Podcast Episode 19: Sharon Jarvis Part 2 - Paralympian Equestrian Medalist

In this podcast, Natasha has the pleasure to speak with Sharon Javis. Sharon is a Paralympic Equestrian, trainer and coach. She has overcome the odds and has a heartwarming story of determination and love for horses and riding.

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Full Transcript Expand to full transcript

Natasha (00:00:00):

So, Part two with Sharon. we cut off at a cliff hanger. We had some things going on, so, um, yeah. Continue from, from where we were at. Let me know.

Sharon (00:00:12):

Um, yes, so I fractured my FEMA, so that was, um, yeah, just after having done our first competition. And so the doctors at first were like, okay, we're just going to be really conservative with it. Um, so I went onto crutches for eight weeks. Um, they were too scared to do surgery on my legs. So, um, it got to, uh, eight weeks and we started a bit of rehab and I had a doctor's appointment at 10 weeks, um, to see how the healing was going. Um, and I went into that really positive thinking. I was going to be told I could get back on a horse. And then, um, just to be told that the leg just really hadn't healed visually at all. So, um, They said, okay, you've got a couple of options. We can just keep going week by week and see if it starts healing. Um, or we could do try surgery. Um, we can't guarantee exactly what will happen if it goes to plan. We'll let you get back on a horse, um, after three weeks, if you can handle it. Um, and then if it doesn't go to plan, you know, then we can't guarantee, you know, when you'd get back on a horse.

Natasha (00:01:32):

Talk me through how you make a decision like that. Cause this is now one of the biggest decisions that you get to make and you were seven, it was more, your parents were making decisions and they were coping and doing the best they could now, it's you, isn't it.

Sharon (00:01:47):

I tell you what it was completely. I suddenly realized what my parents went through. Um, you know, I had to make a choice and by the time, you know, like I had to make a choice, it was six weeks out from the first selection competition for Rio.

Natasha (00:02:02):

Of course it was.

Sharon (00:02:02):

Um, I said to them, I had, you know, I was going to be at that competition. Um, so yeah

Natasha (00:02:13):

You were there, with legs or not it was going to happen, but ideally you wanted to do your best to apply would be nice.

Sharon (00:02:21):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was just, it was so insane yet to, to actually go in and say, yeah, we can, you know, we'll do this. Um, you know, my surgeon, professor Richard Kerry Smith was just incredible. Like, he's like, right, okay. We can do this. He said, Hey, there's some latest technology in, in, you know, nail, they call it a nail, but anything like a nail, it's the full length of my FEMA.

Natasha (00:02:48):


Sharon (00:02:49):

Um, that they, they put down through the middle of the bone. Um, and there was some new technology he got on the phone while I was in the doctor's surgery. He said brings out, says, yeah, yeah. You know that person, I said, we need one, these for. Yep. Send it over. So it was like, I'm waiting, waiting for a parcel to arrive in the mail.

Natasha (00:03:05):

Yeah we are just waiting for the parts. Love it.

Sharon (00:03:10):

Yeah. It was really fast, but he was really great because he actually said to me, okay, you've still got your fractured leg said, I want you to go home, get, get on a horse. And so make sure it's the safe one and make sure you, you know, what it feels like to sit on a horse. So he, that was great. And so it was really funny when a hospital rang me and said, um, you know, can you come in this afternoon? I happened to be sitting on a horse. I said, Oh good. That's good. Gives me time to ride another horse before I come in. I think the person at the other end nearly died. Um, so yeah, surgery happened yet, uh, six weeks out from that first.

Natasha (00:03:45):

So he said like you weren't allowed to get on a horse for three weeks.

Sharon (00:03:49):

Yeah. So now, so, so I go in for my appointment at three weeks and um, they pull my stitches out and he said, can you do it? I said, yep. I can get back on my horse. So, um, it's really funny. So in that time, my, um, uh, very good friends, um, um, Jade Edwards and her husband, Chris drove the horses over to, uh, to Ryan's. So Rosie could, um, keep them in work for me, um, to the lead up to the, to the competition. And, um, so I had the surgery and so yet three weeks I hopped on, I went to a wonderful place in WA called Claremont therapeutic riding center. And it's run by the incredible Melissa Henry. Um, and I just, you know, because I'd had offers a friend say, Oh, you can come and ride my horse, but I just, I just needed to know if I sit on a horse to start with. So, um, I went there and Melissa was great. She, she literally gave me a pony ride, which was exactly what I needed. Um, and I just walked in, although it's crazy because at first ride I basically rang my mum in tears off. Was it, Oh my God, I have no idea how I'm actually going to do this. It felt so weird. Um, the leg felt so different. Um, I guess wasn't cause it wasn't so bendy, it had a nice piece of steel rod in it. Um, and so, yeah, but, um, so I ended up having a total of five rides there and, and by the end I could, could walk trot, canter and, and a bitter bitter shoulder in. Um, and yeah, that was crazy. And then I, um, flew over East and Rosie picked me up at the airport, looking at my crutches, going on my God. You really still need those.

Natasha (00:05:39):


Sharon (00:05:43):

Um, and yeah, I, I, I rode five minutes at the end of, um, Rosie riding my horses, you know, five minutes each day, I could still couldn't roll over in bed. Um, it was yeah, pretty insane. Um, and then I had, um, so the first competition we were up at Newcastle, the next competition was down at Werribee. I had a good friend, um, Emma Robertson, she, um, flew over so she could drive me down to the competition, um, and, and, and groome for me and I, I actually, I remember about three things from that competition. I remember completing my first test and I don't think I've actually ever cried at the end of a test. And there were to use like the, my warm ups, where the horse was lunged for 20 minutes on hopped on five minutes in the warmup arena and rode my test. So it was, that was pretty crazy either. My other memory is that I don't drink coffee very often, except for when it's not a good day. And I remember emma, uh, walking into the truck and just handing, handing me a coffee before I got out of bed on the last day says, I think you might need this. And then my other memory was that, um, Emma didn't know who, uh, way too well with the directions of getting around the ring road and stuff. And we drove out of werribee and she said, can you, can you just, can you just help me get through the ring road? And I said, yeah, yeah, no problem. And then the next thing I know, I was waking up two hours down the highway,

Natasha (00:07:18):

So you got through it?

