Poppie Gorton: From Rocking Horses to Racetracks, Chasing Dreams in the Saddle!

By Abby Delucyk

When envisioning a typical 16-year-old girl, you might not imagine her going to bed at 8pm with the aspiration of waking up early at 4am to ride trackwork. However, for Poppie Gorton, this is her dream life.

Poppie was inspired by her mother’s love of horses from an early age and had a dream to pursue her love of riding. “My grandma made me a rocking horse when I was born and apparently, I just refused to get off and would stay there all day,” Poppie said.

Poppie began riding at the tender age of three, and her competitive spirit led her to enter her first competition at just six years old in Scone. While she only attended Pony Club twice, Poppie consistently took riding lessons and gradually progressed to participating in clinics. She has been fortunate to have the same coach, Sandy Lucas, for 13 years.

Poppie’s passion for Thoroughbreds is evident through her proud ownership of five off-the-track Thoroughbreds. “I love that with horses, you have a built-in best friend. They aren’t just built for going fast, they actually love their next job and are so versatile. I was drawn into eventing because of the adrenaline rush you get doing three disciplines in one,” she said.

With multiple competitions under her belt, Poppie shifted her focus to the Inaugural Equimillion competition, featuring $1,000,000 in prizemoney. “I didn’t have high hopes leading into the event as I had an injury 2 months before so only really had a few weeks to prepare.” Despite this, Poppie exceeded expectations and was crowned Grand Champion of her class, taking home an incredible $15,000 in prize money.

As Poppie invested her time into riding, school started to become a second option. Eventually, she made the decision to leave school at the end of Year 10.  

With her riding skills advancing, a friend named Rosie introduced her to the world of race riding. This new career path hadn’t crossed her mind until she saw a video of Rosie galloping down the straight where her interest was immediately provoked. Through Rosie, she was introduced to well-known Hawkesbury trainer, Brad Widdup who saw talent in this rising star.

With Brad’s support, Poppie’s parents agreed to her joining the local Hawkesbury stable as a trackwork rider. As her journey progressed, Brad suggested that Poppie explore the role of an apprentice jockey, considering her lightweight frame.

“Working with Brad is everything I’ve wanted and more. The whole Widdup family has supported me, and it feels more like I am working with a family. They understand I am still young and learning”, Poppie said.

Poppie is now on the path to becoming an apprentice under Brad, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of legendary jockeys like Kathy O’Hara and Rachel King. She sets her short-term focus on obtaining her apprentice license and working towards her first jump out.

“I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. It is hard at times to see your friends go out while you’re in bed early, but I know in the long run, everything will be worth it,” Poppie concludes.