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The 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio was the first time that some of the games were broadcast live on network television in the United States. It was also the first time that mainstream society saw the disabled community for all the things we CAN do, not for what we can’t.

Oftentimes, the disability community receives widespread attention during telethons, campaigns for medical research, or on the news when there’s some random act of kindness performed. In light of this exposure, the disability community is regularly seen for our perceived shortcomings. Our community is often misunderstood. Even the name “disability community” sets us apart and suggests that we are without ability, or have lesser abilities.

Since becoming a part of this community I have rarely felt that there was something wrong with me. Just like the entire population of people, I have some things that I am good at, and other things that I struggle with; but this is not specific to my disability.

After I got sick I began trying out all sorts of sports including cycling, basketball, skiing, rugby and dressage. It took some imagination and creative skills to figure out how I could do some of these sports without the use of my legs, hands, spasticity, and reduced strength, but I participated in most and shined in many. The sports I tried made me a happier, healthier person.

The equestrian sports, especially, allowed me not only to survive, but thrive. I connected with so many horses and people who didn’t see me as having a disability. The self-confidence I built up was invaluable.

I am who I am today not in spite of my disabilities, but because of them. I’ve had my own unique challenges, my own strengths and talents that I’ve nurtured, and my own weaknesses and disability that I’ve had to overcome. Riding for me is a way to test my ability and push my physical and mental limitations. It’s a testament to humanity’s indomitable spirit to adapt and excel.

I wouldn’t have gotten this far without great family, friends, and a team of people at the barn supporting me this far. They are the ones who always accepted me without judgment.

I'm going strong into this competition year. If you'd like to know how you can support me, please click here: Support

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