EQUESTRIAN champion Sara Cann will don green and gold to represent Australia at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles next month .
The Churchlands resident said she felt Claremont Therapeutic Riding Centre was like “a second home” from the moment she rode her first horse there more than 37 years ago.
“When I’m on the back of a horse I’m free; I’m free in the fresh air and it’s just beautiful,” she said.
Sara travelled to Sydney earlier this month to symbolically accept the Australian uniform from Governor General Peter Cosgrave and make a thank you speech on behalf of the 10 West Australian athletes competing at the summer games.
Pam Cann said she never imagined her daughter Sara would one day represent Australia in an Olympic arena.
“I knew she had a special connection with horses from the first day I brought her to Claremont Therapeutic Riding Centre at five years old,” Ms Cann said.
“Her coach M’Liss Henry was there with about four or five ponies and I said: ‘Could my daughter please touch a horse?’
“She said: ‘Let’s just put her on one’. Sara has spent all her life there since then.”
Sara (44), who has physical and intellectual disabilities and a skin condition called Neurofibromatosis, was awarded Equestrian WA’s Para Equestrian Rider of the Year in 2014.
Ms Cann said this July would be the first time Australia sent an equestrian team to the Special Olympics World Games.
“Sara has had a long-term ambition to represent Australia and it has finally come true,” she said.
“M’Liss is going to Los Angeles in my place because she has been coaching Sara for 37 years; she has given thousands and thousands of hours to her.
“Sara can’t go any higher; she’s at the top of the mountain and now she can just fly. I really wanted M’Liss to be there to share that with her.”
As well as volunteering at the not-for-profit riding centre, Sara has delivered the Western Suburbs Weekly for the past 10 years.
“I try to ride at least three times a week, but I come every single day helping with lessons and looking after all the horses,” she said.
“I have been riding Choco going on four years and he is just the most precious little boy in the whole wide world, he is my best friend.”
Ms Cann said she and Sara had to pay $8500 upfront to compete at the Special Olympics World Games.
“Horse riding is the most expensive sport in the world and it costs everything, it really does,” she said.
“Fundraising is an onerous task, but you just do it. You have to.”
An Australian Sports Commission spokesman said Special Olympics Australia would receive $545,000 from the Australian Institute of Sport in 2015-16, compared with para-funded sports that were allocated $12.9 million.