So I finally feel like I can talk about my Rio Paralympics experience.
Some of you may know that although it was a wonderful thing and a tremendous honour to represent my country, things didn't go to plan and we struggled to do our very best in difficult circumstances.
Darcy had an allergic reaction to the bedding provided, coming up in bumpy skin and developing inflamed, runny sinuses. I am sure she didn't feel too great either but she is a trooper. We monitored her very carefully and she has given all possible care by our team vet and Sophie her supergroom.
Unfortunately, she had a nosebleed (only a little trickle but Darcy's welfare is the most important thing) during her first training session at Rio, I believe it was caused by the allergy and the really high heat. We had to make some very tough decisions as to how we were going to be able to compete. We decided to be guided by Darcy.
So the whole team put all our trust in this amazing little horse and rested her until our first test day, then I warmed up by only walking. The Canadian team 'groundcrew' were watching her all the time of any signs of stress.
All the other riders were schooling hard and really preparing their horses in the traditional manner but I had to hold my nerve and just walk. Instead of going into the 10 minute box, the final warm up arena before entering the Field Of Play, we took Darcy to the after-test misting fans and she stood in the cool damp breeze for that time.
I rode into the biggest atmosphere of my life, the Paralympic stadium, (soaking wet!) having to trust absolutely in the training between Darcy and I over all the years, without having trotted or cantered beforehand. It was a total exercise in Zen. I believed Darcy and I could do it so we did.
When we finished the test, a clean, clear round of a test but understandably not our most expressive performance, I got Clive Milkins my coach to check Darcy's nose before I dared to believe we had actually done it. We are Paralympians!
As a team, we decided that this strategy was 'safe' so we carried it on for our second test, wanted to get two nice scores for the team and hoping to squeak into the freestyle if possible. As it was, Darcy was the second highest scoring horse for the Canadian team (amazing, given the circumstances. It really was touch and go whether we would get any scores on the board) but we didn't make it through to the freestyle individual final.
I couldn't be more pleased with the way Darcy gave me her all. She is now back home but she is still recovering from the effects of that allergic reaction. Her body is going to need to take some time to heal.
Huge thank for the support and expertise of all the wonderful Equestrian Canada team especially David, Clive, Andrea Taylor, Caroline Archambault, Jennifer Miller and supergroom Sophie Louise Rowe! And Dirk Stroda and Rich Neale for providing sanity!
And of course, my amazing teammates, Lauren Barwick, Ashley Gowanlock and Robyn Andrews.
The Rio Paralympic journey has been long and I couldn't and wouldn't be doing any of this without the support of my wonderful personal sponsors. You guys rock!!!
TopSpec HorseHage & Mollichaff BLISS OF LONDON - Saddle makers of distinction SEIB Equestrian - Horse Insurance Kastel Denmark MDC Stirrups Showerking Horse Showers Cyclo-ssage Equine Massage System Horse Wear Technology - The HUSK.
And of course, Suzy Mainprice for breeding the little ginger diva herself, Double Agent!
Photos by the wonderful Kevin Sparrow!
#TeamCanada #GoCanadaGo #ParaTough #TwoHearts #Equestrian #ParaDressage #Paralympics
|Bert Sheffield Para Equestrian Rider||