Sonja Johnson

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Sonja Johnson learnt to ride as a young child by chasing cattle on her family’s farm in Albany, Western Australia. Family legend has it that prior to her fourth birthday, Sonja headed out on her very wise old pony called Cactus with her mother, Phoebe, to bring in the cattle on the coastal property belonging to Sonja’s grandparents. Being low lying land it could not be accessed by vehicles so Sonja and Phoebe rode into the bush until they found cattle at the furthest point from the yards. Phoebe would then leave Sonja with instructions to “keep going that way”. Phoebe would head off then once she had found more cattle, Phoebe and Sonja would locate each other by yells. Sonja would then keep heading in that direction till Phoebe returned again. It was the only means they had to get the cattle in!

At about five years old, Sonja joined the King River Pony Club and at the age of 13 finished second at the Pony Club State Eventing Championships riding Apollo, the horse Phoebe used to ride for cattle work.
After finishing school, Sonja thought she would try for a University education. During this period the family bought more land, so Sonja decided that city life didn’t suit her and she took the opportunity to return to the land and continued her eventing career.

In 1995 Sonja made her international debut competing at the Trans Tasman event in New Zealand and was named Australian Event Rider of the Year in 1996; the same year she was the non-travelling reserve rider for the 1996 Olympic Games. From 1997-1999 she was based with Andrew Hoy and during this time she competed in the UK, France and Germany at events such as Luhmuhlen and Saumur.

She was listed for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics but was unfortunately sidelined by injury. However she was part of the Australian team for the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany and, although she fell during the Cross Country phase and was knocked unconscious, she considers this a career highlight. The team still won the bronze medal to which she said, “These guys have done a fair bit to improve my headache. They’ve done a great job so I was very lucky to be part of it – thanks guys for my medal.” Believing that this was her free medal she made sure that she earned the next one at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong when she won team silver.

With her superstar Australian Stock Horse, Ringwould Jaguar, Sonja was also part of the Australian team at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010. She is now focussed on the London Olympics 2012 with the Four Star horse Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison (Ben) and they are listed on the Equestrian Australia 2012 National Elite Squad

Sonja continues to combine her professional riding career with running the family sheep and cattle station (called Parkiarrup near Albany in WA) where she describes breeding true dual-purpose merino sheep as her passion. The story of Sonja’s life (so far!) can be found in the book An Eventful Life – Life Stories of Eventing Champions

Sonja’s sponsors are Europa Saddlery, Brookleigh Equestrian Estate, Stewarts Restaurant, Mitavite, Oakford Equine Hospital, Advanced Feeds, Oxford Horse Floats, Breedtech, Evertrans Motor Body Builders, Tamborine Machinery – Rapid Rain irrigators and Haygain hay steamers.

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