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In the stable with Zoe Vorenas

Para-Dressage athlete Zoe Vorenas and Neversfelde Kipling © Stephen Mowbray

Para-Dressage athlete Zoe Vorenas and Neversfelde Kipling

© Stephen Mowbray


Para-Dressage athlete Zoe Vorenas has never let set backs block her path to success. Her determination and positive attitude shine through, both in and out of the arena, and her recent string of competition successes ensure she is firmly on track for potential team selection for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Zoe has been named on the EA High Performance Green Squad for Para-Dressage 2019, which is a Squad that identifies athletes who are considered on their way to becoming podium ready within the next four years.

We caught up with Zoe to learn all about her Para-Dressage journey and her very exciting new horse, who as already been turning heads, the stunning Neversfelde Kipling.

How did I get into Para-Dressage?

Tricky question, because I don’t entirely remember! I know I’ve always had a passion for animals, so I assume my love for horses was a part of that. I started riding when I was 3, but I wasn’t blessed with a “horsey family”, so I think they often hoped I would grow out of it and find something else to obsess over! I first sat on a Shetland pony at St Kilda foreshore. The man kindly led me around a few times, but after refusing to get off, my dad took over. Apparently we were still there 2 hours later. Oops!

I begged and begged to have lessons after this, and my fascination with horses grew. I spent so much time learning as much as I could, reading books and watching what I could. I started having fortnightly lessons, then riding once a week until I got my first horse at 13 years old. I took a working pupil role with Glenda and Faye at Wyronga Park on the weekends, where I learned the ins and outs of Dressage, high performance horse management, basic vet care and the world of competing. After spending so long having lessons in all disciplines, I finally found my place with the Dressage folk.


Para-Dressage athlete Zoe Vorenas and the stunning Neversfelde Kipling

Para-Dressage athlete Zoe Vorenas and the stunning Neversfelde Kipling

How long have you been competing in Para-Dressage?

I have been competing in Para-Dressage since 2015. I was based in Holland at the time, and I made my debut at Hartpury CPEDI3*. It was a rollercoaster of a journey and over those two years, the learning curve was steep. I had a really good time over there, though, and came back with a good feel for international level events and athletes.

Since then, I’ve been competing my other horse, Little Brave in both Para and able bodied events. My first Australian Para competition was the Boneo Spring Championship in 2016, where we came 1st in all tests and won overall.

Why did you choose Equestrian?

For the love of the horse, first and foremost. I came into this crazy sport with a passion for the animal, and that’s still the same. No matter what’s going on in my life, no matter what adversity or whatever is stuck in my head, I know I can saddle up, hop on and forget everything for a while. They offer a peace that nothing else does, and for that, I’ll forever be grateful.

I’ve also been very, very lucky to meet some amazing people along the way. Now I’m surrounded by an incredible team who believes in me and support me everyday to be better. I’ve also met a lot of fellow Paras who I’ve formed friendships with, and I owe that all to the sport.

Finally, the sport has given me purpose, especially after my diagnosis. I couldn’t go on and complete my year 12 schooling with my peers, I missed out on a lot of opportunities and “normal” things that my friends did. But that’s ok, because even when I was stuck in hospital for weeks on end, I knew I had the horses to get back to. My coaches always pushed me to come out and ride, particularly at the start, even if all I could do was walk around for 5-10 minutes.


Para-Dressage athlete Zoe Vorenas

Para-Dressage athlete Zoe Vorenas

What Para-Dressage Grade are you classified as?

I’m classified as a Grade 4 rider. Grades go from 1-5, with 5 being least impaired. In my grade, we compete in the FEI Grade 4 Team, Individual and Freestyle tests. Team and Individual are around elementary level, and the freestyle is more medium.

I was classified not long after being diagnosed with an aggressive and rapidly progressing disease called Multiple Sclerosis. I was 17 at the time, and it threw my entire world upside down and inside out. Basically overnight, I lost my ability to walk, I had total right sided numbness, my vision was affected, my speech, all of the fun things! But that’s ok, I’ve come through it now and it’s made me who I am today, and I’m ok with that. I still have symptoms every day which (try to) limit me, but I’ve just learnt to understand when to rest, and when I can push it.

What are your future goals?

I have my eyes set on Tokyo in 2020, and am working hard to make sure I give myself the best chance of both being on that team, but also being competitive if we get over there!

We’ve been carefully planning out the events for the rest of the year, and I’ve been working on my weak points with my Physio. I’d also really like to get to Grand Prix one day, in able bodied sport. Maybe we will even get Kipling there! That would be pretty special.

Who have recently started competing with a new horse, can you tell us a little about him?

Yes! I have found my new dancing partner in Neversfelde Kipling, an 8-year-old gelding by the beautiful stallion Fürst Love, out of the famous mare, Neversfelde Kudu! He has been exceptionally, and kindly, trained by Jim Collin, and I’m so very lucky to own and ride him.

He’s quiet and generous in his work, but also reactive and responsive to the leg, which has made the transition to being a Para Horse very streamlined. I think for me, the biggest thing is that even on days where I’m feeling considerably worse, he compensates for me. Not to mention that he is tall and terribly good-looking, with four socks and a white face which always helps!

I’ve only had him since April, around 3 weeks before our Sydney CPEDI qualifier. I decided I’d take him and give it a go, and luckily I did! We achieved two Tokyo qualifying scores and won the overall Grade 4 Championship. Just this weekend we had our second outing to the Boneo Park Winter Champs where we took out the Medium Reserve Championship, with a personal best of 72.37% in the Medium 4C for 1st place by 5%! My first ever score over 70! I was pretty overwhelmed and there were a lot of happy tears. I really love competing in an able bodied competition and I love catching up with fellow riders, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find it difficult and often taxing on my body. My diagnosis is pretty new still, so I often underestimate the extra coordination needed for the able bodied tests! But, I love pushing the boundaries and limitations of my MS.


Zoe Vorenas and Neversfelde Kipling

Zoe Vorenas and Neversfelde Kipling

What is your full time occupation?

I’m currently studying, slowly! I am completing a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve always wanted to go into animal related work, so this felt right. I also really enjoy teaching, and work with a few clients with disabilities, which is really rewarding work.

You have been named on the EA High Performance Green Squad, what does that mean to you?

Amazing, I’ve been very lucky to be on squad for a while, but the move to Green Squad is such an important step towards Tokyo 2020. I always dreamed of being where I am now, so I have to keep pinching myself!!

Can you tell us about some of your career highlights?

Definitely being on Squad, as well as Sydney CPEDI Grade Champion was pretty exciting, too. I’ve also been lucky to have been Top 3 Para Athlete of the Year 2017-2018, and my other competition horse, Little Brave, who I trained with my coaches from Prelim to PSG with my coaches was Top 3 Dressage Horse of the Year. In 2017, we were also Australian National Reserve Champions in Grade 4.


The second release of the Para-Dressage Leaderboard results have been released! Congratulations to all riders.

Equestrian Australia High Performance, in consultation with rider feedback, have introduced a new Para-Dressage initiative to recognise and support Australian athletes. In conjunction with Equestrian Life a new leaderboard has been created to recognise and encourage participation in both National and FEI Para-Dressage categories.

Click here to view the current leaderboard!

Source: Australian Equestrian Team





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