a year to get a horse used to a gig and ready for a show and she has found that not all miniatures have a temperament suitable for showing.

"They're not going to be perfect first time out - it could take a whole season," she said.

One of her proudest moments was achieving her 100th win for best presented harness at the West Otago A&P Show in Tapanui a few years ago.

"That means a lot to me," she said.

Getting dressed up for the show is part of the fun for Thelma, and it's also part of the judging process.

"I've never been one to get dolled up but I'm very particular about how I present myself at the show.

"If I see a jacket I like I will buy it," she said.

However, Thelma isn't fond of the current trend of wearing American-style western hats and jackets and declares "it's not my thing".

Thelma's husband, Bob, whom she describes as her right-hand man, has been a huge support at the shows.

"He helps me get them [the horses] ready.

"He will make me a cup of tea and get the lunch ready," Thelma said.

Lunch, which is typically sandwiches or bacon and egg pie, is made the night before as the Busbys are usually on the road by 6am, or earlier if they are heading to Tapanui.

However, they will often share a pottle of chips on the way home.

The Southland Times