By: Mary McIntosh
Para-dressage rider Lynne Poole knows how to overcome adversity.
Despite being badly injured in a riding accident and experiencing a devastating number of losses in her personal life, Lynne Poole was determined to accomplish her goals as an equestrian.
Lynne, 63, of Schomberg, ON, is a Canadian para-dressage rider who competes internationally and is an Equine Canada Level 2 dressage coach, dressage steward (basic), and dressage judge (basic). She has always been fearless and tenacious. Even as a little girl she was determined to ride horses – with or without parental support. “My mother enrolled me in riding lessons when I was four, not because she thought that I would learn anything, but to keep me safe because I was going down to a neighbour’s property, climbing on their pony, beating around the field, and having a great old time,” Lynne said. “The compromise was that I would quit riding the pony and my mother would send me to riding lessons.”
Over the years, Lynne competed in a variety of disciplines and breeding classes. “We all did Pony Club and we learned a bit of everything, and when I started to show I did the hunter/jumper circuit,” she recalled. Eventually, she established her own boarding stable and coached and judged at horse shows.
It takes grit and determination to become an accomplished equestrian, but to persist in this sport when faced with significant physical challenges requires an even greater level of resolve. Lynne had to dig deep for this courage when her life changed dramatically as a result of a riding accident in 1999.
“I broke my femur and damaged my back and my hip, and that’s what actually made me a para [dressage rider],” Lynne said. “It was totally unexpected; I was riding a sales horse and I had just picked up the reins to do some long-and-low when he started to buck really nastily. I thought the best thing to do was to bail, so I kicked my feet out of the stirrups and looked for a safe place to land,” Lynne explained. “But as I bailed, he whipped around and kicked me while I was still in the air.” The accident left Lynne with permanent physical damage and she was classified as a grade IV para-equestrian the following year. After the accident she closed her boarding facility and scaled down her business to give herself time to ride and compete.
Five years later, her life took another dark turn. In 2004, her father, mother, and husband all died within a 12-month span, and Lynne was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. She had surgery, but radiation and chemotherapy were not recommended. In 2012, Lynne herniated three disks in her neck in a car accident, adding to her physical challenges.
Undeterred, Lynne continues to coach, judge, and steward at horse shows. This past winter she chose to set her sights on another goal – the World Equestrian Games – and travelled to Wellington, FL, to compete with her horses Vasco E, Cruiser, and Frisbee. Although she received excellent scores, a small scrape on her horse’s coronet band excused from the individual competition at one of the selection trials and as a result was not eligible to compete in the freestyle. That meant that she didn’t get the number of qualifying scores she needed to be considered for a place on the Canadian para-dressage team for WEG.
“I think honestly, at my age, I’m more about bucket lists,” admitted Lynne. “I enjoy riding internationally, and I enjoy the group that I ride with, but I have always said that I want to ride prix St. Georges well, and that’s my present goal. I need one more score at prix St. Georges so I can apply for the upgrade in my judge’s card, because I would like to be the first Canadian para-dressage judge who is also a para rider.”