Episode 23: On Warmbloods, Powerlifting & the Publishing Process with Joanne Verikios (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 23: Welcome to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast! In each episode, you’ll hear inspirational stories from horse book authors including writing advice and marketing tips to help you write your own horse book. If you are an author, aspire to be an author, or simply love horse books then you are in the right place!
In this week's episode, you'll meet Warmblood classifier, judge and author Joanne Verikios. You'll learn ...
Watch Joanne Verikios' Interview on YouTube!
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About Joanne Verikios
Joanne Verikios is an award-winning author, experienced horse breeder, accomplished equestrian competitor and trainer, Australian representative athlete, trusted health and wellness mentor and a successful property investor.
Joanne was born in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia and grew up with a passion for horses. Her earliest ambition was to be a bareback rider in a circus. Although she never did run off to join the circus, she now has over 50 years experience working with horses.
Beginning with her first pony at the age of nine, Joanne went on to compete with success in gymkhanas, eventing, dressage, hacking and breed classes, as well as starting her own and other people's horses under saddle.
Joanne established and managed the Highborn Warmblood Stud Farm, where she bred many beautiful horses including her pride and joy, the licensed Warmblood stallion, Highborn Powerlifter. The horses Joanne produced went on to win both under saddle and in breed classes, including Royal Show Championships.
Joanne has given back to the equestrian world by officiating on horse sport and breed committees and working as a judge, classifier or steward at many agricultural, Warmblood breed shows and equestrian events. She is an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Warmblood Horse Association.
A freelance journalist as well as an author, Joanne has had many articles published in a wide range of Australian equine magazines and yearbooks. She was delighted when her critically acclaimed first book, "Winning Horsemanship - A Judge's Secrets And Tips for Your Success", won an international award for sports non-fiction.
Joanne Verikios Interview Excerpt
Carly: Tell us how your love affair with horses began.
Joanne: I believe I was born loving horses, because I wanted one from the moment I knew what one was. As soon as I could speak, I started asking my parents for a horse. As soon as I learned to write, I would leave notes all over the house saying "Please buy me a horse". Whenever possible, I would gaze at, pat, feed or ride any available pony. We used to holiday on an island where there were quite a number of semi-wild horses, which I would try to befriend and ride, sometimes with very exciting results!
I finally achieved my goal of a pony of my own after I outsourced my pleading. My father was a pharmacist and his shop was adjacent to our house. So it was easy for me to leave my "Please buy me a horse" notes in the pharmacy where the customers could find them. The veterinary section was my favourite location for strategic notes - behind the liniment, for example - and it paid off in two ways. A racehorse trainer said I could ride his lead pony! Another customer said to my father, "Trevor, this is the third note I've found this month. Haven't you bought that poor kid a pony yet? Come to my place this weekend and bring your wallet!" That's how my first pony, Beauty, came into my life when I was 9 years old.
Carly: You’ve been a stud manager. Stallions have quite a reputation! What was it like being a stud manager? What were your responsibilities? Was it dangerous at times?
Joanne: These are all very good questions. Stallions are just like ordinary horses, only more so! They tend to be driven in a way that mares and geldings are not. That drive makes them wonderfully perceptive and also potentially very dangerous. Mind you, all horses, even foals, can be dangerous under certain circumstances. I did all my own stud work, usually on my own before work. My stallion, Powerlifter, outweighed me by around 1000 pounds, so it was essential that he was mindful of my requests and that we worked as a team. He was actually the first foal I bred and was an unbelievably colty colt from the very beginning, so I had to learn with him, learn from him and learn fast.
We had our own band of broodmares, but clients would also send mares to be put in foal. My responsibilities as stud manager included the care and feeding of all the horses, monitoring the mares for signs of estrus, introducing them to the stallion for "teasing" to determine their receptiveness, serving the mares at the optimum time for conception, managing the stallion's diary so he didn't have too many mares per day, working with veterinarians, delivering foals, and handling the young horses to get them off to a good start in their relationship with humans. Oh yes, and doing the paperwork and paying the bills and mucking out and…!
With regard to danger, I was careful and I was also lucky, as the work did offer plenty of opportunities to be hurt or killed. I could tell you so many stories! A few concussions and broken fingers and toes were as bad as it got, fortunately.
Carly: You are a past Federal President and Federal Registrar of the Australian Warmblood Horse Association. You continue to serve as a Classifier and Classifier Trainer, Judge and Judge Trainer and National Assessment Tour Australian representative. In recognition of your contribution and commitment to the Association for over 30 years, you were granted Honorary Life membership. Tell us about your love of Warmbloods.
Joanne: Before I had a pony of my own, my parents used to try to appease me with books about horses. One was called The Observer's Book Of Horses And Ponies, reprinted in 1963. I read it from cover to cover many times and fell in love with Hanoverians and Trakehners in particular. I decided way back then that I would own a Warmblood one day. That little book was the genesis of my goal to breed the ultimate riding horse.
Carly: What does it mean to be a Classifier and Classifier Trainer?
Joanne: A legacy from the European method of improving the Warmblood breeds is a system of grading and classifying individual mares and stallions to determine their suitability for breeding - in other words, to weigh their desirable characteristics against their faults.
When the first Warmblood stallions were imported to Australia in the 1970s, they were mated with local Thoroughbred and other mares. Stud books were established and the German classification system was also adopted here.
