Pacing: No barriers for passionate driver

RACHEL CURRYBusselton Dunsborough Times

Female harness racing drivers are a rarity in the South West, but Busselton’s Michele Charman has not let that get in the way of her passion for the sport.

An owner, breeder, trainer and driver of trotting horses, Charman starts at 5am each day to fit in her duties around a full-time job, but said she would not have it any other way.

“I love training them. Behind the scenes there’s so much work involved that you don’t see when you go to the races on a Friday night,” she said.

Charman has been involved in the sport since she was a teenager, when she helped look after a trotting horse for her neighbour, who ended up giving her the horse for free.

Since then she has not looked back, gaining her training license for harness racing horses in 1998 and qualifying as a driver in 2002.

Charman said she sees “a few” female drivers in the sport, but not as many as there could be.

“They’re more in training; women don’t seem to drive as much. It seems to be a man’s world where women are trying to break in,” she said.

She said women were often more gentle than men, which gave them a lot of potential to be good drivers.

Charman got her first win as a driver in 2003 at just her 10th start, and describes the experience of driving as a “big adrenaline rush.”

However, she said she loves all aspects of her hobby, from breeding and caring for the horses to training and racing them, with the best moments coming at the races where she could see the result of all her hard work.

“That’s probably the most pleasurable part of it, for me,” she said.

Charman is supported by her mother, Lynn, who works as her stable hand. She owns eight horses, with two, Spring Loaded and The King’s Daughter, racing this season.

Spring Loaded has already had some early success, picking up third place in race two at the Busselton Trots on January 2.

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