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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Hanna Olaussen: late to the game but born a natural

Sophomore+Hanna+Olaussen+practices+with+QD+before+the+horsemanship+event+during+the+competition+against+Fresno+State+at+Hildebrand+Equine+Complex+on+Thursday%2C+Nov.+17%2C+2022.%26%23160%3B%28Cameron+Johnson%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Cameron Johnson

Sophomore Hanna Olaussen practices with QD before the horsemanship event during the competition against Fresno State at Hildebrand Equine Complex on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. (Cameron Johnson/The Battalion)

In equestrian, riders are often “born” into the sport, riding from as young as age 5 with hopes of advancing to the collegiate level. Sophomore Hanna Olaussen said she didn’t start riding until she was 10, but she is now a world champion rider and key member of the Texas A&M equestrian team.
Hanna is a highly decorated Horsemanship rider, majoring in animal science with hopes of becoming a veterinarian. From the age of 11, she said she has spent most of her time on the road or in the barn. Hanna was born in Stavanger, Norway, and moved to the United States at 4 years old. She moved back to Norway when she was 9 years old, then came back to the United States when she was 11 and has lived here since.
Hanna started taking riding lessons once a week when she lived in Norway but did not get deep into the sport until she came back to the United States. It was during her seventh grade year that Hanna said she got into the sport more seriously.
“I was kind of late getting into this game,” Hanna said. “Most of these girls were pretty much born into this sport, so I came here and started doing the low-level barrel races and loved it. Then I found this world and dove into it head first.”
After coming back to the United States, Hanna lived in San Antonio but has spent most of her time traveling all over the country to places such as Las Vegas, Tampa, Florida, Scottsdale, Arizona and Oklahoma City to compete in major shows. In seventh grade, Hanna decided to switch to online school because she felt like she was so behind everyone else, her mom Ann Olaussen said.
“Hanna studied online for a year and a half and felt like she really could stay in the barn all day and get things done,” Ann said. “She would do her homework in the car on the way and then be on a horse all day before we would drive home.”
Equestrian is a very expensive and time-consuming sport. Hanna’s mom said that as the competition becomes more prestigious, the horses become more costly because they are specifically bred for these events.
“Hanna did not start out with a world champion horse,” Ann said. “When she was sure she wanted to do this, she got a very, very entry-level horse. It was not expensive, but it taught her how to ride.”
Many colleges wanted to recruit Hanna to their equestrian team, but she announced her commitment to A&M via social media in 2019. Hanna said she had a feeling this is where she would end up, and officially signed with the team in 2020.
“I got recruited by A&M at a relatively young age, and so this was always kind of the first place I wanted to go to,” Hanna said.
Equestrian is an NCEA sport that offers two disciplines, Western and Jumping Seat. The Jumping Seat events are Fences and Flat, while the Western events are Horsemanship and Reining, according to the NCEA website. Hanna competes in Horsemanship.
“I love Horsemanship because it is what I grew up doing and what I am best at,” Hanna said. “I think that compared to other events, you can focus on yourself the most and your connection with the horse. There are no other distractions.”
Horsemanship is a combination of the style and effectiveness of the rider and their communication with the horse. It is a balance between the rider’s hands and legs and the horse’s mouth and body, assistant coach Suzy Jeane said. There are certain skills required for Horsemanship.
“We look for a girl who is experienced, passionate, confident and can communicate with her horse,” Jeane said. “You can tell Hanna has a natural gift. Like some people are good at baseball, Hanna is good at horses.”
Even though she started later than most people in the sport, Hanna has won many awards. She has won five awards from the American Quarter Horse Association, five from the National Snaffle Bit Association, three SEC awards, one Most Outstanding Performer award, one NCEA All-American honorable mention and Aggie Western Rookie of the year, according to 12thMan.com. Hanna is also a three-time Congress Champion, an award given by the All American Quarter Horse Congress, according to 12thMan.com.
“I have been very privileged with a lot of great horses and a lot of great people to support me who have led me to this,” Hanna said.
Hanna has seven horses at home. She said her horse Moonshine Wearin’ Only Moonlight got her name on the board for college.
“He is the one who probably led me to where I am today,” Hanna said. “He is the one I have been most successful on; I am very thankful for him.”
Anna said she has never pushed Hanna to compete; it is Hanna pushing herself. Hanna added that she dove straight into this sport and has given it her all.
“She is probably one of the most dedicated and motivated girls I know,” Ann said. “She is one that gets up at 5:30 in the morning to go out and ride, no matter if it is cold and wet. She loves the whole horse thing.”
Hanna is not only passionate about equestrian, but also passionate about helping animals. Hanna said she hopes to become a veterinarian.
“I love helping animals in any way I can,” Hanna said. “I worked at an equine clinic in high school, and it was incredible. You see a lot of really cool things and a lot of not so cool things, but it really opens your eyes to these animals and all they do for us.”
After graduation, Hanna said she does not plan to quit equestrian and would love to continue competing.
“I think I am going to be in this for a very long time,” Hanna said. “Maybe not at the professional level, but definitely on the side if I can.”
Megan Wedhorn is a journalism sophomore and contributed this piece from the course JOUR 359, Reporting Sports, to The Battalion.

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