By Diana Dobson

Cathy and Murray Houlbrooke have earnt a little time on the sideline.

The couple have spent 20-plus years helping run and organise horse events, and were key to the Kihikihi International Horse Trials getting off the ground.

It’s been a family effort, with son Bevan involved and daughter Lisa the eventer – missing was elder son David who completely opted out of horses. In 2011, Cathy and Murray decided it was time to step back a little.

“In the early days we were both involved with the Waikato Horse Trials Group,” says Cathy, a former radiographer. “When The Crossing closed Robyn North, Murray and I walked around the Kihikihi Domain with Heather Nicholson (John’s mother).”

Heather had always believed that a great course could be built at the domain . . . and after much persuasion and lots of hard work, history tells us she was right.

“It was a very tough call to replace The Crossing,” remembers Cathy, “and we didn’t have much time, but with a donation from Libby Sellars to build Amy’s Wall and a whole lot of door knocking we raised enough to get a Lotto grant and were under way. In the early days (of Kihikihi) it wasn’t the event it is now, but there were always big hopes that it could be.”

When John Nicholson got involved there was a major revamp of the site, including flattening hills, pulling out big tree stumps and more.

Over the years, the event has won awards – a real tip of the hat to those behind the scenes. Cathy is particularly proud of the event being crowned the 2005 supreme winner of the Trust Power New Zealand Community Award.

Bevan was also administrator of the year at the Waipa District Sports Awards in 2007. They are just two in a very long list of awards the event has won.

“There is plenty of passion and pride in doing something well,” says Cathy.

The Kihikihi community had a big part to play in the event too – many who were not even remotely horsey, were proud volunteers each year.

“The real soul of this event comes from the fact that all those who are involved have such pride in it. It’s success is that kindred spirits came together to make this happen.”

A switch to a more professional era means events need more people to run the same number of horses, but Cathy is confident Kihikihi will continue to be popular with riders and spectators alike.

“This is too good an event to not keep rising to the top – the personnel, the cross country course and just everything about it . . . you don’t let something like that drop backwards.”

Cathy and Murray have ‘retired’ to Hamilton with native bush and a river view at their new home, they are very happy with their move to the city. And you can guarantee, you’ll see them sideline at the 2014 BNZ Kihikihi International Horse Trials.

Photo: Cathy, Bevan, Murray & Lisa Houlbrooke.
By Take The Moment Photography

Date Added: Tuesday, 11th March 2014