TDF's Para-Equestrian Dressage Fund Recipient: Erika Wager
Erika's grant was made possible by a donation from PATH International in memory of Margo O'Callaghan.
My goals coming into this winter training season in Florida were to improve my dressage knowledge and skills and compete in my first CPEDI competition at Global Dressage Festival. Unfortunately during training, we ran into some issues with my horse and I was forced to put those goals on hold for now.
However, during the last week of my training with Susanne I was able to borrow a nice mare for a few days to compete at the final White Fences show of the season. Although my scores weren’t what I was aiming for, it was still a good experience considering I only had five rides on the mare before the show and she’d never had a para-rider in her life.
Throughout the season I learned so much from Susanne, but most of all I learned patience and to enjoy the process. I have been a rider my entire life but since dressage was completely new to me after my accident, I’ve had to soak up a lot of new information in a short period of time, all while learning how to ride again with my new limitations.
I’ve learned that each para-coach must really try to understand your disability before they can really teach you, and that just takes time. There is always a picture in each instructor’s head of what the rider’s position should look like, and while that is important to strive for, it’s not always realistic when considering each para-rider’s disability.
Susanne and I spent much of the season coming up with solutions to my balance issues, but also understanding what we needed to accept that we couldn’t change – at least for now. For example, the bigger the trot, the more I need to lean back to be able to sit it without the use of my legs or core. Although it doesn’t look pretty, it’s functional.
All in all I would still consider it a successful season, not because I met my goals, but because I didn’t meet them and I didn’t give up. Everyone I’ve encountered so far in the dressage world has told me, “If it was easy everyone would do it.” Isn’t that the truth! Dressage is a labor of love and there’s always room to improve, and that’s what makes it great. I can’t wait to keep learning and progressing and I’m so thankful to The Dressage Foundation for helping me along this journey.