Para-Equestrian Profile: Ellie Brimmer

Jan 20, 2018 - 10:02 AM

Para-equestrian dressage competitor Ellie Brimmer has been riding horses since she was young.  As a sixth- generation fox hunter, Brimmer’s love for all things equestrian is immeasurable, and has been so for as long as she can remember. A grade IV para rider, Brimmer was born with Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disorder that effects body movement and muscle coordination, and has been competing within the discipline for eight years.

The Road to Para-Equestrian Dressage

“My mother is a jumper, and I did low level hunter through the years,” said Brimmer. “It got to a point where it was a little frustrating because I could never move beyond the 2”6’ft level. If I missed a distance I was toast! So, after college, I got a hunter with a little dressage training, decided to work on his flatwork, get to know him, and try a little bit of dressage!”

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Brimmer continued, “learning more about dressage, I heard about the para equestrian dressage. I got myself classified, and I was long-listed for the London Paralympics. I’ve been on the international scene now since 2011.”

The para dressage community welcomed the enthusiastic competitor with open arms. Brimmer credits the organization and its athletes for making her feel right at home. “I really enjoy this sport,” she explained. “I like getting to have a camaraderie with other riders who have disabilities, that’s a really great aspect of it. Being able to work at such a high level, I really enjoy the competitiveness. I feel that as a person with a disability, sometimes my opportunities to be competitive are limited. These riders all feel the same way that I do; we are able to connect through that.”

USA Para Dressage: On Target for Success

The objective of para dressage is to provide the same level of quality and competitiveness that able-bodied dressage maintains, running on a parallel platform. “our para riders work very hard,” said Brimmer. “We want the exact same thing that the able-bodied riders want. We want the same level of accuracy, the same FEI frame, the same quality of gaits.”

On the topic of growth within the USA para dressage program, Brimmer speaks highly. “I think that we’ve seen a lot of growth over the past few years, which I’m really thrilled about. It used to be that you could basically walk onto a team.” She continued, “Now, the team is getting very competitive. In addition to Kai Handt who is very encouraging to the sport, we also have a high performance technical advisor, Michel Assouline. He was the coach for the British Team, and he had great success there. We are thrilled to have his eyes and his help, and this will take the group to another level.

We also have a number of riders that are being developed at Centers of Excellence, and we are really working on our grassroots. Able bodied trainers are stepping up and are  starting to understand para and are starting to take us more into consideration. Para means parallel, and it’s rewarding to see these coaches wanting to help us and work with us now more than ever before.”

Brimmer also commends AGDF for offering such a wonderful international competition scene, which only adds to the team’s successes. “It’s such an amazing opportunity to get into the International Arena at AGDF. It really gives the US riders an advantage to ride in that type of atmosphere and get used to it. Even when you go to Europe, a lot of the CPEDI’s are in small arenas. To be able to ride in that type of normal working environment really gives us an edge.”

Goals for the Future and Shooting for the Stars

Brimmer currently has two horses, including her former para mount, London Swing, and a new mare, the 15-year-old Hanoverian, Argentinia. “my Aunt Karen rides with Adrienne Lyle and Bob McDonald, and she was kind enough to send me the mare to ride, as London Swing is recovering from an injury still.”

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The mare, originally purchased as an Olympic prospect for 2012 Olympian Adrienne Lyle, has an unique story of her own. Brimmer stated, “She’s really sweet once she knows who her people are! She’s an interesting horse. She was a top selling horse at the Hanoverian Auction, and she was actually bought as an Olympic prospect for Adrienne. She has a bit of a longer back, and she never quite developed her canter enough for the Olympic levels.

She then became a brood mare for a period of time. When my Aunt Karen decided to try dressage, she became an amateur dressage horse. They thought they were going to retire her after Karen was at a point to move up from the third level work, because that’s about where she taps out. Because of that, she had seven months off out at the ranch in Montana.”

Though Brimmer is still learning her new mount, she believes that she is talented and has the mind to be a FEI World Equestrian Games™ contender. For now, the two are preparing by competing at the AGDF National shows while Brimmer waits for reclassification.

Brimmer has high hopes for her future, and is setting goals for the competition years to come. If there is one thing she is sure of, it’s that the sky is the limit. Anything can happen when you have a heart like Ellie Brimmer.

(Photos courtesy of Ellie Brimmer).

Categories: Features, Lifestyle
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