Sharon (00:07:20):

I got through it. Um, and I, I, I got, um, I think I've got three first place.

Natasha (00:07:24):

You got three first place?

Sharon (00:07:24):

So it was just pretty crazy to, to not only survive it, but to, to win it too, was a big, a big relief.

Natasha (00:07:34):

Good for you. Did that mean you were selected or you still, that was just one of the selections?

Sharon (00:07:44):

No, that was just one of the selections. So we had another two to go. Um, and so I stayed, stayed in the east through to the boneyard competition in January and we had another good competition there. Um, and then we drove back home again, you know, that 4,000 Ks I think were home for five, maybe six weeks, um, turned around, drove back again. Um, and did the final selection competition in Sydney and then turn around and drive back home again today.

Natasha (00:08:15):

So uh, in number two and in number three.

Sharon (00:08:20):

Yeah. So I, I did well, um, and I think I ended up being like ranked third in Australia for the team. Um, and, and yeah, we made, made the team. So, um, that was pretty, pretty crazy and yeah, six trips across the Nullarbor, like, cause I had to keep going backwards and forwards in the sense, because I was coaching at that time to earn money. So, um, you know, he, hadn't got to do that thing called earn money. Um, look, honestly, probably wouldn't have got on the road. Um, if it wasn't for, I got granted a Wally foreman scholarship by WRA Institute of sport and that, that gave us the petrol money to do the first trip. Um, you know, so, and just the, you know, between going home from the last selection competition and, you know, ramping up to come back for the preparation of the games, the WA community was just so incredible. Um, fundraising, you know, like honestly it would not have happened if it was not for fundraising of the amazing community behind me. So, um, because it's great to do things it's things, but you have to be able to survive as well. So

Natasha (00:09:30):

You're absolutely right. Thank you so much for bringing it up because it is the pressure to perform and the pressure to get through health challenges and the pressure to do all of that is compounded with, okay, and am I paying off a house or where am I getting food for fuel, as you said, how am I going to get across this elbow? And God forbid if the car breaks or something happens. So there's a lot going on.

Sharon (00:09:57):

It's, it's pretty, pretty insane when I think about the things that we do, but it's, you know, I'm also so lucky to be able to do it, you know, like, um, it was quite interesting. Um, I remember one time being at a competition and lovely lady, uh, pulled out with the car and float next to me and she was saying how wonderful it was things I was doing. She's like, Oh, you're so lucky. And I'm thinking to myself, I'm not sure which part of luck this is. It's all about survival. Um, but you know, like the, the community behind me and for all my campaigns, they, none of them would have happened if it wasn't for the help of the community behind me. Um, and some amazing people in my life like Nikki Harwood for she at the time owned Brooklyn equestrian estate. And, um, she gave me a base to be an in Perth because, um, being the farm and the farm was three hours away, um, I was on the road so often that, you know, like she provided me with incredible base there, which I can then use the Institute of sport, um, and be so close to our state of question central WA. It's such a big state that, you know, that was a huge, huge help. Yeah. Um, so yeah, I've had some amazing people in my life.

Natasha (00:11:16):

Yeah. I love it. And, and I think that's, you know, no man is an Island. I always think for anyone to achieve anything in their lives, as you said, it just can't be done by this one person. There's, there's a village and an army. So you have gotten to Rio.

Sharon (00:11:34):

Yes. Yup. Yup.

Natasha (00:11:36):

And your leg is alive, it's moving as well as it can move with a big steel rod down the middle. And, uh, uh, so yeah, take me, take me to Rio because obviously there's climate issues there. Um, you've never been To South America before.

Sharon (00:11:57):

Yeah, no, it was, um, so like, it was really special, like, so I went back in mid June, um, and based at Ryan's, um, in the lead up to Rio, um, and to continue coaching with Razi and yeah, no, it was pretty intense time really to get the horse we had ready for that kind of competition ready for that kind of exposure. Um, us knowing she'd never been to anything like that. And again, you, can't.

Natasha (00:12:31):

sorry to interrupt. Did Razi do anything like, did you decide to try and create atmosphere, loud noises, bunting, tablecloths? Like, did you do any desensitization or it was more than that and you couldn't really replicate the crowd until you get to the crowd.

Sharon (00:12:47):

Yeah. You can't replicate the crowd. So when I've been back in Western Australia, we'd used, um, a lot of time to do a lot of desensitization. Um, and I had a few people helped me and Rebecca Thomas was brilliant at it. Um, and even the time out that I spent out of the saddle, um, had Jess Manson riding the horse and, you know, we use jess to also work on a lot of this stuff as well. So, you know, we, we had done things, you know, we had prepared and it was actually really great because when we were at Ryan's, they actually held the massive, huge fundraising ball. Um, and so, um the days leading up to that and preparing the, um, arena and things like that. You know, we use those as opportunities for training the horse. Um, you know, we never missed skipped a day of training during that whole time. So, um, we've done what we could in the time that we had. Um, so, but nothing, you know, again, it's like just, there's nothing like getting in the world honestly. Um, and so, yeah, so we went to actually, um, we flew out and went to Holland for three weeks. Right. Um, so the Austrian horses, because the huge quarantine issues to get them home back into Australia quicker, what we actually had to do was, um, go to yeah. Have them Europe. So they become a European citizen, so it was quicker to get them home to Australia afterwards. Um, so we had three, three weeks there. Um, and you know, that was good because we got to know the other people in the team a lot more living in close proximity to people. So you starting to get a feel for each other. Um, so yeah,

Natasha (00:14:34):

Is it a team environment? um, cause I, I always start a soccer team or a basketball team. There's so much trust. Like it's literally, if I throw you the ball, I have, you got it. Like it's and we don't have a team sport, we have a team it's Just us and the horse. So I've always wondered what the team dynamic is.

