Canadian Paralympian Roberta Sheffield of Lincolnshire, GBR piloted Fairuza to an impressive international debut during the CPEDI 3* Bishop Burton, held July 23-27, 2018 in Beverley, GBR.

The competition marked a special milestone for Sheffield, who has been riding and training Fairuza for three years with the ultimate goal of bringing the horse she fondly describes as going from “feral to fabulous” up to the international level.

“I bought her nearly three years ago as an unhandled, un-haltered six-year-old,” Sheffield explained about the Gelderlander/Dutch Warmblood-cross mare who is now nine years old and affectionately called Wonky due to her unusual facial markings. “I bought her as a project horse, but totally underestimated how wonderful her temperament is and how attached we would become.”

After taking a break with Fairuza’s training in order to focus on her Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Games with another partner, Double Agent, Sheffield resumed full-time training with Fairuza post-Games with her sights firmly set on entering the competition ring.

“She only started proper ridden work in January 2017, as she first had to learn how to be a pet before she could be a safe riding horse,” said Sheffield. “We have been attending clinics with Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg and Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, as well as working with the EC Para-Dressage High Performance Technical Leader, Clive Milkins.”

Sheffield rode Fairuza to her national debut in the 2018 season, with the plan to move her into international competition in 2019. However, her plans changed after an unexpected adjustment to her FEI para-equestrian classification status.

“I had been working with Wonky with the idea that I would start her in international competition next year, as I was then a Grade IV rider; but the goal posts suddenly changed when the classifiers decided to move me into the Grade III division,” explained Sheffield. “With this new situation, I was able to bring her international debut forward after we had successfully competed in a couple national-level shows.”

On July 25, Sheffield’s goal came to fruition when she stepped into the ring with Wonky at Bishop Burton College for the Grade III Team and executed an impressive test for a score of 69.46% to take second place. And their scores only improved from there, with the judges awarding 69.74% for the win in the Individual on the following day, and 71.70% for second place in the Freestyle on July 27.

“Wonky is still very inexperienced in the ring, but her great intelligence and can-do attitude stood up to the challenge really well,” commented Sheffield. “She handled the atmosphere brilliantly.”

Sheffield continued, “Before Bishop Burton, I had no idea what the judges would make of Wonky, as she is more of a driving-shape warmblood. My aim was to give her a good experience for the future, set ourselves a benchmark and see what direction our training needs to go in. I think we achieved our process goals and have made a great start to her career.”

Looking ahead, Sheffield has her sights set high for the future with Wonky, and looks forward to enjoying every step along the way.

“My passion is training and developing horses, so it’s incredible to bring another horse out to show at the international level; especially one that has been such a challenge from the get-go,” said Sheffield. “I absolutely adore working with this mare. I have always believed she is very special, and it really feels like we have started on our journey toward team selection for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.”

For full results from the CPEDI 3* Bishop Burton, click here.