Friday, 01 Nov 2019

Olivia and Mikayla - Our Extraordinary Equestrians

There is nothing ordinary about WestMAC’s equestrian duo Olivia Galetto and Mikayla Symonds. This year alone saw the power pair presented with the Spirit of IQ Award from Interschool Queensland and then selected to represent Team Queensland at the Australian Interschool Championships at the Sydney Equestrian Centre earlier this month.

AIC competitors are required to be aged 5-18 years old and required to qualify through from the State Interschool Championships to the Australian Interschool Championships. The event is a major focus for young equestrians and is the largest equestrian grassroots program delivered nationally in Australia. The disciplines for the competition include Dressage, Eventing, Combined Training, Show Jumping and Show Horse. Next year’s championships will be held in Toowoomba.

The young riders both returned with honour from the Sydney Championships having served not just WestMAC but Queensland well bringing home the ‘Teamwork Trophy’, won for the first time in the event’s thirteen-year history and Mikayla’s National Reserve Champion in the Combined Training. The College is extremely proud of them both.

At only 15 and 12 years old respectively, Olivia and Mikayla were a delightful start to the day as I listened to their remarkable stories.

What class are you in? Is this the first time you have competed in the Australian Interschool Nationals?

Mikayla: I’m in Year 6 and I first competed in nationals 4 years ago, when I was 8 years old. I’ve made it to nationals every year since then.

Olivia: I’m in Year 10 and this was my first time to nationals but I’ve been competing for WestMAC in regionals and state championships since I was in prep.

How was it? What was the Australian Interschool Nationals experience for you?

Mikayla: I love going to nationals – it’s always a lot of fun and I get to see my interschool friends and hang out. It’s really cool because there’s camping and lots of fun activities. The first year I participated, I placed 6th in the Primary Working Hunter class; in 2017 I placed reserve Champion in two events, in 2018 in Melbourne I won Champion in the Combined Training and this year I finished Reserve Champion in the Primary Combined Training.

Olivia: It was amazing! I was so impressed by the grounds of the Sydney International Equestrian Centre. It’s one of the places that hosted equestrian sports during the 2000 Olympics. It was awesome to be part of the Queensland team of 95 riders. My horse and I placed 15th overall – which we were happy with considering the tough competition and that it was our first time.

When did you first become interested in riding?

Mikayla: I’ve been riding since I was 2 years old. I rode a horse for the first time with my dad when I was 9 months old.

Olivia: My mum used to ride professionally when she was young. I grew up with horses – I’ve been riding since I was a baby. Back then I tried everything but always enjoyed riding. It’s just our way of life.

What are the names of your horses, personalities and background training?
Mikayla: My current horses’ name is Astro. He’s a 22-year-old true gentleman and I’ve had him for 2 years now. My mum usually trains me and Astro with help from a coach. He’s funny – he doesn’t come to you when you call his name, he just looks at you and then he pokes his tongue out. He does that every single time – in every photo you’ll see him poke his tongue out.

Olivia: My horses name is Kismet Anastasia but her pet name is ‘Beauty’ – I named her when she was born and even watched her birth. I trained her myself and was very happy with her performance at nationals – especially because she was a young 6-year-old horse that had only been broken for a year.

What are your goals and plans for next year and for the future?
Mikayla: I definitely want to compete in next year’s nationals in Toowoomba. I’m planning to ride two different horses, Astro in the Dressage and my new horse Steel. Steel is a racehorse and an icon in Queensland. My goal is to compete with Astro up to Medium/ Advanced Level Dressage.

Olivia: I want to compete in the Olympics – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do ever since I was a little girl. I’m going to continue show-jumping and would like to move up a height class next year.

How has WestMAC contributed to your development as a rider and goals in the sport?
Mikayla: I only started at WestMac last term but m y teachers and friends are very supportive. I was awarded an IQ spirit award and badge and they acknowledged this at the School Assembly.

Olivia: The teachers are always supportive and understanding when I have to catch up on schoolwork during competitions and training almost every weekend. When we went to nationals both my mum and I were really sick and the WestMAC families and supporters who came, looked after us and fed my horse while I was sick in bed – I couldn’t have been able to compete if it weren’t for them.

Who are your biggest supporters/fans and or inspiration?
Mikayla: My biggest supporter is mum….and dad. My mum’s always encouraged me and helped me with my riding - and Mr Flottmann from school, he’s been very supportive. The WestMac Equestrian Team are amazing and always support me, some of them even came to Sydney to cheer Olivia and I on. My idol is Edwina Tops-Alexander – she’s the best female show jumper in the world.

Olivia: My family – they gave up so much to enable me to grow in the sport. The person that inspires me the most is my friend Tamsyn Breeze who also rides. I watched her struggle with her horse and worked so hard to connect and understand him. She is now jumping really high and competing successfully at huge competitions all over Queensland and NSW. Just watching that transformation first hand made me believe that hard work really does pay off.

Photo credits: Oz Shotz