by Helen Martin
Warm congratulations to the much-loved comedy-music duo the Topp Twins, Jools and Lynda, on their appointment as Dame Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours. This award tops off other prestigious accolades they’ve acquired over the years, including the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM, 2004), induction into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame (2008) and Honorary Doctorates from the University of Waikato (2011).
Jools and Lynda, who recently celebrated their 60th birthdays, grew up on a dairy farm in Ruawaro, Huntly and have been around farms all their lives. In the award-winning documentary The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (2009) they tell of how, as little girls, they made play horses out of manuka before their parents provided them with the real thing. They now live in different islands. Lynda lives in Staveley in the South Island, running Topp Lodge with her wife Donna, while Jools lives in Helensville. She says she’s been here long enough to feel like a local, having recently moved from Rimmer Road to a mud brick house in South Head. “It feels like another world and I love it,” she says.
Jools divides her time between her high profile public role as a Topp Twin and her passion for horses. She practises Foundation Riding, a method in the tradition of the Spanish Vaquero (cowboy), where the aim is to achieve total harmony between horse and rider. “You always have to remember that you can get the horse to make you look good, but that’s not a true partnership,” she says. “The magic comes from the horse and to ride a horse is not a right, it’s a privilege.” She’s also busy working as a hoof trimmer and is on the committee of HOOFNZ, where she was one of the 12 founders, an organisation set up to train professional hoof trimmers and to support horse owners wanting to learn the practices of the barefoot horse movement, which believes the best way to prevent and cure bad feet is to feed horses a simple, balanced diet and to trim the bare hooves and leave them unshod.
There are plenty of other projects occupying Jools and Lynda. With Donna, they’ve recently opened a café in Methven, they’re working on a coffee table book of recipes and stories based on their hugely popular television series Topp Country and there’s a feature film in the pipeline, The Long Drop, which sounds like a winner.
As long-time political activists and as entertainers The Topp Twins have always been about connecting with people. Now they’re Dames, but wherever their full lives take them the Topps are resolved they’ll never lose that connection. Jools told me that, so you could say I have it from the horse’s mouth.