'Riding is
What Gives
My Life

02 August 2018

Australia's Emma Booth has set her sights firmly on a Para-Dressage medal at next month's FEI World Equestrian Games™.

Emma, 27, who was paralysed in a car crash five years ago, and her horse Zidane are gearing up to travel quite literally across the world to compete on the sport's biggest stage in Tryon. The most passionate and ambitious of athletes, she's sure to #BeFearless when she aims for glory at the FEI World Equestrian Games from September 11.


“Australian horses have such a long way to travel, which I think a lot of people forget when watching us compete on the other side of the world. It is such a huge adventure but makes the experience all the more worthwhile,” she said.


After a fifth place finish at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Emma’s first international competition as a para-athlete, she is excited to get back on the saddle and fight for her place on the podium.

Emma hasn’t always been a Para-Dressage athlete.

Prior to a catastrophic, and almost fatal car crash in 2013, Emma was an Eventer. Her life changed when a truck jack-knifed and slammed into her car and horse trailer as she returned home from an event. 


“Coming around to the idea that after my accident I was a Dressage rider was very odd initially. Learning to ride again after becoming a paraplegic was a huge task in itself.


“My past riding experience helped for sure, but relearning everything was challenging and even frustrating at times.


“Knowing what I wanted my body to do but not being able to physically follow through with a command was odd.



“I must say though that the Australian para-community completely took me under their wing and made me feel like part of the family as soon as I started competing in the sport. It was such a welcoming environment and this made the transition easy.”


Emma, from Victoria, was a reserve rider for the Australian Para-Equestrian team at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, just a year after the crash.


As a naturally competitive person, Emma said she is constantly pushing herself and believes that without the drive and goals to get back on the horse as a para-athlete, her recovery would have been vastly different.


“When it comes to horses, I don’t need to try and find passion or drive to motivate me, I just have it," Emma said. "It’s been in my bones since I was born and I think if you have that passion for equestrian sport from a young age, it’s certainly hard to stop.


“Horses are my life and honestly what keep me ticking. They are what gave me purpose after my life changing accident and helped me both physically and mentally.”


Emma has become a star of the Para-Dressage scene and was the winner of the Against All Odds category in the FEI Awards last year (see video above).



“As I’ve said, riding really gives my life purpose. I live with a disability on a daily basis and am therefore restricted in certain things I am able to do, but when it comes to riding, I feel the same as anybody else and am given a sense of freedom in the saddle.


“When I am riding, Zidane and I have our own language and he is my legs so that I am able to get out of my wheelchair.


“Zidane is such a special horse in so many ways.


"He has an enormous heart and is always aiming to please. He is super intelligent, quirky, and loves attention. There are so many things about him that make working with him such a pleasure and a privilege.


“I think something that’s really important with my relationship with Zidane is that he looks to me for support as much as I lean on him for confidence at times.


“He trusts me and I completely trust him. He’s my partner in crime and has played such a huge role in getting my new life back on track and giving me purpose after my accident.”

'Horses are my life
and, honestly, what
keep me ticking'

When asked about what her biggest piece of advice would be for new or hopeful para-athletes, Emma pointed to the importance of leaning on the support systems available.

Through her own experiences, she can attest to the fact that “nothing incredible can be achieved alone, and great things require the help of others.”


Looking ahead, Emma said she is “thrilled” to be named to represent Australia at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™


“I have had the international experience at Rio in 2016 and I now have my sights firmly set on getting a medal at WEG, 2018," she said.


“I’m certainly excited about a lot of things but I think as a para athlete, being able to compete at the same time as the able bodied athletes will be a pretty special experience. I’m also excited to catch up with international competitors that I met and formed friendships with in Rio.


“Bring on WEG 2018!”


She said it! If you’re as excited as Emma for WEG 2018, be sure to follow along with build up on all the FEI social channels and, of course, tune in to all the live action in September on FEI TV.


Text by Hannah Spreckley


Images by Liz Gregg / Daniel Pockett / Julie Wilson