By Bev Jordan

Dedicated volunteers Jan Pike and Karen O’Neill from Riding for the Disabled at Box Hill (Gables) have both been awarded OAM’s in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

The Hills residents were among nine locals named on Sunday.

Jan Pike from Winston Hills was nominated for services to people with a disability.

She told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News that the honour was quite overwhelming.

The equestrian Paralympian who won silver and bronze at the Athens Paralympics had never sat on a horse before she attended a Riding For the Disabled program 44 years ago,

“I was 24 and I think my husband just wanted to get me out of the house!

“I was looking for a new challenge and I thought it would be something I would like.” She said her first introduction to Riding for the Disabled was as a Girl Guide leader when a representative came to talk to the guides.

“She said come and have a look, I did and the first time I sat in the saddle I was totally hooked. “

It was total freedom to have those strong legs under me.”

At the 2000 Paralympics, Jan was a trail rider and four years later was a medal winner on Dr Dolittle. She was also in the squad that competed in the Beijing Games.

An RDA member for over 40 years, she has been a rider representative since 1993, a member of the State Dressage Committee and an Executive Officer since 2016. She was named NSW Volunteer of the Year in 2019.

Mother-of-two Karen O’Neill was also awarded an OAM for services to people with a disability.

The Winston Hills resident works four days a week and is a volunteer coach on her day off.

She has volunteered with Riding for the Disabled at Tall Timbers and at Regional and State Level since 1982. She has been involved in every facet of the centre as a volunteer, senior coach, committee member, State assessor and President for 10 years. She also attends Regional and State Riding events and workshops.

Karen also helps with property maintenance, is always involved in fundraising activities or events and can often be found in the shed cleaning and sorting things out.

Her dedication has won her numerous awards including Hills Shire Council Citizen of the Year and RDA’s State Award for Volunteer of the Year.

Nicole King, staff coach at Riding for the Disabled Tall Timbers said the organisation was thrilled by the announcement. volunteers 

“To have Jan and Karen recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year was so exciting. volunteers volunteers  volunteers 

“I have seen the contribution they have each made and in their own way carved a legacy that will continue to be part of our future.

“By the very nature of volunteering those who do are very humble and not after the accolades but this is certainly one accolade that is a testament to their extraordinary contribution and hopefully inspires others to get involved.”