Living the dream in country New South Wales
Interview with Iky Marzato written by Annabelle Cameron
It’s not every day one comes across a champion female jockey but recently I was fortunate to interview Iky Marzato. From early triumphs on the track as a jockey, this extraordinary woman has evolved to become a successful horse trainer making a difference. Rather than rehashing Iky’s story myself, I thought I’d let you hear it straight from the horse’s mouth…
Annabelle: Iky, I understand you haven’t always lived in country NSW?
Iky: My parents immigrated from Lebanon to London in the 1970s with my four siblings when the war broke out. I was born the following year.
Annabelle: I have read of your love of horses, and that you learnt to ride at a very young age?
Iky: My grandfather had racehorses in Lebanon and my father shared his passion. We had a stud farm in Newmarket where we spent every weekend and holidays. I began riding ponies when I was five years old, and then went onto to do track work when I was 13.
Annabelle: Iky at what age were you granted a trainers license?
Iky: I began training at 22 and at the time I was the youngest person ever to be granted a trainers license in the United Kingdom.
Annabelle: What was it like working in the racing industry as a young woman?
Iky: The racing world is a tough one to be involved in at any age but for a young female it was extremely challenging to gain respect from the older generation. It was definitely a character building period in my life. It taught me resilience, strong work ethic and to always try my best.
Annabelle: What were the reasons behind your transition from track work to the training of horses?
Iky: I tried my hand as a jockey and rode a few winners but ultimately I felt I was more suited to training horses. I was lucky to have my family’s support and a dozen nice horses to begin with.
Annabelle: You are now married with four children. How did you meet your husband?
Iky: My husband Brad was assistant trainer for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation. He would spend six months of the year in Dubai and the remaining six months in the United Kingdom. Brad and I met through a mutual friend in the late 1990’s and were soon married in 2000.
Annabelle: What spurred you to move to Australia?
Iky: It was Brad’s dream to return to Australia to train horses. Three months after we married, I handed in my trainer’s licence (granted in the United Kingdom) and packed my bags.
Annabelle: During your time in Melbourne what did you and Brad do for work?
Iky: We began training in Melbourne and within a few months we had 60 horses in work. Brad was a very talented young trainer and consequently we had so many winners and lovely horses to train. I was his assistant and main track work rider; we really complemented each other.
Annabelle: What made you want to relocate from life in Melbourne to country NSW?
Iky: The racing world can put the most passionate people under severe pressure. It was extremely testing at times; long hours, working seven days a week, staff not turning up and at times the owners didn’t pay their bills. When our son was born, life changed. I had to return to riding when he was just seven weeks old. We weighed everything up and made the heartbreaking decision to step away from racing.
Annabelle: Along with farming, you also still train horses. I understand that you rescue, retrain and rehouse thoroughbred horses and brumbies. Can you please tell me more about this?
Iky: Horses are in my blood and I will never live without them. I retrained my first thoroughbred when I was 14 years old. It’s a great feeling to be able to give them another chance when they’ve finished racing. I adopted my first brumby named “Matari” five years ago and now have seven of them. I love their trusting nature and there is something very special about them. It’s hard to explain, but I just love them!
Annabelle: What are your plans for the future?
Iky: I would love to keep rescuing and finding what I call “forever homes” for as many horses as I can. The current drought is making it difficult due to a lack of natural feed in the paddocks. Along with four children and farming sheep and cattle on the property, our life is a very busy one. Some days it can be hard to find a balance, but overall we feel like we are living the dream.
Annabelle: Iky thank you for talking with me about your triumphs on and off the track. I wish well in your future endeavours.