Australian Para-equestrians readying for London 2012 | An Eventful Life

Australian Para-equestrians readying for London 2012

      Hannah Dodd and groom Nicole King                                      Photo: Equestrian Australia

The Olympics may be over for the Australian eventing, jumping and dressage riders but the experience is just beginning for the members of our para-equestrian team.

The four member team of Grace Bowman, Hannah Dodd, Joann Formosa and Rob Oakley are based at the pre-training camp at Sparsholt College in Hampshire before entering the athlete’s village on August 24th. Equestrian Australia National Performance Director for Para-Equestrian, Julia Battams, has provided an update from the team's staging camp in the UK.

“The first week at Sparsholt staging camp has been very successful. The horses and riders all travelled really well and settled in to the beautiful surroundings of this wonderful agricultural college near Winchester in Hampshire. There is a lovely indoor school, three big outdoor arenas and four stable yards, one of which is exclusively for our horses. The arena surfaces are all fantastic and we could not ask for anything more.  The staff here are also truly amazing - nothing is too much trouble and it seems that the whole area knows we are here and are very pleased to be hosting us. 

On the first day following our arrival, the horses had a quiet workout and the riders familiarised themselves with the layout of the college which includes an amazing gym, weight room, physio treatment and medical room, a shop, cafeteria and games room - all set amongst the most beautiful English countryside. Each rider has their own room and there is a common area for every group of four rooms.

Following a training session on the second day, we headed to Wales where we went to Cardiff stadium to receive our team uniform. The Australian Paralympic Team ceremonial uniform is by RM Williams and the sporting gear is 2XU, Tiger and ASIC. It is all really great gear and we are all looking forward to arriving at Greenwich so we can start wearing it.

By Friday everyone was back in full work and preparing for a special demonstration event which was organised for the following night. This turned out to be a fantastic evening - the arena was beautifully decked out with flowers and flags and a great mobile grandstand was erected on a semi-trailer which folded out with seating for 200 people. 

The evening was attended by local councillors and dignitaries including the Mayor and Mayoress of Winchester, and many people travelled up to two hours to attend the show. It began with a great introduction by Sparsholt principal Tim Jackson who spoke about the mission statement of the Olympic and Paralympic movements which he said focuses not only on sporting achievement, but also friendship, excellence and respect.  

Our team performed their freestyle tests brilliantly. It was really well received by the knowledgeable crowd and the enthusiastic question and answer session which followed showed that the audience were truly interested in these talented athletes. 

Following a photo opportunity (several reporters from local media were in attendance) the riders found themselves bundled off to the autograph signing!  It was great to see some of our less-experienced athletes warming to this role as queues of fans took nearly an hour to file past and get their autographs!

The feedback from the demonstration event was really heartening and all four horses performed very well in an environment which is possibly as electric as they have ever experienced.  All in all it is probably the best preparation we could have asked for in the lead up to the Games.

Saturday was a day of rest so we made the trip to Salisbury Plains to see the amazing Stonehenge. This was a great team-building exercise and everyone was awed by the history of this amazing place.

After working the horses on the following day, we went on a tour of the historic town of Winchester including the incredible Winchester Cathedral. This city dates back to the 12th century and there are buildings still standing which were inhabited by William the Conqueror!  We visited the oldest intact building in Winchester which is a pub built in 1450. A civil reception with the Mayor and Mayoress and a guided tour of the town made this into yet another perfect day (and the weather - a balmy 30 degrees) helped as well.

Next week we are off to Cardiff Castle for the Australian Paralympic Team Launch and announcement of the team’s flag bearer which we are all really looking forward to”


In the video below Hannah Dodd talks about her journey to become a member of the Australian London 2012 Paralympic Team and her expectations.



Article and video courtesy of Equestrian Australia