Holly Bergay always sees the bright side of life, even when it comes to her own disability. Born without a left hand, the 14-year-old believes that being hand-less gives her an edge over other dressage riders. Because while most struggle with the notion of riding with seat and leg and not hands, Holly does it naturally.
“I think I use more back and core strength and more leg and seat. Ideally, dressage should be ridden from your leg and seat. So in that way, I think maybe I have a little advantage because I’ve always used so much leg and seat anyway. Hands isn’t really an issue for me,” said the Tucson, Arizona resident. Her partner in competition is a 17-year-old Canadian Warmblood mare named Soliloquy, but with the barn name of Lilly. Together, this pair has been competing in the FEI Junior Tests, as well as in the USEF levels.
And despite her disability, the high school freshman has racked up numerous wins, including championships at the state and regional level. More recently, she not only qualified for and competed in the North American Junior and Young Riders’ Championships, held in Virginia in early August, but finished fifth overall individually. “I’ve always ridden with able-bodied riders and I kind of consider myself able because I can do everything so why limit myself.”
Holly’s success doesn’t surprise her mother, Mary Bergay, who said that Holly “has been an amazing kid since she was born and never stops amazing me.” Although she has never yet competed in a disabled dressage competition, Holly may be venturing into one soon. That’s because she’s aiming to represent the U.S. internationally and has set her sights on the Para-Olympic Games and perhaps even the 2010 World Equestrian Games. However, she admits that ultimately her goal is to compete at the highest levels against the best able-bodied riders.
“I want to go as far as possible. There are a ton of opportunities. My current goal would be to do the Para-Olympic Games in Beijing but it’s a bit late to qualify. But there are also the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and I’m aiming for that. Ideally I’d like to do both the able-bodied and disabled for that,” Holly said.