Friday, July 30, 2010

Wells Resident Mary Jordan to Compete in World Equestrian Games

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
Mary Jordan and her horse, Paxton Abbey, will represent the United States in the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky.
The Para-Dressage competition for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games begins Oct. 5. Riders will compete on a world-stage in front of international judges, following FEI rules, and top international competition in the Covered Arena.
The Individual Team Test begins Oct. 5 and riders will compete with their horses for six days ending with the Individual Freestyle Test Oct. 10.
Jordan earned a spot on the national team at a competition in Wayne, Ill. This is the first time in the Games’ history that para-riders, those with disabilities, will compete in their own category at the international event, according to Jessica Corcoran, assistant account executive with Rx Mosaic Health of New York.
Jordan has relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
“It’s a dream of a lifetime,” Jordan said in a telephone interview from her home in Wells, of making Team USA for the competition. “It’s always been a dream of mine to ride for my country.”
“I’m so looking forward to the opportunity,” Ms Jordan, the only New England rider to make the team, said. “It’s just an incredible honor.”
“For me this journey started more than a year ago and it has spanned two continents, two coastlines, multiple horses, multiple languages, a new car engine, transmission and many miles by moped, truck, trailer and plane not to mention all kinds of weather,” Jordan said.
“It is not often as a rider that you get this type of opportunity and it is not often as a Multiple Sclerosis patient you even dream of this opportunity of riding at an international level,” she said. “Lastly, it certainly is not often that you get to ride the horse that was born in your lap, at the World Games.”
She said the inclusion of the para-rider category is “a historic event” for those with disabilities who love the sport and competing in it. She said this is “really catching on in the United States.”
In order to gain enough competitive points to make the trials in Wayne, Ms. Jordan and Paxton Abbey had to travel extensively to take part in meets.
“I’ve lived in my car the last three months,” Ms. Jordan said, noting she had taken part in competitions in Lexington and Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Wayne.
She also took part in the European Championships after going through what she described as a “three-week boot camp” in Holland, riding a borrowed German stallion. This was possible, she said, because of friends and family in Europe.
During all this travel, training and competing she was able to continue her job as a representative of the Pennfield Corp. of Lancaster County, Pa., working with farms in New England and New York state.
“I love what I do and I do what I love,” Ms. Jordan said.
And all the time she was continuing her regimen to keep her MS at bay. She was originally diagnosed in 2002 and, she said, has thus far been relapse free.
She works out, keeps active and continues her drug therapy with daily shots of Copaxone. Ms Jordan said there are several different drugs for battling MS but “Copaxone works really, really well for me.”
“I do not take my health for granted,” she said. “I work very hard at it.”
The competition Ms. Jordan and Paxton Abbey face takes place in a 20 by 60-meter area. The initial event requires movements from memory by horse and rider at specific spots in the arena requiring harmony between rider and mount.
“It is sometimes a lot like ballet,” she said. “It is time consuming to train for it.”
Next is the individual class test that requires “more difficult maneuvers,” she said, and finally there is the musical freestyle, much like the free program in figure skating once the required figures are complete.
Ms Jordan was familiar with MS before she was diagnosed since she is the third member of her family to suffer from the disease. He father, a quadriplegic, was diagnosed before the current treatments were available. Her older sister Mary was quickly treated and is active today.
“There is no cure,” Ms Jordan said in a previous interview, but treatment and drugs “do an amazing job of halting the progression of the disease.”
At that time she said people “get shell shocked” when they are told they have MS and immediately picture themselves in a wheelchair. “That’s not today’s reality,” she said.
Ms Jordan’s riding career includes a national equestrian reserve championship and three national year-end awards from the United States Eventing Association.
Paxton Abbey was named the 2007 Horse of the Year by the United States Eventing Association, in competition with all horses nationally at the training level of competition.
Jordan was in the barn when Paxton was born and it was a good thing.
The foal was born in the sac in which horses are delivered but the sac failed to tear. Jordan said there was a 100-pound foal in a big gooey bubble.
Acting quickly, Jordan tore open the sack “and there she was and she wasn’t breathing,” she explained. Jordan cleared Paxton’s nostrils and breathing began. “There she was right in my lap.”
They’ve been together ever since.
Photo caption: Wells Resident Mary Jordan and her horse, Paxton Abbey, will compete in the World Equestrian Games this year. (Courtesy photo)