Sharon (00:14:57):

Yeah, I think for our sport, for power question, it's still developing, um, you know, in sports like venting, I think that, you know, that have been involved in sport a lot longer. Um, so I do think that para equestrian is still developing in that area. Um, but it, it gives you, um, yeah, a bit more of an understanding, you know, with other people involved and things like that. You each have your own team around you, but then everybody's own team has to come together at the end. Um, and I, yeah, I do think that is still an area that's developing and I think it has definitely got better, um, since I'd began in the sport

Natasha (00:15:38):

Thats good, Yes.

Sharon (00:15:39):

So, um, yeah, so, so Holland was good. I mean, um, except my horse actually a few days after arriving got a bit travel sick. Um, so we had to deal with that. That's a bit stressful. Um, so we had to then do deal with that, which meant she had a little bit of time off when we arrived. Um, and then Rosie flew over a few days before we were due to fly out to Rio. Um, so yeah, it was, it was incredible having Rosie there and, you know, we'd, we'd managed enough fundraising to be able to, you know, have Rosie there with me, which was just, she she's a very, very good in, in all situations because she been in those situations. So she understands how it all works. Um, so yeah, then we flew to Rio. Now I was quite happy about the temperature I'm, I'm a warm weather person. Um, so, so the little bit of heat was, you know, that that's right up my alley, you know, it's really funny. We, we have photos from earlier and there's everybody in T shirts and it's Sharon still in the jumper, but, um, yeah, so we, um, arrived and my horse arrived pretty good. Um, but you know, we really, we had a good understanding of how much the whole horse needed working.

Natasha (00:17:03):

And so whats you mindset here? Was the ghosts from the past of 2008 where you're like, I'm here for the gold. Was there pressure from on yourself from you going, I want to do better than what I did in Beijing. Was it I'm just happy to be here. However it comes is cool with me. What was your thinking when you're there and your goals for that event?

Sharon (00:17:26):

Yeah, so knowing and getting to understood the horse and what we were doing, I honestly know, I just wanted to keep that horse happy. Um, you know, for me that then became a priority because I knew if she was happy we could produce some really good work, but I also knew we were kind on the tip of the iceberg for where and what she produced. Um, so I kind of felt a little bit unfinished, um, being there. Um, but I also, you know, I just wanted her to be able to perform how she could at that time. So I, I, in a sense, yeah. You know, like I went in going, yeah, it'd be great to come home with a metal, but I kind of underneath understood, you know, like for that games, it wasn't necessarily about the metal that time. Um, it was about keeping that horse happy for the future.

Natasha (00:18:26):


Sharon (00:18:27):

Um, because she had so much more in her.

Natasha (00:18:30):

Right. Um, and how old was I in 2000?

Sharon (00:18:33):

Um, I think she was 11.

Natasha (00:18:40):

so your thinking in four years she will be 15. Yep. That will be our time if you know, this is our, this is our Warmup.

Sharon (00:18:46):

Yeah. Yeah. Right. So I, um, she was, she was one of the, I think she was, maybe she was a bit younger. I can't imagine that was one of the youngest horses there. So, um, you know, I said, yeah, that's okay. So, um, we, um, we, we thought we were going really good. Like honestly, she was producing really good work. We'd put the hard yards in, you know, like we didn't leave a stone unturned in the work that we've produced when we were there training beforehand. Um, and you kind of, yeah. Really excited about what was happening and how she, you know, she was turning heads.

Natasha (00:19:26):

Okay, Go to day one, Tell me what happened!

Sharon (00:19:32):

So day one. And the temperature is heating up.

Natasha (00:19:37):

Um, and how do you feel you're not a nervous person, even at the Olympics. You can, of course, you're more aware that this is a kind of important, but you're feeling, I can't imagine that you're completely crazy. You're just like.

Sharon (00:19:55):

Nah, it's actually the place I get the least nervous is at the games.

Natasha (00:19:59):


Sharon (00:20:00):

I see. I think it's, um, I D I actually get more nervous competing at little local show.

Natasha (00:20:06):

Okay. You feeling good? You're feeling a lot less nervous than you've ever felt before. And the warmups good.

Sharon (00:20:15):

And the warmup is brilliant, so good. And we go, we go into like the, the last arena, you go into five minutes before your test. And then all of a sudden there is mess gunfire going off, like semi automatic machine, semi automatic machine gun going off. Like I was brought up on a farm. I know what gunfire sounds like.

Natasha (00:20:43):

You had never heard it. Wasn't like all that. So guns, that always go that, that time, this was shit.

Sharon (00:20:52):

It was like, my head was going to get blown off.

Natasha (00:20:54):

Like, you couldn't see people with guns. You could just hear it.

Sharon (00:20:59):

Could just hear it. And like, so in the, um, in the actual competition arena, you couldn't hear it as loud because it was kind of enclosed by all the grandstands around. Um, so yeah, so it was just, yeah, this, this gunfire went off in my, my poor heart horse has suddenly her heart is coming out side her chest. I can feel my legs pounding. My heart's coming outside of my chest. And we had, um, I had my ear phones in listening to Rosie, coach me in the warmup and Razi bless her heart did not skip a beat at all. She just keeps pen, voice. I love, it just keeps coaching me in the meantime, I was just so ready to explode under me. I'm like, Holy crap, am I going to get my head shot off? It was kind of so insane. And so, you know, like we're just managing, I'm just trying to keep a lid on this horse. And, um, then we would pull the ear phones out, like boots are off. We're ready to go down the shoot. And it happens again off guys, the gunshots again, like I was just, um, and by this time my horse is just like, no, you're not, you're not sending me down that shoot. You're you're not putting me out into that arena by myself.

Natasha (00:22:19):

Like you had practice prior and it was all good. It was just this, this noise. Right. So do you get down, do you, do you get in, do dark, tell me, do you get through or are you not competing today? What happens.

Sharon (00:22:34):

Is I tell you what, like Emma who groom and for me just she's leaving, she's leading the whole drag. Yep, yep. Yep. Come on horse. You are. Yeah. And then, um, you know, there's a point where the groom has to let go of the horse. So Emma, let's go. And literally my horse stands on the hind leg and it says one 80 and I'm outta here.

Natasha (00:23:00):

And so you and her galloping back through the shoot

Sharon (00:23:07):

Now she's standing up doing good job standing on hind legs and just not going forwards. And she's not the type of horse. I don't have enough legs to pressure the horse anyway, but you can't pressure. This horse, you know, kind of have to.

