Outback bushie to Grand Prix dressage rider. High flying PA at Ford Motor Company to a promoter of cattle.
Equine herbalist, teacher, researcher and author. Do not attempt to pigeon hole Victoria Ferguson. Talented in a variety of fields, she defies a single classification. This is a multi-faceted entrepreneur who thinks outside the square; a woman who makes a major contribution to the health of horses.
They have been part of her life since she was born.
“I was raised on a sheep station near Blackall, and I was riding before I could walk,” she said from her property in Tenterfield. “I’d gallop away when I was supposed to be inside with my governess and school books. This annoyed everyone so my father decided to find a governess who could ride. We’d work in the morning and go out on the horses in the afternoon — ideal!”
This somewhat wayward five-year old grew to be a strong-willed young lady who, when not boarding at New England Girls School, went mustering, campdrafting, sporting and hacking. After leaving school, she trained and competed with show horse master Vince Corvi. She regularly competed in showjumping, eventing and in dressage which was to be the discipline she eventually embraced and excelled in.
It was Gamekeeper, a chestnut thoroughbred whose grandsire was Wilkes, who became her major dressage partner. As a young horse he was magnificent — but difficult. Victoria bought him from John Fahey who made no secret of the gelding’s idiosyncrasies. “If you find he’s too unmanageable probably the best thing for him is a bullet,” declared Fahey, who earlier this year was inducted into Equestrian Australia’s Hall of Fame.
Victoria persevered. ‘Bullet’ and she became Grand Prix champions; they competed in four major international events and were longlisted for the 1990 World Equestrian Games in Stockholm.
In the early years, Victoria was happy riding all kinds of horses in all kinds of sports from morning to night, but she had to earn a living. She showed cattle, worked as a personal assistant and publicity officer, then in the mid-70s went into business herself. Victoria Ferguson Beef Cattle Promotions specialised in advertising and publicity for cattle studs and organisations.
“My major client was Harry M Miller for the Simmental Breeders’ Association and I’d travel throughout Australasia attending shows and sales. I’ll always remember one of his promotions where we held a bull sale at the Regent Hotel at Circular Quay. They took the lift to the ballroom!”
Victoria has travelled many paths and one took her into herbal medicine. After graduating from Dorothy Hall’s school she became a fully-fledged advocate and practitioner for herbal medicine for horses. She then wrote bestsellers The Practical Horse Herbal and The Complete Horse Herbal.
Now Victoria is creating a range of products, is principal of The School of Equine Herbal Medicine, conducts clinics, consults and, of course, cares for her horses. “I shut the door and leave the work behind. I just have to spend time with the horses, no matter how busy I am — just like I did when I was five.”
Words by Suzy Jarratt | Images by Cory Rossiter