The Robinsons know the horse industry through and through. Ally and Julie have been involved in the gallops one way or another since they met as teenagers, so it seems very fitting they’ve settled into a Kevin Hickman village townhouse right next to Riccarton Racecourse.
The couple returned to the South Island about four years ago after a long stint in Hamilton. A bit of ill health and having children living in Canterbury prompted a move to Christchurch and in June they moved into one of the village’s 18 new townhouses.
They are big fans of the initial set of townhouses, built in a stately row.
Ally loves that they can drive the car into the garage from Steadman Rd, and Julie says while she was initially doubtful about a move into a retirement village a chat with their lawyer proved helpful. He said move in while you’re “fit and well” to allow time to enjoy the setting. The advice has proved to be on the mark.
Both Ally and Julie have been settling into their stylish new home since the move-in day of June 2. They’ve spent time downsizing their furnishings and choosing the best sofas to fit into a new layout of a three-bedroom home.
They like the location as it gives them easy access to some of their immediate family. “We’ve got a son out at Cust, he’s got a farm there, and our daughter is in Rolleston.” The couple have four children, Donna, Brent, Jodi and Gary, two living overseas.
They like that as residents, of a relatively new Ryman village, they get to enjoy the social side of village living. They’re getting to know their neighbours through such events as the weekly Happy Hour drinks.
They’ve also been pleasantly surprised that, during Lockdown Level 3 & 4, Ryman has delivered regular grocery packages of milk, bread and bikkies. On Father’s Day, Ally got a package including some beer. “We don’t expect this. It’s a nice thought,” Julie says.
They’re also both big fans of the village Sales Advisor. “She’s tops,” Julie says.
Ally, brought up in Naseby, met Julie after he’d moved to Wingatui, outside of Dunedin, to become an apprentice jockey at the age of 15. Julie was the daughter of well-respected horse trainer Bob Heasley. Julie remembers an early date a Wingatui hunt ball. The racing side of Wingatui was very strong, Ally adds.
Julie’s father trained 1970 Melbourne Cup winner Baghdad Note, for owner Stuart Falconer. Then, as now, the cup was the richest race in the southern hemisphere.
The couple loved travelling to South Island meets. Eventually Julie spent more time at home raising the family while Ally continued as a very successful full time jockey. “I had quite a bit of luck actually. I was the leading South Island jockey a couple of times,” Ally says.
Ally also travelled to the North Island and on one occasion rode on the Doomben racecourse, part of the Brisbane Racing Club. He was recognised for his efforts by being chosen as a racing identity for the Halberg Awards on two occasions, in 1975 and 1980.
He remained a jockey up until the age of 40, when he switched into being a successful horse trainer – running his own business until the age of 50. Ally was also well known for breaking in, training and riding the horses owned by Invercargill’s Dennis brothers. There was the frustration of trying to get young horses up to the standard of some of the top gallopers he had ridden during his 25-year career.
The couple moved to Hamilton, where Ally had scored a job with training legend Graeme Rogerson. It was the best job he ever had, though it entailed long hours. Usually he’d be up at 4.00am and sometimes would work through until 10.30, though he got to travel with the horses, which remain his passion.
Julie took up a job with Hill Laboratories, which she thought might last a few months but ended up being a career of 20 years. She became a client services manager, working with clients wanting environmental testing on such things as water and soil. At times, she’s a keen golfer.
The couple eventually bought a run down 25 acre farm they converted for agistment – for the grazing of racehorses and other animals. The sale of the farm allowed a move south.
Their son Gary’s Cust dairy support farm holds one of the two young racehorses the couple now own! Ally likes to get out to Cust two or three times a week.