Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Role Models

Five years ago I broke my back in a riding accident. At the time, I thought it was the end of the world. It was the end of my world at the time, I suppose. But I slogged on through and made a new world for myself. In my new world I am not the rider I was, but I am still a rider just the same. I have learned that nothing can stand in the way of my passion. What was the catalyst for my epiphany? A picture in a magazine.

About a year after my injury, I was thumbing through either Dressage Today or USDF Connection, I can't remember which one. I saw a picture of a lovely horse and rider team in competition. The horse was soft and relaxed, the rider's position was exemplary. It was such a lovely picture that it took me a few seconds to register that something was very different about that pair. The rider had no arms. She was a Para Equestrian, something that, up until seeing that picture, I had never heard of. Intrigued, I read the article and found that there were many Para riders out there. They were out there training, competing and doing it well. And here I was whining and pitying myself for having a few broken bones.

From that point on, I had new role models. Role models who were riding against all odds. Role models who would not let anything get in the way of their passion. When I am having a bad day, and my back hurts and I'm ready to give up, they are my inspiration. Their drive, ambition and sheer passion for horses inspire me to keep going. If I could be half the horseman that these men and women are, I would be happy.

This year, for the first time, Para Equestrians will be competing with all the other disciplines at the FEI World Equestrian Games. However, most of the Para athletes are amateurs. They don't have wealthy clients to sponsor their trip to WEG and have to pay much of the costs out of pocket. It has come to my attention, through the blog Dressage Mom, that one of the American Para athletes is short of the money she needs to get to WEG. Sheri, the author of Dressage Mom, has been trying to find a corporate sponsor for her, but has been unsuccessful so far. She is still looking, and has entreated her readers for help. I don't have any ideas, either. But I do have a blog, and I can help put the word out.

The rider in question is Laura Goldman. Laura has Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that weakens the skeletal muscles. She is listed as a Grade 1A rider, which is considered "most impaired" by the FEI. But she doesn't let that get in her way. She is able to mount and dismount on her own and ride at walk and trot, keeping her horse in a frame that puts many able bodied riders to shame (myself included!)

The U.S. Para riders need our help. Competing at WEG is the opportunity of a lifetime and they have earned the right to be there. It would be a shame to not be able to go just because of a silly thing like money. If you have any ideas for how to get this dedicated, inspirational athlete to WEG, head on over to Dressage Mom and leave a comment. Even if you don't have any ideas, spread the word. The more people who know about the problem, the more likely it will be that a solution is found!

Here's some more ways you can help:

You can donate directly to the USPEA HERE

Behind The Bit is sponsoring a giveaway for those who donate! All you have to do is donate to the USPEA, then leave a comment on this post or at Behind The Bit saying "I did it!" and you'll be automatically entered to win great prizes! (Be sure to keep your donation receipt number for verification purposes)


  1. I have incredible respect for para athletes of all kinds. For the riders, my admiration increases and then explodes when I think of their horses.

    I'll go check out the blog, but, alas, I am no corporation, nor do I have any money. *sigh*

  2. It certainly puts things into perspective when you see how these riders cope - and how well they ride. Great sentiments, off to check out the blog.

  3. Your story is an amazing one, but you're right, the para riders do put it all in perspective - thanks for the link!


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