On our cover this issue we feature Hanna Rush and her Quarter Horse gelding Triandibo Roc n Lynx, also known as Doug or Dougie. The pair were photographed by Louise Sedgman as part of the Sweet Teen Project, an initiative to fundraise for Headspace Australia, an organisation working to support the mental health and wellbeing of our youth.
Hanna was one of the first teenagers to sign up at the start of the project. Her mum Emma, a professional photographer herself, was keen to support the cause and capture some memories because, as she says, “when photography is your day job, you tend not to pick up the camera with the kids.”
The photoshoot took place in March and soon after, in the blink of an eye, future plans came to a screaming halt as the COVID-19 pandemic placed the entire world in lockdown.
It’s nine months now and the Rush family, who live in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne, Victoria, have been in lockdown for so long, they are yet to visit Louise to see the photo collection. It has been a challenging year for all of us, but Victorians have endured the longest period of lockdown, including home schooling, in the entire world.
For Hanna who just finished Year 9, the routine of caring for and riding her horses has helped her deal with home schooling, being isolated from friends and unable to participate in horse-related events. “It’s really helped” she says. “You wanted to get schoolwork done really quickly so you could get outside!”
Her mum Emma is grateful that Hanna enjoys what has been her own life-long passion, especially because there was a time, about four years ago, when she expected Hanna to give up horses. “We were going to pony club and Hanna really didn’t like the jumping side” says Emma. “But we are very lucky to live near Trish Wettenhall and her Triandibo Quarter Horse Stud and Training Centre, and it sparked her interest in Western. Things have evolved from there” she adds.
Some years earlier, Hanna’s dad, David, had purchased himself a Quarter Horse mare and, after realising her good breeding, he decided to put her in foal to one of Trish’s stallions. This was the beginning of a family-wide pivot from the traditions of pony club to the world of Western and the love of the wonderful Quarter Horse breed.
“The AQHA [Australian Quarter Horse Association] and all the people at the shows are really welcoming and everyone is there to help each other out” says Hanna. “We fell in love with the breed as well. Quarter Horses have such wonderful temperaments” says Emma.
Emma adds that Trish’s passion for her industry, her encouragement and generous approach was instrumental in re-igniting Hanna’s enthusiasm. As Hanna progressed, Trish suggested she try one of her older schoolmasters, Doug. She continued having lessons on him at Triandibo Stud and as the partnership grew, Trish offered to lease the gelding to the Rush family so they could take him home.
It’s almost four years since they first met and everyone agrees the relationship is nothing but a great success. “Doug has thrown a lot of talents my way. He’s quite special. He’s taught me how to ride” says Hanna.
And the feeling is reflected in results, with the pair getting High Point Youth in Victoria in November 2019 and NSW in March 2020. Both Emma and Hanna are keen to get back into showing in 2021. Hanna’s favourite classes are Ranch and Showmanship, but she’s keen to try and master the flying changes and other training challenges of Western.
Hanna says she loves Doug’s quirky personality. “He’s a Super Lynx [progeny], and they are known to be a bit more special. He’s one of those horses that really picks up on how you are feeling” she says.
“He gets upset if I am nervous because he’s worried. When I started showing I used to get quite nervous and while I still do, I have a lot more trust and he has a lot more trust in me, so we’re a really good strong team now.”
And it seems that Doug has taught Hanna the most valuable of life lessons; “We have our good days and bad days, and it’s never going to be perfect all the time, but that’s what makes doing so well a lot more special – because it’s been a good day and you work hard for the good days” she says.
Louise Sedgman’s Sweet Teen Project is capturing the relationship and connection teenagers feel with their horse and gives them an opportunity to shine in front of the camera, while raising funds for Headspace Australia
To find out more about The Sweet Teen Project, pre-order the book or make a donation, visit Louise’s website: www.giddyupphoto.com or find her on Facebook.