Elise Cameron is proof that dreams can be achieved through hard work and a steady passion.
Elise is a mother, a hard-working employee, and a talented equestrian. In-between working at the Maclean Produce and raising her young daughters and son, she’s grooming and caring for her horses in preparation for horse shows.
This year, Elise qualified for the Grand National Championships, run by the Show Horse Council Australasia, set to be held in 2022. It’s a highly prestigious competition, open to the best of the best. For a self-made woman, working part-time to support her passion while caring for her family, it’s a massive breakthrough.
‘They fly over English judges, which is why it’s so prestigious,’ Elise explains.
‘They judge our horses on conformation (the overall blending of body parts), manners and paces, and our connection together as a partnership.’
Later, judges inspect the animal’s movements and even ride the horses themselves before choosing a winner.
‘It’s everyone’s feather in their cap to qualify each year,’ Elise says.
It was a brilliant success at a qualifying competition which Elise herself was uncertain she’d be able to complete.
‘A couple of weeks just before the qualifying show I got kicked really badly in the elbow and got a bone chip on the head of my humerus.’
The injury threatened to pull her out of the qualifiers, but Elise persisted through.
‘I wanted to compete – so you just do it.’
Preparing a horse for such an event is no easy task.
‘There’s a lot involved, a lot of time and money. I don’t have the team back at the stables preparing the horses and taking them to competitions, it’s all me.’
‘But when you’re so passionate about it and it’s your dream to ride there every year, you do it.’
It’s a commitment without rest for Elise, who doesn’t have the support system that many bigger, financially backed players have behind them. An average morning starts at 5:30am before the kids have woken up for school.
‘I do all the boxes on my own, feed the horses on my own, put them out to paddock, strip their rugs, and then I race up and get the kids ready for school.’
She’s had to start almost from scratch, breaking in her own horses and nurturing them until a connection is formed.
‘I got the pony that I qualified on straight from the breeders, barely broken in, and I’ve school it, educated it, fed it and conditioned it, and this was its first big competition and I’ve qualified. For me that’s more of an emotional journey.’
Any horse-owner will tell you about the special connection between animal and owner.
‘When you’re riding a horse it’s a partnership and it’s trust. It takes a while, it can be six or twelve months before you’ve got that connection with the horse.’
It’s not uncommon for talented equestrians such as Elise to receive offers from prospective buyers, and the financial reality of individual horse-owners can mean parting with dearly loved animals.
Elise plans on taking a new warm-blood, Lacey, to the Grand Nationals next year. It’ll be the start of a special partnership that could last for years to come, and Elise isn’t letting Lacey go anywhere.
‘It’s really special what we do with the horses. Already she’s just mine and she’s just connected straight away with me.’
Supported by local business
In the world of horse shows, Elise is undoubtedly self-made. It’s an expensive and highly prestigious competition, with the advantage firmly on the side of those with the vast financial means and history to back them.
It’s why Elise is fortunate enough to have the support of her employer, Maclean Produce, who sponsor her and supply horse feed for her ponies.
‘Every bit helps and for me it goes back into the horse feed,’ Elise says. ‘I definitely appreciate Deb and Gav and what they do for me.’
‘Elise is a very talented girl,’ owner Deb Keeley says. ‘She’s very good at what she does, she’s got a beautiful personality – she’s a very busy young woman.’
‘It’s to try to help them get to these shows,’ explains Gavin Foster, who owns the business with partner Deb. ‘It costs them a lot of money to keep up these horses.’
The business also sponsors a regular customer, Nathan Harvey, a Special and Paralympic Show Jumper and Dressage rider.
In 2019, Nathan attended the Special Olympics in Abu Dabhi, taking out two gold medals in dressage and a bronze medal in show jumping.
Nathan is an example for all for where perseverance and passion can take someone, regardless of external challenges.
Elise regularly serves Nathan at the Produce.
‘Nathan’s family support him, and I have a younger family who I support with what I do, so it’s two totally different situations but hopefully people look up to both of us,’ Elise says.
‘Someone with a disability, it’s doable, it’s possible, you can still do anything that you want to. And you’ve got to put your heart and soul into it and have very supporting people around. And for myself, you’ve just got to work hard pretty much.’
A lifelong passion
Elise’s success has been a lifetime in the making. Like many passionate equestrians, she first became interested in horses at a young age.
‘I think I just had a love for it. My parents didn’t ride, so it definitely wasn’t inherited or anything. I just loved horses and I was lucky enough for my parents to pursue it not knowing how expensive it was going to be or how good I was going to be at it.’
Since coming across horse shows at the annual Mackay Show at the age of 13, Elise hasn’t looked back.
‘I wouldn’t swap it for the world, there’s nothing else I would do.’
Her passion hasn’t waned, but nowadays Elise also has a young family to raise. She hopes her hard work and passion for horses will rub off on her young ones.
‘I work really hard and hopefully they can remember their childhood years and follow my footsteps and have passion like I do.’
For now, it’s one day at a time for Elise, who isn’t ready to give up yet.
‘It’s live and breath horses – that’s what it comes down to. Some people do it and love competing and winning, but for me it’s so much more than that.’