Finalists – Horsemanship Award 2020
25 May 2020
Mandy Radecker and Wendy Smith, the finalists in this category of the SSSA, rank as two of the finest horsewomen in Australia.
They also add abundant proof to the theory that Australian racing and breeding would suffer badly if not for all of those whose talents and skills are so rarely celebrated.
Smith is the Yearling Manager at Blue Gum Farm, the Victorian stud where she has worked for the past eight years, having begun working with dressage and show horses in 1979.
She is also a veterinary nurse and in charge of post-natal care of the Blue Gum’s foals.
Smith’s nominator, Patti Campbell, describes her as possessing “unlimited determination, thorough reliability and unsurpassed knowledge and skills”.
“Wendy has a vast history of working with horses and today stands just as motivated, committed and passionate as she always has,” Campbell said.
Smith is credited with being instrumental in Blue Gums impressive yearling sale results over the past six years, a period in which the farm has always been among the top three vendors at the Inglis Premier Sale, finishing on top of the table three times.
“These results don’t occur without great effort, commitment and personal sacrifice, and Wendy delivers all of that,” Campbell said.
Smith, who also gives her to time to local Riding for the Disabled groups, puts her relationship with her horses down to admiration and love.
“You do the work for the love of the horses,” she said.
While she attributes the horses themselves for teaching her most of what she knows, Smith also accepts that she has one vital quality.
“I’m not in a bad mood very often. I think they like that.”
Mandy Radecker’s main role is head trackwork rider for Brisbane trainer Michael Lakey. But there is far more to the former champion apprentice jockey.
Radecker began her life in racing as a trainee stablehand with Gypmie trainer Kaye Hill while she was in Year 12.
Having taken to the game with considerable passion, she began an apprenticeship to prominent Brisbane trainer Pat Duff in 2004, only to have her soaring career jeopardised when she suffered shocking injuries in a race fall in April of that year.
With a broken neck, broken pelvis and fractured hip, her racing future looked to be in the balance, but Radecker was back in the saddle before the end of the season and was duly crowned Queensland’s leading provincial apprentice.
She also finished second in that season’s Brisbane metropolitan apprentices’ championship, a title she won the following year when she was named the Ken Russell Queensland Apprentice of the Year.
Radecker retired from race riding in 2012, landing a winner at her last ride, and has since carved out a new life as a track work rider who specialises in turning problem horses around.
“As a kid, the only horses we had at home to ride were the ones other people were having trouble with, so I suppose I got a feel for them,” she said.
“My approach now is that jockeys have a lot of split-second decisions to make so it’s going to be a lot better for them if their horses aren’t likely to be unpredictable.
“I know what it’s like, so I want to make their job easier.”
While she is already a celebrated horsewoman, Radecker said that becoming an SSSA finalist was a tremendous thrill.
“I was shocked and speechless when I was told I was in the last five. To now be one of the final two is such an honour,” she said.
As well as her work on the training track, Radecker has served as President of the Bramble Bay Pony Club, is a horse breaker and, according to her boss, “the best horsewoman I’ve ever seen”.