Our coaches are all EA certified and highly experienced.  Whether you are new to riding and looking to develop core skills, or are an experienced rider looking to advance higher movements, our coaches have the skills to support your riding journey and help you achieve your goals.


Click on their profile picture to learn more about each coach.


Erica Russell

Head Coach

Level 1 Dressage Coach

alysha star.jpg

Alysha Harlen

Level 1 General Coach


Sue Chandler

Level 2 General Coach

Level 3 Dressage Coach

Coach Educator


Ethan Height

Intro Level Coach


Ashleigh Sosa

Intro Level Coach


Melanie Rhoden

Intro Level Coach



Erica Russell

Erica has a very long history with Oakwood, and has worked her way up over many years to become our Head Coach.  

Erica is a talented and passionate coach, who is very experienced at supporting the development of riders, regardless of their riding level.

Erica was awarded the EA National Coach of the Month in February 2019.  This is a testament to her dedication and passion for equestrian coaching.

How long have you worked for Oakwood?
37 years!
What does a typical day look like for you at Oakwood Riding School?
As Chief Instructor my day starts and finishes with teaching clients. Also giving Mo lots of treats!
What is your equestrian background?
My first Instructor worked at Oakwood.  One day she asked me if I could come up to help her.  I did, fell in love with the place, and have been ever since.
My daughter Alisha has Eddy, a 20 year old thoroughbred and they event together.  When it comes to family, I'm the strapper!
What do you do outside of your work at Oakwood?
I try to rest up, and like to make soy wax candles.
What do you like most about Oakwood?
I love meeting new people, and through instructing, giving them a fun learning experience.
And Mo!



Sue Chandler

Sue Chandler has been an integral part of Oakwood Riding School for many, many years.  She has supported the development of countless riders from beginner to advanced levels.  Her in depth knowledge and vast experience makes her an ideal Coach for the more serious equestrian athlete, with skills to advance a rider as far as they are prepared to go.
Sue posesses the following qualifications;
  • EA Level 2 General Coach
  • EA Level 3 Dressage Coach
  • EA Coach Educator
  • EA NOAS 'A' level Dressage Judge / Mentor

Chandler Equestrian Services will take you 'from ground  work to Grand Prix'

I started riding in UK at the age of 12 and although from a totally non horsey background, went straight from school to work in the horse industry and eventually ended up running the riding school where I had learned.  
 In 1978, an opportunity took me to work in Australia at the AEA, Wallington, for Fred Hoevenaars. Here I was teaching and working young horses with PLENTY off the track!!  I also did quite a lot of
  eventing - mainly on young horses - and rode several horses in dressage. Those were the days when you used to rock up at a comp, help put up the arenas, ride, pencil, cater or judge and then help take down the arenas again!! It’s not like that now.

  It was at the AEA that I started to compete on KAB an ex racehorse that had evented in pony club and open classes. Eventually I rode to Intermediate 2 on him. KAB taught me lots, particularly about patience. 

While at the AEA I was on the Geelong Dressage Club committee.  We were the first club to run a 
large indoor gala competition which included freestyles, pas de deux and dressage to all levels. This became a big event.

 In 1982, I went to Oakwood at Narre Warren where I was Manager/Chief Instructor for 4 years. I purchased KAB at this time and continued to compete on him and others in dressage and eventing. 

In 1986, taking two years away from horses, I went sailing around the Pacific. Not only was 
this a radical move but I also did the journey with two complete strangers. This was definitely different gossip for the horsey folk I had left behind.

 While in NZ I couldn’t resist doing a spot of teaching on the South Island. On my return to Oz in early 1988 I got right back into teaching and worked at Statene Park for three months 
to help out after the sad death of Gert Donvig. While there I rode Runs on Love to Grand Prix and competed on him at Oakwood in the first Berwick Classic!

Since then I have lived in Tasmania where I owned another TB gelding and was also an active committee member on the Tasmanian dressage
 Committee. I ran my own business at Byerley in Officer for 10 years and for the last seven and a half years  have been Manager/ Chief Instructor 
at the new Oakwood Riding School.
Along the way I have gained qualifications both in the UK and Australia and have been a very active member of the Vic NCAS coaching committee. Currently as an EA NCAS Level 2 General Coach, a Level 3 Dressage Coach and Coach Educator, I am also an EA NOAS A level Dressage judge and Mentor.

 I love the challenge of helping people with their horses. Carol Simpson has been riding and competing for more than 60 years. She has been a great friend and mentor to me for nearly 20 years and although she still rides no longer competes seriously. Carol has assisted me in many ways to compete by encouraging me to train and ride Harmony, who, despite many health issues is about to start competing again. Carol has also encouraged me on the brilliant Tasman Park Fanfare – owned by Carol. “Fifi” as she is known has had a very solid preliminary and novice career and has now commenced elementary.

I feel very privileged to have had the above opportunities and would never have been able to compete to such levels had I stayed in the UK- it really is a money sport over there. 

So thank you to all my friends both human and equine!


