The future field for Olympic dreams

published by Alison Duthie, editor of The Eventer
and author of 'An Eventful Life'

There aren’t many people crazy enough to dedicate their life to the betterment of the horse industry but owner of the ESB program, Vanessa Hawkins admits to being just that. “ESB is an acronym for Equine Sports Breeding but most people think it stands for Eccentric Silly Bitch”. Her mission to make a difference has become a legacy in many ways and Vanessa shares her story with candidness.

Born in Cyprus and raised in the UK on the back of a pony. Vanessa’s family emigrated to Australia in 1968, she continued to ride, won at Pony Club State Championship level and rode as part of an unofficial team for Australia in Hamburg, Germany in 1984.

After the Hamburg competition and an official tour of breeding and training centres, including the Hannoveraner Verband in Verden, the National Riding School in Warendorf and Le Cadre Noir in Samur, France, Vanessa returned to Australia with a vision. A vision to build an equestrian facility with a difference and to breed event horses for her to compete on at international level.

She had been “frustrated with the lack of quality event horses in Australia at that time. I found that ex-racehorses were not ideal as they were ‘ex’ for a reason and usually suffering the mental and physical effects of racing. They continually broke my heart and I was spending way too much time and money trying to fix their problems. The question I needed answers for, was - how do I breed a top eventer?”

Vanessa made a monumental decision to leave the security of her career as a Registered Nurse to study Horse Breeding Management for two years full time at the then VCAH Glenormiston College, totally against the wishes of her parents. “Mum and Dad were horrified and exclaimed that there was no future in the horse industry and that it was just going to be two years of nursing income down the drain! I wanted to prove them wrong, so I studied hard, which was never my strong point, and I ended up Dux of the course as well as winning two awards and a scholarship to study horses overseas. There were a few tears shed at the graduation ceremony.”

“I researched the genetics of traits which make good eventers. I discovered that jumping technique or the bascule of a horse over a jump, was the most heritable trait. It is 75% genetically determined whereas conformation is 38%, movement and temperament 35%. I also discovered statistics produced by the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horses (WBFSH) from a study comparing Grand Prix show jumping wins to the herd numbers of different breeds in 1988 and the Irish horses were beating all others 3:1. This is further evidenced by them winning the 2017 World Eventing Studbook rankings for the 22 time in 24 years. If riders are truly serious about their competitive goals in eventing and not just fashion or fads, then what more proof do they need!?!”

The scholarship funds took Vanessa in pursuit of more information on the Irish horses, buying a mini she named ‘Daisy’ and travelling over 10,000 miles around England and Ireland. “It was an amazing trip and I learnt so much from listening to the tales and theories of old Irish horsemen into the wee hours of the night. They kept saying ‘you’ve got to put the quality on top, you know’ emphasising the importance of breeding from the Irish mare rather than the stallion in the first cross. After researching this theory, it certainly appears that you keep more bone, jump and temperament that way.”

Along her travels, Vanessa also discovered that previous stud records of the Irish Draught breed had been destroyed and so she set about collecting nearly a full set which dated back to 1918 and leaving four copies of them with Fintan Flannelly, the chairman of the IDHS in Ireland and bringing one copy home.

She returned to Australia with 99.7kgs of luggage including stud books, articles and photographs about the breed which she then shared with the original enthusiasts and breeders of Irish horses in Australia and set about forming the first breed society for them.

Around the same time, M Kelly from Barwidgee had imported an Irish Draught mare. M was not well and decided to sell the mare and her first filly to Vanessa, who put both the mares in foal to McCartney and so began ESB.

“I was excited by the progeny but I started to realise how expensive this game was. I had to work to subsidise the breeding program and decided that I couldn’t do justice to the horses by trying to compete and breed them at the same time. So, I started trying to find some serious competition riders who needed top quality horses.”

“I soon discovered that riders couldn’t afford to pay me what these horses actually cost me” and so with her dream to see her good horses reach the highest level she implemented a ‘Pay as they Grow payment plan’ whereby riders would be matched to suitable horses, and pay them off over an agreed period of time. The horses would stay with me and be put through my training program and I would encourage the riders to visit me to learn and be part of this, so that there would be some continuity in their training. I became attached to some of the riders and wanted to support them more. They needed owners and sponsors but they didn’t have the skills or time to source them, let alone service them on their own. I also knew how important it was that this was properly and professionally managed.”

