Love of horse riding led to official success
Few people can say they’ve met Prince Philip, let alone driven him around in a buggy.
But Geraldton resident Penny Dodd had the unexpected honour of chauffeuring the Duke of Edinburgh while working as an equestrian volunteer at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“I got called to the stables with a buggy ... and I had no idea why I was going there,” she said.
“In jumped Prince Philip and off we went around the cross-country course.”
Meeting Prince Philip may be a career highlight, but it’s by no means Dodd’s greatest achievement. The equestrian judge and steward won the 2018 TheGeraldton Guardian Mid West Sports Award for Official of the Year.
With three International Federation for Equestrian Sports accreditations up her sleeve, Dodd has worked as a steward in Jakarta, Adelaide, Perth and Geraldton.
Dodd’s dedication to the sport has also taken her to the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, in 2014, where she was a volunteer.
For Dodd, the Mid West Sports Award was the best birthday present, with the award ceremony landing on her 60th birthday.
However, she was unable to attend the ceremony as she was in Adelaide for the FEI Australian International Classic.
“I was nearly in bed when I got a message on my phone that said, ‘You’ve won!’ ” she said.
“I was excited and honoured.”
Dodd has long been “addicted” to horses and riding; when she was nine her family moved to Australia and within six months Dodd had her own pony.
But two lots of back surgery put a halt to her dreams of riding horses.
Unable to ride — and too worried to risk further injuries — Dodd turned to officiating as a way of staying involved in the sport.
“It allowed me to put back into the sport some of the things I got out of it,” she said.
“It’s another circle of friends and it’s starting to give me the opportunity to travel.
“Sometimes I’d love to go for a ride but I really can’t take the risk, and I enjoy what I do.”
Dodd has been a judge since the mid-1990s and has had international accreditations since 2005.
Although stewards are often referred to as “police of the game”, Dodd said their role was crucial to the sport.
“The stewards’ motto is to help, prevent and then intervene,” she said.
“We’re there for the welfare of the horse and to make sure everyone has an even playing field.
“We get (people) who say (equestrian) is cruel, but the horses who compete are so well looked after — they’re better off than any horse left in a paddock.
“And the people that compete love their horses, they’re not cruel.”
After working as a steward at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Dodd hopes it’ll open more doors for her, with her heart set on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
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