WHILE most of us are still sound asleep before daybreak, Georgia Young saunters down to her stables, gears up her steeds in the dark and begins her day driving harness horses on her family property in Worrigee.
A fresh-faced Young is not your average teenaged girl; her femininity betrays the grit and determination she must possess to make her way through the professional ranks of female drivers. She is part of a brave new wave of women participants in harness racing making an enormous impression in a sport traditionally dominated by men.
“It’s a bit challenging and risky racing against men. They take it really seriously and I find them to be more aggressive than the women,” Young said.
In addition to pursuing a professional career as a harness racing driver, a demanding job which requires her to safely steer half a tonne of harness horse around a race track, competing against up to 11 other jostling competitors, mostly men, at speeds of up to 50km/h.
The Nowra High School student is also taking on the massive task of completing her Higher School Certificate.
“I am balancing my studies with driving at this stage,” she said.
Young is no stranger to the challenges she faces, having cut her teeth in mini trotting, and is the first young driver from the Shoalhaven Mini Trotting Club to progress her career to open harness racing, competing weekly against some of the top reinsmen in the sport.
“At my first race I was the most scared person on earth and I thought I had no idea what I was doing, so I just went out there and got the job done, I was really nervous,” she said.
“I have driven in 20 official races, with four second places and one third place,” Young said.
Young became involved in the sport through her stepfather, Greg Coney who drives and trains pacers and with whom she shares the daily task of training the horses.
“I took on learning everything from him and helping him out with the horses. I suppose in that way he is my role model,” Young said.
Chief executive officer of the NSW Harness Racing Club John Dumesny, who fiercely supports women participants in harness racing, attributes the surge in female participants to a realisation that they are at the very least equal to if not superior to their male counterparts.
“Women seem to be far gentler with the horses and they have no fear when competing against their male counterparts,” Mr Dumesny said.
“Women are dominating our sport, with the likes of Amanda Turnbull, Lauren Panella, Kerryanne Turner and a host of others who are presently leading the NSW state premiership and consistently winning group one races,” he said.
Harness Racing’s premier event the Inter Dominion, which took place recently at Tabcorp Park, Menangle aimed this year to enhance the profile of women in the sport.
“This year, our focus has been on the girls in harness racing. Stephanie Rice is the Inter Dominion ambassador and is supported by industry ambassadors, Amanda Turnbull, Sammy Kilgour and Seryn Adams,” Mr Dumesny said.