AUSTRALIAN DRESSAGE PARALYMPIAN
The Passion Is Real
Victoria is an Australian Paralympian dressage rider, ranked 7th in the 2021 FEI Para Grade II World Rankings that placed 9th at the Tokyo Paralympic Games with her Lusitano stallion CELERE.
Born into a family that bred and campaigned Spanish horses, Victoria developed an everlasting passion for the breed and a love for competing - winning her first rider class as a 2 year old.
Victoria and her husband, Michael, went on to create Tora V PRE & Lusitano Stud. For as long as Victoria can remember, the vision was to own quality stallions and mares, compete at the highest level and develop a boutique breeding program that would impact the growth of the breeds within Australia. As a result, Victoria and Michael have imported and selected some of Australia's most refined PRE and Lusitano horses for their expanding performance and breeding program.
Wanting to grow as a rider and expand her knowledge, Victoria spent three years training in Portugal, where she discovered her passion for the Lusitano breed. During this time, CELERE was purchased and kept in Portugal, allowing Victoria to train with many talented European riders and ride many Lusitano stallions ranging from 4 year olds to the most advanced Grand Prix taught. Victoria later went on to base CELERE in England, where she also trained.
With over 30 years of experience with the breeds and a wealth of knowledge, Victoria has always been highly passionate about growing the reputation of the two breeds and has been a director and committee member for two breed associations. These days Victoria enjoys promoting Tora V PRE & Lusitano Stud, writing articles based on the breed and her training techniques, and always making time to chat with newcomers.
High Performance and Paralympic Games
There has always been a strong determination for Victoria to follow her dreams of one day competing at the Paralympic Games, more specifically on a PRE or Lusitano. During the Australian team selection for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Victoria successfully qualified both stallions - CELERE and ANDALUKA ELEGIDO. Victoria and CELERE went on to represent Australia, and ANDALUKA ELEGIDO was named as a non-travelling reserve - a testament to her hard work and talent as a rider, trainer and longevity as a high performance athlete.
The first FEI para dressage competition that Victoria entered was in 2013 with her PRE stallion ANDALUKA ELEGIDO whom she had trained herself and had been under saddle only ten months. After their ongoing success, they were nominated to the Australian High Performance Squad. ANDALUKA ELEGIDO made history as the only PRE horse in Australia to be selected on an Australian High Performance Squad; they went on to qualify for the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG), France.
To date, Victoria has continued to hold her place on the Australian High Performance squad and has qualified for every significant Paralympic and Worlds game. However, Victoria chose not to campaign for team selection for the 2022 World Equestrian Games (WEG), Denmark, to focus on her health and prepare horses for the qualifiers for the 2024 Paralympic Games, Paris.
Not Just A Para Dressage Rider
Most weekends, you will see Victoria competing in open dressage events and doing the odd hunter or breed show as she believes giving variety to herself and horses is vital. Victoria has regularly competed in open dressage at CDI, state and national levels. Whilst Victoria has confessed 'I love competing'! she enjoys nothing better than training her horses, proving herself as a kind, quiet and respectful rider that achieves results with correct riding. Victoria has powerful connections with all her horses which have been admired worldwide.
Queens And Their Foals
With the ongoing popularity of the stud's horses and the demand for foals, Victoria and Michael shifted their focus more recently towards breeding, which had always been in the background due to their busy schedules and Victoria's focus on the Paralympic Games. Whilst Victoria is known for her connections with stallions, the broodmares are, as she explains, 'my queens, I adore them!'. Each day you will see Victoria spending time with the foals, teaching them life skills, which she takes pride in knowing that they are raised in a loving environment, bred with a purpose and have their parent's exceptional temperaments.
It can be easily said that Victoria has, throughout her career achieved amazing things on and off the horse whilst fighting the crippling disease Rheumatoid Arthritis which she was diagnosed with at age 9. Victoria has undergone over 40 operations and multiple joint replacements and, due to complications with the disease, has scared lungs and is highly immune suppressed.
One week from the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games European qualifiers, Victoria was diagnosed with a life threatening neck condition - Basilar Invagination. Victoria experienced neurological symptoms after arriving home from a training trip in England - loss of balance, tingling and paralysis. Listening to the pleas from 5 of Australia's best neurosurgeons, Victoria withdrew from the Rio Paralympic Games campaign, for which she was short-listed. CELERE, based then in England, made his way home to Australia, which was Victoria's only wish - to have him home.
After lengthy investigations, neurosurgeons suggested that Victoria's C1 and C2 vertebrates had naturally fused, which you could say saved her life. The Odontoid peg (top of the spine) had migrated into Victoria's skull, missing the brain by 0.33mm, and the Odontoid was pressing against the brainstem and spinal cord, which it continues to do.
Victoria and her neurosurgeon monitored the condition closely with six monthly scheduled scans in the hope of avoiding high risk surgery that would potentially be life threatening or result in complete quadriplegia. This setback and knowing the potential risks involved if she continued to ride has not deterred Victoria, as she continues to follow her passions and aim towards the highest level with her riding and training - all given the OK by her neurosurgeon, of course!