Anything is Possible for this Para Rider

Back to Article Search

Gold medal-winning paralympian Jo Jackson knows just how close her horse Nonchalant came to never even attending another show . . . let alone winning a title for the second consecutive year.

The 16-year-old former racing mare, who is owned by Jenna Campbell, suffered a life-threatening paddock injury in 2011. It was a long road back, but in 2013, Jackson and Nonchalant won the Grade Four Para-dressage Championship at HOY.

She was also runner-up on her other horse JD Flash (owned by Kate Honour).

“It was such an awesome win,” says Rotorua-based Jackson, who is an ESNZ performance coach.

Forty-one-year-old Jackson, who was born without a right arm from below the elbow, has the added challenge of CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), a neurological disorder that flairs up so badly she cannot wear her prosthetic limb.

“The funny thing is that I feel I am riding better without my wooden arm or hook,” says Jackson. “JD Flash seems to be going much better because he is connected to me and not wood!”

Jackson, who won two gold medals at the World Para Championships for Great Britain in 1994 and in 1996 won three golds at Paralympics, and on both occasions was riding borrowed mounts.

In 1996, her own horse went lame the day before the competition, so she had just 30 minutes to get to know her new mount.

“I love to be the underdog,” she says.

Jackson has been riding Nonchalant for about four years. Just how she got the ride is an interesting story in itself – she saw Campbell at Summit Grains, heard she wouldn’t be competing at HOY and asked if she could ride her.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” she says.

She’s been riding the horse ever since and has won plenty of ribbons to boot.

“Until recently, she was always ahead of JD but he has suddenly really stepped up.”

Nonchalant won the Bay of Plenty grade four championship with JD reserve, was reserve to JD at the North Island Champs (grade four para) and again reserve to JD at the National Championships (grade four para).

JD, a 12-year-old, has been with Jackson for five years.

She plans to ride both horses in able bodied and para-dressage at HOY – Nonchalant in level five able-bodied and JD in level four. Both will be in grade four para-dressage.

“We will be competing all six days, so it is a massive show for us. It would be nice for Nonchalant to go out on a hat-trick – she is an old lady now and close to retirement, but I just go out there and ride both horses to the best of my ability – whoever wins it will still be special!”

Long term, Jackson has her eye on riding for New Zealand at the Rio Olympics.

“Atlanta Paralympics taught me that anything is possible!”