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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Phoebe fights back from injury to be part of team representing Australia

ABOVE: Phoebe Roche will join seven other riders to represent Australia. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG

PHOEBE Roche has been chosen as part of the eight-person team to compete at the 2024 Virtus Open European Equestrian Championships in the United Kingdom in just over a week's time.

The championship advocates elite sports for athletes with intellectual impairment.

It's been a long road for Phoebe and her mother, Shaneen, who live at Tooradin in Victoria.

The 28-year-old - who has cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia and autism - began riding with McIntyre Riding for the Disabled in Queensland at the age of five with help from her father who as a boy, had an operation on his spine that severed the nerves to his legs.

He learned to ride at the Riding for the Disabled facility and when Phoebe’s disability was seen he got her enrolled to ride there.

Phoebe developed into a FEI Grade IV Para-rider and in 2021 was named as the as the Victorian Para Equestrian of the Year. A year later she also finished her certificate in Equine Vet Nursing.

A week after her graduation she suffered a bad fall from a horse and could not ride for almost two years.

Shaneen said it was an awful time.

“She had to learn to basically talk again,” she said.

“She just spent six months sitting on the couch at home not knowing who she was, what she was. The medical bills were huge. She’d go to rehab three times a week.”

Phoebe is back riding but now has the added problem of not remembering the order of tests and needs them called.

Because of this she qualifies as a Virtus rider.

When the letter arrived to say she had been selected to compete at the championships the problem was that this event, unlike the Olympics, is not funded.

“They said you need $15,000 for her carer and groom,” Shaneen said.

The riders compete on borrowed horses.

“It’s a huge amount of money because I’m a pensioner. Phoebe’s a pensioner. These things aren’t cheap.”

Shaneen sold her car and organised sausage sizzles and garage sales meaning Phoebe will be able to compete.

Her mum is staying home to mind “mind the dogs”.

In announcing the team, Sport Inclusion Australian said the path was laid by Australia’s first team of three riders (Sarah Sherwood, Andrew Driffield and Sui Watts) who competed at the 2023 Virtus Global Games in France achieving great success.

“It is so pleasing to now be able to provide eight riders with that honour and experience of representing Australia in international competition,” chief executive Robyn Smith said.

The Australian team

Catherine Viney (SA)

Chloe Karsten (NSW)

Bel Dabic (WA)

Phoebe Roche (VIC)

Head Coach: Mary Longden (V)

Manager: Jennifer-Ann Carroll

The championships will be held at Winchester in the United Kingdom from July 15-19.

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