Susie Rogers-Hartley is an Etac Balder F280 powerchair owner and prolific Para-equestrian event winner from Oxfordshire. Despite having a spinal injury which restricts use of her legs, she has won numerous competitions and regularly competes against able-bodied and disabled riders with the help of her Etac powerchair.
Susie is currently based at Alden Equicentre near Upton in Oxfordshire which is one of the official Olympic Equestrian Training Camps. Susie has successfully qualified for the 2012 Paralympics with her 10 year old Irish horse ‘Shamus’ and may ride for Team Hong Kong if she can prove her dual nationality.
Susie started riding at the age of four when she attended St. Mary’s private school in Hasting which had a riding school nearby and was famed for teaching celebrities such as Joanna Lumley. She quickly progressed to entering competitions and became an extremely competent and experienced rider through her teenage years and twenties.
As global travel had always excited her, she decided to join the British Royal Navy in 1998 as it offered Susie the opportunity for a rewarding career stationed across the world. However during a routine training exercise on a physical assault course in 2002, she sustained a severe back injury that left her without mobility from the waist down and needing the permanent use of a wheelchair to remain mobile.
Susie explains: I had always enjoyed a very active life from running marathons to my beloved horse riding so as you can imagine this type of injury was devastating. I was discharged from the Navy and then had to look at rebuilding my life however I found it extremely tough. I lost all my confidence, became introvert and couldn’t even steer a wheelchair in a straight line. Nevertheless my perspective on life was to dramatically change in 2003, when I was given the opportunity to attend a Back-up Trust multi-activity course on Exmoor which included horse riding for the less able.”
Susie continues: “This course included hacks in association with the RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) which allowed me to once more sit in the saddle which was totally amazing. Being able to see the world from up high made me wake up from a bad dream, it was a true turning point in my rehabilitation.
As time went on, I was also lucky enough to be able to buy my own horse, William, which then really allowed me to begin training, jumping and competing again on a regular basis. There was however still one major issue to be resolved – my mobility. I was struggling to access the livery, moving around the yard took too much time and mounting my horse was very difficult. This was all to change in 2008 with the purchase of my new Etac Balder F280 powerchair, which met all my day-to-day mobility needs at the stables and during competitions.
This was a memorable year for me as my newfound mobility also coincided with the purchase of my new horse Shamus from Stephen Hendry of Kent Horse Producers. My Etac powerchair is so robust and sturdy and even though it is not a specialist off-road mobility vehicle, I can still easily drive around fields and over rough rural terrain when attending to Shamus. It delivers excellent range through high capacity batteries and the fact that the sit raises so high, I can lift myself up to a position which allows easy mounting onto Shamus. I’d be lost without my F280 as it provides superb manoeuvrability and flexibility around the stables when I am cleaning, feeding and mucking out whilst the tyre tread delivers excellent traction.
I previously owned another brand of powerchair however it’s functionality was not varied enough for my lifestyle and the F280 fits practically in my horsebox when travelling to competitions.”
Susie’s current accolades include winning the RDA National Championships (GRADE I – 70cm) last year, British Novice 70-80cm classes 2010 and finishing in the top five at La Baule and Vimeroy, France. Susie hopes that showjumping will have become a Paralympic sport by Rio 2016 in addition to dressage. Susie concludes: “Shamus and I always enjoy training hard and even though we have achieved so much together, thanks in part to my Etac powerchair, winning an Paralympic showjumping medal would be the ultimate dream.”