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3. Our Athletes

The Current Equestrian Paralympic Preparation Squad

Read their profiles


Emma Bennett

Emma is no stranger to major events, having been part of the Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony stock horse ride that opened proceedings. It was after this that she had a serious car accident which resulted in her being classified as a Grade III rider.


This year Emma was given the opportunity to represent Australia in Belgium at the Moorsele Paralympic Games Qualifier. She performed extremely well on a borrowed horse and was promoted to the Paralympic Preparation Squad at the end of the competition. She is currently the Australian National Grade III Champion.


A further highlight to her year has been her invitation to ride at the Australian Dressage Championships at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre, with Grand Prix Aachen success Matthew Dowsley. Scheduled immediately before the Grand Prix Kur, Emma riding her own chestnut gelding Prime Time teamed up with Cinderella, the Chestnut star of the Australian Team at the World Equestrian Games for a very entertaining Pas de Deux.

Perfectly behaved Prime Time matched the huge Mare in all her movements finishing with a touch of anything you can do, I can do too – steps of passage.

Emma has been named in the Long List of 7 riders for the Para-Equestrian World Championships to be held in England in July 2007 after a successful performance at the RDAA National Championships.

Grace Bowman

Grace is the youngest member of the Australian Squad at just 16 years old. She had an accident in 2002 resulting in paraplegia. Grace uses a manual wheelchair for all her mobility apart from when she is riding.    She began her rehabilitation with a strong positive attitude and a fierce determination to regain her independence and resume horse riding, which is her passion. She now rides her horse every day, and has been entering competitions. Grace recently won the Novita President’s Achievement Award that recognises a senior student who has made great progress in his or her rehabilitation. In 2005 she was featured on the front cover of the York Peninsula Telephone Directory in recognition of her courage and dedication to get back into the saddle.


More tragedy struck Grace’s family early this year when her mother was accidentally killed.  Grace has always found comfort, strength and inspiration in her relationship with horses and it came as no surprise to anyone that knows her that she continues to do so.  Grace was selected to represent Australia as a Young Rider at two competitions in England in July 2006 and her local community got behind her to make her dream come true.


Grace performed brilliantly coming third behind the number one Paralympic rider in world, in her first three competition tests.  She then top scored on the first day on the Young Rider competition for future Paralympians and came third overall against riders five and six years older, riding their own horses. Grace was then asked to join the Australian Paralympic Squad and competed in Vancouver where she won 3 gold medals.

Georgia Bruce

Georgia is from Kuranda in Far North Queensland. Georgia has been competing in dressage for 10 years, and has represented Australia overseas on six occasions, including the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004.

She trains horses professionally and is a qualified level 1 coach with the EFA. She has trained and competed successfully in open competition to Prix St George level on several horses. Georgia has worked and trained with Olympic Dressage competitors including  Christine Doan and Hubertus Schmidt.

Her special interest is in equine learning and behaviour, re-training problem horses, and training horses at liberty. Georgia and “Rumba the Wonder Horse” perform trick shows and clicker training demonstrations around Australia, and have appeared at events such as Equitana and the North Queensland Horse Expo.

Rumba’s extensive repertoire includes performing Grand Prix dressage both under saddle and at liberty. Rumba also paint’s pictures, plays croquet, coight’s, soccer and much more. Georgia has written a book called “How to Teach Your Horse Tricks – With Clicker Training”. She is currently writing another book called “How to Click With Your Horse – Clicker Training for Ground Work, Problem Solving and Basic Riding”.

Kate Doughty

Kate lives in Pearcedale, on the Mornington Peninsula and attends University and works part time on the family’s equestrian centre. She is currently completing her final year at university for a degree in health science majoring in psychology, she is looking to complete a masters and work in the industry as a sports psychologist.

She has been riding since she was 8 years old, starting off in pony club, followed by show riding where she received numerous championships in rider and hack classes, also competing at royal level.

After being classified as an R.D.A rider in 2002, Kate competed at her first national championships, receiving 1st place and scores of over 70%. In August 2005 Kate purchased Heatherton Park Al Capone, who has had great success as a young horse.

In 2006 Kate competed with the Australian Para Equestrian Team in England, Canada and Belgium. She won the British RDA Nationals and placed in the International competition in England, and won the freestyle in Belgium as well as placing in the individual test. (as with all our team that rode at internationals Kate rode at all of these competitions on borrowed horses, having only trained on them for less than 2 weeks!)

Kate’s goals in riding are to compete Grand Prix open company and represent Australia at the Beijing Paralympics 2008.

Marita Hird Marita Hird was a promising jockey when in December 1993 her career as a jockey came to an end when she fell from a horse during a race. Marita broke her neck in 3 places and was told she may never walk again. But her grit and determination are legendary.

Horses became her therapy with the help of riding for the disabled. Marita was encouraged to compete and prove her dressage skills. Again determination combined with skill has seen Marita represented Australia on 9 occasions. 

She has competed at 2 World championships and 2 Paralympic games, gaining a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games and narrowly missing out on a medal in 2004 at Athens. Recently she represented Australia at the Pacific Rim Paralympic Games Qualifier in Vancouver where she collected 3 silver medals.

Mary Ipkendanz

In 1990, following an accident, Mary became a paraplegic. For a couple of years she gave up riding and horses but the love of horses was too strong to resist so she slowly started again on an old horse she owned.