These thoughts initiated a pioneering concept, Vanessa called Team ESB. Riders were ‘given’ purpose bred ESB horses with Vanessa retaining a share. Vanessa developed manuals to help riders understand the importance and processes of good communication. She taught riders how to setup a blog, ran workshops for them on goal setting, strategic planning and media training. She even employed a professional to conduct video interviews with the riders, created a website and a Facebook group to link everyone together. To extend the concept further, Vanessa funded the flight of four horses to the UK to broaden the connections for riders, to add value for future Owners and increase exposure for the horses and the Sponsors. “There were a few glitches in all of this which might be best left to be told in my book but for now let’s just say that the concept may have been a bit before its time and has been put on hold for now.”

Vanessa has continued to breed the ESB horses which have achieved 4* status with a number of horses, including ESB Irish Endeavour, ESB Irish Eclipse, ESB Irish Quest, ESB Irish Doctrine (USA) and ESB Irish Fiddle (China) but who now competes in the UK. The list of her homebred horses who have been successful at 3*, 2* and 1* seems almost limitless and there are currently over 78 horses registered with Equestrian Australia.

Having just relocated the entire stud to the Euroa Horse Park, Vanessa is excited about the potential for her new property and her energy, focus and priorities have had to change slightly. She wants the ESB story to continue and that it is time to ensure its future. So now, after more than thirty years of selective breeding and creating a legacy of producing elite level eventing horses that are now internationally acclaimed, Vanessa is creating a succession plan by inviting interested parties to purchase the business in part or as a whole.

“I chose not to have two legged children of my own, so that I could pursue my dream but now I need someone to leave it all to” Vanessa shared. This presents an unprecedented opportunity for someone to benefit from an established and highly respected name; years of practical experience; purpose bred youngsters with world class potential and the rights to the genetics of Olympic champions such as the brothers of Megan Jones’s Irish Jester!

For more information, just visit www.esbhorses.com and keep an eye out for the next chapters of this remarkable story!


