Sponsored Rider Profile

Tara and Denison Park Smooth

Denison Park Smooth (Oz Shotz)

By Alison Duthie, March 2021

Tara Rogers has been around horses for most of her life. Indeed her family is steeped in equestrian history with her uncle, Simon Cassidy, running until its closure, the famous Windfield Farm in Canada that bred world leading stallion Northern Dancer and other champions such as Nijinsky. There is also plenty of eventing history – but more about that later …

Tara Rogers was born in Epsom, England where her parents were working at the time. With the family moving to Australia when she was just two, she doesn’t really remember anything of those early days. The memories she does have of UK and Ireland have been made from the family trips ‘home’ over the past ten years. Tara’s mum, Gaye, is from Ireland while her dad Phil is Welsh. Both worked in IT and when in 1995 they were given the choice, to move to a few different overseas locations they chose the Australia option.

“I think it was at the time of the early 1990s recession in UK and Australia looked like a great opportunity. Despite being born in the UK of Irish extraction, I certainly consider Australia to be home and couldn’t really imagine living anywhere else but here,” said Tara. The family initially moved to the Sydney North Shore, to a regular house on a quarter acre block because at that stage there were no signs that horses were going to play a large part in family life but, that was about to change thanks to the Sydney Olympics.

Many people will tell you that being involved in an Olympics, whether as an athlete, a paid worker, a volunteer or a spectator, will have a way of affecting your life and this was certainly the case for Tara when, at age 7, she went along to Sydney International Equestrian Centre to watch the best of the best. But Tara and her family had a very specific reason for being at Sydney 2000 because her auntie, Nicola Cassidy, was riding as part of the Irish eventing team.

Tara and her brother Owen watching their aunt Nicky trot up at Sydney.

My brother Owen and myself watching my aunt Nicky trot up at Sydney.

“My mum’s side of the family are extremely horsey and her mum, my Grandma, Sheelagh Cassidy (nee Fleury) rode at Badminton back in the 1950s. I watched my aunt Nicky trotting up at Sydney Olympics for Ireland and said ‘I am going to do that one day for Australia’. On cross country day, I can remember seeing my auntie jumping these enormous fences with mum cheering her on. I came home so excited and enthusiastic about the whole thing and it was then that I started having riding lessons. My brother, Owen, also had some lessons but decided it really wasn’t for him. As it turns out he has gone into the financial world – so a million miles away from an equestrian career!”

The lessons went well and the next thing to do was to buy a pony, which turned out to be a pony that Tara and her mum shared for a while. As it became clear that Tara’s love of horses was going to continue her parents began to look for a property where the horse or horses could be at home and they found a 10 acre property in Glossodia in The Hawkesbury – the same property where Tara has recently set up her own equestrian training and coaching business.

At school Tara describes herself as a math’s and ‘sciencey’ sort of student an interest which would eventually lead her to a biology science degree and majoring in genetics. But before she went to Uni she decided that after leaving school she would spend a gap year working with ‘horses’ and her love for doing that meant the year turned into a couple of years. Her first job was working at Stuart and Karen Tinney’s yard and she then did a stint with Megan Jones as a working student. After that Tara decided it was time to travel so she headed off to Ireland to be a working student with Ireland’s leading event rider (2012), Joseph Murphy.

“The more I learnt from everyone the more I realised this was something I am passionate about. I did have a moment in Ireland where I waivered about staying on and not coming back to Australia, but home is here and I had committed to doing my degree so back I came and started at Macquarie Uni.”

Whilst studying for her degree, Tara also managed to fit in working in Christine and George Johnson’s show jumping yard and at Merrynvale, a racing yard – although she had no desire to become a jockey, which she considered far too high risk! And did I mention she was managing to event in between all of this – but then we all know how good eventers are at multi-tasking!

Tara and Personal Banner on cross country

Personal Banner (My Equine Images Photography)

Taking a step back to when Tara was initially working at the Tinneys as a working pupil and training with her fantastic OTTTB Personal Banner (‘Phoebe’) who was only 15.1, she was happily competing at 1* (now 2*) level. However it took a prod from Stuart to encourage her that little Phoebe could do more.

“One day Stuart said to me– ‘when are you going to go 2* (now 3*)?’. I have to admit it hadn’t really crossed my mind until he pointed out the obvious and when Stuart asked that question it gave me the confidence to think Phoebe and I were ready to move up. So I did my first 2* (now 3*) on the mighty, little Phoebe.”

On returning from Ireland Tara’s next special horse came along in the shape of the five year old Hunter Bullimore (‘Bulli’), who was bred by the McLeod family and in work with Craig Barrett. Taking their time Tara and Bulli began steadily making their way up the grades competing at EvA 95 at the beginning of 2013 and in 2019 tackling their first 4* event.

“He was the first horse I did 4* on. He was always brave, kind and clever on his feet. I was very lucky to have such a super horse. (We have now have leased him as a schoolmaster to a fantastic junior, Poppie Gorton.)”

Myself with Karen, Stuart and Gemma Tinney and Courtney Brooke Foster.

Tara (centre) with Karen, Stuart and Gemma Tinney and Courtney Brooke Foster.

With her degree behind her (whilst doing in parallel with horses, Tara admits it took her seven years to do the three year course) and having worked at the Tinney’s for the past three and half years riding and grooming, Tara has decided it is time to start her own equestrian business from home.

“It’s a pretty exciting time at the moment because I have ‘Ralph’ (Denison Park Smooth) who just eats up 4*. I also have a few nice young horses as well that I own. Whilst I have been working part time at the Tinney’s yard I have also been building up a client base, coaching and riding other people’s horses from my base at home and my plan is to grow from there. Somewhere along the way in the last few years I also got my Level 1 Coaches Certificate and I will be teaching at home and travelling to clients as well.”

Tara and Denison Park Smooth

Denison Park Smooth (Snapshot Australia).

In the world of top level competition, attention to detail is everything and Tara feels that skill is something ingrained into her thanks to the people she has worked with.

“A tiny thing, like a boot rub, a slight swelling in a leg, that isn’t acted upon can make the difference of getting to an event and the performance you want or not. Equally looking at the other side of the sport and making sure every detail of your plan for riding your dressage test, showjumping round and the cross country is vital to a good weekend’s competition. When it comes to cross country, I have been lucky enough to use the Crosscountry App since it first began. I grew up doing Pony Club with Helen Diacono (part of the team who invented the App) so I got to try the prototype App before anybody else had really seen it. The App has grown a lot over the years and has all sorts of features but when it comes down to it, I use it because it’s simple to use, is much more accurate that the old fashioned measuring wheel, I can record the whole course and take photos of fences. It is the last thing I look at before jumping on my horse to go cross country when I have a quick flick through any fences I’m concerned about. I also love to look at cross country courses from around the world on Crosscountry App and get schooling ideas.”

There is no doubt this young lady has her feet firmly on the ground. Tara gives the impression that she is in this business for the long haul for the love of horses and to achieve her dream of competing at the top level. I have no doubt that Tara will simply get on with the job in a practical, sensible way supported by those around her. Maybe she gets that attitude from those she has worked with over the years or maybe it’s just in the genes.

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