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In the Stable with Sharon Jarvis

Sharon Jarvis with Lord Larmarque © Equestrian Australia

Sharon Jarvis with the 12-year-old Hanoverian Stallion, Lord Larmarque

© Equestrian Australia

 

Sharon Jarvis is one of Australia’s most decorated and recognised Para-Dressage athletes. The dual World Equestrian Games bronze medallist also holds the position of Para-Dressage Riders Representative contributing to the development of the sport in Australia.

Sharon’s dedication and determination has never wavered throughout her journey which has seen her move from her home State of Western Australia to New South Wales to once again pursue her dream of competing at a Paralympic Games.

How long have you been competing in Para-Dressage

I was first approached about competing in Para Equestrian in May 2006. Up to this point I had always competed in open able body competition. I had competed successfully in Show Horse and I was competing at Medium Level Dressage with my first serious dressage horse.

When I was first approached, I thought it was a joke, I seriously thought there was no way I would be ‘disabled’ enough to classify. According to me I just had dud legs and couldn’t get on my horse the correct side! So, when I classified in not even the least disabled category, I was shocked. It was then that I really grabbed the idea with both hands, for a kid who grew up riding around the paddock at home jumping my home made 30cm jumps pretending I had won gold for Australia, I have not let go of the opportunity ever since! To be able to do the sport I love and represent the country I love, there is no greater honour.

What do you like best about Equestrian sport?

The horses, it sounds so clique’ but sitting on them really gives me a feeling of freedom. The partnership when it all comes together, speaks no words. I didn’t have the best time during my school years, known as the girl who limped, I was an easy target for bullies. When I sat on my horse, I was no longer the girl who limped, I became the girl who could ride. Horses really are the other half of me.

What is your occupation?

I currently work as a Disability Support Professional. Previous to this I have always done coaching or run the equestrian side of the family farm.

Can you tell us a bit about your current horses?

is a 12 yr old 16.2hh, chestnut, Hanoverian Stallion who is also registered Arabian Warmblood. I have been riding him since 2013, he was originally imported from Germany as a 3 yr old by Kate Barton of Narbethong. Bug as he is known at home really is such a special boy, he has an amazing temperament and is just a beautiful soul.

 

Sharon riding Lord Larmarque

Sharon riding Lord Larmarque

© A & H Photography



Romanos is very new to the team. Earlier this year Lord Larmarque sustained an injury that put him out of training and put our campaign for Tokyo into doubt. Having made the move East to do a campaign for Tokyo I didn’t want to waste the opportunity, but I did not have the finances to purchase a horse suitable. Good Para horses are hard to find anyway so how was I going to come about one? My coach Rozzie Ryan didn’t want me to give up the idea of Tokyo but she didn’t have anything suitable in the stable either. After some thought it was decided that we would put the call out on Facebook to see if anyone had a suitable horse that they would loan to me for a Tokyo campaign, a long stretch but worth a try. We received some very lovely offers from lots of people and we really are grateful to everyone who offered their horses to me, but it was Romanos, who was offered by Donnella Merrett and Shaun Cooper from Gladstone in Queensland that ticked the boxes.

From the first message Rozzie really liked the sound of him. I hopped on a plane and went up and had a ride and we just clicked; he really is a sweetheart. Donnella and Shaun imported him several years ago from Germany where he had competed a bit at small tour, Donnella has been on the Queensland State Squad with him, competed at Nationals and has taken him through to Inter A and B level. He is such a fun horse and makes me smile. We are starting to come together as a partnership, and I am very much looking forward to the Selection Events to come. I am grateful for the power of Facebook and the generosity of people, otherwise my Tokyo dream could have been over.

Are there any special horses of the past that have been influential in your career?

There have certainly been a few, and I am grateful for them all.

The first would have to be a pony called Miss Showtime. She was the first pony we bred. With this pony I went on to compete my first years of Official Show horse and attended my first Young Riders Camp and that really was the beginning of doors starting to open for me and start going places and achieving goals.

Nevada Bay, Fabian was the horse who was everything I didn’t want but we bought anyway. With me wanting to focus on Dressage we went on the hunt for a horse, the advanced schoolmaster that could teach me a thing or two. Instead I ended up with the freshly broken 3 year old. But he was a stunning looking Arabian Warmblood who had lots of potential. The first 3 years we definitely had a love hate relationship but eventually we got there in the end and after 6 years I finally achieved a 60% in a Medium test! He allowed me to achieve something I still rate as almost as special as my medals and that was competing at the 2006 EA National Show Horse Championships in the Senior Rider Class.

Applewood Odorado, Odie is such a special horse. Knowing I really wanted to compete at the Paralympics we had to find a horse suitable. Firstly, we had to work out how to afford one! I sold my best mate Fabian, sold as many of my ponies that I had been breeding as I could, and with the help of my parents and the bank we went in search for the horse. Nothing turned up in Australia so we went overseas. I was over in England competing at the World Para Dressage Championships in 2007, we were riding borrowed horses. We went a week early to go look at horses in Europe, boy that was an experience, first time dealing with a dealer! That search did not turn up the horse I needed so I focused on training for the Champs on my borrow horse in England. On an afternoon off training we went into town and I bought a Horse and Hound Magazine, in there I saw an ad for 3 FEI horses. Made a phone call and the next day was off to see the horses, I just knew when I saw Odie go, he could be the horse for me, and our ride was really special. Odie turned out to be such a character with lots of quirks but really an amazing horse, he had the ability to compete small tour and para in the same day, loved a crowd, but could also have a ripper spook too! I takes a special horse to win a medal, he is a special horse. It was devastating to have to retired him before the final selection for London games but he is happily living out retirement at the family farm.

