Lady Janine Mateparae knows what it takes to be the consummate hostess. After all, she shares her life with New Zealand’s Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae, and lives at one of the country’s most prestigious addresses.
At the many official gatherings held at Wellington’s Government House, Janine and her husband have welcomed important figures such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their gorgeous baby Prince George. But during our Weekly photo shoot, there’s another special guest Janine is over the moon to meet – and that’s an 18-year-old horse called Bilbo.
“I grew up in the farming community of Brunswick, just outside of Whanganui, and I had an affinity to animals, especially horses,” explains Janine. “I used to love riding my first pony, Puzzle, to school. But as I’ve grown older, my life has become very hectic, so I haven’t been on a horse for a good 28 years!”
Still, Janine (49) has maintained “a keen interest” in equestrian events – and someone who shares that passion for all things horsey is eight-year-old Mareikura Cumpstone, who suffers from short stature syndrome.
Riding horses has helped the Porirua youngster with her confidence and posture. She is one of hundreds of children benefiting from New Zealand Riding for the Disabled – the charity that helps those with disabilities enjoy the stimulating and therapeutic experience of riding a horse.
Young Mareikura – a case in point – is full of smiles as she sits on Bilbo while Janine guides them around the grounds of Government House.
Janine is showing her support in another way too. She’s one of 30 Kiwi personalities lending their artistic skills to the Great RDA Horse Doodle. This fund- raising event asks chosen celebrities to doodle their interpretation of a horse onto a canvas, which is then auctioned.
Janine says she was involved with the organisation when she was a young girl and didn’t need much convincing to jump on board. In fact, spending time with Bilbo and Mareikura is bringing back memories of her childhood.
“From around the age of nine, I used to lend my pony out to Riding for the Disabled, then go along and lead the young riders. I remember the joy it brought to them,” she says.
Drawing a horse has also been a pleasure for the elegant Lady Janine. She has named her doodle-horse “Jigsaw” in memory of her pony Puzzle. She says she’s excited to use her creative abilities again after working in the fashion industry for 12 years when she left school.
“I was employed as a trainee designer, and received my training on the factory floor in pattern-making. It was a job that I really enjoyed.”
But life led her in a different direction altogether. Janine has now been married to Sir Jerry for 21 years and has been supporting her husband in his career since they met. Sir Jerry – a highly ranked soldier who took on the role as the Chief of Defence Force in 2006 – was sworn in as Governor General in 2011, in a job that will last five years. The couple have five adult children (three were born to Jerry’s first wife Raewynne, who sadly passed away in 1990) and four grandchildren. As the wife of the Queen’s representative, Janine says although she gives much of her time to her husband, he is equally generous towards her and her interests.
“Supporting my husband in his busy career is something that I have always enjoyed, because it provides our lives with a lot of variety – with official functions, meetings and doing amazing things for the community.
“I’ve always been interested in complementary therapies, and have treated my family with them,” continues Janine, who is the patron of the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths and a practitioner of the Bowen technique, a holistic therapy that activates the body’s own ability to heal itself.
Janine says that with her public duties, she still finds time for her family and supporting her causes. And as for a successful marriage, the secret is to always be there for one another.
“What keeps a long marriage alive is trust and friendship,” reveals Janine. “Also, we keep variety in our lives and try to set ourselves new challenges.”
For more information on The Great RDA Horse Doodle, visit rda.org.nz
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