“I think it is just starting to sink in now; it’s something I’ve wanted to win my whole life and I’ve been very close a number of times, but had never been able to pull it off. To actually do it feels a little bit surreal,” says Olivia of her Australian Senior Championship title win at Boneo aboard Jane Fonda DVD.
Drawing on her experience finishing runner-up in the 2019 championship to Tom McDermott, she explains that it really is a competition like no other: “All three days count, in particularly the first day. It was always my goal to try and finish top five the first day and just try and jump clear each day after that. Going into the final I tried not to think about the standings; I just treated it as if it was any other Grand Prix class. I knew if I rode Jane well she would try her best to jump clean.” It was a brilliant win that saw her edge out Australian showjumping legend Chris Chugg aboard Cera Cassiago, alongside many other big-name riders.
Olivia explains that her equine partner, 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Jane Fonda DVD (Der Senaat 111 x Calvados IV), was originally ridden by her mother. “Mum bought Jane as a green five-year-old from Belgium after she sold Airtime Z to Tom McDermott, and then produced her through to Grand Prix level. In October 2018, Mum had a really simple fall at a show off a young horse and broke her ankle quite badly. We were away on the road and she said, ‘Well you are going to have to ride Jane next week at Tamworth in the Silver Tour’.
“To be completely honest, I didn’t actually love Jane when I first started riding her; I found her quite different to the horses I had at the time. But very quickly we started to understand each other and now our bond is like no other horse I’ve ever ridden. She has a heart bigger than herself and literally gives me everything she possibly can; she is that rare mix of being super careful but also super brave. Mum said after 2019 when I was runner-up that she couldn’t possibly take her off me then – so I am extremely thankful that I was able to keep her. The success we have with Jane is as much Mum’s as it is mine, so it’s actually a nice partnership we have and she really is the family horse.”
On the topic of kin, Olivia is very much part of her family’s business at Glen Haven Park, where her father’s background with Thoroughbreds meets her mother’s passion for jumping. “I’ve been very fortunate to be born into a horsey family. Dad and his family used to own Glen Haven Stud in Birdwood, South Australia, which in its prime would foal down over 150 Thoroughbred mares a year, as well as spell horses for a lot of Japanese clients and stand stallions such as Lord of the Dance and Avaray.
“Mum obviously has always run the jumping side of the stables and also was the brain behind and one in charge of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games procurement,” says Olivia, explaining that she and her mother trained 38 pool horses that they then took over for the Games in 2010. “In the last few years, Mum and Dad have taken a step back from the business and handed the reins over to me. I still have a lot of help and support from my family, but ultimately it’s my deal now. I breed a handful of jumpers and Thoroughbreds each year, as well as spell, pre-train and break in horses. I must say, outside of the jumping, my passion is definitely the yearling prep, I just love it.”