Natasha (00:23:21):

And I'm thinking about your gorgeous goal. I just want to keep her happy. We're kind of epically failing at this point would not call it.

Sharon (00:23:30):

And, um, um, yeah, I, I know it was really kind of, as you know, it was just that, you know, strengthen that, you know, desperation, I think of me of desperately just we, man, I don't know how we actually managed. We finally made it around the arena once. Yes. And I think the judges were actually quite kind. Um, and, and we have it on video. Like I kind of took her into, took it into the gate at a, on a very large angle because I figured if I could just slide her in there in that arena. And she always, you know, she could be a speaker, but you kind of get her into the four walls of a competition arena. And she kind of knew her place, um, in my, so my theory was just get her in there. So we have this very, very weird, um, entrance. They're interesting. We're in tents, we were quite tense, but at the same time, she, he didn't do anything wrong. I think actually not a mist coming in a counter canter. I accidentally get applying change. I think so I did have one mistake, but apart from that, it was mistake frame.

Natasha (00:24:43):


Sharon (00:24:43):

The good bits were good. Um, so, you know, and I was just so excited to just get in that arena. Definitely. Um, definitely had my inner lighten Hewitt on I, the words. Come on, come on, come on, Slightly going through my head. They were the words that just kept going through my head. And um, yeah. So just to finish that test, um, kind of, um, you know, like, as my mum said, we were just happy I survived.

Natasha (00:25:17):

Yes. All right. What happens the next day?

Sharon (00:25:23):

Yeah, well, we, we had a, I think we had a day between competition, so we had time to work and again, she was working well, um, a little bit on edge, but, um, working well and we had no plan for getting into that arena better and things like that. Um, and she went in there and she did go, not sure. And I said, you know, I just put my legs on as much as I could and set the whip there and say, come on, we can, we can do this. And she went around the arena and went in and produced a beautiful test. Um, it was lovely, but, um, you know, unfortunately we suffered the joys of dressage judging, um, at that competition. And, and the first test, uh, I think a couple of judges had me fist and six in the class. And then the rest just had me like dead last, like judged what happened around the outside of the arena, then what actually happened in the arena. Um, and then there's, so my second test where it, where it was much better tests, I was really lucky. I had three judges. I had, Y we have five all up. I had one judge on fourth. One judge had me on fifth. One had me on six and then the other three had me dead last again.

Natasha (00:26:36):

So, and there's no recourse. There's nothing you can do. Is there.

Sharon (00:26:41):

  1. And that's the sport, that's the way it is. And you know, like I was, I was happy in that second test. Like I remember thinking, you know, she's with me here. She doesn't want to be with me, but she's. Yeah. Um, and so that was, you know, like I had a really positive feeling coming out of that test

Natasha (00:27:05):

But how did you feel looking at that score board, seeing like your happy, you think it's a good test. Do you think it deserves the fourth, the fifth or the six and then you're seeing the, the, the, the other judges really bring that score down. Are you, are you crying? Are you sad? Are you angry or are you, I know you're bounce back, but right at that moment, cause I would be feeling a lovely gamut.

Sharon (00:27:29):

Um, I think you feel a bit of everything. I think fresh frustration is probably definitely the highest one. Um, because you can't do anything about it. No. Like that's not the way it is and that's the sport and that's as frustrating as it can be. Um, and yeah, you just, I think if you, if you get too hung up on it, that's when you, you, you will kill, you know, you'll kill yourself. Like you just can't get too hung up. And at the end of the day, that's where it comes back to why do I do this sport? Because I love the horse because I love that feeling. I love the, you know, like it's

Natasha (00:28:07):

Cause you go was to keep the horse happy. And you did that in day two day. Okay day Three. How are you, what are your goals around day three? Are you a little bit like, I'll prove you judges I'll do a better test again. I, you just staying focused on, I just want the horse to be happy and do another good test.

Sharon (00:28:26):

Yeah. Well that was actually the disappointing thing. Cause I didn't get to do day three. Um, because um, our, our scores, we didn't qualify for the freestyle. So, um, that was really

Natasha (00:28:41):

Did you cry, I would have cried.

Sharon (00:28:44):

I did a lot of crying after the first day because I mainly felt because the first test was the team test and I really, I felt I'd left. Let the team down, you know, like I couldn't produce a good score for them and I felt devastated. Like I really was devastated in that point that I felt I had completely let the team down. Um, and so yeah, like I, at the end of the day, I was just happy to go through that second test as good as I did and have my horse with me all the time. Um, and so that's where you have to remember you do a sport with an animal, you know, it's not on their agenda to win a medal. That's what we,

Natasha (00:29:28):

I just want to eat oats. Yeah.

Sharon (00:29:30):

So, um, yeah, you have to, you know, that's where our sport is unique. So yeah,

Natasha (00:29:36):

Our partner is not all in. So not like your tennis partner.

Sharon (00:29:42):


Natasha (00:29:43):

Wow. So I'm, I'm now dying to know, I know you were planning for Tokyo and clearly we've now postpone Tokyo for another 12 months. Is that still with this mare?

Sharon (00:29:57):

Um, no, it's, it's, uh, it's not, it's come down to a no. Um, so I went home after Tokyo. Oh, sorry. After Rio. Um, where am I? Yeah, what's I went back home to the farm after Rio. Um, and look, I'm really lucky because part of the farm is specifically set up for my horses and I do have good facilities there and things like that. Um, but I was, yeah, riding on my arena by myself. Um, you know, looking at my moves to see what I'm doing, trying to coach myself. Um, and you know, I thought if I'm going to go for Tokyo, I've got to go for Tokyo. So my horse in the lead up to getting to Rio just before she flew out for Rio, she'd covered nearly 26,000 kilometers by a road in that 18 months prior. And that's really a lot of kilometers on a horse's legs. Um, so, you know, I thought, okay, how am I going to make this happen? And, and, you know, it came down to the best way that I'm probably gonna make it happen easier. Um, hello. I laugh at that comment now, the way I thought I would make it is to make a temporary move to the East coast. Right. Um, and so, yeah, I wasn't really sure what at anyway, I had a good chat to Julia battens who at the time was our high performance manager for para and, um, she was, um, finishing her role at the end of that year. And I chatted that what I wanted to do or not, I'm not sure what I wanted to do. And she actually offered me a job opportunity at her place at Balmoral equestrian center in Victoria, um, coaching, riding school, and, you know, like that was actually a really good stepping stone for me to be brave enough to make a move to the East coast. Um, you know, like I, I didn't really have any other job experience to find a job and things like that. Um, unfortunately the Victorian weather just does not suit my body completely, completely froze, completely froze through that year. Um, and then, so, um, yeah, at the end of that year in 2017, um, uh, look, I enjoyed a great competing at, uh, bono regularly. Um, and you know, I had a great nationals that year because I held down there, um, achieved something I didn't think I would. And that was placing amongst the able bodied in the medium competition in the open. So that was, that was a huge, um, I think for me to do. And, um, so yeah, so I, I threw everything in there. I had no idea where I'd land, um, and Mo made the move up to Newcastle to, to be, um, based up here near Razi.

