After a big year - including earning the title of Equestrian Australia’s international athlete of the year award and being inducted into their Hall of Fame - Boyd Exell is enjoying a well deserved break in his hometown of Bega.
Exell is a multiple-time World Driving Championship winner and holds a number of records for four in hand carriage driving.
While Exell always tries to come back to Australia during January, he has been tied to his work and new home in the town of Valkenswaard in the Netherlands over the past few years.
But this year, Exell was able to spend Christmas with his young family, siblings and parents in his childhood home that he purchased from his parents.
“I have a brother and sister in Canberra who came and another brother on the Gold Coast, so we were all together,” he said.
“Last time I came back for Christmas was about 10 years ago, so this has been a really special trip for us.”
Exell and his wife Preetha, 11-year-old son James and nine-year-old daughter Olivia have spent a month in Bega. He said it gave the family an important break from the horse world.
“I enjoy water skiing, tinkling with engines of speedboats, a lot of those water sports that I don’t have time or opportunity to do in Europe,” he said.
“The kids really love being here, they enjoy visiting the beach at Tathra, it’s been really good for them to be back by the ocean.”
Exell said his family has been able to slow down and enjoy the little things during their stay.
“The kids are enjoying all of the foods, they love having Nutrigrain for breakfast, they say there’s better fish and chips here and they love Cherry Ripes,” he said.
“But I haven’t got them eating Vegemite yet.”
The trip has still been a working holiday for Exell, who has been holding training clinics for carriage drivers at Bega Showgrounds, running up to 12 one-hour lessons a day.
“People have come from Toowoomba, Tasmania, Victoria, Goulbourn, even New Zealand,” he said.
“I’ve been training other riders for about 30 years now, it’s part of the business and what I do.”
Exell and his family leave Australia on Saturday. While his wife and children will return to their home in the Netherlands, Exell will first compete in Leipzig, Germany, run training sessions in America and then head to the Driving World Cup Four in Hand Championships in Bordeaux, France.
“I have to travel so much, I can barely spend a full week with my family, so this month is really important for us,” he said.
The main event on Exell’s calendar is the World Equestrian Games in Tyron, North Carolina in September.
The games are held every four years and bringing together five equestrian disciplines over two weeks.
“It’s my main focus for this year, I’m hoping everything will fall into place for me,” he said.
“Last season I took 17 out of 18 titles, everything went smoothly and everything played its part, so I hope we see that again this year.”