Matt grew up around horses. By the time he was 8 years old he was always the kid who was asked to ride or handle the difficult ponies that were too small for an adult rider. Even at that young age it was apparent that he had a way of helping horses understand what was being asked of them. At the age of 9, with the help of his mentor, Matt started his first pony. From these early experiences he developed a love of working with young horses and went on to explore and learn with the Snowy River and High Country Horsemen in his teenage years. There, as he worked for room and board, he learned many aspects of starting young ones, running trail rides and mustering in the hard mountain country, and developed a strong work ethic. These years gave Matt a solid foundation as he constantly searched for ways to create more understanding between horse and human.
After finishing school, Matt achieved his Certificate in horse industries and worked with leading farriers to become a well-rounded horseman.
As Matt reached adulthood he was searching for true excellence with horses. He travelled throughout Australia on stations and overseas, working with some of the best horseman in the world. Following the teachings of Tom and Bill Dorrance, made famous in recent years by the likes of Ray Hunt, Pat Parelli, Buck Brannaman and Leslie Desmond to name a few. Matt studied with everyone he could get involved with and quickly built rapport with his peers and gained the respect of his mentors.
Matt accepted a position with Rubiton Bloodstock in the Adelaide Hills, which would become one of the most successful boutique breeders in the thoroughbred industry. Matt brought a new way of horsemanship to Rubiton Bloodstock and quickly became known for his ability to handle all horses from foals and colt starting, through to problem horses. As Foreman, Matt’s role was varied and he spent 10 years with the company. In that time he started up to 60 horses a year and prepared yearlings for Melbourne and Sydney, winning best presented Melbourne Premier.
This time working stud-side in the racing industry was invaluable experience. Because of the sheer volume of young horses, this is exposure which cannot be gained anywhere else.
During Matt’s time at Rubiton Bloodstock he built a steady horsemanship business on the side to express his passion for teaching and deep desire for horses to be understood. It was here that his natural feel and abilities with not only horses but people too, paved the way for the creation of Orange Oak Horsemanship with his wife Lauren, who quickly became an essential part of this growing business.
Matt now teaches throughout South Australia running clinics and lessons and still enjoys starting colts around Australia with his great friend and mentor; Ken Faulkner.
Matt is able to utilise his talent and experience both with horses and with people to co-facilitate equine assisted leadership seminars for corporate executives within Australia. This work is ever- evolving and never ceases to create profound growth and learning opportunities for everyone involved.
Many clients of Orange Oak Horsemanship are drawn to Matt due to his fair, firm but kind and gentle manner, strong in his clear belief that horses are nearly always happy to do what is asked of them: they just want to understand what is being asked of them. His guiding intervention philosophy is: “As much as necessary, as little as possible”. Horse people come seeking coaching, to further their education, to build their relationship and understanding with their horses, as well as their riding and handling skills and starting of young horses under saddle.
Good relationships and a great ability to work with people are key to Matt and Lauren’s success. They have worked hard to create an authentic, welcoming, and fun environment for their ever-growing equestrian community. Matt and Lauren are always striving for true excellence in horsemanship.
As Matt says, “Our horses deserve no less. If we can help make the world a better place for horses, and for the people who love, live and work with them, then we will have achieved our goal!”