Natasha (00:32:58):


Sharon (00:32:59):

Um, so yeah, so that, that was pretty crazy. Um, at first I got a job at the local, um, it's actually a friend's fish and chip shop.

Natasha (00:33:08):

love it.

Sharon (00:33:08):

I, you know, I was just like, yep, I'll do whatever to make whatever work I just, you know, um, so I did that for a few weeks, you know, they were just so good to me to say, look, we'll give you a little job to find somewhere else. Um, and it found somewhere to live, you know, it lived in a friend's house in a bedroom. Um, and then, you know, it took me a good eight months to work out exactly what are they going do? Um, I kept applying for jobs actually in the disability industry and despite having my own disability, I couldn't get a job in the disability industry. Um, and then finally, yeah, my mum kept saying, look, you just need one interview and we'll get a job. And she was right. Um, eventually got one interview and had a job, which was, um, yeah, cause that can work in, I can work shift work and work that in with my horses really well.

Natasha (00:34:06):

So whats the job?

Sharon (00:34:06):

So I work as a disability support worker.

Natasha (00:34:09):

Yeah. So in that sector where you just couldn't couldn't couldn't you finally got an interview, right? Yeah.

Sharon (00:34:15):

Yeah. So, um, I work in a supported, independent, independent living houses in Newcastle, so it's just 25 minutes away. Um, and I now rent the granny flat next door to Ryan's. So it's yeah. It's been, been working in very well. Um, yeah, and we, we aimed in 2018 because that was the weg in try-on. Um, and so we competed up and down the East coast, went to Brisbane, went to Bernio, um, and was ranked second in Australia, um, in the selection process, um, for Australia to decide for the first time in history to not send a Australian team.

Natasha (00:35:01):

Oh my gosh.

Sharon (00:35:03):

So they, they sent, um, the, the number one ranked rider in Australia Emma booth, she got the opportunity to go, which is great. She deserves it. Um, but to be ranked number two and not be given

Natasha (00:35:16):

Exactly, um, there wasn't much Hein, like much warning. You were all working towards what you thought was normal that had been happening all those years prior that a team would be sent and then all of a sudden,

Sharon (00:35:29):

Yeah, yeah. I think, you know, like, cause they had said that they, you know, there were issues with funding, um, and you know, that that's fair enough that there's always issues with funding, but just to not be given the opportunity to self fund, like the dressage riders could go, but they self funded, you know, to be, not even given the opportunity to do that.

Natasha (00:35:51):

Mmm. That is not cool.

Sharon (00:35:53):

It's still, it's difficult, you know, you suddenly like, um, yeah, you feel completely smashed. Um, and that, you know, your efforts are not worth it. Um, you know,

Natasha (00:36:04):

Was that the biggest time where you went, I wonder do I want to, or did you, yeah, I'm wondering, do you ever have thoughts of, do I want to give up, do I want to stop riding completely? Do I want to keep riding, but not at Olympic level or you dislike until I die, I'm going to these Olympics and I'm doing it. What's your mindset at this point thousand and 18. You're second in the world and in Australia and that's not good enough to go to a world of question games. How do you like

Sharon (00:36:38):

It was pretty, um, it's pretty soul destroying, honestly. Um, yeah. And you think, yeah, you do think, why am I doing this? What am I doing?

Natasha (00:36:51):

I'm assuming you'd like, do I need to go meditate on a rock? Like out

Sharon (00:36:56):

Completely, completely. Yeah. So, um, just, uh, it was, yeah, so, well, yeah, Rosie and I were, we did some serious thinking thought, okay, maybe this, this horse isn't, isn't going to, you know, if the selectors are not game to send the horse, then you know, why are we putting every heart, soul and money into something that potentially isn't going to happen? And because, you know, my aim is that metal, you have to have these serious considerations. Um, and so the D you know, we kind of decided, okay, we're not going to campaign the horse again. Um, because yeah, that was pretty soul destroying. Um, so I had over here with me, I had Lord of the Mark, the lovely Hannah ovarian stallion that I've been riding all along, but he, he struggled with the concepts of dressage a bit. Um, he makes an incredible show horse and, you know, he's ticking along, but, you know, it was slow going, um, that he just had the incredible temperament, like a bomb could go off and he wouldn't blink. Like, it was just amazing, seriously, amazing little horse. And, um, yeah, so we thought, okay, well, let's, let's put a bit more effort into him and see how we go. Um, and I'm him for Tokyo.

Natasha (00:38:14):

And did you keep the mare as your second chance, or did you sell her for more funds?

Sharon (00:38:21):

So, um, well, we, we did attempt to sell her, but unfortunately, um, we haven't found a sale for her yet. Um, so I kept her in work for, uh, the following six and, and then, um, she actually, we ended up putting her in foal to Laura tomorrow and I'll tell you what she has just actually become the most loving mother. She has just not put a foot wrong since having a foal. And, um, so quite possibly, um, and she's in foal again now. So, um, for a second fall and, and quite possibly when I head home after Tokyo, then, you know, she might just go back into work again and we'll see what happens. So, yeah,

Natasha (00:39:08):

but the plan is the stallion for Tokyo.

