Meander Valley Gazette

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A life well lived

RuralJoanne EisemannComment
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MAY 2018 | Lorraine Clarke

ONE OF Meander Valley’s most loved and respected characters is veterinarian Dr Pat Hodgetts. She was raised in Kimberley, where she ran free on her parents’ dairy farm during the 1950s.

She and her two sisters were presented with a Shetland pony Bubbles, intended to be their conveyance to Kimberley Primary School, which did not quite work out. Pat always loved riding, and if there was no horse available, used to ride a favourite cow bareback to the local shop.

While other 8-year-old girls were tucked up in cosy beds dreaming of fairies, young Patricia Lucas was already making a determined start on her intended career.

“I used to climb out the window at night with my kerosene lantern and a piece of baling twine in my pocket. I would go around the field, harassing cows in labour. I was going to ‘assist’ them whether they needed assisting or not. Many years later, my dad told me I was a trouncer of a kid. He never got any sleep at calving time, because he was always out there watching over me.”

The 3 girls moved on to Devonport High School, boarding in town with a family of 10 kids. Pat excelled both scholastically and at sport. She gained a scholarship to Sydney University to study Veterinary Science.

“I was getting $17 per week which had to cover my board, train fares, books and living expenses. I had to save up for many weeks to buy a twin set. Every dollar counted those days,” she said.

Pat applied herself to sport and athletics in her spare time. She was awarded a University Blue for Badminton, and made a Life Member of the Sydney Women’s Sporting Association, the first Tasmanian to achieve this honour. She sang in the Sydney Uni Choir, performing Beethoven’s Song of Joy” at the opening of the Opera House.

After 5 years of concentrated study, she graduated in 1974, and came home to work for Dr Stephen King for 15 months before setting up her own veterinary practice in Deloraine. “It was hard as a woman working on my own in a large animal practice, in days when many farmers thought all vets ought to be men, but the good times made up for it,” she said. “I always had an affinity with cows, and an underlying love of horses.”

At that time there was regular racing in Deloraine, so Pat was in her element, dealing daily with dairy cows and horses.

Her brother took over the Kimberley farm, and with her parents, Pat bought the farm at Elizabeth Town where they established the Paluka Shetland Pony Stud. They had almost 90 ponies on the property at one time, selected for child-friendly traits and champion show qualities. Many an equestrian career has been launched on the back of a Thelwell-esque Paluka pony!

In 1985, Pat married local police sergeant Wayne Hodgetts. They shared a love of horses, with Wayne’s Clydesdales towering over Pat’s Shetlands. They were active in the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association, Tasmanian Driving Society, and many other groups. Sons Hugh and Lucas learned to ride on Amber and Coconut, now aged 30 and 27 years, two of the seven much-loved ponies that are still with Pat today.

Pat first became involved with Endurance riding events when this sport took off in Tasmania in the 1970s. After she sold her practice to Dr Roger Blackwell in 1985, this branch of veterinary work proved to be the perfect career move, fitting in with her growing family. They travelled to Endurance events all over the country.

In 1998, Pat was accredited with the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) as a veterinary official for International Eventing, Carriage Driving and Endurance disciplines. This provided Pat with the opportunity to work in Namibia, California, Peru, Argentina, New Zealand, and at the 2006 World Equestrian Games at Aachen as a 4 Team Vet.

But it has not all been plain sailing. In 2002, Wayne was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and passed away in 2004. Tragically, Hugh died in a car accident a few years later. Pat has undergone two spinal fusion surgeries, yet still managed to run her sheep farm at home as well as maintaining her international schedule. “While I can still walk, I’ll run,” she said. She has shown great strength in dealing with challenges and adversity.

Although she has now sold off most of her land, she remains active in her profession, and October 2018 will be Pat’s 26th consecutive year as a Team Vet at Australia’s gruelling Tom Quilty Endurance Ride, in which horses and riders cover 100 miles in one day.

Pat Hodgetts has been showered with awards and accolades by every state, national and international body with which she has been involved, but always remains the down-to-earth, warm-hearted neighbour ever ready to help others. She shares some words of wisdom to encourage young people starting out on their life career.

“Whatever I’ve been involved with, I’ve ended up becoming a Life Member. I’ve stuck to things whole-heartedly. Follow your dreams. Be committed and dedicated. The day you give up learning, is the day you jump in your grave.”

Photo | Mike Moores