Para dressage rider Holly Bergay dreams of representing the U.S. at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, but she's missing a key element needed to achieve that dream – a horse. The Alltech/FEI 2010 World Equestrian Games will be the first time that para-equestrian competition will be held during the WEG and the 16-year-old Bergay would love to be there for the inaugural event.
"The World Equestrian Games attracts horses and riders from all over the world. It would be a chance for me to get international exposure and I think it would be an amazing experience. I also really believe that with the right horse, I could be a good representative for the U.S.," Bergay said. Her current competitive partner is her 18-year-old Warmblood mare Soliloquy, but as much as she's loved by Bergay, Soliloquy doesn't quite have the talent needed to take Bergay to the 2010 Games. "I was hoping take my horse to WEG, but I've seen the quality of horses on the international level and realize that to compete at WEG, I need an amazing quality horse. I really love my horse but she's 18 and I'm also afraid that the travel required to qualify for the WEG would be too much for her," Bergay said.
Hence, Bergay and her trainer, Olympian Debbie McDonald, are on the hunt for someone willing to give Bergay the ride on his or her horse for the next couple of years. "I'm hoping that there is someone out there who is not using his or her horse and who might be willing to help Holly get a horse that will help take her along," McDonald said. "Her family is not extremely wealthy and it'd difficult to find the right horse. But she deserves a good horse. Sometimes, I can't believe what she's accomplished and done. I've worked with her around the barn and you can't tell her that she can't do something because she can do anything, even roll polo wraps. She finds a way. You really have to see her in action to know what I'm talking about."
Bergay was born without a left hand, but it certainly hasn't slowed her competitive career. In fact, she has argued that missing a hand has been to her advantage. Most riders overuse their hands but Bergay has really had to learn to use her seat and legs. McDonald, who has been teaching the teenager for some time can attest to that saying that "Holly doesn't let her handicap stand in her way. Holly has amazing feel, a wonderful seat. She accomplishes so much with her body to do that. It amazes me," said McDonald who also notes that overcoming her disability has not always been easy for Bergay. "If I hear people complain I tell have them they have nothing to complain about. Holly never complains."
Bergay herself actually sees an advantage to her disability. “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.” Bergay, who lives in Arizona, has already racked up numerous wins and competed at the North American Junior and Young Riders’ Championships. Although a para rider, most of the time Bergay competes against able-bodied riders.
McDonald believes no one is more deserving of a horse saying that Bergay "is a fabulous young lady." So what does Bergay need? As she's only about 5'2'' and weighs a mere 108 pounds, one criterion is that the horse not be too big. "I'd love to see her on a sensitive horse, but not too big," McDonald said. "Some people think that if you have a handicap, you need a duller horse, but that's not always true and it's certainly not true of Holly. Her current mare is pretty strong and I've had the chance to ride her and when I got off I looked at Holly and said, 'I take my hat off to you because she's not easy.' That mare is a hard ride."
For her part, Bergay said she's not too particular, although she does need something already trained to Fourth Level or Prix St. Georges in order for the horse to be ready for the 2010 WEG. "But right now, we're just looking for any kind of options. I ride a lot of different horses for different people so I can work well with quite a few different types of horses. As long as you can get a bond where they're willing to work with you, I can work with it," Bergay said.
Does Bergay have what it takes to make it to the WEG if provided with the right horse? McDonald seems to think so and she doesn't see the 2010 as the ending to Bergay's dressage career. "I don't think anything can stop her. She's absolutely driven in what she wants to achieve in her life with horses and she's already shown that she can compete head to head with able-bodied riders. Her future is as bright as any other young rider who is willing to work hard and is determined," McDonald said.
Bergay recognizes that finding someone to sponsor her quest for the 2010 WEG by providing a horse won't be easy, but she does offer this promise – "I'm a 16-year-old girl and I don't have a farm of horses so you know your horse will get all my love and attention. I train with Debbie McDonald, so your horse will get good training. And if your goal is to sell the horse you loan me, I'll give your horse the exposure and the press that will help get it sold. But mostly, I'll give your horse all my love."
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- [#26848 override="Olympian Debbie McDonald Supports Young Rider Holly Bergay" title="Olympian Debbie McDonald Supports Young Rider Holly Bergay"]