Sharon (00:39:12):

Yeah. So it's, we're going good. And, and we've just got to the point, um, April last year where we think, okay, we're ready to bring him out at some competitions and, and, and to aim, to do some selection competitions. Cause they'd started then. Um, and we took him down to Sydney, Royal, um, to do some showing. Um, he wants Supreme down at Sydney Royal, and then the next day we're warming up for our written class and he goes lame.

Natasha (00:39:41):


Sharon (00:39:44):

In the warmup, just, yeah. So, so you had an injury, um, acquired an injury and um, yeah, it took, it's taken a very long process to, um, to deal and sort that out. And he's actually now headed back to West Australia to do he finish his rehab over there. Um, which was quite soul destroying for me this year. I sent him back just after COVID hit because it was just all a little too much. So I think it became too about, uh, it was about June last year, June, 2019. And I went over to Ryan's and said to Rosie, I, I don't think I can do this anymore. I think I need to head home. Tokyo is not happening. Um, I just don't know what I can do. And I'm Rosie, Rosie bless her heart and she's done it about three times. You're not driving home. You're not leaving it. I won't, I won't, I won't let you drive out that driveway. OK. Um, she said, Oh, come on. She says, what, why don't you do that Facebook thing you do? Rosie's definitely not into Facebook. Um, she said, but you know, like maybe what are you ask on there? If anybody's got a horse and I'm thinking the horse we need, is there absolute unicorn.

Natasha (00:41:10):

Before you go into that bit of a story. I just want to touch base. I think how important is it to have a coach that fights even harder than you do and believes in you more than you do and is with you through it all? Like I just, I just, I hear you saying Rosie said that and I just go, That is such a gift that is such a gift because it doesn't matter if you're the most motivated, most passionate, most obsessed person out there. We still go up and down. And when you're in one of those downs to have someone, and as you said, she is, she might, she'll have her own ups and downs in her own stuff that she's going through. But how she shows up as your coach is steady, she is just the same, no matter what, no matter what you throw at it. And no matter what she's going through, she turns up. And I just think that has to be just highlighted at what a gift that is and a huge secret to your success. I think because to have someone in your corner that has got you is it's just huge.

Sharon (00:42:17):

Oh, massively, massively. Um, yeah, I'm completely indebted. Um, because you know, like at that point where I've gone, I can't do this shit. She's been the one who says, yeah, you can. Um, and to have to have someone, you know, not only that, you know, my, my family has been the same, you know, they would love me back in Western Australia. But, um, you know, they're like, you're not coming home yet. You're not finished yet. Interesting. Um, and then I've had, I've had a couple of friends, you know, who I've rung and gone. Oh my God. I just want to drive home and they've gone. Okay. I'll see you next week.

Natasha (00:42:54):


Sharon (00:42:55):

No, I don't need this conversation and need hang up now because I need to find someone

Natasha (00:43:00):

Yeah. Like called that. I call it being an unreasonable friend. So it's like, I'm coming home. No, you're not like it's unreasonable, but I'm upset, but I'm going through something. I don't care. Stick at it to have someone like that. That's true friend That is someone in your corner going, I don't care. Keep digging, keep fighting, keep going. That is such the gift of true friendship. So sorry to interrupt. I think you were explaining. Yes. So Rosie says, Oh, do the Facebook thing. We're at the Facebook. And you're saying, I spoke for a unicorn. Cause you didn't, Cohen's done it yet, but let's give it a go.

Sharon (00:43:39):

Yeah. So, um, yeah, so Rosie and I came up with some words and we put it out onto their, um, platform did off their Facebook page Ryan's horses. And, um, yeah, the, the response was incredible. Like just, it was amazing that there's so many offers. Um, so many horses that just weren't suitable, but people were prepared to, you know, to loan a horse. Um, because that's what we were asking for. I, I had no funds to buy one, you know, and horses like that are just so expensive and I'm, I'm reliant on other people allowing me to ride them.

Natasha (00:44:17):

Mmm. Mmm.

Sharon (00:44:19):

But what I can offer is, you know, incredible home, beautifully looked after, you know, so we had to play on those things and the support crew behind me over here. So good. um, so yeah, so I couldn't believe it when, um, Danella merit from Queensland, um, she's five hours North of Brisbane place called Gladstone. She sent through this message and, and said she had something. And as soon as Rosie sorts yep. That's the one that's, that's the horse we need. Um, and so organized to get on plane and, and go up and see me. I have one ride. Um, and you know, it was, that was it. I just had to be that horse. He's amazing. He is no he's Brown. He is brown with four white socks. and um, yeah, so he reminds me so much of my medal winning horse already though. He's just a little aversion, so, um, just, just ideal. And yeah. So to, to being loner, suddenly Tokyo was on the cards again, you know, like it was just today, again, it's it's elementary and medium, like it needs to have a chain. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The horse's way of going the horses way of going is more far more like a small level horse, you know, like the top, the top horses, you know, basically out competing grand Prix, the top horses.

Natasha (00:45:51):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I like to try it plus fancy.

Sharon (00:45:54):

Okay. It's like, um, you know, and, and this horse is definitely taking my ridingnow to the next level, to what I want. And he's being able to teach me so much along the way. And he has this quirky, funny personality, like, Oh, he's so sweet. And he's like, underneath is just this cheeky little fellow, you know, trying to get out. Um, he's just so much fun. Um, so yeah, I couldn't believe we, we went to nationals nationals, um, and just, yeah, got scores that I, you know, in the low seventies. And it'd been a long time since I'd get, got a score in the seventies, um, to come home national champion really, really cool. Just, you know, it's been a great learning curve. And, and then we, um, headed down to bony again for the classic. Um, and we, we had a couple of wins down there and just producing, sorry,

Natasha (00:46:59):

just winning and winning.

Sharon (00:47:02):

And then, um, we went to, we had a selection competition literally the week before COVID very serious in Australia and, um, yeah, it was just, you know, we, we pre produced the results there and come out on top of all grades there. It was just amazing, um, to be fitting in this position of potential for Tokyo, like yeah. And now we have COVID.

Natasha (00:47:36):

And so is the owner happy for next year or is she saying, well, actually I only thought I was learning my horse for 12 months. I'd actually like it back. How does that work?