Ceasy, 2 years out from the Rio games I didn’t have a horse that I knew would be suitable to make the games. Through the help of Equestrian Australia and the Winning Edge Program, I was able to get the ride on a horse through syndication. At the end of May 2015, I started to ride Ceasy, an 8 yr old KWPN Mare who was purchased from The Netherlands. She is naturally athletic and can be quite sharp to her surroundings at times and she came with a few quirks we were unaware of. Because of this she taught me a huge amount about resilience, never giving up and perseverance. I learnt lots about strategy of how to best cope with a tricky horse and just plain bloody hard work. I believe that she is the most naturally talented horse I will most likely ever ride. When she held herself together, the feeling she gave was so incredibly powerful yet soft at the same time, it was magical. Rio presented an interesting situation for us with gun fire going off before our test and me just being lucky to make it into the arena, so to come home with a top 10 placing in the Individual Championship Test, I was very happy with that. Games horses are always special.

 

Sharon Jarvis representing Australia at the Rio Olympic Games © Equestrian Australia

Sharon Jarvis representing Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games

© Equestrian Australia




What Grade are you? What qualifies you to be in that Grade?


I am a Grade IV Rider. As a 7 yr old I was diagnosed with a Ewing’s Sarcoma Bone Tumour in my left femur. Originally given a 20% chance of survival and about 3 months to live the doctors experimented with treatments to firstly save my life and then secondly save my leg from amputation. Thankfully the experiment worked, and I am still living and have my leg. As a result though the use of my left leg and lower right leg have been impaired with limited movement and strength. I had limb salvage surgery on my left leg to save it. I use my upper body more to be able to swing through with my left leg as it is missing muscle to walk, and as my legs did not grow the same length the growth plates were stapled in my right knee which is how the lower part of my right leg has been affected. My hips, knee and ankle have limited flexion. As a result of having had radiation therapy to help kill the cancer the bone has been left rather compromised and I have since suffered a stress fractures since, so it is always a little bit like walking on egg shells, hoping I don’t fall apart, though it is held together with some pretty good hardware in there now! Also, my feeling and sensation in my leg is compromised, I can’t always tell if it does fracture until I go to the doctor 6 months later! (Yes, this did happen once!)

The biggest thing that can affect me from day to day is the nerve pain, I have a normal daily level along with other pains but if a bad attack happens it is about the only thing that can put me out of action for a bit. Most of the other stuff I can deal with. I was brought up to work out how I could do things for myself, they may not always be the most conventional way of doing something, but I work it out so I can! My legs do get tired quickly, when they do, I just sit, then go again! It is about working out how to make things work. Obviously, I don’t fit into small places very well because I don’t bend too well!

What are your future long and short term goals?

The short-term plans that I have in place is to continue living in the East and training at ‘Ryans Horses’ with Rozzie Ryan. The aim is to make the Australian Team. It is always special being part of a Games team and to be the first Australian Para Equestrian to Represent Australia at three Games would be incredibly special. I have also decided that this will be my last games campaign before retiring from International Competitions, it would be great to go out on a high.

After Tokyo I will be heading back to the family farm in South West WA. It is a very intense farming operation run by my Mother and Brother, we run agistment cattle, 70 acres of Orchard, 2500 free range chooks for egg production, all fully certified organic.

How does it feel to be on an HP squad?


I have been lucky to have been included on a National Squad since 2007. I always consider it an honour to be involved in the High-Performance system. I have had good opportunities through being on a squad and have worked with some great visiting coaches over the years. It is nice to know that there is a good support structure behind you for when you need. I am grateful for the support that I have had over the years. I have seen many things change and stay the same over time and many riders and people come and go over the years. I do love to see the development of the sport and feel grateful to be a part of that as well.

What are some of your Equestrian Career Highlights?

The absolute highlight would have to be winning 2 Bronze Medals at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky 2010. To be standing on the podium watching your countries flag raise up, is very special. Then you know you have really done your job for your country, sport and future riders.

 

Sharon Jarvis and Ceasy © Equestrian Australia

Sharon Jarvis and Ceasy

© Equestrian Australia

 


Other major accolades include

  • 2 time Paralympian Beijing 2008, Rio 2016
  • 2 time World Championship Representative Hartpury 2007, Kentucky 2010
  • 2007 Equestrian WA Show Horse Coach of the Year
  • 2009 Equestrian Australia Para Equestrian Athlete of the Year
  • 2010 Equestrian Australia Domestic Athlete of the Year
  • 2010 The Horse Magazine Rider of the Year
  • 2010 WA South West Sports Star of the Year
  • 2011 WA Institute of Sport Athlete of the Year with a disability
  • 2015 WA Institute of Sport Wally Foreman Scholarship Winner
  • 2017 Equestrian WA Para Equestrian Athlete of the Year
  • 2019 Awarded Life Membership of Equestrian WA
  • National Para Champion 2008, 2009, 2010, 2017
  • National Para Reserve Champion 2010, 2012

There are definitely a few favourite wins in open able bodied competition that rate as pretty special including coming 2nd in the Advanced Freestyle on Applewood Odorado at the National Championships in 2009 and coming 5th in the Medium Class at the National Champs in 2017 on Ceasy, standing on the podium with the Big Boys of the Open sport was pretty cool
 

 

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