Check out our Day in The Life interview with 3 time Paralympian, Rebecca Hart, on horses4yc.com! She was born in Pittsburgh PA and now calls Wellington Florida her home! She is a busy horse person like all of us in this Equestrian world we love! There are links below to the USPEA (I have never looked at it before but it is FULL of information for Para riders) and to the USEF site as well. Enjoy!
Hi Rebecca tell us about where you live, your family, and where you work.
*Currently, I live on my sponsors farm in Wellington, Florida. Wellington is known as the winter horse capital of the world, and it is an excellent location for training and preparing for the important international horse shows that are held here in the winter. I am a full time rider, but supplement it with what I jokingly call my side “day job.” I work for Starbucks Coffee Corporation. I have been working for the company for 10 years. I have a full schedule of personal training for my own fitness as well as caring for my horses and training with them every day. My biggest fans and supporters are my mom, dad, sister, and brother, who have all logged many miles and hours through the years supporting my equestrian dreams. They all live quite a distance away, but we talk all the time and visit as much as we can. None of them are riders, but they have gotten very expert with a curry comb and a pitchfork.
Give us a look at your Day in The Life :
*My day usually starts very early since I have to be at my store to open by 4:30 AM, working till about 10:30 or 11AM so I have the rest of the day for equestrian activities. In addition to making sure I make time for my own workout (which is very important both for my riding and for maintaining my personal strength and health as my disability is a progressive genetic disease called Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis that causes increasing muscle weakness and spasticity), I ride each day that my horses do not have off, take care of matters related to their health and fitness, and also clean stalls and do feeding and grooming on the days when my groom has off. This sometimes starts my day at 3AM and ends it late in the evenings with night checks. I also try to do promotional events and speaking for our sport whenever I can. Luckily, I love what I do.
Rebecca, you are a 3 time Paralympian! Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016. Give us a brief explanation of the journey to those Paralympic Games:
*It has been an incredible journey and an honor to get to represent the United States 3 times at the Paralympics. I was on the team in 2008, 2012, and 2016. My first time was in 2008 with my horse Norteassa. He was a Hanoverian gelding that I got in 2004. He was my first international horse and was quite a handful. I still have him. He is 28yrs old and he lives with my other Paralympic mount Romani, a Danish mare, who I took to Rio in 2016. They are both retired and are loving life and being spoiled rotten. Going to the Paralympics and representing the United States is one of the highlights of my life. I am very goal oriented and it’s an amazing feeling to set a goal as a small child and get to see it actually come to fruition. It took me twenty years and a lot of hard work, but it happened. I think one of my favorite memories of the games was during the London 2012 games. The equestrian venue was located in Greenwich Park, which runs along the prime meridian and the centerline of the dressage arena was set directly on that line. So when you rode down the centerline you were literally riding down the center of the world. I’m a bit of dork and thought that was really cool!
Who is one of your Mentors in the Equestrian World:
*Ray Herhold is one of the many mentors to have helped nurture my riding career. He was my very first riding instructor. I rode with him at Hobby Horse Farm in Fairview, PA. He was the first person to ever give me a chance on the back of a horse. He didn’t shy away or limit me because of my disability. He helped me figure out how to adapt my cues on the back of a horse and challenged me to push myself. He was an incredible horseman and taught me the importance of not only riding correctly, but also being an overall horsewoman and to pay attention to the details.
You just had a big win on Oct 25, 2020 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center and won the USEF Para Dressage National Championships with a 78.478% in the Grade III Freestyle test. Tell us about that:
*Even with all the precautions because of the Covid 19 pandemic, Tryon was, as always, an amazing experience. It is a wonderful facility, and they worked very hard to put on a professional international event under difficult conditions. There was no large audience allowed, and the people attending were basically limited to riders, coaches and grooms. I rode Tex (El Corona Texel) and Moolah (Fortune 500) who are both owned by my amazing sponsor Rowan O’Riley. Tex is a brilliant horse, with loads of personality, but he can be shy with people he doesn’t know well. We have been working hard, and he really put it all into the arena for all three rides. He loves the new music for his freestyle, and it brings out the performer in him. We were thrilled at how well the ride came together, since both the choreography and music are still very new to us. He is a horse who will give you everything if he feels that you are really committed to him in the ride, and our teamwork keeps building. He also loves spending quiet time with me and a few snacks. Moolah has a very different personality–he loves attention from everyone and can be more laid back. He was so fun to ride at Tryon, and he gave a beautiful performance. My coach was not able to attend, so the horses and I had to work especially hard together. It was exhausting, exhilarating work, and they were wonderful.
What advice would you give other Para-Equestrians starting out?
*One important thing I learned as a rider was that you can’t wait for everything to be perfect–you have to start with what you have. That means you work with the horses that are available to you and learn everything you can, because each one will have important things to teach you. I started on basic general lesson horses at a very small facility near my home in Erie, Pa. They were all special to me, and they all taught me every day how to keep improving as a rider. You also have to keep actively looking for opportunities. There were no special shows for para riders anywhere near where we lived, so I entered all the shows at our barn, and as my skills improved, began expanding to bigger shows in the area. Eventually, my parents found a show in Georgia when I was 12 that was my first experience not only of specifically para riding, but also of dressage. I met the inspiring riders who were qualifying for the Paralympics that year, and I also met some very generous people who helped me move specifically into dressage and who invited me to visit their farm and ride horses trained more extensively in formal dressage. My parents spent many weekends driving from Pennsylvania to Indiana so I could take advantage of this opportunity. There is a more well defined pathway for para riders to advance now, and you can learn about this from the USPEA ( uspea.org ) and USEF ( usef.org ) websites. Contacting any local therapeutic riding programs is also an excellent place to start, as well as pony clubs and any local dressage organizations. Look for clinics you can attend, even if they are not specifically for para riders–your goal is always to become a more accomplished rider, and the opportunities can be surprising.
And this is ALWAYS the important question, what do you do for fun?
*I get to do my favorite thing in the world every day, which is riding and just being around horses. I love getting to live on the farm with my horses. I love getting to know them as individuals and to get to spend time with them beyond my time in the saddle.
For relaxation, I love watching movies and going to the beach. I also go kayaking and visit the beautiful nature areas that are everywhere in Florida. I love to be outdoors.
You can follow my crazy horse adventures with Tex and Moolah on Instagram and Facebook at @rebecccahart136
Thank you Rebecca! You are so inspiring! 🐴 #H4YC #USPEA #DRESSAGE #USEF #USDF #LETSDOTHIS
Rebecca and Tex London 2012 Paralympic Games
Tex and Rebecca- WEG