Australia may have left Greenwich Park without an equestrian medal at the London Olympics, but our future appears to be in good hands. Two Ivanhoe Grammar students, Michaela Bray, 14, (pictured left) and Hannah Bathen, 15, (right) have dominated competition closer to home in all ages recently.
They were the top two dressage riders at the Victorian Interschool Championships in July and both are members of the Young Victorian Rider Dressage Squad. They also regularly placed in events during the Whittlesea and Plenty Valley Dressage Club winter series.
Hannah won the 2012 Victorian Dressage Club Medium trophy against riders of all ages.
The two both go to Ivanhoe Grammar’s Plenty Campus and say equestrian is in their blood. “My whole family is into horses. I was pretty much born on one,” says Michaela. “I’ve been riding horses ever since I can remember.”
Hannah, who was born in Germany, started riding when she was seven. “Dad always promised me when we moved to Australia I could get a horse,” she says.
Coach Virginia Creed says the pair have exceeded everyone’s expectations. “I think they are doing an amazing job.
“They’re competing at the highest level of interschool competition, in open competitions, amateur and professional, and they’re holding their own in that company. They’re doing exceptionally well.”
Dressage, Creed explains, is all about the “training of the horse to make it nicer to ride and more obedient”.
“That comes as a result of training and improving the horse’s way of going as well as its physical looks. It takes four to five years to train a horse to perform at an Olympic level.”
Michaela, whose horse is named Squiggle, says a rider’s work is never done.
“I love it because you’re never finished, there’s always another challenge to work on,” she says.
“Nothing is ever won or lost. You can always get better scores and better yourself and the horse. It takes a while to build up a really good relationship with the horse and it’s so rewarding because you spend so much time working on one thing.”
Hannah agrees. “I’ve only had Anton for four months but now we are really starting to work together. We’re aiming to compete at an international level by the end of the year. I enjoy it so much and would like to go as far as I can with it.” ■