6 September 2016

Turning Paralympic Dreams into a Reality

Turning Paralympic Dreams into a Reality

Katie Attwood riding in her new PH Saddle, pictured with Peter and Rhys Horobin.

Dedication, determination and courage is what sets twenty year old Katie Attwood on the road to Paralympic success. The young dressage rider shared her thoughts, experiences and challenges in her remarkable journey of overcoming Congenital Talipes Equinovarus, (or Club Foot as it is more commonly known), her dream of riding at Tokyo in 2020 and why she chooses a Peter Horobin Saddle to get her there.

Born into a 'horsey' family, you could say horses are in Katie's blood. It was somewhat inevitable that horses would go on to be a big part of Katie's life, with her mum working as a breaker and racehorse trainer and her dad a stockman and bronc rider from the Northern Territory. “I have always been passionate about horses and it just grew as I got older. That was the only thing I could see and the one thing in life that I wanted.” Based on her family's property in Yea, Victoria, where she rides and trains her three beautiful horses, Pepper, Zorro and Whistler, Katie's love of horses and her commitment to riding is not only a way of life, but has become more of a daily reminder and inspiration to help her deal with and overcome the hurdles that her condition has thrown at her.

Katie and her horse in competition demonstrating the close bond the pair have.

Born with a severe club foot and without a right calf muscle, Katie underwent surgeries from six months old so that she could walk. “Doctors inserted wires into the ankle and fused bones in my foot and ankle, along with wearing braces and different shoes to keep my foot in the correct position.” At age fourteen, Katie began struggling with severe pain. Surgeries, rounds of cortisone injections, acupuncture and pain medications became her life. However, through it all, she did not stop riding. Fracturing her ankle on a cross-country course due to the sheer amount of strain she was putting it under and the increasing amount of pain she was living with daily, lead Katie to face the difficult decision to amputate her foot. “I made the decision to amputate, this was by no means easy and I cried a lot leading up to the surgery. On the 2nd August 2014, I had my foot and ankle amputated. Following months of rehabilitation, I had a leg again and I was walking better than ever. A month after surgery I was back on my horse!”

Prior to Katie's amputation, her life and time was occupied dealing with pain, doctors’ clinics and hospitals, with thoughts of one day riding at an Olympic games, at that time, a distant dream. What Katie lost physically from the amputation, she gained back ten-fold with a whole new life dedicated to achieving her goal of competing at the Paralympics. Five am starts filled with vision and hopes for the future, long days in the saddle and a full time job caring for her horses now fill Katie's days. “I always wanted to go to the Olympics; ever since I was a little girl that is what I dreamt of. I didn't see myself as worthy enough of going; now it is all I think about and what I devote all of my time to.”

Katie discussing the comfort and support of the mono-flap saddle.

With her biggest supporters by her side, her mum, grandmother and two coaches, Katie has big plans for the future. “My next goal is to compete at the Boneo Classic in January 2017 to be internationally qualified to compete overseas. Then to get to WEG in 2018, which is held in Canada and then onto Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.” With ambitions like these, Katie's old saddle which was being held together by sticky tape was no longer giving her the support she needed or the freedom her horses required to perform at the higher levels of dressage. Upon meeting the PHS family, Katie was fitted with a custom mono-flap dressage saddle, providing her with a secure, close contact feel. The mono-flap saddle allows her horses to feel her aids precisely, a crucial component of what makes a dressage combination successful in the competition arena. Along with Katie's drive to achieve a competitive edge, her love and care for her horse's wellbeing and back health was what made PHS saddles a dream to own one someday for Katie and she could not be more thrilled that this dream is now a reality. “I have known about Peter Horobin saddles for as long as I can remember, but they had always been something of a dream to me. Riding in a correctly fitted saddle is a must; if my horses are not comfortable, then they won't perform to the level required and who could blame them. The saddle needs to sit well on their back to allow for the correct use of their muscles; they need to be able to stride out and really swing through. Thanks to the Peter Horobin Mono-flap, not only do I have a saddle that fits my boys beautifully and allows them to move freely, but it also provides me with comfort and support whilst I'm riding.”

Peter Horobin Perfection - The Mono-Flap affords Katie closer contact and stability in the saddle.

For Katie, everyday inspiration to work hard and overcome life's most difficult challenges comes from her horses. “To horses, I think it's all about the moment, how you respond to them, how you act and what you do. They reflect everything you feel and do. When I watch a horse give it everything it's got and more, that's what inspires me. They inspire me to be better because if I get better, they get better. If you listen to them, they can make you great and teach you some amazing things.” With a soul full of determination and commitment, one dedicated support network, one amazing saddle and three talented horses, Katie is turning her Paralympic dreams into a reality, one ride at a time. The PHS family wish Katie Attwood every success and look forward to seeing her continuing to be a role model for all riders out there and to her fulfilling her dreams.

We wish you the best of luck Katie!