Probably more known for her background as a para-dressage rider and experienced disabled equestrian rider, Wendy Moller has decided to try her hand at another equestrian sport, para reining.
The Northvilla resident just recently returned from representing South Africa at the World Para Reining Championships in Lyon, France, along with another South African rider, Nicole Sanders.
Para reining is a competitive sport designed for riders with physical disabilities.
Para reining is judged on the performance of the horse and rider as a team.
Riders are not judged on their level of disability.
“This sport is completely new for me,” said Moller, who was born with spina bifida.
“I have been competing in para-dressage for 25 years at international level including four Paralympic Games and three World Equestrian Games.
“In dressage, you ride with two hands whereas in reining you only use one hand to ride so that was a bit of an adjustment.”
She added that para reining started overseas a few years ago.
The first para reining competition at the international level was held in 2015 and most of the competitors are actually para-dressage riders who have moved over to this new sport.
“We tried for three years to get over and compete at the World Championships, but we couldn’t find sponsorship.
“We were very lucky this year that we managed to get a sponsor.
“That has been the biggest challenge in converting to this new sport, getting a sponsor.”
Out of a total of nine countries, the small South African team managed to scoop a bronze medal in the team event much to the surprise of everybody.
Moller, Sanders and Canadian rider Janice Boucher, who changed her allegiances for the event to ride with the South Africans, secured the third overall place.
“It was the first time South Africa competed at that level so it was a big surprise, but we had fabulous horses.”
A challenge for South African riders internationally is always the fact that they have to compete on borrowed horses in Europe due to the stringent movement and quarantine protocols placed on African horses, due to African horse sickness.
“We only had six days on the horses and it’s very difficult to establish a bond with the horse in that time especially being a para rider because I can’t use my legs and the horses are used to riders with functional legs.
“They were well-schooled horses though and the horse I rode (Spider Genit) and I just clicked.”