It was a lifelong passion for horses which drove Rachel Hogg to complete a PhD which investigated the relationship between horse and rider in equestrian sport.
Though not a typical area of study for those undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Psychology, the 29-year-old grew up around horses on her Pleasant Hills farm.
It was this love of the horses, which was cultivated from such a young age, which drove Ms Hogg’s desire to complete her grueling four-and-a-half-year doctorate.
“I had some really significant relationships with horses growing up, which influenced me greatly and effected me personally in so many ways,” she said.
“There was a particular horse I had who became very sick and I had a very strong relationship with him, which benefited me enormously and to this day he’s still one of the most important things to me and I could never sell him.”
Ms Hogg admits that despite the challenges she faced in her independent research, she felt blessed to be given the opportunity to study something so close to her heart.
"It’s something I'm extremely passionate about, so in a way it felt like quite a self-indulgent thing to study, but as the project went on I realised it was actually very important research," she said.
Her studies took her overseas, where she interviewed elite equestrian riders, which revealed the relationship between a horse and rider to be a complex combination of both personal and professional dynamics.
"The sport is becoming increasingly commercialised and the relationship the riders have with their horses has become implicated in that,” she said.
“These horses can be worth a lot of money and can be moved from rider to rider quite quickly, so sometimes forming a close relationship isn't the best option, but in some cases sometimes it can be beneficial.”
After her many years of study, during which Ms Hogg also worked as a psychology lecturer at Charles Sturt University, Ms Hogg already has projects in the works to further investigate the horse and rider relationship.
She also hopes to write a book on the subject, which is yet to be investigated in such depth and detail, making it a valuable contribution to the equestrian field.
Becoming published in the area is a feat she has dreamed of undertaking for quite some time.
“It’s all very exciting to be graduating today, very scary, but also very satisfying,” she said. “There’s lots of things happening in the works, which will add to the research I’ve already achieved.”
“I really am so lucky and grateful to be given the opportunity to be involved in something I’ve always loved so much.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.