Olympic gold medallist Wendy Schaeffer believes following your passion is the biggest key to success
Schaeffer (pictured above) is well known as the youngest member of Australia’s equestrian team which won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
What’s less well known about Schaeffer is she’s also a UniSA physiotherapy graduate who went on to specialise in equine physiotherapy.
Director of her own equestrian services company, Sunburst Equestrian, Schaeffer says she is privileged that she found her passion and niche with horses from an early age, and was able to work hard to follow her dream.
Her advice for a successful career is simple – start with finding your passion.
“Build your business around your central passion and fine tune it to fill a niche in the market around your core skills,” she says.
“We only have one shot at life so go for it! Aim high and keep believing in yourself that you can achieve your dreams. Do whatever it takes.”
As a child, Schaeffer was an avid pony clubber. Just 10 years before the Atlanta Olympics, she was riding Sunburst – the same horse which carried her to Olympic gold – at pony club events in the Adelaide Hills.
At 21, she became the youngest woman to win Olympic equestrian gold, as she rode alongside her Aussie team-mates Gillian Rolton, Andrew Hoy and Phillip Dutton – a team which has since been inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. At Atlanta, Schaeffer rode with one leg heavily strapped – a screw and plate
holding bones together – after she suffered a serious break in both bones of her lower leg just nine weeks before the Games.
Since Atlanta, Schaeffer’s international threeday- eventing career has continued to thrive. She won the 2010 Australian International Three-Day Event in Adelaide last November riding Koyuna Sun Dancer. Early this year
she spent time training in Germany and has her sights set on qualifying for the London Olympics.
While Schaeffer has currently put her physiotherapy on hold to pursue her competitive career, she says the physiotherapy study taught her a lot.
“I feel that the most important thing that my UniSA degree taught me was the necessity to see a task through to the end despite challenges… it did take me six-and-a-half years to complete a four-year degree!” she says.
After working as a ‘human’ physiotherapist, Schaeffer went on to study a Master of Animal Studies (Animal Physiotherapy) interstate. She says it is rewarding to work with animals, particularly horses, to gradually improve their functional capacity and watch them develop as athletes.
“Horses are different in that their method of communicating is more subtle and can be more challenging to decipher,” she says.
“Often their bodies will convey more information than the human body, for example when performing trigger point release therapy the horse’s muscles will actually quiver until they are released.
“Currently I am not practising as a physio because I want to focus on my competitive career while I can. Fortunately though I have the opportunity to work with my own horses to keep my hand and eye in.”
Article Source: http://www.unisa.edu.au/news/unisamagazine/issues/2011Autumn.pdf