I was only two years old when my Dad put me on a horse for the first time. Since that moment, I have always loved being around horses.
I followed in my father’s footsteps to become a jockey and had won more than 500 races before I sustained my injury in a race fall. Soon after I left hospital, I decided I was ready to get back into some form of racing.
I had heard of a girl in the US who had paraplegia and was a barrel racer, which gave me the idea to get back on the horse. I do strengthening exercises and I have a custom-made saddle, so my stability on the horse is improving all the time.
I have now won three Queensland Barrel Racing Association titles, competing against barrel racers who do not have a spinal cord injury. Horses are such a passion of mine – it’s amazing I can still do something most doctors would say was impossible for someone with paraplegia.
Three weeks after I gave birth to my son Nash, I was back in the saddle. I have found things do get easier with time, and Google or YouTube is a great way to problem-solve certain situations.
Main image courtesy Linda Zupanc.
It takes a long time to get your head around sustaining a spinal cord injury and a lot of focus to get your mindset in the right place.
It took me a while to realise it, but the only limit I had was my own doubt.
That determination to get out of my comfort zone led me to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet in the air, less than four months after being released from hospital.
Even since before my accident I’d wanted to go skydiving – I figured, why not now? It was an absolutely incredible experience and one that I’d highly recommend to others.
My biggest goal is representing Australia in the Paralympics one day – I just have to prove to myself that I can do it.
I will continue to keep pushing my limits and seeing what I can achieve to become the best that I can be.
It’s important to remember to never compare yourself to other people. Everyone’s injury is different and even if others are progressing faster than you, it doesn’t mean that your time won’t come.
Above all else, never give up!
After my spinal cord injury in 2001, I needed something to help me find and embrace the beauty of life. That something turned out to be art. With the aid of modified paintbrushes, art helped me regain my confidence and purpose.
In addition to being mentored by acclaimed Gold Coast artist Maryanne Holmes, a highlight of my artistic career was winning the $10,000 Access Arts Achievement Award in 2019. I was able to use this funding to pursue another creative passion – accessible fashion.
This led to an opportunity to create my own collection to feature in front of an audience of thousands at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival in Brisbane! Whilst it was a stressful and busy time to get ready for the show, I felt so honoured to have the opportunity and have had such an amazing response.
My background is in law and despite a 14-year absence, I once again established my own practice.
I love what I do but nothing compares to my favourite job of all – being a mum to my son D’arcy.
While life post-injury comes with a lot of adjustments and change, you find your own “new normal” and so much of what is inconceivable becomes possible.
More than a decade after my injury, I am still kicking goals – even though I can’t feel my feet!
I sustained a complete level T2 injury and was paralysed from the chest down, but my love for the land and machinery never changed.
Not only has my sugar cane and excavation business and my fleet of machinery grown over the years, so have I as a person.
I have assumed almost legendary status within my community, where you can commonly hear me referred to as “Wheels”.
While I love what I do, life isn’t just about work – you need to include time for leisure as well.
That’s why I purchased a motorbike and had it modified so I could get back behind the bars, bringing me back to the lifestyle I had before my injury, where my journey began.
While my motivation and zest for life has certainly helped me in my journey, none of it would have been possible without the ongoing love and support of my friends and family, especially my parents.
Life might not always be the party we asked for but while we’re here, we might as well dance.
My family are beautiful caring people who bring me joy whenever we are all together.
I met and married Neil not long after I had my accident and we have three daughters and four grandchildren.
When I first became pregnant, I didn’t have the internet to research parenting with a spinal cord injury, and there were no books on the subject.
Neil and I sat down and planned the design of the cot and bathing area before the girls came along, to make things much easier for both of us.
I learnt to adapt to the changes and challenges and I made it work for me. My daughters are my greatest achievement – I am so proud of the people they have become.
In 2013, Neil and I went to Hawaii for two weeks, where I got to swim with dolphins. To touch them and just be near them was the best experience of my life. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for days.
Every morning when I wake up, I am grateful. My advice: do not let your disability define who you are, but who you can be.