Heni Ede will be the first person to tell you that it is both daunting and exciting to be joining Nick Olive’s stables in Canberra next week, after spending the past four and a half years with popular Wagga trainer, Tim Donnelly.
Still, the opportunity to outride her claim and work with other leading trainers based in the nation’s capital, along with her burgeoning relationship with Simon Miller, who is also based in Canberra; meant that Ede had to take up the unique opportunity.
“It’s almost going on five years that I’ve been here with Tim,” Ede said.
“I’ve just been really lucky with all the winners I’ve gotten but it was time for a change and it’s just about more opportunity to ride more track work and ride for more trainers.
“I ride a bit for Luke Pepper, he really got me going and he was my first (riding) double I had ever ridden down at the Sapphire Coast, and it will be a good opportunity to work and ride for him and other Canberra trainers.”
As far as big goals with Olive and his strong stable of horses, Ede was keeping her feet firmly planted on the ground.
“We will see how things go, I need to improve a lot and have a lot to work on and it is just all little stepping-stones at the moment; I’m not getting a big head,” Ede said.
“I probably just want to outride my claim, that’s a big deal for me. I still have another 60 (winners) to go.”
The 24-year-old expected things to change quite a lot though, especially when working for a bigger stable.
“I’m not too sure what to expect to be honest but it will be different,” Ede said.
“At Tim’s stable, we are like a family there and it’s going to take a bit of getting used too.
“I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing, but I be riding more work and working in the morning and in the afternoons when there are no races on.”
Despite being excited by the opportunity to work in Canberra, Ede admitted she would be leaving Wagga with fond memories and couldn’t thank Donnelly enough for the opportunities to work around horses, let alone become a jockey and ride winners.
“He pretty much taught me how to ride,” Ede said.
“I originally never thought of being a jockey, he taught me track work, then I got my weight down and then he thought I should consider an apprenticeship.”
Donnelly even sent Ede off at times to get better at her craft, and Ede said he is the reason she can ride as good as she does today.
“I really do appreciate Tim and how much he has done for me,” Ede said.
“He sent me to Sydney for a month to ride with Mark Newnham and really helped me with everything; Tim taught me how to ride, do form, walk the track and dress and speak properly.
“He has been a really good role model for me, and I am really sad to be leaving him.”
The New Zealander, who has been in Australia for six years, doesn’t come from a racing family either and it was the need to find work in the area that led Ede to Donnelly’s stables, after some work experience with fellow Wagga trainer, Wayne Carroll.
“My family have a sheep shearing contract and I finished high school and wanted to study law but my dad had a bad heart attack in my last year of high school and I felt like I missed out on that connection with my parents, so I moved over for my gap year,” Ede said.
‘I tried getting a job at a pub but I came across after all the university students had taken most of the jobs and I had mutual friends with a girl that had left Wayne Carrols’ stables and I asked for some work experience, and had to learn quite quickly.”
Ede wasn’t fussed about riding horses at first and was content to work in the stables until Donnelly pushed her to get back in the saddle.
“I didn’t know much at all about horses, but the girls were really patient, and they taught me a lot, so I was just doing stable work,” Ede said.
“I had originally got my track work riders licence through a friend, and she chucked me on one of her friend’s horses and I fell off and that day, I said ‘that’s it, I’m never riding a horse again,” Ede laughed.
“After a while, one day when I was strapping for Tim, he said I needed to have a go again and it went from there and now I’m a jockey.”
It was a tough initiation for Ede though, who had an unlucky fall early in her career, missing more than a year in the saddle due to a broken leg before suffering from subsequent confidence issues when getting back on board.
“I had 13 rides, and I went to Balranald and it was the first race and I was getting legged on, and the horse just shot off and threw its body again and I rolled forward and it (my leg) just snapped,” Ede said.
“Obviously I put on weight, but I got it back down, but my main problem was getting legged on and my balance, and with the moving, I lost my nerve with that.
“Before the injury, I had good balance and could ride quite short, but it took me probably 30 or so rides until I finally started to get some confidence again.”
Now, the popular Southern District Racing Association jockey is back racing, and riding winners on a regular basis, with Ede down to a 2kg claim in the country.
Ede, who won her first TAB race aboard Powerscourt, will funnily enough have her last ride as Donnelly’s apprentice on her stable favourite at Wagga on Monday, and the young jockey, along with connections will be hoping for a winning swan song.