Horses for courses
Australian Army Veteran Robbie Bishop is riding through life with an Australian stock horse called Jacka.
Bishop lives with PTSD and her equine companion has been a lifeline.
“It’s not just the riding, it’s the connection you have with your horse… it’s calming and head clearing,” Bishop said.
After a 20-year career with the Australian Army, which included operational service to East Timor, Bishop transitioned to civilian life in 2003. She continued working and in 2017 was granted a TPI pension through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
That same year Bishop moved to a 30-acre hobby farm where she was introduced to Kudalari True Clarity – a now five-year old Australian Stock Horse palomino gelding. Bishop named him Jacka after Albert Jacka VC, the first Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross during World War 1.
Bishop and Jacka compete in the rodeo discipline of barrel racing – an event in which horse and rider must cleanly navigate three barrels set up in a cloverleaf pattern, in a race against the clock.
Living in rural Queensland, the sport was a natural choice for Bishop.
“Barrel racing is a big part of the horse community,” she said.
“I had been watching online barrel racing and well that’s an event I wanted to have a crack at and learn.
“My instructor is a very accomplished barrel racer plus an amazing all-round horsewoman.”
The new combination is taking a slow and steady approach, but Bishop has already noticed a change for good.
“It’s not for buckle or ribbons, the prize for me is to channel the self-doubt, anxiety, the urge to run and hide in my bubble… turn it into confidence, excitement and teamwork with my gorgeous boy,” she said.
“It has been a struggle, as all the doubt, fear and physical sickness caused by my PTSD has been the stumbling block, but I’ve made myself push through.
“Jacka and I are coming together as a team as I start to trust him, and he trust me. We are learning together,” she said.
Motivated by a desire to inspire other veterans, Bishop reached out to Veteran Sport Australia (VSA) for support.
“The support has been amazing, way above and beyond what I had expected,” she said.
“VSA paid for my membership to the Queensland Barrel Racing Association and National Barrel Horse Association, saddle pads and rugs for Jacka and embroidered shirts and a new pair of riding boots for me.”
At their first event, Bishop and Jacka completed the pattern within 60 seconds – a goal achieved. She now wants to improve with every outing and show other veterans they are not alone.
“I hope to inspire other veterans with mental and physical (illness) that life can be good. It is possible to get out there and do what you are passionate about. Find what you love and go for it,” she said.
“If you need help to get started, I totally recommend contacting VSA. I did and they supported me 100 percent.
“This sport is so much fun, the (experienced) riders are supportive to newcomers and my confidence is growing. It really puts a smile on my face,” she said.
No matter what your passion, VSA is ready to support you.