A passion for horses has seen Debbie Schwartz introduce pony rides at some of Australia’s most family-friendly resorts, including Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains
Debbie Schwartz has loved horses since she was a little girl. She now shares her passion with her husband, hotelier Dr Jerry Schwartz, and their children Dane, 12, and 10-year-old twins Amber and Lara at their family-friendly resorts. She also founded Lovedale Horse Rescue to save abandoned, neglected and abused animals from an uncertain fate.
What is your role at the Schwartz Family Company?
I don’t really have a title, but I do a bit of everything — marketing, designing, food and beverage, chief nagger! I’m the buyer for the gift shops at Fairmont Blue Mountains, Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and Paradise Resort Gold Coast. I have been in the giftware business half my life, so I was the one responsible for doing all the renovations for all three shops and I’m responsible for doing all the buying and re-ordering! I was also involved from day one with opening Lovedale Café, which is in the visitor centre opposite the Crowne Plaza, and trying to make it successful, and it now is! My love of a good coffee, food and cakes is another interest.
How did you meet Jerry?
We met at a mutual friend’s breakfast. I fell in love with his energy, his positivity and enthusiasm. He’s a man of his word. He calls a spade a spade and you know where you stand, which is a good business ethic. We got married in Vietnam 11 years ago.
Where did your passion for horses come from?
I’ve been riding since I was little. I grew up in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and when I was 13 or 14-years-old I was a mother’s helper, which was like a nanny. The family I worked for had a property in Bowral with horses and we used to go there on weekends. It has stayed with me through my life. They are such majestic, loving and intelligent animals!
When did you found Lovedale Horse Rescue?
Three years ago, I found six neglected and starving horses on a property next to Cessnock Airport in the Hunter Valley. I said to Jerry that we had the land, water and monetary resources to look after neglected horses. I was so passionate and excited to be able to save horses from a dreadful fate. Since then, I have rehomed about 24 horses. There are now 14 on our property near Crowne Plaza in the Hunter Valley, and guests can donate money towards their care at the end of their stay.
Why did you introduce pony rides at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and the Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains?
Having three young kids took me back to my childhood and the joy I got sitting on a pony, so I figured it would be a popular attraction for other families.
What other family-friendly features have you instigated at the Schwartz group’s resorts?
It was my idea to build the ice-skating rink at the Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, which opened in 2022. There was an ice-skating rink at Paradise Resort Gold Coast when we bought it. Before I founded Lovedale Horse Rescue, we used to go to the Fairmont Blue Mountains every weekend because we had an apartment there and the idea came to me during winter when it was snowing, and I went for a walk to the lake and thought: “We could freeze this and have an ice-skating rink”.
How often do you get to go to the resorts and enjoy them yourself?
I’m at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley most of the time because of the rescue, and the passion and love of horses has rubbed off on my kids! Dane is now competing in horse jumping, which is why Jerry is planning to build a tennis and equestrian centre near the resort, and why we come here most weekends.