Heath and Rozzie Ryan are a force to be reckoned with! Not only have they both represented Australia at the highest level of their sport multiple times, but together they run one of Australia’s premier Equestrian facilities; breeding and training horses for both the Australian and International market.
Heath and Rozzie are also known for their dedication to young riders, offer a vast working pupil program and have played a major role in training countless riders to the elite level in Dressage and Eventing.
There’s no doubt that securing a position at Ryans Equestrian Centre is the training opportunity of a lifetime, but just what is it like working for two high achieving celebrities of the Equestrian world?
Bree Tillitzki and Caitie Herbert have been working at Ryans for 12 years and 18 months respectively. Bree is Heath and Rozzie’s Chief Dressage Groom while Caitie runs the office while schooling the Eventing horses. We got the inside word from them on what a day in the life is like, working for ‘The Real Ryans’.
- How did you come to work for the Ryans?
Bree: I live not far from Newcastle Equestrian Centre and have worked here since I was 12 years old. It started as a part time job after school and I also started getting dressage lessons from Rozzie so it’s just evolved from there.
Caitie: I’m from Mandurah near Perth and have evented for many years. I was working in the mining industry using my degree in Chemical Engineering, but to progress in that career I would have had to live a ‘fly in fly out existence’ which meant no eventing. I applied to Ryans instead and was lucky enough to be accepted, so now I ride designated Eventers including my own 2* horses as well as working in the office which happened after Heath found out I had some computer skills and talked me into taking on that role as well.
- What is a normal day like at Ryans?
Bree: There’s no such thing as normal, the thought of that actually makes me laugh! Every day is different but with the same focus and intensity. We have horses coming and going, although while things are changing all the time, we’re still trained to follow a strict routine with everything we do. Whether it be mucking out stables, packing the truck for shows, stud season, foaling, the list goes on. I also ride designated dressage horses each day including my own under Heath and Rozzie’s instruction.
Caitie: I start at 7.30am each day mucking out stables, followed by riding and then office work. I often get to ride again after lunch, and Rozzie checks on me all the time to make sure I’m getting enough riding in and aren’t stuck in the office all day.
- What is the atmosphere like at Ryans?
Bree: Busy! And if it wasn’t we’d think there was something wrong. There are seven of us working at the moment plus a work experience student, and we all live here. The number of horses in work varies but the stables are always full and the traffic inside the indoor arena is great for getting the young horses used to a busy environment.
Caitie: Oh boy, it’s full on but addictive as well.
- What is the work/life balance at Ryans?
Bree: Expectation is very high but to be honest it’s impossible to separate work and life here because we’re all doing what we love. It’s not for everyone and some people don’t last but we do get a day off each week and I try to leave the farm to visit my family or friends.
Caitie: I knew it would be hard work and I agree with Bree, the expectation is very high but that’s why I came here and we all work hard, Heath and Rozzie most of all.
- What are Heath and Rozzie like to work for?
Bree: They’re quite similar, very professional and generous. Heath is lots of fun and we often have jump nights in the indoor arena which can run until midnight.
Caitie: Heath is very intense and never stops. Rozzie is much more placid but some days I think she would probably like a dose of the BetaCALM Paste we use for some of the horses in order to cope with Heath!
- What’s the best thing about working at Ryans?
Bree: Without a doubt it’s the amount I’ve learnt and experienced. Heath and Rozzie are the best ‘work parents’, they give us so much of their time and are committed to seeing us improve as riders.
Caitie: I think the camaraderie, it’s really special and it’s a reflection of how Heath and Rozzie operate. We all help each other out and occasionally someone will have a bad day but good ones always follow and no one ever holds a grudge.
- Is there a worst?
Bree: Um, I would say when Rozzie isn’t around and Heath cooks, he’s really bad!
Caitie: We live in a dorm situation which is fine but I hate not having control of the lights. Also, I agree with Bree, Heath’s cooking is awful, once he put fruit chutney in the Bolognaise sauce! When Rozzie is away I’ve started banning Heath from the kitchen and cooking myself. He’s also a serial channel flicker so we all have to have Netflix on our computers.
- Training is obviously paramount at Ryans but what level of importance is placed on the health and nutrition of the horses?
Bree: Really important! Only healthy horses can perform at their best, if we have one that’s not, it slows down the training and our competition schedules.
Caitie: I agree, without our horses being healthy, fit and happy we can’t compete at the higher levels.
- This year Ryans Horses became involved with Kelato Animal Health, what products are you using on the horses at Ryans and who decides what each one could benefit from?
Bree: We’re mostly using supplements for stomach digestion, joint health, nerves and stress and also muscle development.
Caitie: Definitely GastroAID and NutriFLEX are used a lot. Rozzie is the one that makes the call on what products she thinks are required for the horses.
- Now that you’ve used many of the products, do you have a favourite?
Bree: The AminoGLOSS shampoo is amazing, but I find all of the products useful.
Caitie: I love the SwellDOWN for my own horses, it helps reduce any swelling after cross country and at home if they’ve knocked themselves in the paddock.
- What has working for the Ryans taught you about them and the success they’ve had?
Bree: Easy, they deserve every success. They are so focussed and everything revolves around the next WEG, Olympics or World Cup, it’s impossible to work here and not be inspired. The job is hard but it’s a way of life and I’m so lucky to be here, I’d be happy to stay forever.
Caitie: I think a big part of the reason they are so successful is because they’re genuinely hard working, well respected, generous people. Their Olympic dream is the focus and it’s infectious. I can’t think of a better, more professional, happy place to work and I’m just really grateful.