The Paralympics - Building on the work of pioneers

By Daphne Davey

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the recent death of Dr. Gillian Lawrence. We can scarcely believe this day has arrived, for she was the heart and soul ― the weft and warp ― of CanTRA for many years. 

As a founding board member, former president, and committee member (particularly developing the medical section of the Instructors Manual), Gillian’s influence has been beyond measure. She raised a family, was a family physician, rode horses, ran a therapeutic riding centre, mentored other centres, became a para-equestrian classifier and Canadian para-dressage team chef d’équipe, and was honoured with many awards. Through it all, she was cheerful, energetic, fun, full of adventure, and the subject of many great stories. And always humble.

In 2013, CanTRA sponsored Gillian for the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, which she received at Rideau Hall, Ottawa. But while we have lost Gillian in person, we are blessed with all the benefits of her contribution to CanTRA and to therapeutic riding in Canada and internationally. All her hard work lives on in what we all do today for children and adults with disabilities.

Dr. Gillian Lawrence, para-equestrians in the olympics, canadian therapeutic riding association dr gillian lawrence

Dr. Gillian Lawrence, (1932 – 2016)

Gillian’s interest in elite para-equestrian sport, combined with her love of medicine, led to her being involved in the development of the classification of disabilities. She became an International Classifier, serving as an official in that capacity at the debut of Paralympic Dressage competition during the Paralympic Games in Atlanta (1996), and again in Sydney (2000). Her experience and wealth of knowledge were a major influence in monitoring the success of the classification system. After retiring from the international scene in recent years, Gillian has continued to be a tower of strength to all the other international and national classifiers. 

For more information on CanTRA and its member centres, visit or email Please make a difference to a child or adult with a disability by donating to CanTRA at or

Main Photo: The late Dr. Gillian Lawrence was one of the most instrumental, influential and inspiring people in Canadian equestrian sport, and a dedicated volunteer throughout her life. Lawrence is pictured accepting the 2013 Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award from Gov. Gen. David Johnston. Photo: © MCpl. Vince Carbonneau, Rideau Hall



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