University of Canterbury student riding high at age 90
She is friends with Kiwi Olympian Sir Mark Todd and once trained the champion horse Charisma, but now Francesca Howard is taking the reins as the oldest student currently enrolled at the University of Canterbury (UC).
Nonagenarian equestrian Francesca Howard is studying Sport Coaching at UC and running her own business.
It’s her second stint as a UC student after she earned a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English about 20 years ago.
She believes it’s important to keep her mind and body active. Arthritis makes it difficult for her to ride herself these days but she helps coach the Cust Equestrian Group, near her North Canterbury home. “Living on a hill and looking after animals keeps you moving,” she says. “I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink alone.”
Born in Britain in 1931, most of Howard’s career has been spent either riding horses competitively or teaching others to ride in schools around the world – including in Hong Kong, Kenya, Canada and the United States – as a British Horse Society instructor since 1960.
She has lived in New Zealand since 1978 when she began working for Equestrian Sports New Zealand. She was based at the National Centre near Taupo but travelled around the country for more than five years providing coaching in show jumping and dressage.