bbaugh@aikenstandard.com


Mia Haraonen has spent the last 2 1/2-months as a working student at Elly Schobel’s Homestedt in Williston. The horseman from Finland who began riding at the age of five, after seeing her sister participate in the activity, will soon be realizing a dream by going to work as a groom for Finnish Olympic Dressage rider Mikaela Lindh.


“I didn’t know if I was going to get the job,” said Haraonen, who is excited about the opportunity, and is embracing the chance to go to work for her fellow countryman next month.


Haraonen will spend two more weeks in the United States, go home to Finland for seven days, and then it’s off to Denmark where Lindh’s barn is based. The experience will provide Haraonen the opportunity to be exposed to international competition and the elite level of the sport.


It’s Haraonen’s passion for horses, an over powering feeling she’s had since childhood, that serves as the impetus for her evolution as a horseman. Haraonen’s willingness to learn and indefatigable spirit have enabled the horseman to expand the breadth of her knowledge about the equine industry. Haraonen’s objective is to become a head groom or a farm manager.


But, the early part of Haraonen’s sojourn found her taking dressage lessons, eventually transitioning to show jumping, and going back and forth between the two disciplines. It was a challenge to develop a strong foundation as a horseman as she found herself going to a riding school just once a week. However, it was from those earlier experiences, and Haraonen’s quest for knowledge, that the complexion of her future would begin to take shape.


It was after Haraonen received her first horse, at the age of 11, the intensity of the young horseman’s training would increase as she worked with a number of horsmen in her homeland. Haraonen wasn’t deterred by the challenges that come with a life in the equine industry, the time commitment involved, the fact that it’s labor intensive, and that horses are not self-existing items. The horseman greets every day with an enthusiasm and optimism that’s contagious.


“It was when I was 15 or 16 that I knew I really wanted to do this,” said Haraonen.


It was a mutual friend of Schobel’s and Haraonen that would lead the the Finnish rider to the United States.


“My friend who is now living in Finland, is from Colorado, and knows Elly,” said Haraonen. “It’s been a great experience working with Elly. Aiken has been outstanding. It’s so warm here, and the people are so nice.”


Haraonen has benefitted greatly from her time at the Homestedt, and has seen steady progress in her riding.


“My position has improved markedly,” said Haraonen. “She explains things very clearly, in a way that’s very understandable. We’ve been working on the basics.”


The opportunity to work with an elite level rider, and for a Finnish barn, has clearly been a goal of the young horseman, who finds her job extremely rewarding.


“She trains all the time with German riders,” said Haraonen. “She has really good horses.”