Ocala, Florida – The Ocala Winter Dressage show, held at the Florida Horse Park January 19-20, is the starting point for Lauren Barwick’s journey to the 2008 Paralympics and helping her on that journey at this weekend’s competition was dressage master Walter Zettl. Barwick, a 30-year-old rider from Vancouver, Canada, joined forces with Zettl to test potential mounts for the upcoming Paralympics.
Barwick, who competed for Canada in the Athen’s Olympics, has already qualified herself to compete in this year’s Paralympic Games, but now needs to qualify a horse. Hence, she was using Ocala Winter Dressage as a testing ground to find her Paralympic partner. “I’ve personally qualified, but I haven’t yet qualified a horse. I had a Grand Prix mount at home that got put down recently. So, now I’m trying out different horses in hopes of finding one for the Paralympic Games,” Barwick said.
It was through Pat and Linda Parelli that Barwick linked up with one of the world’s most recognized classical dressage masters. Zettl, a native of Czechoslovakia who lives in Canada, makes regular trips to the Parelli’s farm in Ocala, Florida. It was there that he met Barwick, who has clearly impressed him.
I have much respect for this young lady because she has no feeling in her legs, but has a very good seat and is a very good rider. She’s an amazing young lady,” Zettl said of Barwick. “She also has a great mind and ability to focus and she tries to do everything that one says.” Barwick’s riding ability, despite being paralyzed from the hips down, is such that Zettl often forgets she’s paralyzed.
"The funniest thing is when we’re having lessons and he says, ‘posting trot’ and I go, ‘hmm.’ (Barwick can’t post.) Or he’ll say, ‘just squeeze your bum muscles together’ and I’ll go, ‘hmma, aha,’” said Barwick showing the humorous blank look she gives Zettl when he issues commands fit only for riders who can use their legs. “I love it when he does that, but then he’ll go, ‘oops, okay.’ He just forgets my situation.”