Strathbogie’s newest equine facility, the Euroa Horse Park is celebrating its 1st birthday on Easter Saturday (April 15th) with a sausage sizzle, farm tours and a performance horse sale.
The event is to showcase the completion of Stage One of this exciting new facility. With a little over twelve months of work and planning by owner Vanessa Hawkins, the property has been transposed from a four-paddock sheep farm into the beginnings of a major equestrian centre.
The 262 acre Euroa Horse Park is located off a sealed road just a few kilometres from the quaint township of Euroa, with easy access to the Hume Freeway. The picturesque property is ideally situated for its new role with gently undulating hills on sandy loam soils, overlooking the magnificent Strathbogie ranges.
The planning has been done on the run whilst Vanessa drove thousands of kilometres relocating her ESB stud with seventy horses from her property near Bendigo. The work has involved countless hours of ramming and painting over a thousand fence posts; installing over 9kms kilometres of Horserail fencing; hanging over 120 gates; contracting hundreds of hours of earthmoving; shifting 1500 tonne of gravel and sand; installing 29 water troughs and relocating five buildings just as a start.
As one of Australia’s leading producers of high performance eventing horses, Vanessa Hawkins, decided to relocate her Equine Sports Breeding (ESB) business from near Bendigo to its new home in Euroa in pursuit of greener pastures and a better location.
The ESB stud has produced more top level (four star) eventing horses than any other stud in Australia.  ESB progeny have competed at major international events in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, USA and the United Kingdom as well as winning a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 with Megan Jones’s Irish Jester. A select number of these talented youngsters are for sale and will be shown on Easter Saturday.
With an extensive background in the horse industry, Euroa Horse Park is the realisation of Ms Hawkins’ long term vision to showcase The Horse and help people understand the significance of the industry and its role in our society. Her aim is to bring together her Olympic breeding program with first class education and training facilities in the one location to support and encourage the next generation of horse lovers and riders.
“I want to create a unique place where people can come together to learn more about The Horse and the plethora of opportunities within the horse Industry. I searched for eighteen months up and down the eastern parts of Australia for the best location and property before finding this beautiful place. I was attracted by the beauty of the countryside but further research made me realise how well suited the conditions are for horses and why the area is known as the ‘Horse Capital of Victoria’.
From my very first inquiries I found the local people and the Strathbogie Shire council incredibly welcoming and I knew that I wanted to be part of this outstanding and professional equine community” said Vanessa.
“The April 15th event is not an official opening, that will be after Stage 2 is complete but more of a notice to let people know that we are open for business.”
Stage 1 of the Euroa Horse Park development incorporates the Euroa Agistment Centre, combining first class agistment facilities for any type of horse with training areas for dressage, show jumping and eventing including a water jump, and caters for all levels of riders. Short and long term agistment is available for people in the area or just travelling through. The property will host regular clinics and will also be available for private and group hire. The ESB program will provide breeding services and stand two stallions at stud next season.
Stage 2 will see a large stable block constructed with an undercover riding area and a cross country course as well as educational facilities and programs with live streaming to national and international coaches.
Stage 3 will include more arenas, equestrian competitions and an indoor arena with a saddlery, museum and café.
The Euroa Horse Park has already attracted one of Australia’s rising stars on the eventing scene, Miss Sophia Landy, who has relocated her own rider and horse training business to the property. Sophia who placed at Adelaide International 3DE didn’t take long to establish her presence and won the Strathbogie Show Jumping Championship within weeks of being in the area.
“I’m very excited about being in such a fantastic horse area and being part of Vanessa’s vision. We’d like to take this opportunity to invite people to visit us on April 15th and find out more about what we offer” say’s Sophia.
“Our 1st Birthday celebration will give people a chance to see the early development of the farm, view the ESB horses for sale and register their interest in our future clinics and activities.
Euroa Horse Park’s Easter event is open to all visitors with an interest in The Horse. Lunch will be available and we’ll give some farm tours, talks and demonstrations about some of the ESB horses available for sale.”
Euroa Horse Park (EHP) 1st Birthday will be held on Saturday, April 15th 2017 from 10am to 3pm
An official open day will be planned in the future.



Vanessa hunted in the UK and showing and competing in horse trials when she came to Australia. She founded the Equine Sports Breeding (ESB) program because she was frustrated at not being able to find a good horse for herself.

Vanessa has travelled extensively and has also achieved in the other facets of her life.
She was the founding President of the IDSHS; a Director of the Australian Horse Industry Council; published the A-Z Horse Industry Directory and was the first Event Director of EQUITANA Asia Pacific in 1989.

She is a rider ...
starting riding in the UK at an early age and then joined Eltham PC when arriving in Australia.

Vanessa competed for many years at the Royal Melbourne Show

on Miss Melody who was owned by David Dobson's family

She competed successfully on Top Cat at many events

Won a silver medal at the Masters Games on Jiminy Cricket

Competed at the PC State Championships

Bred and broke in her homebred stallion, ESB Irish Descent who has been the main sire of the ESB program

taking him out at Tooradin Horse Trials

and she still competes.

Photo taken by India Ambler at Tooradin Horse Trials 2014
She launched the Team ESB concept to help riders achieve their goals.
CLICK on the image to read the Horse and Hound article.
She continues to find ways of developing the sport of eventing and trying to help riders achieve their goals.

Vanessa became a ...

 Registered Nurse

Was Dux of the Horse Breeding Management (ADHM) course at Glenormiston Ag College 1987 and won several other awards and a scholarship to study the Irish Draught in the UK and Ireland in 1988, writing the first book on the breed...

She designed and built the XCC at Glenormiston Ag College which was opened by the late Bill Roycroft

She spent two whole years helping to develop the first event in 1999

and she smashed the Bartercard World Record in sales twice and was ranked Number 1 in the world

She is known to love a party, snow skiing and surfing ...
and she established a property called 'Gold Fields'
 which hosted events, including the PCAV Midland Zone
to host the 2009 PC State Championships and the RDA State Championship.

Visit this website for more ...
or phone: 0417 363 710