Erin's Journey: Normandy 2014
I am a Seattle-area based disabled equestrian, working towards representing the United States at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014, and the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.
Posted by Erin Alberda
I am asking 20 of my friends and supporters to pledge $14 to my fundraising efforts. After you have pledged, share this page with your network.
Why $14? I am facing a huge fundraising challenge, but the greatest journey was started with just one step. I have realized the greatest asset I have is my incredible community.
Most of us have $14 - in fact, it was the exact amount in my wallet this morning, which spawned this idea.
Wouldn't you like to see your $14 go all the way to Normandy? Every $14 pledge will be acknowledged on a "20/14 Wall of Fame" that I will carry with me along my journey.
Pledge today, share this page, and tell your friends about the 20/14 Fund!
Posted by Erin Alberda
The reality is...much like an awkward facebook relationship status..."It's complicated".
I spend a lot of time on these blogs and updates talking about riding, and my journey, and my inspirations, but what I haven't really spend a lot of time talking about is what makes me a PARA equestrian versus a "regular". What puts the DIS in my abilities.
Frankly, disability hitting you at the age of 20 really screws you up. I was pretty much sure I was invincible, then one day I got sick, and never got better. It took me a long time to realize that I could have a beautiful, meaningful, life that also involved being disabled.
When I took up riding again in 2003, I told a lot of people that it gave me an identity outside of a disabled adult, and it did. I got involved in competition, and realized that holy hell...here was a sport I was GOOD at. As a kid, I desperately wanted to be good at sports, and would try my ass off to run faster, hit the ball, climb the rope...but was hopelessly uncoordinated and slow. In ballet class I was labeled "The Elephant". If I were born in a different decade, I would have been labeled differently, and shunted off to early intervention therapies. For a kid, is there a difference between being the elephant, or having hypotonia?
As time went on, I realized that my identity as a rider, however, was inexorably linked to the fact that I was disabled. At first I tried the Rah Rah Pride Embrace my Difference Approach. But as I continued to struggled with my "illness", I continued to question my identity.
Doctors have never clearly figured out what my "problem" is. I have been diagnosed with a myriad of issues, and the general consensus is that I had a congenital issue, that was complicated by an infection in college. Even in the realm of attempting to embrace my disability....what was there to embrace? I had no "name", no easy explanation. My elevator speech was complicated and vague.
I suppose I started to feel shame at some point. That because there is no Facebook page or support group, no 5k fundraising run for what I have, it is not worth talking about, that people don't care.
As I continued my riding, my journey, I became lost. A rider without a vision. My focus become very narrow, very "horse-centric", and very focused on the technicalities of riding...as I shoved away the pieces of myself, I did not allow much if any room for true partnership, the joy, the grace the dance, which is why I fell in love with this sport.
Life has a funny way of making us humble when we need it the least, though. As I have been trying to put the pieces together of how to make myself "whole" again, I found myself dealing with a flare of my condition, along with complications of an injury to my foot last year, culminating in a pretty big reminder of the DIS in my ability. Accept it baby, the elephant is here.
To give you an idea of what I live with, I have little to no sensation below the knee. Since the foot injury, I now have a new sensation - pain. I wake up from dreams that my foot is a giant ball of fire. Thankfully the pain is not constant. I have fatigue and muscle weakness. And while my muscles are weak, they also spasm, and don't always react in the way I expect them to. For example, I might go to pick up a mug with my right hand. I will reach out, grasp the handle, but as my arm goes to lift, my hand will let go, or my arm will jerk forward. Most days, nobody will notice anything wrong. I know my boundaries, know how far I can walk before fatiguing, my pain is managed, and I am great. But when the Elephant is around, it's anyones guess.
So...getting back to that "horse update". I have never been more sure in my life that I am ready to dance. I have never been more sure that I belong in Para Dressage, and while Elephants and Dressage horses are unusual companions...I think this time it might just work.
I believe I have found a suitable competition horse for Normandy, and my greatest challenge at the moment is funding. I am admittedly feeling a little behind the eight ball, as I lost so many weeks to my own process. But with hope, determination, and my community behind me...well, "where there's a will there's a way".
Thank you for stickin' with me...Ride Strong!
Posted by Erin Alberda
Funding is the greatest obstacle for any of us. I was floored at how our community came together last year to raise over $4,000 to help get Rocco and I to Selection Trials.
I continue to look for new sponsors and new ways to get the word out about the amazing things that are happening in the world of Para Dressage, and in Disabled Sport as a whole.
I hope to have many more exciting announcements in the weeks ahead, and thank you for all your support, from hoof to heart!
Posted by Erin Alberda
I took a bit of a break through the Fall to focus on my business, and to gain a bit of clarity about my competition future. After 6 years of pushing and struggling and competing, and a number of fantastic victories, along with some heartache, I needed to decide what I really wanted.
After a lot of thinking, I decided that this sport is my passion. Horses and Riding give me reason to get up in the morning, and competing gives me such joy in "the dance".
I have missed it.
I also decided that if I was going to continue to compete, that I should push myself harder, and really set my aim high. Work to win, not to just "get there".
I wasn't sure it would happen...finding/funding an international quality horse, along with a campaign, while also putting energy into my small business is not a small task.
All things happen for a reason, however, and it looks like whether by providence, serendipity, or because I have a lot of people in my world who care, I may be ready to get this show on the road!
I will have a lot more to report in the weeks ahead...so stay tuned.
I cannot do this without your help, and I would not be here without you. Thank you for all that you do, and thank you for all that you WILL do!
To the journey ahead!