No horsing around for these mums

No horsing around for these mums
MUMS AND BABES: Soh Wei Chi (in white) with her son Kristian and horse Mirabel Horjis, and 1995 SEA Games gold-medallist Catherine Oh (in red) with her horse Vlicka and children Kai and Ella.

Soh Wei Chi sees her two babies two to three hours daily for six days a week at the Singapore Polo Club, waking up at 4.30am on weekdays to spend time with them.

Her "babies" are horses Don Le Beau and Mirabel Horjis, whom she affectionately calls "sweetheart".

Her third baby is five-year-old son Kristian, who often runs up to her hugging her legs, asking: "Am I your sweetheart too?"

Equestrienne Soh will be making her South-east Asia (SEA) Games debut next month in the dressage event, and has her plate full with training, spending time with Kristian, and her work as a litigation lawyer.

"My life is very packed," said the 39-year-old, whose day can end as late as 2am. "It's very intense and demanding in all aspects."

To make time for Kristian despite her busy work and training schedule, Soh goes home early to have dinner with him four days a week, even though it means she has to work from home.

"Work" for her includes reviewing documents, drafting court papers and preparing cases - all of which begin after her early morning training, and continue after Kristian's bedtime of 9.30pm.

For teammate and fellow mother Catherine Oh, who will also be competing in the dressage event with her horse Vlicka at the June 5-16 Games, the biggest challenge of being a mother-athlete is having to compete overseas.

Oh, who had to be away from her children - six-year-old Kai and nine-year-old Ella - during the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar two years ago, said: "Obviously, they missed me and I missed them a lot, but they were also excited about what was going on.

"There was also coverage on TV, so they could see what was happening and I spoke to them often and kept in touch."

The 43-year-old, who formed part of the gold medal-winning quartet at the 1995 SEA Games, has taken "balancing competing priorities" in her stride, adapting her training schedule to her two children's daily routine.

"We do most of our training in the morning," said Oh, who is self-employed and is studying for a law degree at the University of London.

"So, once I drop my children at school, I go for training."

She also pointed out similarities between raising children and working with horses, saying: "From a mother's perspective, trying to help my children grow and have confidence... you have to build the same thing with your horse.

"You need to establish the relationship, figure out the boundaries, find out how they work and then create an encouraging environment where it works in a positive way."

Soh has not experienced having to go overseas for competition yet, but leaving Kristian at home while she goes for training has been "a bit more difficult" over the past year.

GRUMPY

Said Soh: "Sometimes when he wakes up grumpy, he'll cry and doesn't want me to leave. He will say, "I don't want you to go riding, I want you to stay with me'.

"I will usually give him a hug and explain to him that I have to go for training, and he'll understand because he knows that I make time for him."

Oh won a bronze medal in the team dressage event at the Myanmar Games two years ago and is looking forward to competing at the "home" Games, where she is aiming to win another medal.

"It's great that we're competing here in Singapore, because my family's here and my children are here," she said.

"They can come and watch, and that's a real advantage for me."

EQUESTRIAN

When: June 6 to 10

Where: Turf Club Riding Centre (ticketed)

On offer: Four gold medals

History: 4 golds, 4 bronzes

Milestones: Janine Khoo's showjumping gold at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar is Singapore's first individual gold in 30 years. Peter Abisheganaden had won the Republic's last individual gold at the 1983 Games on home soil.

The team: Caroline Chew, Catherine Oh, Soh Wei Chi, Natalie Pinruo Tan, Catherine Chew, Janine Khoo, Predrag Marjanovic, Kathleen Sea, Cheong Su Yen

Did you know: Equestrian is the only SEA Games sport where men and women compete directly with one another. Predrag Marjanovic is the only male athlete in this year's SEA Games equestrian team.

The New Paper's prediction: Malaysia had won three out of the six gold medals on offer at the last SEA Games, but Indonesia, who took the other two, emerged the big winners with a total of eight equestrian medals. Janine Khoo will be heavily favoured to retain her individual showjumping gold from the previous Games.

cnicole@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 10, 2015.
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