Sharon (00:47:48):

Yeah. So, um, I was so worried at first, like that was the first thing that crossed my mind of, Oh my God. I said, I can have this horse to Tokyo, you know, what's going to happen. Um, and yes, it was, I was terrified to, you know, get on the phone, send a message, but no, they were really positive because of the results we'd had. Um, you know, like they were positive to, you know, carry on and finish the project. So that is amazing. Yeah. So it didn't, Danella merits just wonderful.

Natasha (00:48:31):

Now you're just at Rosie's practicing and making it like you're going to do an 80 next year.

Sharon (00:48:39):

Well, I'm not stuck here because WA has closed their borders. Um, yeah. And I think as you know, like at first I definitely had a cry about that thought, um, you know, kind of got over that. And, um, now though I don't, you know, cause it kind of can't see the end in sight at the moment. It's again, gone back to that phase of all my God, when am I going to see my family again? Um, and just please nothing happened back home in that process. So it's, yeah, it's an unknown. Um, but we just tick along and keep, yep. Got the eye on the, what we want to do and just keep improving. And you know, I've got an extra year now to, to, to improve more and that's the way we have to look at it. And my thought in theory is to make the most of the next year, the best I can. Um, because after that, I probably plan on retiring from international competition after Tokyo. So it's, it's my, my last final thing. And I guess I am now really want, I do really want that metal now, but you know, you have horses and you just, you know, make the most of your opportunities. Um, and afterwards I want to stay involved in the sport. I, I, I love the sport, but, um, maybe spending some time at the farm back home and I've got a little plan of what I would like to achieve when I head back home and that's to set up a farm, stay for people with disabilities so they can have an interactive and inclusive, um, you know, experience of being on a farm.

Natasha (00:50:17):

So can we just have a, just a little bit touch base on that decision? Is that a decision? Um, just me through that is that because it is a very stressful way of living and it is a very pressured situation and you have been doing it for so many years and there's so many, um, you have done an absolutely stellar, amazing job at controlling the controllables that you can control. But through these stories, there's always been these times where there's things that are out of your control that have impacted it, um, which is wearing on anyone. Cause that is how the world works. You can control what you can control and, and things you can't control. You've got a great mindset. You keep going, you find the positive in every situation, but that is, that is draining, that is wearing. And it sounds, so that seems to be part of the conversation. And honestly, so the family, part of the there's so much sacrifice that you've done, um, financial sacrifice, family sacrifice, living in a granny flat in isolation. It's not isolation, but there seems to be a huge sacrifice to what you've done and is that are so, yeah, I'm not willing to sacrifice the next 20 years. Like if you, if you, you don't have to answer if you got one too, I'm just so curious and now a little bit.

Sharon (00:51:35):

Yeah. So I like, honestly I think, um, you know, finances were not an issue. I wouldn't give it up right. Because I do love it, but it does come down to a financial, you know, um, you know, like I'm reliant on riding other people's horses. Um, and, and look, I don't mind that because it'll allows those owners to have joy in stuff and things like that. They get to see a dream achieved, you know? And, and so it is special for all the people involved. Um, but I just, yeah, I think, I think I have exhausted my resources at the moment, um, in, in finding horses and things like that. Um, and so I think to myself, um, well, what, you know, what can I achieve back home? And I think, you know, I do love the farm at home. Um, so I've had to come up with a thought of what I can do to help contribute to the farm, um, and things like that. Um, so it's, it's purely comes down to finances, um, and things like that. And I guess having a bit of continuity in my life too, I probably have lived, lived the life of a gypsy, um, in one respect. Um, and then, you know, that leads me to, okay. I keep saying, Oh, when I'm in a nursing home, I'll have time to find a boyfriend. But I mean, if that, if that came a little bit sooner than that would be nice to, I guess.

Natasha (00:53:10):

I feel like Razi with Facebook, it is it into, is it swipe left? I don't know what you're meant to do all these things after Tokyo. You can look forward to it.

Sharon (00:53:25):

Yeah. I keep thinking this a lot. I don't have time for boyfriend or I think, Oh, if I found a boyfriend over here, but I want to head home, like, you know, like I think that's not fair. So, um, yeah,

Natasha (00:53:38):

But I love it. I mean, I think to me, I'm, I'm, I'm always so conscious about how to live the most extraordinary life and my life philosophy is how can I have as much fun, love, joy and happiness in every moment. And, um, I've got Olympics as my goals, but I've also got so many other things, cause I don't want to just have that one dimension. And I think it's really awesome that you're aware of while I've had all of this and achieved all of this there's bits that I haven't had. And actually I'm choosing with a conscious choice to go after those things. Um, and so you'll have more family and boyfriends and farms and, and, and, and having your own little business. And I know for me personally, as well, running a business and setting goals and the business and hitting those goals is really cool as well. Like you can, you can have success in so many different areas, so it's very exciting.

Sharon (00:54:32):

Yeah. Yeah. And I like, I love, I have a passion for my sport still that hasn't died at all. So to be able to, like, I've been lucky to be able to mentor some new riders to the sport. Well, young riders to the sport. So if I can carry that on yeah. Then that helps progress the sport for the future and things like that. Yeah. So, you know, I still have those, those passions and, and, you know, like Rosie says, Oh, but if a good horse, So yeah. I guess you can't underestimate that. Yes. If a good horse came along. Yes. I'd be out there again.

Natasha (00:55:07):

Yeah. I love it. So. Um, I'd love for you to tell me a little bit more about, um, socket to sarcoma and your family's involvement with that. And I said the cancer council daffodil day.

Sharon (00:55:23):

Yeah. So, um, I'll start by the cancer council daffodil day. That means definitely very, very close to my heart. Um, so my brother, um, studied horticulture in New Zealand, um, back in, I think it was 91. And, um, they had left a two day in New Zealand. Anyway, at the time we grew some daffodils commercially on the farm. And, um, but we were kind of finishing up that, that, um, area. And so we just basically had these, you know, acres,It was just growing. And so he said to my mum, you know, they've got debts to do all day they're perhaps they have one in Australia, perhaps we could donate it daffodils. Um, anyway, mum got on the phone to cancer council and he said, what we had anyway, they were so receptive to it. They said, Oh, we've been wanting to get daffodils. They started here. We had no idea where to start. Um, and yeah, the, the following year, I think it was 92. Um, that was the first daffodil day. Um, it was either 92 or 93. The first daffodil day held was held in Western Australia.

