AUSTRALIAN DRESSAGE PARALYMPIAN
The Passion Is Real
Victoria is an Australian Paralympian dressage rider who ranked 7th in the 2021 FEI Para Grade II World Rankings. She placed 9th at the Tokyo Paralympic Games with her Lusitano stallion, CELERE.
Victoria was born into a family that bred and campaigned Spanish horses. This is where she developed her everlasting passion for the breed and a love for competing.
In fact, Victoria won her first rider class when she was only 2 years old.
Together with her husband, Michael, Victoria created Tora V PRE & Lusitano Stud. Their vision has always been 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.
In order to grow as a rider and expand her knowledge, Victoria spent three years training in Portugal. It was during this time that she discovered her passion for the Lusitano breed. She purchased CELERE, who was 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. Later on, Victoria moved CELERE to England where she continued to train.
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. She 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
Victoria has always been determined to follow her dreams of competing at the Paralympic Games, specifically on a PRE or Lusitano. During the Australian team selection for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, she successfully qualified both stallions - CELERE and ANDALUKA ELEGIDO.
Victoria went on to represent Australia with CELERE, while ANDALUKA ELEGIDO was named as a non-travelling reserve. This is a testament to her hard work and talent as a rider, trainer, and high-performance athlete.
In 2013, Victoria entered her first FEI para dressage competition with ANDALUKA ELEGIDO, whom she had trained herself. Despite being under saddle for only ten months, they achieved ongoing success and were nominated to the Australian High Performance Squad. ANDALUKA ELEGIDO made history as the only PRE horse in Australia to be selected for this squad, and they qualified for the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in France.
Victoria has continued to hold her place on the Australian High Performance squad and has qualified for every significant Paralympic and World game to date. However, she chose not to campaign for team selection for the 2022 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Denmark to focus on her health and prepare horses for the qualifiers for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.
Australian Honours List
In September 2023, Victoria was awarded the 'Australian Sports Medal' on the Australian honours list. The medal was given to her in recognition of her contribution to the success of the Australian Paralympic Team.
The Governor-General presents these medals, and the nominations were made by the Chef de Mission of the organizing body. The 'Australian Sports Medal' is a commemoration of the efforts of Australians who have made our country a nation of sporting excellence. It was introduced to recognize Australian sporting achievements and acknowledge a range of Australians who, in different ways, contributed to the nation's success in sports.
Not Just A Para Dressage Rider
Victoria is a passionate horse rider who competes in open dressage events and occasionally participates in hunter or breed shows. Victoria has most recently taken passion by the sport of Working Equitation. She believes it is important to expose herself and her horses to a variety of experiences. Victoria has showcased her talent in open dressage at CDI, state, and national levels.
Although she confesses that she loves competing, her true joy lies in training her horses with kindness, respect, and correct riding techniques. Victoria has developed strong bonds with all her horses, which have been admired by people worldwide.
Queens And Their Foals
Victoria and Michael have recently shifted their focus towards breeding due to the increasing popularity of their stud's horses and the demand for foals. Breeding had always been in the background due to their busy schedules and Victoria's focus on the Paralympic Games. Although Victoria is known for her connections with stallions, she regards the broodmares as her queens and adores them. Victoria spends time with the foals, teaching them life skills. She takes pride in knowing that they're raised in a loving environment, bred with a purpose, and inherit their parents' exceptional temperaments.
Victoria's achievements throughout her career have been nothing short of remarkable, given that she has been battling Rheumatoid Arthritis since the age of 9. Despite undergoing over 40 operations and multiple joint replacements, Victoria has not let the disease stop her from excelling in both her personal and professional life. However, the disease has caused complications that have severely impacted her health. As a result, Victoria's lungs have been damaged and her immune system is highly 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 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. However, 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!