It is extremely gratifying to look at the quality of Warmbloods bred in Australia today. Thanks to classification of the generations of locally-bred and imported horses since those early days, the standard is world class. In order to have a fair, consistent and objective classification system, you need a way to pass on the breed standards. That is where classifier training comes in - to teach the upcoming classifiers what to look for and how to see.
Carly: You’ve worn a lot of hats in your lifetime — a horse trainer and breeder, horse judge and classifier, former powerlifting champion, retired government official, world traveller, author, speaker, property investor and holistic wellness mentor. Tell us about your career choices. I’m especially interested in hearing a little about your adventures in powerlifting!
Joanne: Apart from spending as much time as possible with horses, I have never had a lot of career ambition. However, taking opportunities as they came and going with the flow has worked out pretty well for me. When I joined the Federal Public Service, my idea was that it would provide an income until I found a real job. Thirty-two years later I decided to leave! That first job led to a series of career decisions and happy accidents that took me all round Australia and to many continents, including Antarctica.
My brief but exciting powerlifting adventures also started by accident and came about because of horses. In 1985 I owned one mare, Zyla, and she was in foal to Powerlifter's sire, an imported Danish Trakhener. It was the first foal for both of us and after Zyla was about 6 months pregnant I didn't want to ride her too much. I had a lot of energy and needed something else to do, so I started going to a gym. After a while, one of the managers said, "You're very strong; why don't you enter a powerlifting competition". "What's powerlifting?" I replied. So she showed me the lifts and told me there was to be a competition that weekend. I took part, broke all the local records in my division and narrowly missed qualifying for the National Championships.
After that I started training for powerlifting. By the time I officially retired and concentrated on riding again, between 1985 and 1988 I had set State, National and Commonwealth records, won the National Championships and represented Australia at two World Championships. I placed 7th in the world twice. My best lift in competition was a deadlift of 155kg / 340lb, which was more than triple my bodyweight of 47kg / 103lb.
Carly: Tell us about your book Winning Horsemanship. A Judge's Secrets And Tips For Your Success.
Joanne: My book is part memoir, part education and part self-help. I wrote it principally for the growing number of horse lovers who achieved their dream of horse ownership later in life than I did, and so didn't have the advantages of being able to imbibe some of the skills, techniques, feel and lore from old timers and from childhood experiences like I was lucky to do.
Traveling around the country as a judge, I would see people who were not only frustrated by their horse's behavior and their own limitations, but who were sometimes actually in danger and didn't know it. I wanted to help them by sharing my knowledge, so they don't have to learn the hard way.
Carly: Your website says, “Winning Horsemanship is fundamentally a self-help book, because through helping ourselves we are better placed to be able to relate to our horses in a kinder, calmer, holistic way. Who is the audience for this book?
Joanne: It's been so interesting seeing how people relate to the book. Very experienced horse people tell me they have got gems of wisdom out of it, and relative newcomers to the horse world have found it an invaluable training tool. What surprised me the most is that readers with no interest in horses whatsoever have enjoyed it too. I think it resonates with a wide range of people because it talks about doing things differently, more thoughtfully, with an emphasis on self-development and building a relationship with your horse that is solid enough to take you wherever you want to go together.
Carly: What is the hardest part about being an author?
Joanne: You mean apart from answering hard questions like that? For me, it was getting out of my own way and generating the self-belief that I did have something to say. Once I'd overcome that hurdle I and committed to my 12 month deadline, I was able to sit down and write until lo and behold, I had produced a book.
Carly: What is the best part about being an author?
Joanne: The best part of being an author is without doubt meeting or hearing from readers who have benefited from what you have written. I aim to inspire, educate and entertain. I also want to touch people's minds, to help them have more fun with their horse and to make sure their horses have a better deal as a result. When someone tells me I've achieved that, it's an amazing feeling.
Carly: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time before you published your book?
Joanne: One thing is that I would make sure I learned a lot more about book marketing and promotion. I had a lovely launch and some speaking opportunities and book signings, and my publishers organized a distribution contract, but I could have done more, both online and offline. I recently read an eBook by Joanna Penn called "How To Market A Book". It's packed with excellent information.
One unfortunate thing that couldn't have been foreseen was that my distributor went into receivership and was closed down. Boxes of my hard copy books, along with my Amazon and other online retail listings, went down with them. That took a while to sort out and of course I wasn't the only author affected. My publisher was instrumental in getting things back on track, but the setback made me reflect that independent publishing definitely has its advantages!
Carly: What are you curious about right now?
Joanne: I recently had the wonderful opportunity of being Art Director on a short film. It had nothing to do with horses, but that experience has made me curious about story telling, including writing for movies and television.
Connect with Joanne Verikios
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About Podcast Host & Author Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning equestrian author and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, Western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two. Her books are for people just like her — crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys!
In the Reins, the first in Carly's series of novels inspired by the equestrian lifestyle, has been an Amazon best seller for more than 10 weeks, is an EQUUS Film Festival Literary Award Winner for Best Western Fiction and has earned two Feathered Quill Book Awards in the Romance and Adult Book featuring Animals categories. The In the Reins equestrian romance series is available now in Audiobook, Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks and Kobo.
Books by Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing about horses makes her spurs jingle!