After many years of hard work Mary was not only competing successfully at Medium and Advanced level in able bodied competitions but had also qualified as a dressage judge and riding instructor.

She then decided to enter the world of Para Equestrian dressage. She plans to ride at FEI level on her current competition horse and has recently purchased a young horse for the future.

Highlights of her riding career include being WA Elementary State Champion in 1999 (able bodied), National Champion (Para Equestrian) Grade 2 in 1998 and 2006, and representing Australia in Denmark in the World Championships in 1999.

Her dream is to represent Australia in the World Championships in UK in 2007 and then to compete in Hong Kong in 2008.

Mary says “Horses and dressage have allowed me to forget my disability. I am achieving goals that I would never have imagined possible in my wildest dreams and ‘raise the bar’ regularly.”

Nicole Kullen

Up until 1996, Nicole was a happy, healthy, energetic teenager determined to succeed in everything she tried; including working towards a future in the equestrian industry.

Then, in August 1996, Nicole contracted ‘Meningococcal Meningitis Septicemia’. After six weeks in an induced coma, on life support, she spent the next six months in hospital recovering from her illness & being rehabilitated.

Both her lower legs were amputated & she has limited arm movement & strength, with no function in both hands & wrists. Plus all her internal organs were damaged. Then, in 2000 Nicole lost all function from both kidneys & now relies on Peritoneal Dialysis four times daily.

But Nicole doesn't lack for determination. Since 1997 has found motivation and inspiration around her horses. They’re one of the main things that help keep her going & living despite all of the obstacles & pain.

In 2000, she began competing in dressage competitions with the EFA (Equestrian Federation of Australia) for able-bodied riders, & the RDA for riders with a disability. In 2006 she competed with the FEI in Belgium as part of the Australian Team.

Some of Nicole's achievements include: 2005 RDAA National Dressage Champion for Grade 2; '2005 EFA NSW RDA Rider of the Year' Award; 2006 - qualified for 2008 Paralympic Games selection.

Rob Oakley

Rob currently living near Bungendore NSW with two young daughters. He was previously employed as a public servant, but retired due to illness and concentrates on his family and riding.  He performs volunteer work for Pegasus Riding for the Disabled in the ACT and the ACT Muscular Dystrophy Association.

In para equestrian, Rob is graded 1B which is the second most severe level of incapacity.  He competed in the UK as an individual in 2005 winning the International Derby and placing second overall at the Hartpury International Festival of Dressage.  In 2006 Rob represented Australia at Hartpury again and in Belgium where he qualified for the 2008 Paralympics.  He has been a two time National Australian Champion and part of the 2007 World Championship Team.

Rob has made a major commitment to his sport by importing a 17hh Hannoverian Warmblood gelding, Peaceful Warrior, from Holland. Peaceful Warrior came out of quarantine on Dec 2, 2006 and Rob will be focussing on his training over the next few months to ensure he settles in well to life in Australia and that their competition career gets off on the right foot. 

Rob says “Warrior is an international class horse in both para-equestrian and open dressage and to have him is very exciting.  This is, however, an extremely expensive and risky commitment but it is necessary if I want to compete at the top international level.

I am lucky to have the support of family and friends to allow me to continue to compete.”
Jan Pike

Jan Pike is currently the Grade 1a National Champion  She lives with Cerebral Palsy Quadriplegia, a condition that affects her co-ordination, muscle control and strength, balance, speech and mobility.  In 1989 after nearly dying from excessive muscle spasm Jan had a cerebellum stimulator implanted which is powered by lithium batteries. She is 1 of only 3 people in Australia and 5 in the world to have this device.

Jan began riding horses at the age of 27 with Riding for the Disabled Association.  She progressed from being led around to becoming an independent rider and RDA coach.

Attending the first National Dressage Championships in Adelaide in 1991 , it was here that her passion for dressage began. She met her present horse, Dr Doulittle in Germany and won 2 silver medals on him at the World Championships in 2003. In 2004 Dr D and Jan won silver and bronze at the Athens Paralympics. 

Competing this year in Canada at a Paralympic Qualifier, Jan won 3 gold medals, on a borrowed horse that she had trained on for only a few hours. Following Canada she travelled to Europe and rode in the Belgium Championships and won two thirds and a fourth again riding a borrowed horse with about as much training time as Canada. This was in spite of an accident when mounting in Belgium that resulted in a very painful broken hand.

 Two days after returning to Australia, Jan drove to Victoria to compete at the RDA Australian Dressage Championships and won three firsts.

Anne Skinner

Horsewoman Anne Skinner just keeps beating the odds. In 1997 the hand of fate dealt Anne a cruel blow. In one devastating moment she was transformed from a senior equestrian coach of riders with disabilities to a shattered equestrienne with multiple disabilities. She lived when emergency medical personal gave her no hope.

Anne pulled through ground breaking surgery, performed for the first time in Australia. She walked despite terrible injuries, which made her a paraplegic. And after pulling herself back on here feet, she took one step further and climbed back in the saddle.

Not happy to be just riding again, Anne set her sights on a position on the Australian Equestrian Team for the 2000 Paralympic Games  Anne became a member of the 2000 Paralympic Games In Sydney and competed for Australia again in the 2004 Games in Athens

And no one is looking forward to the future more than Anne.

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