Natasha (00:56:35):

Wow. That's a nice guy.

Sharon (00:56:38):

It was just, yeah, we, we, we donated thousands of, of daffodils and yeah, the first daffodil day, it had definitely day, I think for one or two years already in the East coast, but yeah, to get it started in WA, um, it started with our daffodils. So that was really, really special and to see him huge it's growing, um, today. And, and to know that we've been a part of small ever. So small part of that is just, yeah, really incredible special thing. Um, and the, um, the soccer to sarcoma charity, um, that was founded in Western Australia. Um, but lovely, lovely girl, Abby Bason, um, passed away from, from having a sarcoma. So sarcoma is the type of cancer that I had, um, primary bone or soft tissue, um, cancer. And it's very, very little, um, funding is, is for specifically for that type of cancer. Anyway, um, Abby Kay socket to sarcoma was her dream, um, that she, um, would like to start it up and in way after, after her death, her mother, um, Mandy Bassler, um, started the charity and in getting it going, um, and soccer to sarcoma kind of gets his name because you have to seriously fight this type of cancer. And, um, so cause it's aggressive, um, and fast spreading, um, and it requires a fight to beat it. Um, so yeah, it was really, really funny. I only found out about it in this crazy way that, um, I was at a gym with somebody who was doing research, um, for, for, uh, about sarcoma and rehabilitation and things like that. And, um, I was wearing a pair of shoes, um, and they were basically a teal and fuchsia color and she said to me, Oh, they're the, they're the colors of socket to the sarcoma? And I said, well, what, what's what socket to sarcoma? And she said, Oh, it's a, it's a charity. And so I went home and Googled it and brought it up and, and found out all about it. Um, and was just suddenly, um, I found that there was a piece of me that was obviously missing.

Natasha (00:58:59):


Sharon (00:58:59):

And I just knew that a piece of me had to be a part of this. Um, and, um, at the time I was at Brooklyn questions and I told Nikki about it and I, and I said, is there something, you know, can I, can I do something to raise funds for it? Um, because it was just so special and he said, yeah, whatever you want to do, we'll support you. Anyway, we ended up running a dressage training day, um, on the grounds and, and had massive fundraising. We raised, um, it was around $8,000, um, by, by running a charity event. And it was just, yeah, the, my way of getting involved in a charity. And I'm now lucky enough to be an ambassador for the charity. And, and I just, you know, it's a really special thing to me and to I Mandy, who has done done all this work is just such an inspiration to me and the type of person that she is and how she's managed it and, and carried it on and, and her enthusiasm and your enthusiasm for life. And yeah, I think it's, um, you know, I love to find people who inspire me and she certainly inspires me and, and the work that she does. So yeah. Being involved with that NAS is certainly something special and I'm heading back to West Australia. I hope to be more involved. in it as well.

Natasha (01:00:23):

Yeah. Well, we will put the link in the show notes for anyone who would like to know more about either of those two things. So thank you so much for bringing that into our awareness. And, um, do you have anyone that personally sponsors you or helps you in your horse journey or it doesn't have, I don't know yet who you, who helps you and supports you?

Sharon (01:00:43):

Yeah. Um, uh, look, there's some amazing people in involved with me. Um, so prides easy feeds. Um, it's been really good to me. Um, and we've got saddles plus in Western Australia, um, we've gotten double, um, double up panels that make the panels, the horse float panels, which is so good knowing I've traveled Australia stallion and knowing that I've got safe yards on the side, my float is always a good thing. Um, West coast castle, the question with which are the owners of Lord with Mark, very, you know, so incredibly good to me. Um, kept helmet new one that came on board last year, um, and crown equestrian, their leggings. Um, Oh my God. I suddenly realized I was so behind the times in fashion. Um, and then, and then like, uh, first time I rode in the tides, I was just like, Oh my God, where am I being like, serious. Like, um, and that, so yeah, no, I've got some wonderful, wonderful people behind me and that, so no really lucky, um, but is true. The sport is also, I've been lucky enough to be involved in AA and ship of sport for a long time. Um, and also now over here with the new South Wales Institute of sport, um, is very good, but, um, the EA high performance program has developed over the years and, and they're actually, you know, very good resource now, too. So, um, you know, sometimes it's not about, um, it's Not about the money that's involved, but it's the people that you can have connections to as well. Hmm.

Natasha (01:02:27):

Brilliant. Thank you so much, Sharon, for giving up so much for your time and sharing your amazing, inspiring story. Is there anything else you would like to add before we finish today?

Sharon (01:02:38):

Oh God, I have no idea. Yeah, no, I like that.

Natasha (01:02:45):

Well, thank you so much. I'm sure there's, there's so much to unpack out of that and, um, uh, can people find you on Facebook, Instagram, if they want to follow your journey and see how you go next year in Tokyo?

Sharon (01:02:57):

They can. I probably admit I'm not the best at social media. Um, I literally have anxiety over it, so, um, but, but I am on Facebook, Instagram, so it's great.

Natasha (01:03:11):

Excellent. And, um, yeah. Is there a website for your farm? You said you were doing the farm stays. Is that set up or still in ideas?

Sharon (01:03:19):

That's still in ideas phase.

Natasha (01:03:22):

Yeah. Okay. Excellent. Cause I'm sure there's. Yeah.

Sharon (01:03:25):

Um, but if you actually look up, um, prime organics, um, prime organics and twin Apple packer, Um, they, they are out farming enterprises.

Natasha (01:03:38):

Well, I'm sure when you do get that going, you'll have to contact us again and we can put the link in because I'm sure when the world is opened up again, there'll be plenty of people wanting to travel all the way down to Australia and experience a real farm. So I think it's a very cool idea. Excellent. Thank you so much for your time and, um, yeah. Thank you. Thank you for everything that you share.

Sharon (01:04:00):

All right. Cheers.