TYRANNY OF DISTANCE
The next challenge we have to look at is what I would consider a “weakness” of Australian para dressage, and that is geography. This always has and always will remain an obstacle, but one we have to consider nonetheless. The fact that we have such a great distance between us and other countries can make campaigning from home soil difficult – this is obviously not news to anyone.
What this distance means is that other competitors are regularly competing against one another, and are constantly fighting for positions on the podium, whereas in Australia we are only competing against our own riders and are unable to compare where we are sitting against other competitors on a global scale. This has obviously always been a difficulty with being based in Australia and is perhaps something less easily resolved.
I do believe it’s very possible to produce the results we need internationally whilst campaigning from Australia, however, it is something that needs to be looked at and closely considered. Even if this is only mentally acknowledged and processed by athletes, that could be enough to make the slightest difference in mindset when competing on the world stage, and add to those scores that we all so desperately aim for.
In summation, how do I believe Australian paras are currently positioned leading up to the World Championships in Herning this year? We have some great talent in our riders, that’s for sure, and we currently have a few promising combinations; however, I think overall we need to seriously access greater horsepower and get our best riders on more competitive mounts, otherwise we’re not going to get close to the medals.
TIME TO FIX WEAKNESSES
If we look at the bigger picture, which is the Paralympics in Paris 2024, I truly believe we have time to resolve this area of weakness that we find ourselves in. If we can find the right people to provide athletes with better horses, then we will seriously start to close the gap between our scores and those of the other countries. We need to continue to grow para dressage as an elite level sport and promote our riders who could seriously benefit from owners assisting them by providing horses.
My agenda behind writing this article is to start the conversation. I believe this could be a starting point to improve the standard of our sport in Australia – talking about the problem on this platform and trying to come up with resolutions. I don’t write this to be controversial, but if we don’t discuss weaknesses, we never grow or develop as a sport.
There are owners providing horses for our elite able-bodied dressage riders in Australia, so why not include para riders in this same category? We have had some riders lucky enough to gain the rides on “owned” horses, but I think we need this to be more of the norm, not the rarity. So, if you want to help grow this sport, gain medals overseas and ultimately bring more funding to our High Performance team, let’s work together to get some elite horses underneath our amazing Australian athletes! EQ
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