There aren’t the words to accurately describe the relationship formed between myself and this unicorn, Mogelvangs Zidane. But what I will do is try and tell his story – which will not seem adequate – but hopefully will give you an idea of what this horse has achieved, and in turn helped me achieve. Zidane became the legs that literally and metaphorically carried me when my own couldn’t anymore. He inspired me and in turn gave others hope. Let me try and take you on our journey around the world.
Zidane was born in Denmark in 2002, by Blue Hors Hertug out of Valdiva (Manstein). As a four-year-old, he was trained at the same facility as the amazing Cassidy, owned and campaigned by Olympian, Cathrine Dufour. Katerine Sandholt was his owner in Denmark and she did a tremendous job in producing such a wonderful horse. They formed a truly wonderful partnership before he was sold to Australia. Zidane was imported by Victorian-based dressage rider Petra Lee, who successfully competed him to Prix St Georges level, with the guidance of State Victorian Dressage Coach Lone Joergensen. It was actually Lone – the fabulous Danish Olympian who relocated to the Mornington Peninsula in 2013 – who then brought Zidane and I together.
I remember Lone asked to speak to me after presentations at the Victoria Dressage Festival in December of 2015 – the first of three qualifying events for the Rio Paralympics. Lone knew I was in the market should the right horse come along and told me I needed to come and have a sit on this horse.
So needless to say, I went to see and ride Zidane at Lone’s a couple of days later. Without it sounding like a cliché, there was an instant understanding and connection between this beautiful bay Danish Warmblood and I. I knew at that moment he was the horse we had been looking for, and that we would compete together on the world stage in Rio.
When asked later how the idea to pair Zidane and I came about, Lone would tell Equestrian Life: “I knew Zidane was a good horse but that he also needed to be ridden well. I also knew that before Emma’s accident she had been doing eventing, so there was a riding skill there which needed the right horse. I saw Emma ride at Dressage Festival and thought ‘that could fit’. I had known Zidane for a few years beforehand and he has always shown his amazing character and honesty which, combined with his walk and trot quality, I thought he could be a very suitable para horse.”
“When I saw Emma and Zidane together for the first time, I didn’t have any doubts anymore.”
Only three weeks later, Zidane and I went to our first competition, which was a CPEDI*** at Boneo Park, and a qualifying event for the Rio Paralympics. He instantly proved himself as the incredible horse that he is by receiving the highest para scores of all combinations competing in all grades and broke the Australian record (at the time) for the highest score at an FEI event in our Freestyle, with a huge 79%.