A first pony at twelve years old and a deep interest in horses has led Bendigo’s Hannah Mika to take up equine studies at Marcus Oldham College.
Hannah is studying her Diploma of Equine Management at Marcus Oldham and is the current Australian Thoroughbred scholarship recipient, a scholarship supported by Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria .
It was a fateful day at the age of twelve when Hannah received her first ever pony and, despite coming from a family with no prior equine interests, she has been an avid horse enthusiast ever since.
“Growing up I attended my local pony club, Neangar Park (at Eaglehawk near Bendigo), and was regularly out at eventing competitions on the weekends. We wanted to go somewhere we could learn more about horses and have fun at the same time,” Hannah explains.
While Hannah is still a member of her local pony club to this day, upon completion of her VCE studies she initially intended to pursue her interest in equine dentistry at a tertiary level.
It was through her pony’s dentist, Russell Schischka, that she was introduced to Stonehouse Thoroughbreds’ Ryan Arnel, a graduate of Marcus Oldham College himself.
Ryan strongly encouraged Hannah to get some hands-on experience prior to commencing her university studies, which was an invaluable piece of advice that has undoubtedly placed Hannah in great stead today.
Taking Ryan’s wise words on board, Hannah packed her bags and gained an opportunity to work with the highly respected Tweenhills Farm and Stud in England for a year.
“I was a stable hand; mucking out stalls, prepping yearlings for sale and assisting with the breaking in process of a few yearlings. This was a steep learning curve for me as it was my first real glimpse into the thoroughbred industry but at the same time it was thoroughly rewarding,” she said.
It was at Tweenhills that Hannah worked under the guidance of Graham McCourt, a former Champion Hurdle winning jockey, who now works as the farm’s yearling manager and breaking in manager.
Under Graham’s guidance, Hannah embarked on a transformative experience. In particular, she was inspired by his tremendous horsemanship and, as she explains in her own words, “the way he handles the horses is amazing.”
It was a major turning point for Hannah, instilling in her a great passion for the thoroughbred breeding industry.
Prior to returning home, she reconnected with Ryan Arnel who suggested that she should apply for the Diploma of Equine Management at Marcus Oldham.
“I took his advice and did some research on what the course had to offer and decided that this was the path for me,” Hannah explains.
Since arriving home, Hannah has continued to gain practical work experience. She has completed a yearling preparation at Stonehouse Thoroughbreds, and was also introduced to the team at Three Bridges Thoroughbreds.
While she is now settling into her studies at Marcus Oldham College, she is especially eager to meet more breeding industry participants.
“Gaining contacts is one amazing thing that I’m looking forward to, as well as the opportunities that will come about from this experience,” she explained.
The first half of the diploma’s curriculum is focused on general horse management, followed by a semester specifically concentrated on racing and breeding including a stint at Coolmore in the Hunter Valley.
As for Hannah’s ultimate ambition, she hopes to one day emulate her role model, Graham McCourt, to become a highly respected horseperson in the position of yearling manager or breaking in manager.
TBV will be sure to follow Hannah’s development with a keen interest, and we wish her all the best in her current studies and future endeavours.
The Australian Thoroughbred Scholarship is offered annually through Marcus Oldham. Along with TBV, the scholarship is supported by Coolmore Stud, Star Thoroughbreds, Mustad Saddleworld, Prydes Easifeed and Plasvacc.