Sonja Johnson learnt to ride as a young child by chasing cattle on her family’s farm in Albany, Western Australia. Family legend has it that prior to Sonja’s fourth birthday, while riding a very wise old pony called Cactus, Sonja headed out with her mother, Phoebe, to bring in the cattle at Swan Point, a coastal property belonging to Sonja’s grandparents. Being low lying, vehicles could not access it, so Sonja and Phoebe rode into the bush till they found cattle at the furthest point from the yards. Phoebe would then leave Sonja with instructions to keep going that way. Phoebe would head off and once she had found more cattle Phoebe and Sonja would locate each other by yells. Sonja would then keep heading in that direction till Phoebe returned again. It was the only means they had to get the cattle in!
At about 5 years old, Sonja joined the King River Pony Club and at the age of 13 finished second at the Pony Club State Eventing Championships now riding Apollo, the horse Phoebe used to ride for cattle work.
After finishing school, Sonja thought she would try for a University education. During this period the family bought more land, so Sonja decided that city life didn’t suit her and she took the opportunity to return to the land.
In 1995 Sonja made her International debut competing at the Trans Tasman event in New Zealand.
Sonja was named Australian Event Rider of the Year in both 1996 and 2003, and was also the non-travelling reserve rider for the 1996 Olympic Games. Sonja was also listed .for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics but injury finished any hope of that.
The Melbourne 3 Day Event has been a successful event for Sonja and Ringwould Jaguar, having won the CIC-W in 2004 and the CIC*** in 2006.
She has competed in New Zealand, Taupo 1995 and 2007 winning the NZ national championships on Ringwould Jaguar.
Sonja was based with Andrew Hoy with Floating Dollar from 1997-1999. During this time Sonja competed in The UK, France and Germany doing events such as Luhmuhlen and Saumur.
Sonja has also been on teams riding borrowed horses in India in 1999 and Thailand in 1996. In fact while in Thailand, she won the World Mule Racing Championship.
Sonja was also the coach to the Indian team that competed at the Asian games in Bussan, Korea in 2002. Sonja describes living on an Indian army base and in a brothel while in Korea (it was the only accommodation available they were told) as two memorable experiences!!!!
Sonja credits being named on the Australian team for the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany as a career highlight. Although she fell during the Cross Country phase and was knocked unconscious, the team still won the bronze medal to which she said, “These guys have done a fair bit to improve my headache. They’ve done a great job so I was very lucky to be part of it – thanks guys for my medal.” As was said to Sonja after “that was your free medal – next time you make sure you earn it”. Which is definitely what Sonja did at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong.
Sonjas future ambitions after winning the team silver at the 2008 Olympics is full steam ahead for the Kentucky World Games in 2010 and then London Olympics 2012 with her two very flash 7 year old, 4 star horses – her family’s Le Directeur and Mrs Olga Reveller’s Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison. Sonja thinks she may be around for a few years yet…
Sonja continues to combine her professional riding career with running the family sheep and cattle station (called Parkiarrup near Albany in WA) where she describes breeding true dual-purpose merino sheep as her passion.