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by Pat Payne


olly Bergay is 16 years old, an honor stu- dent in her junior year of high school in Tucson, Arizona. She’s a talented and com-

mitted dressage rider. She is also, to many people, disabled, although she doesn’t quite see it that way. If you have the pleasure of knowing Holly, you know she’s a girl with big dreams who refuses to let set- backs derail those dreams.

Holly was born without a complete left arm – it ends just below her elbow. Like most little girls, she loved horses. For many children, or at least their par- ents, the seeming inability to hold two reins would tend to limit riding. Fortunately, Holly and her par- ents saw no such limitations and she mounted a horse for the first time at just three years old. At four, she had a horse of her own. By seven, she had joined her local Pony Club and, as part of their pro- gram, was introduced to dressage. “Dressage just really clicked with me,” she says now of her seven- year-old self.

Big Aspirations

It’s a passion she has stuck with over the nine years since. She explains that the precision and exacting nature of dressage simply feel right to her. “I’m real- ly ‘type A’,” she says. “I like working hard and see- ing it pay off. I like perfection. I don’t mind doing tedious things if I see them pay off. And my rela- tionship with my horse really benefits from all that work!”

Holly is a determined competitor who is aiming for the top of her chosen sport. Even though she was the youngest member of the team by several years, Holly rode at the Region 5 North American Young Riders team competition taking 5th place.

“My dream is to compete in the World Equestrian Games in 2010, the North American Young Rider’s Championships, and the 2012 Paralympic Games,” she says simply. “For those who may be unfamiliar with the Paralympic Games, they are a full version of Olympic Games for disabled athletes. These athletes are at the highest levels of their respective sports.”

Originally, Holly hoped to compete at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Unfortunately, bureau- cracy became a stumbling block and instead she has her sights set on the 2012 Paralympics.

The Paralympic Games are held two weeks after the Olympic Games and are for disabled athletes. All potential Olympic and Paralympic riders need to


prove their ability to compete at this level by earning a score of at least 60% in international level competition. While able-bodied riders can use scores from any CDI competition, Paralympic riders must submit scores from CPDI competitions where they are competing against other disabled riders.

“An equine influenza outbreak quarantined Australia and cancelled

the competition. There was no way Holly could qualify for the ’08 Paralympics.”

Unfortunately, Holly’s scores were earned at open com- petitions against able-bodied riders. The scores were ruled inadmissible for qualifying because they had not been earned against disabled riders.

The closest approved qualifying CPDI competition in which she could compete was in Australia. “We thought that would be impossible,” Holly recounts. Then fate stepped in, in the form of famed Olympic competitors Debbie McDonald and Steffen Peters, along with Mary Phelps, publisher of Dressage- All three wanted to help Holly achieve her goal of competing in the 2008 Paralympic Games. They knew she had to get to Australia in order to have a chance at her Paralympic dreams, so they held an online auction on Holly’s behalf, raising almost $10,000 for her trip.

Sadly, disaster struck. An equine influenza outbreak quarantined Australia and cancelled the competition. There was no way Holly could qualify for the ’08 Paralympics. As a result, she was forced to rework her goals slightly. In typical fashion, she refused to scale them back, however. Finding a new way to meet a challenge is something she’s no stranger to.

Riding Adaptations

As a very young rider, Holly started out riding one handed, but she and her parents soon began experi- menting with systems that would allow her to use her left arm as she rode. Their first attempt consisted of a leather strap she could hook her elbow through, with a key ring used to attach the rein. With riding experience and with suggestions from trainers and other riders, her system has evolved and become more sophisticated. “It has changed over time with lots of little sugges- tions,” she says with a laugh. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76
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