Year 11 student, Montanna Maud, can’t remember a time when horses weren’t a part of her life. Indeed, from as young as two-years-old she was hopping on her older sisters’ horses whenever the chance arose. It’s no surprise that she’s now an accomplished equestrian rider and competitor.

“I was competing at Royal shows from the age of six,” Montanna says. There have not been many days in my life that haven’t involved being around horses.”

Even Montanna’s school days revolve around her horses.

“I usually ride one horse before school and then the other one or two after school,” she explains. “I have to factor in feeding both morning and night, cleaning their paddocks and stables, as well riding to keep their training up.”

Montanna is also a competitive runner, which may explain how she can achieve all this and still make it to the school bus that stops near her family’s property at 7:45am.

Despite the need to juggle her study with so many other commitments, Montanna believes the horses-school balance is a positive one.

“With good time management and prioritising, I’m making it work,” she says.  “I guess I’m a high achiever, so the challenge to do both my sports—equestrian and running—and to achieve the best grades possible is a positive one for me. I like to push myself to do better each day.”

Horses have also taught Montanna valuable lessons about herself, both as person and an athlete.

“Horses are extremely powerful and majestic creatures,” she says. “They can be your best listeners.

“As riders, we invest a lot of time and emotion into our horses. They’ve taught me that my only competition is myself—to be better than I was the day before. I wish more athletes of all types could see this.”

Equestrian training has also been a lesson in perseverance for Montanna, something that crosses over her riding, athletics and her school studies.

“Working with horses, you don’t always achieve the outcome you want,” she explains. “Sometimes baby steps are required when trying to teach your horse new, advanced movements.”

Of course, the biggest challenge this year has come from the restrictions caused by COVID-19.  Normally Montanna would be competing—at either equestrian or running—each weekend.

“Training to achieve the next level, both in equestrian and running, has been my priority during lockdown,” she says. “I’ve been able to try and perfect those things that needed a little work.

“Remote learning has meant that my sport can fit into normal daylight hours, which is a bonus. I do miss the face to face contact with my teachers, but I feel I’ve kept my school work to a high standard.”

After BSSC, depending on her study score, Montanna hopes to I hope to study Psychology at university. She also dreams of one day competing in Grand Prix Dressage.

“I’m very grateful to have the support of my Mum and Dad and my two sisters,” she says. “They’ve certainly been instrumental to my successes so far.”