THOROUGHBREDS COULD PLAY A ROLE
An off-the-track racehorse isn’t necessarily the first mount that comes to mind when talking about suitable para horses, however it’s been proven in the past that the right horse can work. Carolyn Lieutenant’s Temuchin was an off-the-track horse who finished his racing days in the late 1980s; the pair competed to Grand Prix level during the early to mid ’90s, and then by the late ’90s he made his para dressage debut and was ridden by both Grade I and IV riders. At the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, where athletes rode borrowed horses, Temuchin was part of the pool and drawn by a Grade I Norwegian rider named Jens Lasse Dokkan. Together, he and Jens took home bronze medals in the Mixed Dressage Championship and Freestyle tests, as well as the Team event.
While few thoroughbreds have featured since, Julia believes that the right horse could work – in particular for Grade I, II and III riders that require horses with a great walk and trot. “A nice thoroughbred can have a super walk and good trot, and they’ve been exposed… many have been down the straight with 20,000 people screaming at them. In a lot of cases they’ve had more exposure than most of the dressage horses.”
Julia explains that there is also a sentimental aspect to having an Australian thoroughbred representing our country. “We have so many athletes in the program who have actually come from the racing industry, and it would be fitting to have an off-the-track horse at the Games.”
A PATHWAY TO PARIS
The next major championship on the para dressage calendar is the FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark, held in August next year. At present it looks likely that Australia will have the opportunity to send a team, based on our position after Tokyo compared to other nations in the Oceania region – although this is yet to be confirmed.
As Julia explains, for riders yet to partner with a horse, the timeframe is tight; the first qualifier in Australia for previously unqualified combinations is likely to be in January. “If somebody came up with a horse and one of the athletes clicked with it, then obviously we wouldn’t wait if they were ready,” says Julia. “However, it’s a big call to get a combination through within that time frame. At the moment, our main focus is on 2024 with our ‘Pathways to Paris’ program.”