Laurie Norris Forbes' Citizen of the Year

Dedication to ensuring generations of Forbes residents enjoy and achieve in horse riding and sports has seen Laurie Norris named Forbes' Citizen of the Year on Australia Day 2022.

The award "recognises an outstanding mentor to many decades of Forbes children," the citation read at Tuesday night's dinner and awards ceremony said.

Mr Norris's voluntary contribution has touched the lives of so many people, as he has given up his time to mentor young riders and coached many on to higher levels of competition and achievement.

He is now also lending his time and expertise to Forbes Riding for the Disabled Association.

"I'm very humbled," Mr Norris said before a crowd in Town Hall.

"To win an award like this you have to have an amazing team behind you, and especially with pony club I probably lead the way but the staff behind me are just incredible.

"They do a lot behind the scenes - that I can't do. I can ride a horse - don't worry about that, but they back you and make these things possible.

"So I want to thank them, this award is not just me but the whole team."

He particularly acknowledged the support of his wife Rachael, who's "110 per cent behind me all the time" and daughters Lucy and Melissa.

"This is truly a great honour and I do thank everybody concerned," he said.

Laurie grew up with horses "in his blood": the family name is synonymous with horses for Wilf Norris who was named an OAM for his work with draught horses, and Laurie highlights that his mum Pat was a great rider and polocrosse player.

"My grandfather - mum's dad - he won the Bedgerabong Cup as a jockey and was a renowned horse trainer himself," Laurie added.

Laurie first became involved in Pony Club in 1975 as a rider, and says his Pony Club skills and certificates played no small part in starting his career as a wrangler training horses for movies, which led to him working on titles including The Man From Snowy River.

After a number of years in that industry Laurie came back to work as a shearer in this region, again involved in Pony Club as his own kids grew up, and then was off to Australia's Wonderland to work as a bush entertainer again with his beloved horses.

The year 2000 saw Laurie come home to Forbes, pick up Pony Club again, and he's been involved ever since.

"(Forbes Pony Club) is probably one of the biggest west of the Blue Mountains, we have about 50 riding members," Laurie said.

Monthly rally days are busy: beginning with a gear check and assessment; then running the different levels of riders through exercises and activities to improve.

Laurie's watched generations of Forbes kids become better riders but it's not only about riding: it's about becoming a better human being.

"Hoses are great levellers," he says with no small amount of mirth.

"Pony Club is helping kids become better horse people, keeping them safe ...

"What it teaches kids is how to be competitive, how to act, how to grow up and be a good human being."

Laurie, a keeper of knowledge as a bush poet, yarn spinner and horseman, also hopes he can share some of the knowledge of horsemanship.

"When I started breaking horses in - when I was 17 or 18 - my Pop would come and watch," Laurie said.

"He was a quiet old gentleman, and when I got myself into trouble he'd say, 'y'know what I'd do'?"

His tone was gentle, but Laurie recognised his hard-earned wisdom, and hopes he can share that with new generations of riders.

It's a thrill to see young Forbes Pony Club riders rising through the ranks - some excelling at the showjumping events Laurie, in partnership with others, has run over the past two years since COVID-19 saw our regular shows cancelled.

Mr Norris was persuaded to share his talents as a yarn-spinner, with a couple of his own works and one of those from his mentor and local legend 'Tractor' Rennick to cap the night in fine style.

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