A HARDWORKING, funny young woman who had a gift with horses from childhood and an interest in politics that came out of left field: that was how family and friends remembered Riharna Louise Thomson yesterday.
The 22-year-old trackwork rider was farewelled at Alston chapel at Lincoln Grove Memorial Gardens after being critically injured in a fall from a horse on Tuesday of last week in Canberra.
The death of the young woman last Friday has rocked several communities across the state and territory, devastating many in the New England region particularly.
Riharna had lived in Tamworth and Walcha with her family, had been a NEGS student in Armidale, and was studying politics with the Australian National University alongside her track work.
Colleagues from the racing community travelled to Tamworth to attend the service, which was led by Racing NSW pastor Colin Watts.
About 150 people filled the chapel and spilled outside, there to remember Riharna and support her mum Jane, dad Ian, and younger siblings Colin, Braden and Bessie.
Reverend Watts said that, for many of the mourners, Riharna’s death was still a shock. “It hardly seems real and it certainly doesn’t seem fair,” he said.
Close family friend Ian Allwood gave Riharna’s eulogy, describing her as definitely one of the “Thommo stock”: loving, hardworking, honest, caring, good people.
He recalled her special touch with her first pony at the age of six, and how she was speaking passionately about politics and political history from as early as her mid-teens.
Gabrielle Norbury also shared her favourite memories of her best friend, including watching footy games and Casey Stoner races with her late into the night, talking on the phone for hours and, after Riharna got her driver’s licence, doing laps (albeit short ones) of Walcha’s main street.
Gabrielle said she had admired Riharna for her dedication to her dreams, and that she’d been beautiful inside and out. “People naturally gravitated towards her … she had a wicked sense of humour and such a diverse range of interests.”
Friends and family were shown a photo montage of Riharna’s life, and after being taken from the chapel to the Luke Bryan song Favourite Flowers – which has the line ‘God picks His favourite flowers first’ – she was laid to rest on the grounds.
Braden shared his pride and grief about the life and death of “the most beautiful soul”, on social media last week. “Your love, smile and overall attitude was infectious to anyone who was lucky enough to cross your path.” He finished with the hashtag #rideonriharna.