Thoroughbred Thursday – Meet Debbie Dennison

Meet Debbie Dennien.  What a Thoroughbred Girl.  

Deb is a pioneer jockey who rode in races when they first licensed women and was lucky enough to have received great support from other women and some very competent men in the industry. 

Debbie claims she was just lucky to have had the right people around her but we all know how much strength that would have taken (as a girl) to have broken through.  

Starting relatively late, Debbie Catledine (later to be Dennien) learnt to ride at the age of 17 when her stepfather bought her a pony. 

Claiming to be “hopeless” but had so many people helping her, Deb ended up working at a riding school in Newcastle to gain experience.  

A young Deb was in awe of her instructor (an amazing classically trained, Hungarian rider) who saved horses from the dogger sales and  trained them up to compete at Prix St George.  

Deb was offered a position as stablehand/trackwork rider at Rosehill and says it was Mark De Montfort who gave her much support.  He used to get her to ride Ray Guy’s young horses with him. Deb started riding work at Rosehill when there where only two girls riding work, both for a good old trainer – Jack Brigden. 

It was clear that better the jockey, the more they were happy to encourage women. Deb ended up riding work at Ballina where her parents live and then went to Qld only because a jockey going up to help sell horses couldn’t go at the last minute. 

While there Deb was offered an apprenticeship by a country trainer.  While there, it was Iris Nielsen, one of the most beautiful souls ever who encouraged her but sadly, Iris was the first woman to die in a race fall riding against men in Australia. 

Deb’s career would go on to consist of 60 rides for 9 1/2 winners with her biggest thrill winning the Nanango Windfield Cup.  

With so much gratitude Deb says that without these guys that entered her life and encouraged the girls, she believes they would still be getting off at the gate and letting the guys do all the riding. 

As Mrs Dennien, all her four children have ridden and competed at pony club and shows.  One daughter still Events. 

Home consists of an array of amazing OTTers. All the champs live a peaceful life on the farm – like a retirement village.  

A darling old favourite Thomas (show name Edison, racing name Smoko Tom) was recently put down at the age of 31.  He may have been a very slow racehorse but certainly a versatile horse in most other areas. Three state PC teams and winning the pleasure Galloway at the Ekka. 

To add – on the side, Deb opened a small dress shop with her daughter where they started dressing girls for the races. 

It goes to prove, you just never get racing or thoroughbreds out of your blood.

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