Barwick is excited to welcome Shevchenko to her training facility in Ocala, Florida, “I’ve been given so many opportunities over the years to represent my country,” said the Paralympian. “I’m looking forward to developing riders to make a stronger group of athletes to pull from for the senior international team — It’s just a small way to be able to give back.”

Shevchenko and her horse Apollo, a 14-year-old Friesian gelding, have set high goals to reach the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. The duo has been lessoning twice a week on a six-day training program, as well participating in the FEI classes in the EC Para video competitions. They performed well in gold shows across the prairies throughout 2021, which helped land her a place on the National Team.

On top of her dedication to para-equestrian, Shevchenko is a full-time nurse at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, while raising two children. Her plan is to use this opportunity to break into the next level of training and competition with Apollo and to compete internationally.

Hardworking Paralympic Hopeful Awarded 2022 Bridging the Gap Training Bursary

Tanya Shevchenko and Apollo

“Tanya has continued to progress very rapidly with her complete immersion into every aspect of the sport, working hard on herself in all aspects of development as a rider and horsewoman on and off her horse,” said her coach, Erin McCormick. “She is investing in her goals and has the full support of her family and friends. She’s also developed a wonderful working relationship with the Saskatchewan Horse Federation.”

Both she and her coach are reminded that the goal of competing on the equestrian world stage was not even a thought when she faced the reality of a lower leg amputation only a few years ago. But for someone that grew up riding, horses were a natural fit for therapy as she was learning to walk again. That choice was part of her resilient philosophy that she committed to that fateful day in the hospital. “I decided the day of my surgery that I would not be defined by it, but own it,” Shevchenko said with conviction. “Six months after the surgery I literally got back on the horse.” She continued to find new ways of doing the things she used to do and love, which included riding.

Three years later, she attended a clinic in Alberta with Milkins who is also a world-renowned Para-dressage coach, and something changed. “That is where the ‘Aha moment’ happened,” Shevchenko recalls. “In the two short days that we were at the clinic my mind shifted, and like a switch… my goals changed!” Leaving the clinic, both she and her coach knew she had discovered that her purpose for riding was no longer therapy, but on training to become a Para-dressage athlete.

In her growth as a Para-Equestrian athlete, Shevchenko’s grit and hard-working attitude are helping her succeed. “Tanya’s results at the national level and the drive to improve she has shown, demonstrates both her resilience and desire to represent her country and compete successfully on the world stage,” said Milkins. “I look forward to seeing her efforts rewarded and many thanks to Lauren for her support of our program.”

About the Bridging the Gap Training Bursary with Lauren Barwick

The purpose of the ‘Bridging the Gap Training Bursary’ is to develop the next generation of Canadian Para Dressage athletes. Throughout the week, the chosen athlete receives expert instruction on a variety of horsemanship topics in addition to intensive training sessions.

Barwick, Canada’s most decorated Para-Dressage athlete with two Paralympic Games and two World Equestrian Games medals to her credit joined forces with EC to provide this unique training and development opportunity to Canada’s next generation of Paralympic athletes.

“Our developing riders need more opportunities that are friendly, supportive but guided from a performance standpoint I am really excited to be able to share my 22 years of Para equestrian experience and be able to help shape our sport for the future,” said Barwick.

Selected athletes receive two weeks (5 lessons per week) of private training with Barwick in Ocala, Florida, accommodations, horse board, and a $5,000 financial bursary to support with transport and meal expenses.

For more information on the ‘Bridging the Gap’ Training Bursary, click here.