Canadian Paralympic Dressage rider Judi Island has been awarded the highest honour in the Ribbons for Rides Program, an initiative by the Ontario Equestrian Federation and Ontario Therapeutic Riding Association that awards therapeutic riders with a ribbon for each FEI Para Dressage test completed. The award was presented yesterday to the 59-year-old Caledon resident at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair during the OEF Member Appreciation Party.
“Achieving the champion rosette in the OEF Ribbons for Rides program was a fun challenge,” says Island. “I think the OEF Ribbons for Rides program encourages Para-Equestrian riders to push to reach new heights. This program, which is generously offered by OEF at no cost, gives Para-Equestrian riders a goal to work towards at their own pace and at their own barn. It also provides a starting format for up-and-coming riders at therapeutic riding centres and inspires all Para-Equestrians to prepare for upcoming competitions.”
Island was an avid Dressage rider whose life was forever changed in January 1993 when she sustained a C-3 spinal cord injury – incomplete quadriplegia – in a car accident. Totally paralyzed below the neck, she entered into an intensive rehab therapy program. She never thought she would ride again and asked her mother to sell her beloved Lippizan, Gitano. But a year and a half after the accident she began riding in a therapeutic riding program at Sunrise Equestrian Centre for the Disabled in Guelph, ON. After nine years of hard work, she got back on Gitano, which her mother had cared for since the accident. Island went on to win bronze in both the Grade 1a Individual Championships and Freestyle at the 2003 World Championships. She also represented Canada at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.
In appreciation of the time and effort that riders put into completing the 10 tests required to obtain receive the Champion rosette in the Ribbons for Ride program, the OEF has the champion rosettes signed by the rider of the recipient’schoosing. Island chose Canadian Olympic Dressage rider Christilot Boylen. Island says Boylen’s performance in Freestyle at the 1986 World Championships was an inspiration as she developed her own riding skills.
“The Ontario Equestrian Federation congratulates Judi Island on reaching yet another career milestone,” says Dianne Graham, the executive director of the OEF. “Judi is an inspiration to riders of all ages, disciplines and riding abilities and we are honoured to present her with the champion rosette in the OEF Ribbons for Rides program.”