Deputy Mayor Peter Blundell learns from the master, Peter Bondfield, announcing at the Apple and Grape Festival.
Deputy Mayor Peter Blundell learns from the master, Peter Bondfield, announcing at the Apple and Grape Festival.

OAM honour for Peter Bondfield

HIS first horse cost him just eight pounds and was unbroken.

Now, more than 70 years of dedicated work in the equestrian and cattle fields later, Peter Bondfield stands in front of the fire at his Dalveen property, bellows a big belly laugh and says, “I suppose I've covered a bit of ground”.

This modest and charming 82-year-old has today been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia and says he is honoured by the accolade.

Born in Queanbeyan, NSW, Mr Bondfield moved from Bombala to Palgrove in 1952, and says he will be leaving “only in a box”.

He has been a member of the Stanthorpe Agricultural Show Society since 1953, where he was a show announcer and master of ceremonies for more than 40 years, and has been patron since 2003.

He has been involved with Pony Club since 1973, on panels and as chief instructor.

He is a life member of the Pony Club Association of Queensland, Zone 21 and Stanthorpe Pony Club.

His property, Palgrove, was one of the first in Australia to breed Charolais cattle and remains an international leader.

Volunteering for the Apple and Grape Festival, and numerous performances in musicals and productions also add colour to his impressive resume.

On the wall of his home hangs a picture of Roger, the horse he brought with him when he moved to the region.

“That photo is 60 years old,” he says.

“And one of the reasons you're here today.

“Roger had a reputation for bucking and I trained him to jump.

“I was only about 20 at the time and all I wanted to do was jump.

"He was a very skilful horse.”

In 1954 Roger started at the Stanthorpe Show and took five firsts and one second out of the six events he was eligible for.

The horse's reputation spread all over the state and he was subsequently sold.

Mr Bondfield's skill and passion for training horses is something he has shared with countless others and he says he gets particular joy out of teaching young people at Pony Club.

“Nothing pleases me more than seeing youngsters riding,” he says.

“They can learn about responsibility, feeding and looking after an animal.”

He hasn't ridden in 10 years and claims he's not as fit as he once was, but as he nears his 83rd birthday, he shifts from his chair to the fireplace several times as he talks about his love of horses.

He and his wife Valerie first met playing polocrosse and have been married 58 years.

While he credits her with the OAM, she says he is a very generous and kind man.

“I'm very fortunate,” she says.

Outside he displays one of his beautifully handcrafted whips, cracking it with a flick of the wrist and zero warning, before he tilts his head back and lets out one of his infectious laughs.

“I'm just an old man, not doing too much these days,” he says.

Their son David took over Palgrove in the '80s and Mr Bondfield now spends his time plaiting whips.

The couple have four children and 10 grandchildren, of which they are immensely proud.

“We've always had a wonderful family life,” Mr Bondfield says.

“All the children helped on the property and all of them ride.”

Mr Bondfield has no idea how he got nominated for the OAM but says it is a “fantastic honour”.

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