Riding, before she could walk, Noella grew up in a horsey family. Attending pony club and giving all riding disciplines a go, including dressage, jumping, eventing, campdrafting, stockmans challenge, mounted games and show riding before finding her way into competitive para-dressage. From a very cheeky pony named Echo who taught Noella to hang on – to Milo, a been there done that riding pony – to Jack, who quickly become Noella’s partner in crime and created many memories which will never been forgotten. One of Noella’s greatest achievements was competing in stockman challenges, where you need to whipcrack, work cattle, packsaddle, shoe a horse, ride in a bareback obstacle course, and jump in a stock saddle which sounds crazy enough, let alone doing this with a disability. In 2015, Noella graduated from Marcus Oldham College, with a diploma of Equine Management and received the Principals award for Effort and Achievement.
At the age of 5, Noella was diagnosed with Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) which affects the neurological function in her right leg from toe to hip. Noella spent the first 7 years travelling to and from the US for medical treatments. With medical expenses getting up over $4M, Noella was able to secure support from an overseas medical board. Noella was one of the first to receive back-to-back treatment which took an enormous toll on her body. She has got around on forearm crutches for the past 17 years. Now, 22 years on with over 100 treatments, Noella is fortunate enough to receive treatment in her home city, Adelaide. While AVM has taken a toll, this certainly hasn’t stopped Noella from living a full life and achieving great things.
One of the biggest challenges as been the workplace, “I’d like to see both Ag and Equine Industries work on understanding that people with disabilities both physical and/or intellectual can do so much more than what it looks like. I always wanted to go to a station, but you read a description and think no point in applying because I can only do half the stuff there”.
Now at 29, Noella’s backyard hobby of riding horses is so much more with her dedication and commitment to international para-dressage with her partner in crime, Jack. While there is no cure for AVM and many ups and down, Noella has come such a long way. The continuous development of treatment and ongoing support has allowed Noella to fulfil her equestrian dreams.
“For others with a disability, you have more skills than anyone realises. We are more capable and tend to be ahead of those without a disability because we just think differently. For me, risk management is just an inbuilt skill that ticks over in my head every second I am doing something, where most need to go to Uni and get a degree. It’s hidden skills like this that really do set us apart, so don’t forget you have them.
For Para Riders, keep going, keep adapting and get in touch. There is currently a pathway for dressage in Australia but with more interest, I would love to get other events to adapt to para like reining, jumping, stockmans challenges, driving and so much more!”