Stinna Tange Forges New Career

Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Posted by FEI Communications Department


At the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning (DEN) in August, Stinna Tange from Denmark was onsite to report on the Para Dressage competitions for the FEI Communications team.

In this edition of the Para Equestrian Digest, the two-time World Champion and Paralympic medallist talks about how there is life after professional sport and how her experiences as a professional para athlete have shaped her views and approach to her current work in Sports Communications...

"A great personal strength..."

“I was in Herning in 2017, when I was riding my beloved Smarties at a stallion show. I only have great memories from Herning so it was great to be back for the ECCO FEI World Championships 2022 with a media accreditation around my neck. If there was any way to perfectly bring together my para equestrian experience with my university degree in English and Communications, this was it!

I’ve been asked by many people while I was in Herning if I miss competing. While it will definitely always be a part of me, it was a new challenge to convey my excitement and passion for the sport of Para Dressage through my writing.

Stinna Tange at Tryon World Equestrian Games
Stinna Tange at Tryon World Equestrian Games

New Perspectives

Prior to the World Championships, I produced an article for a US magazine, where I analysed the possibility of another podium finish for the US Para Equestrian team. It was good to read emails from people saying that my article got them excited about watching the Para Dressage competitions in Herning, and to have my insights resonate with people.

It was also my chance to tell the world about the amazing para athletes who were in Herning, while adding another dimension to the narrative.

We are para athletes but we are also individuals with disabilities.

Disability Inclusion

While I don’t want the stories around para sports to focus specifically on the athlete’s disability, we should also be willing to openly discuss issues surrounding disability inclusion. A disability cannot be taken away, and it shouldn't be taken away, because that's also a great personal strength in my opinion.

I’ve been pleased to see that the narrative around para athletes has been changing.

It used to be that journalists loved to asked, “So what’s happened to you?” And it’s nice to see that para athletes are being asked questions that also put forward to their able bodied counterparts in post competition interviews.

Stinna Tange

The Evolution of Para Equestrian

Nowadays, journalists covering para equestrian sport are less likely to go down the road of trying to create a narrative around them that the athlete doesn’t identify with. For many para athletes, riding is a way of life and horses are not always part of saving our lives.Nowadays, journalists covering para equestrian sport are less likely to go down the road of trying to create a narrative that the athlete doesn’t identify with. For instance, one of the clichés is that disabled people have been able to overcome their difficulties because of a special horse.

But in my case, the horse was never my ‘saviour’ character. I was born strong and independent and therefore chose to start riding horses. The alternate narrative supports and assumes that being born disabled is inherently bad or was an unhappy circumstance.

What I try to do when I talk to the athletes is to tell the story of their sporting journey, because getting to the Paralympics is just as hard as going to the Olympics.

The Athlete Experience

I’ve lived the athlete experience. I have experienced the highs and lows of competition and I know how difficult, but fulfilling, it can be to work with horses.

Mary Phelps and Stinna Tang
HorsesDaily's Mary Phelps and Stinna Tang at the FEI World Championships Tryon 2018

I want to get the athlete stories out to the world and not just to our tight little equestrian community. I want my stories to help these athletes shine, because I know they're sporting superstars.

It’s also encouraging to see that the ways in which para horses are being captured through photos is changing.

Para horses are also elite athletes, and they are getting more and more professional. We’re seeing more photos, and more stories of our beautiful para horses. And I hope that photographers will continue to find ways of showing their beauty and poise, in the same way that they would with a Dressage horse.

The good part about not competing is that I had the opportunity to speak to people about matters that are close to my heart, like the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Andrew Parsons, and the FEI Secretary General and APSO President Sabrina Ibáñez. We had a chance to have an exchange of views on disability inclusion and it was good to hear that they are passionate about the same things as me.

It was an amazing conversation which maybe wouldn’t have happened if I was in Herning as a competitor.

It was also good to have the social aspect of an Event like the World Championship back again to enjoy. I really felt that people were genuinely happy to see each other in Herning.

I hope my presence at the World Championships in Herning showed para athletes that they will never just be a person in a wheelchair, or with a disability. We are so much more than that. Life after professional sport is good and you will still be the same.”