VICTORIA Davies took out first place in her grade at a competition at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre last weekend.
Davies was the champion and grand champion in Para Grade II and was also the AHAA champion para rider.
The 29-year-old will ride in more qualifiers this weekend as part of the NSW dressage state championships.
“All of the scores go towards squad selection, so I’m hoping to do really well in that one,” she said.
While she has spent most of her life working with horses, Davies has only recently returned to the sport, having spent time out of it to focus on a career in banking.
She had previously been in the Paralympic squad before her horse had to be retired, but her new Andalusian stallion Eddy is quickly learning the ropes.
“He’s a seven-year-old pre-Spanish stallion and he was only broken in 11 months ago,” she said.
“He has impeccable manners and it takes a special horse to go out and get used to it so quickly.
“It is pretty amazing that he’s already at this level.”
The pressure of training up a new horse is not the only challenge Davies has had to overcome in her career.
At the age of nine, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which caused extensive deterioration in her organs and attacked her joints.
“It’s basically destroyed my body, about 90 per cent of it is bone-on-bone,” she said.
“I’ve already had a double hip replacement, both my feet fused and I will need a shoulder replacement in the future.
“There’s a hole in my shoulder the size of a 20 cent coin and it will keep deteriorating.”
Since her hip replacement, Davies qualifies for Grade II para class, which is classified as ‘quite disabled’ and is based on level of movement and strength, rather than pain.
As with most athletes, competing at the Olympics is also one of Davies’ long-term goals and she is hoping it can happen in Rio in 2016.
“It’ll be stinking hot over there, so it will be very challenging in those conditions,” she said.
“I also hope I don’t get kidnapped… I think that’s pretty common.
“I might just stay in the village.”
Davies will have right up until a couple of months before the Games to push her case for selection in the squad and at this stage is trying to show everyone that she is back.
This has involved putting in a lot of hard work and being an athlete is now essentially her full-time job.
“The last seven months or so have been really full on,” she said.
“I spend about three or four hours training, usually six days a week.
“I’ve really been kicking my ass, so to speak,” she laughed.
In addition to the NSW dressage championships, Davies is heading to the Australian championships in October, the dressage festival in Werribee and the Shoalhaven Championships, which will be running para classes for the first time.
Davies is being kept very busy, but has had a lot of support from her family and her fiancée Michael Koch.
Organising their wedding is another thing that she has had to balance with competing and they are set to tie the knot in Hamilton Island.
The reception is on the same day as the Melbourne Cup at 3pm, which she said was a complete coincidence.
“I honestly didn’t even realise at first,” she said.
“We were looking at dates and that was the only time that I was available.”