Riding for the Disabled's Sara Rukavina, Elle Bloomfield and Shelby Davis-Hill.
Riding for the Disabled's Sara Rukavina, Elle Bloomfield and Shelby Davis-Hill. Allan Reinikka ROK291017arda1

Olympic dream comes true for young riders

SHELBY Davis-Hill, Elle Bloomfield, and Sara Rukavina are saddling up to take their riding team to the national Special Olympics in Adelaide next year.

The games, held April 24th, will bring together a wide array of sports such a equestrian, swimming, and basketball with entrants coming from all over Australia.

"I started riding when I was two,” Ms Davis-Hill, 18, said at the Riding for the Disabled arena in Parkhurst.

"I couldn't walk and it's helped me improve my ability to walk.”

Riding for the Disabled's Shelby Davis-Hill.
Riding for the Disabled's Shelby Davis-Hill. Allan Reinikka ROK291017arda2

In 2013, she was selected to go to the Special Olympics and in 2014, was selected to represent Queensland in the Melbourne Nationals.

"I began my journey from there and I am going to represent Queensland again in Adelaide next year in Nationals.”

"I just like the bond that horses can give you ... It has improved my ability to strengthen my muscles, makes me sit up straighter, it helps my core. It actually helped me walk.”

With the help of the many volunteers at the Parkhurst gymkhana, Ms Davis-Hill even overcame her fear of cantering, and has become more confident in her riding abilities.

Ms Bloomfield, 11, started out dancing but found it stressful, so she decided to take up her mother's advice and try out horse riding.

It wasn't long before she was hooked.

”I went in a competition just to try it out and I liked it so i went in another competition in the States and then I qualified for Nationals,” Ms Bloomfield said.

"It can get very hard to get used to them [horses]. There was a 17-hand horse and i was very scared. I fell off and I then i was scared to do cantering but then I got back into cantering.

"Some are fast, some are slow, some are fussy. Some hate being saddled up.”

Riding for the Disabled's  Elle Bloomfield.
Riding for the Disabled's Elle Bloomfield. Allan Reinikka ROK291017arda3

The gymkhana has helped Ms Bloomfield overcome her nerves and she has made many friends through the organisation, as well as teaching her valuable skills for riding.

"There's a horse and he has one eye. His name is blaze. He's my favourite horse ... one of my favourite things is when he canters.”

Ms Rukavina, 16, started riding when she was four, and competed in her first competition in 2012, where she won a gold medal for trail riding.

In 2014, her skills at horse riding sent her to Nationals, advancing her level of riding.

”I won three gold medals in trotting,” Ms Rukavina said.

Although she has her own horse, Phoebe, Ms Rukavina, like her fellow riders will be riding other horses at the competition, due to travel expenses.

Throughout her 12 years of riding, she has also improved her balance on the horses and has a renewed level of confidence whilst competing.

The girls attended a training camp earlier this year, where they had the chance to hone their trail and test abilities, gain experience, and got to learn more about their Olympics team.

"I'm pretty pumped,” Ms Rukavina said.

Bernadette has been volunteering at the Riding for the Disabled gymkhana for over 12 months.

"It's on every Sunday and Wednesday except on school holidays,” she told the Morning Bulletin.

Special schools attend the gymkhana on Wednesdays from Yeppoon and the two schools in Rockhampton.

The placid, friendly horses are mostly donated by local riders after they have finished riding them.

The gymkhana often holds fund-raising events such as sausage sizzles, and morning teas to raise money for the club.



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