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Lara Oles' Fundraiser:

Para-Equestrian Competition at the 2014 World Equestrian Games

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Lara Oles

THE STORY:

My name is Lara Oles and I am a Para Equestrian. I was in a freak skiing accident 6 years ago that damaged my spinal cord, leaving my right arm permanently paralyzed, and stroke- like symptoms in my right leg.

If you are like me before my accident, I thought that the Para-Olympics were named because the athletes are paralyzed. But there are many other physical impairments that can classify some-one as a Para-olympian. In fact, “para” comes from the Greek preposition meaning “beside or alongside”, illustrating that the Paralympics are parallel to the Olympics, and the two movements exist side-by-side. Now, I’m not saying I am a Para-olympian! A Para-olympian is a champion athlete - the best in the country.

I would love to be in the World Equestrian Games and Paralympics someday, but I am only just starting my journey. I took dressage and jumping lessons in high school, but most of my hours in the saddle were in the woods and orchards, or on the dunes and beaches of Michigan. For my first horse after college in 1991, I chose a thoroughbred off the track, and I had big plans for him in dressage. Unfortunately, he went lame within a year, and I got so poor and discouraged trying to heal him, I went back to trail riding.

Eventually, I began riding gaited horses and have had the same two Tennessee Walking Horses since 2002. After my accident in 2006, it took almost a year before I could start riding again, and I had to learn to do things differently. Luckily I found a therapeutic riding instructor who hooked me up with a connecting bar for my reins. Now I can ride with a direct rein almost like I still have 2 hands. That first summer was only slow and short rides, but we have been able to increase our riding time and level of difficulty since then.

In the fall of 2010, I went to watch the World Equestrian Games, and saw a Para-Dressage competition. Those amazing athletes inspired me to try dressage again. Since riding outdoors is almost impossible in Wyoming in the winter, and the small town where we live doesn’t have an indoor arena, I called up the National Ability Center in Park City. That’s how it all started.

After a year of riding at the NAC, they nominated me for an award with the Professional As-sociation of Therapeutic Horsemanship Interna-tional. Amazingly, I was selected as the “PATH International

Independent Adult Equestrian of the Year”; and was lucky enough to get an all-expenses paid trip back to Lexington, Kentucky to accept my award at the awards ceremony.

After the ceremony, a very enthusiastic woman from the Carlyse Acad-emy in Maine approached me and said that I needed to attend their U.S. Para Equestrian Training Camp. I thanked her, and told her that I was not even close to being that good of a rider; but she was adamant that the “Para” world needed me. So in April, my therapeutic riding instructor at NAC and I will be spending a week in Maine training with some of the biggest names in Para-Dressage. After this “boot camp”, as it is called, we should find out if I have what it takes

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