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Para Equestrian Training Camp

Last week Lehua and I attended The Carlisle Academy’s Para-Equestrian Pipeline Training camp in Lyman, Maine. The camp is designed for para-dressage athletes and coaches to receive training in everything from Adaptive Equipment and Compensating Aids, Review of FEI Tests and Winning rides, and a Musical Freestyle Primer.

We were given the opportunity to ride Zoe for the week. Zoe is a beautifully trained Hanoverian mare with a gentle nature. Trained in dressage through second level, she was a great match for me in her size and movements. She gave me the chance to focus on different skills throughout the week and improve my strengths in other areas.

During the week Lehua and I had mounted sessions each day with International Para-Dressage Coach Clive Milkins from the U.K. and FEI 5* Paralympic Dressage Judge Hanneke Gerritsen from Holland. Each day Lehua participated in group warm-up lessons on Zoe. She then participated in collaborative coaching in the arena, which allowed for immediate feedback with Clive and Hanneke while assessing my positional and gait challenges, adaptive equipment, and horse selection. At the end of the week I was given the chance to perform my individual para-dressage test and have it judged by the high standards of Hanneke Gerritsen.

The week was truly memorable and I learned so much. It was wonderful to be surrounded by other para-athletes who enjoy the sport as much as I, and be able to collaborate, discuss, and learn from one another. The feedback from Clive and Hanneke was invaluable and I’ve already started to put it to practice at home.

I see the horse as a symbol of freedom. As someone who spends her days using a wheelchair to get around instead of walking, riding a horse is even more special to me. When I look back at all the work I’ve had to put in to get to where I am today from starting off not even being able to sit independently on the horse or get my legs in stirrups, to being independent today, attending a camp like this is truly special for me. Learning, bonding, and being able to ride each day allows me to break free. For that period each day, I gain a sense of freedom while the horse lends me her legs and I’m able to feel such amazing movement and motivation.

Thank you to Sarah Armentrout and everyone at the Carlisle Academy and the USPEA for putting this together. You all were so gracious and helpful throughout the week. Thank you to Bonnie Jenkins and Sara Ike of the United States Equestrian Team Foundation for putting on the “Ride to Rio” Banquet Dinner. It’s exciting to see the future of Para Dressage! Hanneke and Clive, thank you for traveling so far and spending so much time with me- it was priceless. Of course, thank you Lehua for taking the time off to travel with me! I think I can say that we had a lot of fun and learned a ton. Your support means the world to me.

Remember it takes a team of people to help me turn my dreams into a reality. Training, travel, competitions, equipment, clinics, vet care, farrier work, entry fees, are just many of the things that go into building a successful competitive para-dressage rider. The experiences and training I've received thus far has been priceless. If you'd like to further my journey please check out how by clicking here: Sponsor

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