Silvia do Valle is an equine veterinarian and a disabled horse-rider competing in para-dressage. She lives in Orlando, in Florida (USA). Born and raised at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, in her childhood, she is aiming for the 2024 Paralympic Games to represent her native country as a dressage para-equestrian rider!
From the hospital to the FEI World Championships
This is in 2017, that Dr do Valle’s life completely changed. On vacation for 2 weeks in Ireland, Silvia planned to discover the country firstly by car the first week and on horseback for the second week, riding all day from place to place around the magical Connemara.
An amazing plan darkened by a tragic accident for the equine practitioner.
The horse Silvia was riding tripped violently, throwing her to the ground before falling on top of her and crushing her. These few seconds overturned everything that Silvia knew until then. She is in pain now from a serious lesion on the central part of her cervical spinal cord from C3 to C5. Four of her ribs are fractured, three thoracic vertebrae and she had a massive pulmonary contusion.
Silvia became a quadriplegic, completely paralyzed from the neck down. Airlifted to Galway University Hospital, where she stayed in intensive care until after her spinal cord fusion and decompression.
"I had to stay several months hospitalized in Ireland before being repatriated to the USA to continue my care and rehabilitation. My new condition was hard to accept. I could barely walk, not raise my arms above my waist…but still, I left the hospital early against medical orders. I’m the stubborn type!" shares Silvia with us.
A strength of character that will take her to the top international level in para-dressage.
After intense physical and cognitive therapy, Dr do Valle overcame her post-traumatic stress disorder from her equestrian accident. She started equine therapy, reconnecting with her horse passion and started riding again.
Classified by the US Equestrian Federation in 2020, she had her first show as a Grade 4 para-equestrian athlete.
Para-equestrian dressage ranks impairment in 5 grades. Grade 1 regrouping horse-riding athletes suffering from the most significant disabilities. According to the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the dressage Classification Grades are :
Severe impairments affecting all limbs and the trunk. Athletes typically require use of a wheelchair. May be able to walk with an unsteady gait. Trunk and balance are severely impaired.
Severe impairment of the trunk and minimal impairment of the upper limbs, or moderate impairment of the trunk, upper, and lower limbs. Most use a wheelchair.
Severe impairments in both lower limbs with minimal or no impairment of the trunk or moderate impairment of the upper and lower limbs, and trunk. Some may use a wheelchair.
Severe impairment or deficiency of both upper limbs or a moderate impairment of all 4 limbs or short stature. Able to walk, typically do not use a wheelchair. Includes B1 visual impairment.
Mild impairment of movement or muscle strength or deficiency of one limb or mild deficiency of 2 limbs. Includes B2 visual impairment.
Silvia do Valle won the 2022 FEI World Championships observatory in São Paulo, and in June 2022 she participated in her first international para-equestrian competition, a CPEDI3*, in Tryon, North Carolina, and almost qualified for the World Championship.
Despite spasms, cramps and early fatigue, Silvia can now walk for short distances without a device.
Looking for the perfect partner
Slowly recovering from her physical and psychological trauma due to the accident in Ireland, Silvia increasingly nurtured the hope of riding in para-dressage at the highest level.
The process of getting Silvia back on the horse was done gradually thanks to gentle and kind horses and particularly thanks to her mare Carisma which she had been raising for several years before her accident.
Unfortunately, this promising mare died at the age of 7 in her paddock, struck by lightning in 2021. A terrible new ordeal for the veterinarian. The difficulties related to the accident, the loss of a loved animal with whom she participates in high level events, the financial inability to rebound on the purchase of a new horse with capacities for international events… All of this can destroy good motivation and confidence in the future.
But, the light can also appear in times when we do not expect it.
Silvia’s sister Isabela do Valle Arenzon has stayed in Brazil, at Sao Paulo. She’s a famous professional dressage trainer with an important network with Lusitano breeders. This good combination made it possible for Silvia to cross paths with a Lusitano, a gelding named Gauguin.
Supported by her sister and her trainer, “the match” between Silvia and Gauguin was almost immediate. After a few days of getting to know each other, Silvia has decided to continue with this promising gelding, which brings together all the qualities necessary for high level para-dressage. Finally, the luck was on the horse-rider side!
Gauguin also embraced his new life and was transported to Orlando to join the place where Silvia lives.
The couple is now training to participate in the biggest sporting events in para-dressage. Aiming for the selection for the Paris 2024 games.
Ekico is very proud to be one of the supporters of this couple, and to support them in their adventure towards the Olympic Games!
We met Silvia during US veterinarians congresses in 2022, first at the CHI University in Florida then at the AAEP in Texas. Two congresses where we showcased the Tendiboots™ technology to monitor the horse locomotion.
Tendiboots™ technology is an easy to use connected horse boots. This device is a great help to support the follow-up of sport horses and take part in the prevention of poor performance or gait abnormalities detection during performance exams.
Locomotion monitoring and analysis
Para-equestrian journey to Paris 2024
Silvia and Gauguin are aiming for the Paralympic Dressage Games at the next Olympic Games to be held in Paris.
The para dressage events will take place from September 3 to September 7, 2024 in the sumptuous gardens of the Château de Versailles, an iconic symbol recognised worldwide, illustrating France’s global reputation.
To be qualified for the Paralympics, it’s necessary for riders to obtain at least one score above 64% during 2023 at a CPEDI3*.
The first one was in North America at Wellington in January 2023. The second was at the same place in March 2023.
The next events Silvia and her horse Gauguin will try to qualify for will be during the third show in Tryon in the Fall.
We're keeping our fingers crossed that the couple achieves their goal and to see them tread the dressage arena of the Château de Versailles next year!
Good luck Gauguin and Silvia!
You also can support Gauguin and Dr Silvia do Valle in their Olympic journey.
To find out how you can help them, visit their webpages!
Photos credit : © Sunsoar Photography