By LAWRENCE MACHADO
Junior riding star SARAH OLSEN is treading a different path as she eases back into competitive equestrian events after a break during the COVID pandemic.
Olsen, a member of the Hills Pony Club during her junior days, won a saddle full of state titles and awards, becoming one of Australia’s top junior equestrian riders and trainers.
In 2016, Olsen was runner-up at the Equestrian Australia Horse of Year event. That year, she captured the triple crown elementary dressage and champion titles at the East Coast Arabian Championship while emerging the champion pony club rider (13-17 years) in NSW.
The Riverstone champion has swapped the hurdles and equine etiquette for thoroughbred racing, being a work rider and trainer at Rosehill for Gerard Ryan and Sterling Alexiou Racing. She has been working with horses since she left Tara Anglican College in 2016 and even runs her own business.
“As a kid, I have always wanted to get involved with thoroughbred racing because both Dad and Mum were in the racing industry for years,” Olsen told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News. “I took a break from competitions to focus on work and started my own company, Olsen Equine, where we prepared or rode horses for others, and retrained horses. However, due to COVID-19, the business was slow, and I took up the job at Rosehill over two years ago.
“I work from 4.45 to 8.30 am riding these thoroughbreds and getting them ready for the races. It’s pretty rewarding when a horse is successful. I had to adjust myself to ride the thoroughbreds despite riding for so long, and I am learning every day. I would have loved to have followed Mum’s (LeeAnn) footsteps as a jockey, but my weight is not geared for it. Mum rode for around 20 years in races. It’s very hard to keep your weight down.”
Olsen will be riding a former thoroughbred racehorse, Gillette, in her next equestrian competition, the NSW Horse of Year event, at Sydney Equestrian Centre on November 26. She said racehorses have a lot to offer after their racing career is over.
“I am pretty confident of doing my best at the event, and very happy to be back in competition again,” Olsen said. “This is an important competition because if I win here, I will qualify for the 2021 Nationals. I did not do well at the 2019 Nationals (the 2020 one was cancelled), but I was very happy with how my horse went. Now I have a different horse, and we are training for this event.”
She and her dad, Anthony, have bought their own racehorse. She was purchased online as a yearling and is now a three-year-old whom they hope to race in Sydney.
“At present, I have no plans to compete internationally, but I hope to do so in the next few years and ideally go and work at one of the international stables, training horses,” Olsen said. “This has always been a passion of mine.”
WOLVES MOVE SHOCKS COACHES, PLAYERS
The decision by Windsor Wolves to pull out of the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield year’s rugby league competitions caught their coaches and players unawares.
The news is a big shock because the Wolves were improving in the Ron Massey before the season was suspended on June 26. Under coach Chris Yates, the Wolves even shocked tournament heavyweights Hills District Bulls and were close to making the finals.
Windsor Leagues Club boss Larry Collins said the cost of fielding the teams became prohibitive, with the COVID lockdowns, fires, droughts, and the floods impacting their balance sheet. He praised their senior coaches Yates and Dan Jackson, their support coaching staff, and all the players for their efforts during the 2021 season.
“It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce that the Windsor Leagues Club will not be entering a Ron Massey Cup or Sydney Shield team into the NSWRL Competitions in 2022,” Collins said in a statement. This decision has been made, in the best interest of the players, coaches and coaching support staff so they can plan their futures now rather than later in the year when there may not be the same opportunities.
“Windsor Rugby League Club, along with many other licensed clubs, have experienced unprecedented difficulties due to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions and unfortunately the costs incurred in participating in the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield Competitions have become unsustainable for our club in these difficult times. “Financially we have been impacted. It has been a tough 12 months with droughts, fires, floods and now COVID-19 all having a significant impact on our economy.”
Yates said all the hard work done by Wolves rugby league director Christopher Boyd, Sydney Shield coach Dan Jackson, and himself since July 2020, have all been in vain.
“It is really very disappointing because no one consulted us, and we were close to signing up with a (to ensure pathways for the players),” Yates said. “From June 26 to September 17 when they informed us, there was no communication from the Wolves management. However, Christopher Boyd has been outstanding with his leadership and management. We have been able to find new contracts for several players and some could even end up playing for NRL teams.”
Yates has since been snapped up by Wests Tigers to coach their Under-19 squad. The Wolves only returned to competitions last season after not fielding teams since 2016.
Collins said the club is a proud one built on the back of rugby league and will continue to support the sport. He said they will be focusing on the junior teams, from under-5s to the senior-junior rugby league.