Thirty-year-old Laurentia Tan won Singapore’s first medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, finishing with a bronze in individual dressage. She later won another bronze in the individual freestyle event. The wins marked her as the first Asian to win a Paralympic medal in the history of equestrian sport. Dressage requires the rider to execute required movements set to music.
Born with cerebral palsy and profoundly deaf, Laurentia is given a signal that the music has begun, and must command her horse to walk in circles or trot in a serpentine pattern. Pulling it off is down to her connection with Harvey, her horse. She is sensitive to his rhythms, and he responds to her control.
Given Laurentia’s unstable muscle movements, Dr Cormac O’Muircheartaigh, acting medical director at the Singapore Sports Council, is even more “amazed” by what she accomplished. “She tends to jerk a little because her muscles are tighter than normal. Her ability to control the horse with precision is impressive,” he says.