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Profile On: Debbie Higgs, An Eventful Life

Have you always been interested in horses and when did you start out in the industry? What is it exactly that you do?
I grew up in England and rode when I was young but gave it up when I went to University in London (where I studied French and Drama). Years later when I moved to Australia I ended up in Canberra for a couple of years and took up riding again – been hooked ever since!

Although I have a literary based degree I ended up in the IT industry in sales and marketing roles for many years. My husband has a Publishing Services company called Palmer Higgs and in 2010 I decided to publish a book called An Eventful Life – Life Stories of Eventing Champions primarily about five of Australia’s Olympic medallists in eventing.

An Eventful Life, Debbie Higgs

The book led to a website of the same name which was launched in March 2012 to cover eventing competitions in Australia and overseas as well as general horse related topics.

I run the website, write many of the articles and manage the business side of it.  Basically I think of the website as being exactly like publishing a magazine except it is online rather than in print.

How much of your day/week is related to horses?
All of it! Starting with feeding my own horses in the morning then it is usually into my office at home to put up the first article of the day on the website. I spend most of my day:

  • writing articles related to horses
  • interviewing riders
  • organising coverage of horse events

In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
Journalism is a notoriously tough job and I’m fairly sure that if I was working as a freelance equestrian journalist it would be a struggle to make ends meet, especially in Australia. If I were based in Europe it would probably be easier to make a liveable income but event coverage is very hard work – long days and tight deadlines.

The website is part of our overall publishing services business and I hope will be profitable this financial year. Initially it requires the investment of considerable resources, including financial, to get a website like ours up and going so it is not something many people could do.

What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
I do employ one person part time and she has many years experience in writing about eventing, as well as a background as an eventer and top class groom. For other contributors generally I look for people who have good, all round knowledge of the subject of eventing, excellent industry contacts and can show high quality examples of their work (whether published or not).

Some people have degrees in journalism or photography which is great but they also need to have a real love of the sport and a lot of energy! As we are web based they also need to have, or be able to quickly learn, the basics of publishing online content.

Favourite horse memory?
At the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain I was lucky enough to have an owner’s pass which enabled me to go pretty much wherever I pleased at the event. I spent hours just watching the best riders and horses in the world “close up and personal” as well as watching the competitions. I think that is when the idea of the covering events ‘behind the scenes’ the way we do on An Eventful Life first came to me. There are so many great stories. I’ve been to many big events since but that was the first one and it made a big impression on me.

Future goals?
I think that An Eventful Life is becoming a well respected source of information about eventing in Australia and overseas and I’m looking forward to developing that and making it a viable business.

Best thing about your sport/profession?
Meeting amazing people and their horses. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing most of Australia’s top eventers as well as international stars such as Mary King, William Fox-Pitt, Bettina Hoy, Michael Jung and Lucinda Green and I think it’s a real privilege to be able to spend time with them.

“Correction does much for the horse, but encouragement does more.” – Author Unknown

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