SERGEANT Karen Owen of Killawarra will receive an Australian Police Medal for her 32 years of distinguished service to the NSW Police.
Announced as part of 2014 Australia Day Awards, Karen was surprised and humbled by the accolade.
For the past 30 years Karen has dedicated herself to the NSW Mounted Police and has achieved recognition internationally as well as domestically for her passion and expertise.
Karen was interested in horses from a young age and initially thought she would be a jockey.
But height proved to be a barrier as she grew and for a while at high school, Karen was unsure of her career path. All that changed when the mounted police announced they were to accept females.
Karen joined the NSW Police and after the mandatory year on general duties, she became only the second female to join the NSW Mounted Police.
As a female recruited to the oldest continuous mounted police force in the world, Karen became a pioneer in a very male dominated field. In 1997 she became the first female officer to attain the rank of sergeant in the 185 year history of the unit.
Now well and truly cemented in the senior ranks, Karen juggles a life of family and animals in Killawarra with her police duties in Redfern, Sydney.
Moving to the Manning Valley two years ago when husband Adrian secured a position at Wingham and Valley Vets, Karen soon fell in love with the area. She considers herself fortunate to have "the best job in the world" and to live in an area she loves.
Though the travelling can be tiresome, Karen wouldn't have it any other way.
The mother of three, Damien (15), Madeline (12) and Cullum (10), Karen said domestic and animal duties dominate when she gets back from a stint in Sydney.
When pressed for information on the 'normal' aspect of her life there's a ring of truth to her statement "horse people don't have normal lives." Karen and Adrian breed horses on their property as well as own cattle and share their lives with a number of dogs and cats.
Karen's job is certainly far from what many would consider normal and varied in the extreme.
As the senior instructor with the NSWMP, Karen can spend a fair bit of her time training, exercising and assessing any number of the 20 horses that are in the work stables at any one time.
With eight people on duty, Karen said each person might ride two to three horses on a shift.
Karen said you certainly have your favourite horse but as an elite unit, each member is adaptable and can work with any horse.
This particular skill proved invaluable when Karen led the advanced team of NSWMP officers to travel to London in 2012.
Nineteen officers performed for the Queen at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant.
Unable to take their own horses so far, the team rode the household cavalry horses and had only a few days to ride the unfamiliar horses before performing in front of a worldwide audience and of course royalty.
The experience left a lasting impression on Karen and she cites the experience as the highlight of her career. Personally invited to meet with the Queen, Karen was not only representing NSW Police but also Australasia in this event that included more than 500 other horses and riders from around the world.
Karen was also involved in the 2005 and 2010 Edinburgh Military Tattoo Musical Rides in Sydney and has led the Police Musical Rides for more than 16 years. Her achievements in her career are numerous and for more than 20 years Karen has trained every rider and selected, trialled and trained every horse within the unit.
Karen will attend an official ceremony at Government House in the near future where she will be presented with her APM.