• Fran Cleland

Australians team up to put Booth on course for world championships


ABOVE: Emma Booth and Zidane at his last performance in Tokyo. Picture: JON STROUD

NEWS that Emma Booth is in Germany training with Maree Tomkinson means that the two-time Para Dressage Olympian will be on track to try for the World Championships in August.


“I am campaigning for the World Championships on two of Maree Tomkinson’s extremely beautiful horses,” Booth said.


“I’m enjoying the journey and pinching myself that I’m over here. I can’t thank Maree enough for this life changing opportunity, or Paige Drake for dropping everything to come over and help me.


“Bring on qualifiers in Netherlands and Belgium in June.”


Tomkinson said she was approached about the partnership and jumped at it.

“It was Kerry Mack’s idea,” she said.


“She asked me if i though my horses might be suitable and if so would we consider this. I didn’t hesitate and when I asked Lyn Sultana and Deb McNicol, co-owners of the horses, neither did they.


“If we could help Emma get to WEG and possibly win a medal for Australian Equestrian this would be a wonderful achievement all round. There is no one more deserving of this opportunity and we are proud and happy to be able to help.”


Booth has been obsessed with horses from a young age. Her dream of riding one came true when she won a competition run by the TV show “The Saddle Club” to win a pony and riding lessons.


Her raw talent was clear early on and in 2011 she accepted a job in Germany riding and training horses for international dressage rider Holger Schulze.


Emma’s equestrian ambitions were put on hold in 2013 when she was involved in a near-fatal car accident.


Emma was travelling home from an event when a truck jack-knifed and slammed into her car and horse trailer.


The collision was catastrophic. Two of the horses in the attached trailer were killed and Emma sustained horrific injuries, including bleeding on her brain, fractured sternum, punctured lung, a severely damaged spinal cord and her back shattered.


Emma spent four months in hospital undergoing intense and seemingly endless physiotherapy. All she could think about was getting back on a horse and it was this thought that kept her going.


Seven months later, she returned to riding.


Learning of her options as a Para-equestrian athlete, she set her sights on selection for the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team.


“It really was only a few weeks after my accident that I started to recover quite quickly. At that point I just knew that I was going to give riding a go no matter what,” she said.


Six months later she was on a horse.


“That feeling of riding again was incredible. I was lucky enough to have modified saddle and people to assist me on to the horse. It was my touch with normality again. I wasn’t nervous, it was just pure excitement.”


ABOVE: Emma Booth and Maree Tomkinson in Germany.

From that point on the Rio Paralympics was a goal. The challenge was to buy a horse. Glen Carter, a close family friend decided to raise the funds by cycling around Australia. But finding the right horse was the biggest challenge.


“Finding the right horse in general is hard, so a Para dressage horse is twice as hard. A horse for Para needs to be a great listener. With my limited movement in the legs mean it has to depend more on my voice rather than my body,” Booth said.


She travelled to Europe in search of a mount but found none and the trials for the Paralympics were only a month away.


But then the state dressage coach in Victoria asked Booth to try a local horse named Zidane.

“It was such an emotional ride. Two minutes into the ride I was like this is the one. We just clicked. He understood everything I asked straight away.”


Booth made her international debut in 2014 at the CPEID3* in Hartpury, UK, placing in the top 10 in Normandy, France.


The pair had such a bond that within three weeks they had managed to qualify for the Rio Paralympics. “It was a dream come true,” she said.


“The best part of Rio was the village. I met so many wonderful people that I could share my story with and listen to theirs.”


Emma competed in two events at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, placing fifth in the mixed dressage individual championship and ninth in the team open with teammates Sharon Jarvis, Lisa Martin and Katie Umback.


Representing Australia at her second Games at Toyko 2020, Emma competed in the Individual Championship Test Grade III to finish in eighth position, and fifth in the Dressage Individual Test Grade III.


Zidane retired after Tokyo and died early this year.


Without a top mount it looked like Emma might miss out on the World Championship, but with Tomkinson’s help, two generous owners and two great horses to ride, she may again represent her country.