Horsezone News

Horsezone Review: A Long Rein – An Equestrian Journey – by Mary Hanna

Published on Thursday, October 24, 2013 in Reviews

By: Jo Johnson

Anyone who is involved with horses in Australia, whether you’re into dressage or not, has heard of Mary Hanna.

Mary has represented Australia at four Olympic Games and at three World Equestrian Games. She has been the Australian National Grand Prix Champion on six occasions and works full time as an equestrian coach and dressage horse trainer, which she has done for over 30 years. 

‘A Long Rein – An Equestrian Journey’ is a fascinating tale that sheds light on Mary’s history, which is filled with fantastic characters, and on her life long journey to get where she is today.

This is not only a story for dressage fans. Although I love dressage, I am a western girl nowadays and haven’t competed in dressage for over 20 years, however, I really enjoyed this book.

It’s an inspiring read for those who have also dedicated their lives to horses and have horsey dreams. In fact, it’s an excellent yarn for anyone who loves reading biographies about tenacious people, who set goals, go after what they want and don’t stop until they get it. Mary has done that throughout her entire life, despite severe setbacks on a number of occasions, and continues to do it every day.

At times I felt the book was a little like a Jilly Cooper novel, except for being true of course, as it was just as entertaining! From Mary’s amazing horse obsessed mother’s romantic liaison with a German Naval Officer, her perfect horsey match marriage to Gert Donvig, the tragic loss of him and subsequent meeting of Rob Hanna, to Mary’s European adventures and experiences of the ups and downs, which are guaranteed when you share life with horses.

I really enjoyed reading about various characters in the book, in addition to Mary’s mum, who have influenced Mary’s attitude to life. These included Mary’s Aunt Anna who survived an Indonesian prison camp during World War II; her Aunt Kitty Sutherland who won the Garryowen Perpetual Trophy – twice; and Owen “Doc” Matthews, who also had a tough time in World War II, but went on to train his Thoroughbred police horse, Aintree Boy, up to Grand Prix level all by himself. Catching glimpses into the lives of such legends as Kyra Kyrklund and Anky Van Grunsven was also interesting. Then there were the wonderful tales of Mary’s horses, which illustrate her life-long love of the equine species.

Mary also talks about the situation leading up to and following the selection of the Olympic Dressage Team in 2012 and how hurtful it was when armchair critics, who knew little about the situation, knocked her and other members of the team. To me, these critics would be better off outside improving their riding and chasing their own goals, instead of spending time on a keyboard practising tall poppy syndrome.

The book is a good size and is easy to read – I couldn’t put it down. On the day I finished the book, I went to my first Western Dressage clinic, and on a borrowed horse nailed two tests. I know it’s a long, long way from Grand Prix but when the other attendees commended me on my performances, I told them I was tapping into Mary Hanna. They laughed, but it was the truth! As my borrowed Paint horse and I proceeded down the centre line, instead of feeling daunted, I sat up straight, put my legs on and thought: ‘How would Mary ride this’?

I’m sure you will feel just as inspired after reading ‘A Long Rein – An Equestrian Journey’.

By: Jo Johnson

A Long Rein was published on 12 October 2013, RRP $20.00 and is available from Horseland stores nationally and from the Statene Park website www.statenepark.com.au for $29.95 including postage within Australia.

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