Ashleigh Sosa

Ashleigh is a passionate coach aiming for her EA level 1 certification. Ashleigh is known as an excellent communicator, making it easy for riders to understand the when, how and why of all things horse riding!

How long have you worked for Oakwood?
I have been a part of the team since early 2019. But used to visit Oakwood back in 2003 in Narre Warren where my primary school best friend kept her horse! I then came along to Oakwood again in Clyde North in 2010 (I think?!) to complete my Cert II in Equine Studies! 
What is your equestrian background?
I breed Welsh B ponies, and have too many to count now.  My main man is a 9 year old chestnut thoroughbred called Red (AKA Big Red, due to his height of 16.3hh).
I have studied my Cert II in Equine Studies, Cert III in Agriculture (horse breeding), Cert III in Sports Coaching (equestrian) and Diploma of Performance Horse Industry Management.
What do you do outside of your work at Oakwood?
I am a dressage rider, pianist and photographer that loves camping and going on 4x4 trips!
What do you like most about Oakwood?
I love working with like-minded people and sharing my passion with other horse lovers.
I enjoy working at Oakwood as the coaches here are known for providing quality riding tuition to riders of all ages, ensuring they develop a correct position and understanding of the horse, which will later enable riders to advance successfully in their chosen discipline.
Who is your favourite school horse?
It's so hard to choose! They're all amazing in their own unique way. But as a pony-person, I would have to picked Ryder. He is incredibly reliable, gentle, smart and patient.


Alysha Harlen

How long have you worked for Oakwood?
I started January 2020 casually but due to Covid haven’t been around overly much this year! But you will see me around loads more in future! 
What is your equestrian background?

It’s a long one! To keep it short I’ll keep it in dot points:

* I grew up on an Arabian Stud called Rolling Hills Park.

* Member of Berwick Pony Club from when I was 6yo until 17yo before being a coach there on and off.

* Started working in racing and helping others by coaching when I was 14yo.

* Worked in many racing and dressage barns with top level horses including G1 winners and Grand Prix horses. 

* Worked for Megan Jones the Eventing Olympic Silver Medallist at Beijing Olympics in 2008.

* Ran my own competition and training stable for many years.

* Competed my horse West Side Vision, whom I sold in 2019, to Medium dressage and 2* Eventing, as well as Bao Beat and Portland Boy to Elementary, 1.20m SJ and 1* Eventing before being sold.

* Raised many colts and fillies on our stud, however, one which I selectively bred I still have today and is my current competition mount Winter Vixen. 

What about your own horse?
My horse is Winter Vixen aka Star. She is a 15.3h 2011 Brown Oldenburg/Hanoverian mare. I bred Star at our stud and have produced her myself. I look to keep training her for Dressage and Eventing with the view to compete her up to Advanced and 1*. 
What do you do outside of your work at Oakwood?
I now just ride and compete on Winter Vixen. If I get the chance I love to skii and read books to have a break from my horse life!
What do you like most about Oakwood?

The professional, yet laid back environment, and most importantly the wonderful and dedicated students I work with who are always hungry for learning.

The lovely facilities don’t hurt either 😜

Who is your favourite school horse?
That’s a hard one!!! It would be Benson if I had to pick! I have had some of my coolest lessons with him, but really I love them all and they all have given me such fond memories of students having incredible moments! 

Alysha was born into the horse world and has lived and breathed horses every moment in her life! Alysha is an experienced Pony Club coach, riding instructor and trainer who competes in eventing.

Ethan is the newest member of our coaching team, and has in a very short period of time established himself as an integral member of the team. Ethan is a keen 2* Eventer, regularly competing and sharing his knowledge and experience with his riders through Oakwood and Pony Clubs!


Ethan Height

How long have you worked for Oakwood?
I have only recently been privileged enough to join the team here at Oakwood in November 2020
What is your equestrian background?

I am a 2* eventer with aims to compete at Melbourne International 3-day event and Adelaide International 3-day event in the 3* class. I first rode a horse at Ayr Hill in 2015 and loved it from day one and knew that I wanted to be doing something with horses in the future

What about your own horse?
I have a few different horses at the moment, my main competition horse is CIL Dara George who is a 17-year-old OTTB that I compete at 2* on. Koyuna Enigma (Jasper) is my 4-year-old purpose bred eventer that I broke in during March 2020 and has just begun his eventing career. Koyuna Mars is a 7-year-old WBxTB that I have been given to retrain and compete on behalf of the Koyuna stud. Luna and Piper are young fillies that I have been given to break in for the Koyuna stud when they are ready.
What do you do outside of your work at Oakwood?
Outside of Oakwood I have my own business of retraining tricky horses and private coaching which I fit in around my busy competition schedule. I also work for Emma Booth Para equestrian looking after and riding her horses which is a great experience. When I am not riding or coaching, I love to listen to music and take some time to relax.
What do you like most about Oakwood?

The fantastic facilities and school horses make Oakwood an amazing place. The great staff members and students make every lesson and every day a pleasure to be there to teach someone.

Who is your favourite school horse?
Picking a favourite is really tricky because all the horses are great. If i had to choose however, it would have to be Benson because of his lovely willing nature and can-do attitude.